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How to build the Raised Formal Fountain

The Raised formal fountain is a significantly different construction from an in-ground garden fountain. Generally, it is more difficult to build, requiring more skill, is more costly both in terms of materials and labor and can be a little more difficult to maintain. Nevertheless, raised formal fountains are quite within the capabilities of a couple of fit people and well worth the effort.


Most  raised garden fountains will be built of block, brick, stone or some other masonry product but it is also possible to build a frame of wood, for example, and give it a water retentive shell. Here we will address raised fountains built of mortared brick or block.


To build raised, formal garden fountains you will need:

Brick or block
Mixing pan or cement mixer


Once the design for the basin of the fountain is marked out on the ground, excavate to below frost line. If the base of the water garden is above the frost line, freezing could heave the foundation and generate cracks and leaks.

Pour the footing from approximately three parts sand, one part Portland cement and one part gravel. It=s fine to throw small stones and rubble into the footing as well. Let the footing cure a day or two before building up the foundation to just below grade with block. The concrete will actually turn from greenish to grey when it has cured sufficiently to lay on new mortar. It is also a good idea to apply a coating of Weld-Crete or some similar agent for binding fresh (wet) cement to newly hardened cement. Once this has dried, the block walls for the foundation can be built up.

garden fountains - block construction

Alternatively, rather than pour a footing and then build a foundation of block on top of that, the footing can be poured as one piece to just below grade with no block employed. In this case, allow an extra day or two for the footing/foundation to dry. Once that is achieved, the brick or block walls for the fountain can be built. For this follow standard masonry techniques, the primary concerns with brick being to lay every brick straight, perfectly in line with the one beneath it and perfectly level front to back and side to side. You will also want the joints between the bricks and between the rows to be consistent throughout.


One method of building in the plumbing is to build the pipe into the walls during construction and then seal around them with a watertight calking. Another method is to build the basin completely, apply the watertight coat, then build in the plumbing up the sides of the walls and plaster over them so that no plumbing is seen. Either way works if done properly.


garden-fountains - raised-formal-fountain-diagram

It is a good idea to make it relatively easy to remove and replace the pump. To achieve this, run a lager tube or pipe up the walls from the pump location to the outflow location and run a smaller tube up this which will actually carry the water. For the electric, run a PVC pipe up the wall large enough to take the plug of the electric line and plaster over that. If necessary to remove the pump, the water line will be pulled through the larger tube and the electric line will be pulled through the PVC pipe without compromising the masonry. Bear in mind that water will go up the PVC pipe but so long as it extends above the water line before exiting the basin, and so long as it has no leaks, this is not a problem. Use thick walled PVC (schedule 40 or 80). Alternatively to the PVC, the electric  line can be run up a corner and laid under a loose brick above the water line. Ideally, no electric or plumbing should show.


Above ground pools are subject to greater fluctuations of water temperature, surrounded as they are by walls which are constantly affected by air temperature. This can be mitigated somewhat by digging the bottom or a portion of the bottom of the pool to below grade. Making a pump-well to below grade is a good way to achieve this as it also provides an out of sight place for the pump where it will need far less cleaning. A fine mesh covering over the well will prevent debris from entering while allowing water through. Cleaning then will be a matter of taking out the cover and rinsing it off occasionally.


Once the interior of the pool is entirely waterproof, it is possible to build a retaining wall inside the pool to create a planting area, should this be desired. Filled with soil, this will become a bog from the moisture seeping through the retaining wall, or /files/includes/alternate.cssly, it is possible to give this wall a watertight coat and have an ordinary planting bed. This permits plants to grow behind the fall of water and can be quite attractive.


This sort of water feature can be very complex, with, for example, a drain controlled by a gate valve, one or more fountains or inlet devices; it can have a float valve allowing the pool to automatically top off when the water level falls, it can be cleaned by a skimmer leading to an external pump - or it can be simple, with a fountain rising directly out of a pump fitted with a pre-filter or mechanical filter. As we are dealing with small features for intimate settings we will leave the more complex features to another study.


garden fountains autofill pond device

When the water level drops to a certain point, the float drops, opening the valve that let's water flow into the pool.



The watertight coating that is used is critical. Cement is not in and of itself, waterproof. Special mixtures must be used to ensure water retention. The simplest, and that used by swimming pool makers is to mix >waterproof= cement with marble dust - available at many masonry supply yards. The proportions are given on the bag. This creates a very plastic plaster which when troweled on gives a smooth, waterproof surface. At least two coats are recommended.


Another, fool proof, waterproofing agent if directions are followed is a combination of materials sold as Mulasticoat. A twenty pound bag of a >scratch coat= material is mixed with forty eight ounces of water into a pancake batter consistency and this is rolled or brushed onto a clean, dry masonry surface and let to dry for two days. The liquid Mulasticoat is stirred and applied with a roller. When it turns from power blue to dark blue (at least two hours and not more than three days later) a second coat is applied. After two days the pool can be filled with water. Sources for this can be found on the internet.
garden fountains - waterproofing with mulasticoat


Keep in mind when building a formal fountain that if the walls of the basin are of a cementatious material, it will need to be filled and drained several times, over a few weeks to leach out the lime and generate a stable pH necessary for healthy fish. It can also be given a diluted muriatic acid wash to quicken the process but this does to some extent weaken the cement. Alternatively, a sealant can be brushed over the finished surface to seal the lime in.


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