Starting my first pondless waterfall - am I on the right track?


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Hi everyone - I'm new here and new to this "hobby" as well. I realize that most people here are building much larger set ups, with a pond, fish, etc but I'm hoping my small project is on topic for this forum.

I am building a very small zen garden type area in my yard and decided I want to build a pondless waterfall there. I am building it myself and trying to do it as inexpensively as possible, but I don't want to cut corners and end up with something that doesn't work properly.

Below is a picture of the area - I started clearing it and getting some ideas. It would be great if anyone could give me any tips, and let me know if I'm on the right track or not.

The main thing I'm trying to figure out is what size pump I need, and how big my water reservoir has to be. I would say the water has to travel around 3-4 feet high, and is only traveling around 4-5 feet in length from pump to the top. I was planning on using 2 rectangular upside down milk crates to house the pump and sit in the reservoir so that I can place stones, etc on top. The crates are 13"x19"x11" and I would have two of them side by side--- so I calculated I would have a water reservoir that is around 23 gallons. I was also planning on getting a 1000gph pump. Is this realistic or am I completely underestimating what I need? I've read around bunch and most people have set ups that are much larger than mine. I can't imagine that I would need a stronger pump than this? But I am worried that maybe 23 gallons won't be enough for the water reservoir

Any advice either about the pump/reservoir issue, or general tips about my construction would be greatly appreciated!







Thanks,
H
 
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23 gallons is a small reservoir to be sure. If there's a way to double or even triple that I would try to do so. Otherwise you'll be doing s lot of topping off I'm afraid. But otherwise it sounds like a cool plan!
 
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Thanks for the quick reply. I was thinking I could go deeper than the 11 in depth of the milk crate and maybe get another 15 gallons out of it. Then the stones on the crate would be covered with water when not running, but maybe become exposed once the pump starts and the level drops down.
 

Meyer Jordan

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For just a minimal flow waterfall, 100 gph per foot of waterfall width is the needed. !000 gph pump will lose some flow due to head. A mag-drive pump will experience more loss than a direct drive pump. 1000 gph is not going to give you much 'bang for your buck'.
Milk crates will work fine, but I would at least double the size of the reservoir. Also, how will you access the pump for maintenance and/or replacement?
Have you considered a rock bubbler. Seems more Zen than a waterfall.
 
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Welcome to the forum. I look forward to reading all the posts and keeping up with your project.

One suggestion. Before beginning your project document your plan. Especially the materials list, with costs. You may discover your DIY is as much or more that a pond less waterfall kit. Now, my comment is not valid if you truly want the total DIY experience.
 
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Thanks Big Lou. I'm trying to figure out what expenses I will have exactly. Aside from the decorative elements and rocks, the only other expenses I can think of are the pond liner and the pump. I was also going to buy a small 8" spillway, even though I think I could probably rig up something sufficient. What else am I missing?
 
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  • Find a pondless waterfall kit similar to what you want. After finding one, you'll be better aware of the needed materials. Next, estimate all of the waterscape and landscape materials.
  • Source all the materials. Be sure to include tax and when applicable shipping.
  • Add about 20% for incidentals and repairs.
  • Pay attention to return policies and guarantees.
  • Develop your building plan and timeline.
  • Compare your complete findings with the total cost and effort to install a kit.
  • Important to note that kits much likely do not include all waterscape or any landscape.
  • Determine if you have all the skills, including your labor time, needed to build for either a DIY or kit.
  • Now, through research, determine the ongoing required maintenance labor and associated costs.
  • Take a break and sleep a night or two before making a decision.
  • For goodness sake if you have a wife or significant other consult with that person.
Once you have this completed all of this consider which is best for you. A kit or total DIY.
Good luck!
 
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Thanks Big Lou - on the site you linked to, the least expensive kit is $1000, which is about $800 more than I think I need to spend. Looks like the main addition is a water "vault" that provides access to the pump and provides space for the water reservoir. The milk crate was my solution to this. It also has a pump with a remote that is around 2000gph. It seems like overkill for what I'm trying to build. What I'm doing is just a fun water feature that I probably will only turn on when sitting in this area. After reading around some more, I'm thinking I should definitely expand my water capacity, and maybe get a slightly bigger pump. As far as accessing the pump for maintenance, I was thinking about building a frame with a screen on it, which would rest on top of the milk crates, and the stones would sit on there. Then I can easily lift off the screen, and pull out the crate to get to the pump.
 
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I see - I'm just trying to figure out what else is absolutely essential to buy. Aside from decorations, my shopping list has a liner, pump, reservoir "vault" (milk crates), and spillway. What else is essential to the operation of the waterfall? I know I will need some tubing, etc, but not expecting that to be consequential. One of the main reasons for the extra cost in the kit, is that their pump is a $600 pump, and I was looking at ~$100 pumps. Do I need a $600 pump for a 3 foot waterfall? I think they also charge several hundred dollars for the reservoir vault, but I don't understand what that gives me that I can't get with the milk crate. I'm ok with my setup not being 100% professional and polished (I definitely don't need a remote), but like I said, I do want to make sure it runs properly.

I'm having trouble wrapping my head around how to determine the appropriate filter size. I've seen people say that you should approximately have 100gph per inch of waterfall width. Does this mean the width of the first opening at the top? In my case, I was looking at buying a 8" spillway. Does this mean that I need a 100 x 8 = 800gph pump?

