Deck Water Features
Drain your pond periodically for cleaning and maintenance, and for winterizing. With a small pond or fountain, simply bail the water by hand. For larger ponds, install a drain valve and drain line that empties into a storm system or natural area; the chore of emptying the pond will be much easier. In areas where ponds can freeze solid, remove the pump and store it temporarilv in a bucket of water in a basement or other area where it won’t freeze. Once a pump has been used, it’s important to keep it wet to prevent the seal from drying out and shrinking.
Want your deck to really sparkle? Let moving water do the job. Even if you don’t need to subdue distracting sounds from beyond your yard, the gentle splashes and trickles will make your deck seem a world apart.
Still water in a shallow reflecting pond, with its glassy surface, acts as a natural mirror and creates a contemplative, calming setting. It’s possible to shape an elegant and peaceful reflecting pond with brick, or have a professional pour a concrete base for the pool. Moving water plays with light by catching it, refracting it, and casting it about. Fountainheads spurt water in several basic patterns: glassy mushrooms, multilevel tiers, gurgling bubbles, and simple streams from a spitter. Some fountainheads offer several patterns in one.
Putting in a water feature can be as simple as setting up a small pond using a preformed, rigid liner or forming the base of the pond with a flexible liner. Camouflage the liner’s edge with landscape timbers or rocks.
All water features must follow one basic guideline: The water should be aerated. Stagnant water breeds mosquitoes, anaerobic (smelly) bacteria, and algae. It also collects silt and debris. Water spilling over the edge of a waterfall or splashing out of a fountain picks up air, which helps it stay fresh.
To keep water moving, install a submersible pump that recirculates the water, sending it to the top of a waterfall, out of a fountainhead, or simply back and forth in the pond. As the name suggests, a submersible pump operates underwater. It must be submerged at all times so it doesn’t pump air, which burns out the motor. You must also keep intake filters clean so that debris doesn’t clog the pump. Skimming the surface of your pond to remove debris helps prevent clogging, as does setting the pump on a stone or brick on the bottom of the pond.
You can find liners, submersible pumps, and fountainheads readily at home centers, aquatic shops, and nurseries. Ask an employee to help you select the right materials for your water garden and ensure that everything is correctly sized for the volume of water.
When including a water feature in the construction of a deck, plan for the installation of a pair of 2-inch schedule-40 PVC pipes across the deck site. Draw them in your plans so they run like tunnels under the site—from one end of the deck to the other. These pipes—called sleeves—provide a route for electrical wires and smaller pipes connected to a water source. They also protect wires and pipes from the pressure of any paving, especially if it settles and shifts. If a water line or wire breaks, you can replace it without digging up the deck by snaking the replacement through the sleeve. Any water leaking from a break flows through the conduit and out the ends beyond the site instead of seeping directly into the soil under it. Always run power and water lines through separate sleeves.
Adding water to an Existing Site
Retrofitting a deck with a water feature is best done with ground-level decks. To build a pond on an existing deck, you’ll need to cut through the decking, excavate beneath the deck, and insert a preformed liner. Make sure the bottom and sides of the liner are fully supported. When installing piping to the pond, pry up sections of dry-set paving on any paths leading to the deck, then replace the paving when you’re done.
For mortared pathways, you’ll need to cut through the paving to install the sleeves, or hire a contractor to jack and bore under it to install piping. Patch it by laying a band of stone, brick, or other material in the cut (a concrete patch will be obvious). Repeat the banding as a decorative element elsewhere on the deck.
Wall-mounted fountains catch trickling water in prefabricated basins. They work well on upper-story decks because the weight of the structure is borne by a wall, not the floor. And because the wall on which they are mounted shelters these modest-size features, overspray rarely causes a problem.
Wall-mounted fountains require a power source to run the pump that recirculates the water. Have an electrician install an outlet on an exterior wall of your house without disturbing existing flooring.
Running a pump without adequate water will damage the pump. You’ll need to regularly replenish the water in a fountain— wall-mounted or freestanding—during hot, dry weather, when evaporation occurs. Simply pour water into the basin of the fountain.
Supply large water features with a source of water that’s controlled by a float valve. The float valve automatically monitors water levels so the pool is always full. It turns on the water when levels fall below a preset mark, and shuts it off when the fountain is refilled. Installing a float valve raises the cost of the fountain a bit, and a plumber might be required to do the work.
It takes only a moderate volume of moving water to mask unpleasant sounds such as traffic. Even the smallest trickle or drip will buffer noise from the outside world. So if you have to shout to be heard over your waterfall or fountain, too much water is moving through it too quickly. Adjust the flow valve on the pump to reduce the flow and soften the sound.
Water feature safety
All pumps require electricity—but mixing water and electricity is dangerous. For that reason, you should plug pumps only into waterproof exterior outlets that connect to a power source with a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). The GFCI prevents possible electrocution.
Most building codes classifv water features in a special categorv called “attractive nuisances.” That means you’ll be held responsible if a child falls into your pool or pond and is injured. Rules regarding attractive nuisances van locallv, so check with the building inspector in vour city or county to see how pool depth corresponds to fencing requirements.