Choosing an outdoor water fountain: 8 essential tips

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Water fountains are great décor. They can be classy yet subtle, giving your yard an extra element of sophistication. But how can you know what kind of fountain to choose?

When choosing a fountain, you need to consider style, size, weather conditions, material, level of care needed, and price.

Here’s a helpful list of tips you should go through when deciding on the perfect fountain for your yard:

1. Freezing Climates=Extra work

This should go without saying, but if you live in a place with a colder climate, the beautiful water cascading through your fountain will freeze.

It might be tempting think you can just put anti-freeze in your fountain, but that won’t stop the water from freezing, and it will only expose wildlife to those harmful chemicals.

Using a fountain all through winter means you will need to winterize it, but that is discussed in a separate article. For now, knowing what materials can withstand freezing winters can help you know what to choose.

The best material for cold climates is granite. Granite fountains can pull through the winter better than any other fountain material. In some accounts, granite fountains can even last for centuries, as long as they’ve been winterized.

Concrete (also called cast stone) and metal fountains (such as bronze and copper) fountains don’t last nearly as long as granite, but they’re the next best thing when it comes to cold climates. These should last about three to five years.

Other materials, such as fiberglass, ceramic, and resin aren’t the best for this weather. They usually last only two to three years, if not less. Winterizing a fountain will keep water from freezing on the inside of the pipes, but it won’t prevent these weaker fountains from cracking under the cold.

2. Not All Stains are Created Equal

It its important to realize that fountains with more stagnant water (traditional fountains) will stain worse than fountains with more flow. But it’s also important to know that certain materials are definitely more susceptible to staining than others.

Granite isn’t immune to water stains, but granite stone won’t be affected by any chemicals you put in the water. This means that granite stone is the best for avoiding stains because you can put almost any cleaning product in the water to keep substances from building up around the edges of the water line.

Other types of fountains will develop water stains over time, and aside from granite, there’s usually nothing you can do to prevent it. However, that doesn’t mean they’re permanent. As long as you clean your fountain every few months, your fountain should stay stain-free.

Some fountains are built so that water won’t be pooling up nearly as much. These fountains usually have more flowing water and less space for water to just sit around. These fountains won’t have as many water stains as traditional fountains, and won’t need as much upkeep in that area. However, they still can stain overtime.

For more tips on taking care of fountains, check the housekeeping section on this website:

3. Different Levels of Durability

Imagine buying a fountain, and then the next day noticing it cracked on the ground because it was too light to withstand the wind.

Durability is super important, and when it comes to fountains, it usually depends on weight. The heavier the fountain, the better it should last under different circumstances. Heavy fountains will be able to withstand torrential rain or wind, and they also won’t be so easily knocked over if the neighbor’s kid happens to chuck a football at them.

But that doesn’t mean the heaviest is always the best. Cast stone fountains usually last years, and are very heavy, but they tend to crumble and crack overtime, unlike other heavy materials, such as metal or granite.

Lighter fountains are easier to move around and use, but they have a tendency to be made of more brittle materials (such as fiberglass, resin, or ceramic substances).

4. Don’t Forget About Size

Looking for fountains online can sometimes make you forget that this beautiful piece of architecture will need to fit in your yard. The best way to prepare for this is by doing the grunt work and measuring your yard before you start searching online or in stores for a fountain.

Taking five minutes to measure now can save you hours of headaches later. Also, if you’re purchasing a fountain for your backyard, make sure that there is a clear path wide enough to let the fountain pass. What’s the point of buying a super fancy fountain if it can’t even get through your fence?

When people think of fountains, they usually think of the big, fancy fountains that sit in front of huge mansions, with the huge, sparkling pools of water. Not every fountain has to be this grand. Some fountains are tiny, sometimes even the size of a cat.

If the idea of installing a huge fountain intimidates you, then don’t. There’s a reason fountains come in all sizes. You can always buy a little fountain to put on an outdoor table. Small fountains can be just as grand and eloquent, and they can add just as much to the décor as large fountains.

5. Some Take More Work than Others…

Fountains can require daily upkeep. They need to be constantly refilled with water (which can be done using a regular hose or an autofill valve connected to the irrigation line) and, like every other point on this list, some materials need more help than others.

It is recommended that most fountains be cleaned around every two months, but metal fountains require an intensive cleaning that other materials don’t need. Metal-specific cleaners should be bought and prepared before you dive into cleaning your fountain.

This is because metals tend to change colors overtime. If you bought a copper fountain, it will definitely start turning green (just like our Statue of Liberty). If you want it to stay copper, you will need to scrub off the color yourself.

6. Fountains are NOT Cheap

It’s no secret that outdoor fountains are expensive. Fountains for a normal, suburban house have a price range of about $50 to $1,200 dollars. Unfortunately, the only fountains around the lower ranges are the ones that can fit on a table, so if you’re looking for something that can stand alone in your yard, you might have to take out a loan or two.

The outright cost doesn’t begin to go into how much it will pay to power the fountain and to fill it with water weekly.

Don’t let this deter you from getting a fountain. They’re fantastic outdoor elements that add a level of magic to your yard. But make sure you have the financial stability before you commit to putting one of these marvelous structures on your bill.

7. Sound and Overall Appeal

Fountains are made to look pretty and sound nice. That’s their primary function. When it comes down to it, the thing that truly matters is whether you like it or not. A fountain can be in your price range, last through the winter, and be durable enough for any types of weather, but none of that matters if you don’t like how it sounds or looks in your yard.

Style is pretty personal, and easier to pick out on your own. But it’s almost impossible to know how a fountain sounds until it’s set up in your yard. Luckily for you, the structures of different fountains make different noises with the water, from bubbling to blasting.

The loudest fountains usually cascade or pour water. Cascading fountains are the ones that constantly drop large amounts of water into other pools, making a loud splashing noises. Pouring fountains do exactly what it sounds like; they pour thick streams of water, and while this noise is loud it is also steady and can be extremely calming.

Quiet fountains are on the opposite end of the spectrum. They don’t displace a lot of water, which means less noise is made. Bubbling fountains are nearly silent because they usually just bubble up some water in the same pool of water, with no water falling out.

Running fountains usually consist of pots with water constantly streaming down their sides in a steady film, and they don’t make much noise unless something breaks the flow of water.

8. Location is Key

Fountains, while pretty, are not perfect. Some fountains have a tendency to leak, which is not only disappointing, but it also means that any nearby electrical equipment or water sensitive materials can become forever unusable. Be sensitive to where electrical wiring is located in your yard before you decide to drop a fountain there.

Location is important for visual appeal and function. Where your fountain is can change how your entire garden feels. Fountains can go anywhere, but generally speaking, where a fountain goes usually puts it in one of three categories: centerpieces, accents, or destinations.

Centerpieces are fountains that stay in the middle, much like the centerpiece of a table. Accent fountains are usually off to the side, adding overall ambiance without being too obvious. Destinations are fountains that are used as the main event, usually with paths leading up to them, showing off in the grandest way possible.

Visuals for these different locations can be found in the link below:

Photo of author


We always wanted a fountain of some kind at our house, but professional installation was just too pricey. So, we decided to make our own little fountain and after learning how, we thought we should share our experiences to help people in our same situation.

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