For filters, I have seen filter bags sold, which the pump goes inside and prevents gunk, etc from clogging it up. Do these work generally?

Thanks again for the help guys. I appreciate your experience! I understand that $200 may not be enough, but I'm just trying to figure out what I'm missing. So far I'm at around $200:

8" spillway - $30
1200gph pump - $110 (I will probably upgrade this to a 1200gph just to be safe...but is that enough?)
12x6 pond liner - $23
Landscape filler foam - $10 (1 can)
2 rectangular milk crates - $25

Things I haven't researched or priced out yet:
Water treatment product to prevent mosquitoes, algae, etc - $ ??
Extension cord - $ ?
Filter bag - $ ?
PVC/tubing - $ ?

For stones, a friend of mine has a large creek behind his house and is letting me take as much stone as I need from there.

What else am I missing?

Thanks again for all the advice.
 
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I've seen people say that you should approximately have 100gph per inch of waterfall width
Minimum!

(I will probably upgrade this to a 1200gph just to be safe...but is that enough?)
I would check the performance chart on any pump that you consider, some are low head, others are high head.

or filters, I have seen filter bags sold, which the pump goes inside and prevents gunk, etc from clogging it up. Do these work generally?
They do, but may require periodic cleaning. This is why easy pump access is important.

12x6 pond liner - $23
If this is vinyl liner, it won't last long. If this is EPDM, i would like to know your source. At $0.32/sq.ft., I would like to buy several semi loads.

Extension cord - $ ?
Not recommended around Water Features. Inherently dangerous.
 
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I was actually wrong about the liner, it wasn't actually a liner, but here is another one I found that maybe works for me?

10x7, $35: http://www.amazon.com/TotalPond-pond-skin-Pond-Liner/dp/B004DL0Y4Y/ref=sr_1_1

And would this pump be ok for me? It says it is designed for 14ft max waterfall height - which is more than 3x the height of mine, and it is 2000gph:

$106 - http://www.amazon.com/Danner-02650-2000GPH-Magnetic-Waterfall/dp/B0009YYURQ/ref=sr_1_4

I'm trying to learn how all the specs work for these products. It seems there is a lot of variation between manufacturers and a lot of differences about claims of what sizes, lengths, etc they can support.
 
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Not to beat a dead horse but I would think you would need most if not all of the components provided in a kit. Your liner should be a 43mil thick EDPM liner along with a liner pad. Anything less will not provide long lasting performance. A quality liner is of upmost importance.
 

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The liner is reinforced vinyl. Too thin for me to be comfortable with.

Danner is an old and trusted manufacturer of pond pumps. This should more than meet your needs. (You might consider a slightly wider spillway. Would look more natural.)
 
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I saw your post on another forum, which reminded me that I wanted to address one more issue - you said you would only turn the falls on intermittently. We have our pondless on a timer which turns off every night for 6 hours. I don't think you want to leave water standing in your reservoir for much longer than that. Standing water is known for several things - stagnation, which smells and breeding grounds for mosquitos... even under rocks. We had a garbage can filled with gravel that got rain water in it and the mosquitos were breeding in it under the gravel. So keeping that water moving on a regular basis is important.

Your milk crate idea is creative and I can't really think of a downside. Although you might find pulling them out is more of a pain than you might think. Our reservoir has a vault inside it that houses the pump so we only need to pull the lid off the vault to take the pump out. You would have to remove all your rocks every time you need to access the pump to keep them from falling in, right? I guess if you used larger rocks that might not be a big issue, but most pondless systems have smaller rocks or even gravel to give you that disappearing water look. And a milk crate might have holes that were too large - smaller rocks may fall in. Not the biggest deal, but something to consider when choosing your rocks for the basin.

Also remember that your construction needs to take into consideration the stream depth required to hold the volume of water you intend to have flowing. Sides that are too shallow will create constant water loss and frustration.

Just some things to think about.
 
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Thanks Lisa. Yes - having the standing water around is another concern I have. I was wondering if there were any treatments I could keep in the water that will basically just kill anything or stop any life from forming in the water. I won't have any plants or fish - but I would want something that wouldn't harm birds that may stop by, or my kids if they stick their hands in. I read that a few spoonfuls of bleach could do the trick. Or mosquito dunks for the mosquito larvae? Most of the time, the water will be underground, in the dark, so maybe algae wouldn't be a problem? I may put it on a timer so that at least it runs for a few hours a day.
 

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600 dollar pump what is it made of gold /Look at energy cost to run the pump also that is why I went with laguna pumps .
 
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Here's a small update. I finished excavating the resrvoir area but I'm still not sure if it's big enough or not. I think I'm going to go ahead and give it a try anyway. I found a website where you put in the waterfall dimensions and it estimates the amount of water needed - and this seemed to be enough, but I won't really know until I try it. As it is, I'm at around 25 gallons of volume.

Also, for the milk crates, I decided I will keep one right side up, to keep the pump in, and cover it with some sort of plastic, etc. This way, if I need to access the pump, I only need to remove that section of the covering.

On a positive note, a tons of rocks, some quite nice, came out of my excavation area, so those will get used on the waterfall. I especially like the big flat one leaning against the fence. Any ideas of where to place that one? I can't decide if it should go on one of the sides, for support and cover, or if maybe it should stay flat and be a little pool area, on the lowest level before it empties back into the ground.

 

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