How to Make a Backyard Waterfall

Can you imagine having a lovely waterfall in your backyard? There would be birds stopping by to drink or bathe, the sound of water falling and trickling, and the perfect adornment for your backyard, tropical garden.



Of course, there are places where you can buy pre-made backyard waterfalls. They’re not that expensive, either. But how would you like to make your own?

Build a Backyard Waterfall in 10 Steps

1. Select a Location

You’re going to want your waterfall in a location of your tropical garden where it can be seen and enjoyed from different viewpoints, even from inside the house.

2. Decide the Placement

If you want a soft, flowing waterfall and stream then you should count on about 2 inches of grade for every ten feet. If you want a faster running fall and flow then you’ll need a steeper grade.

3. Digging the Bed of the Stream

For most locations and areas you’ll want to dig the stream bed about 3 feet wide. For smaller areas or narrower streams you can less than that but it would be advisable not to go narrower than 2 feet. Where you want the water to “fall” cut deeper troughs. This will help the water to “fall” but also allow it to pool slightly and slow the stream.

4. Building the above ground waterfall

Most people opt to not dig a large chunk of their yard out in order to form their above ground cascade. You can buy pre-made falls or build your own by sticking rocks together in your wanted design and shape using a waterproof silicone adhesive.

how to make backyard waterfall

5. The Lower Basin

Although the waterfall will be the center piece of your backyard, the lower basin is the most important part of the whole construction. The lower basin is where the submersible pump will be placed to push all this water around. For good guidelines: Your pond should be at least 1 foot wider than your stream and at least 2 feet wider than the pump. Also, your pond hole should be at least 6 inches deeper than the height of the pump.

6. Making the Pumping System

Okay, this can get tricky but we’re going to get through this together. 😉

a. Make 3-5 holes on opposite sides of the pump covering or enclosure. This will allow for water to reach the pump. Now, in your pond area put down some fabric laying material first and then on top of that put rubber liner.
b. Make sure you have about 18 in’ of both the fabric material and rubber liner coming out along the bases of the basin all around. Now, in the deepest part of the basin that you dug (that part that was 6 inches deeper) put down your pump.
c. Your pump should have come with a hose adapter. Attach it to the submersible pump. Between the two connections, insert a rubber washer that is the same diameter as the adapter end. Thread the adapter to the pump and apply your water proof silicone adhesive to ensure at water tight seal.
d. Take your hose and attach it to the adapter and secure with a hose clamp.
e. Put the pump in the enclosure making sure that your hose is long enough to reach the upper chamber water pool.

7. Constructing the MAIN WATERFALL ELEMENT

Using large boulders (or big rocks) arrange them to frame the waterfall and the build a small shelf in a semi-circular pattern to hold the upper pool. You want to make sure the first drop the highest the water flows easily, but not to high so that it avoids splatter. Remember, we want calming sounds not alarming.

8. Upper Water Chamber Assembly

You’re going to need a pretty vessel for the upper water chamber. Try to find a 3-sided, heavy duty, plastic storage bin. Make sure that the tapered end is situated to point outwards from the shelf that you built.

Matching the diameter of your hose, drill a hole in the bin where the hose will be attached. Slip that hose adapter through the hole you just drilled. Use another rubber washer on the inside of the bin around the hose, push the washer snug to the bin and seal with your waterproof adhesive sealant.

Now, fit the end of the hose on the other end of the adapter and secure with a steel lock nut and hose clamp.

9. Laying the Liner in the Assembly

From the pond to the upper basin, extend sections of the same material of underlaying fabric and liner. Leave a few inches of slack where you dug the drops for each waterfall. The reason for the slack is because you’re going to need larger stones in that area and if stretched too much then the stone can rip the liner.

Make sure that as you lay the liner is over-lapping sections that are downstream by at least 18 inches and that liner also extends at least 2 feet up the banks and pond basins. This is important to the final step.

10. Position Your Rocks and Boulders

Boulders, gravel and rock serve two purposes in your backyard waterfall. First, they serve and aesthetic purpose so choose a rock that you’ll truly enjoy looking at. They also serve a functional purpose by holding everything in its place and causing drops and rippling sounds in the water flow.

Okay, don’t get nervous. For every 10 feet of water bed that you plan on digging you’re going to need about 1500lbs. of two-foot rocks. These provide most of the upper-chamber framework, help to hide that extra liner and hose, as well as line the pond.

You may need around 1,000 medium size rocks and stones to line the banks of your stream and ponds. If you can get your hands on flat stones to line the waterfall area they are ideal because they allow water to flow freely. You can even use your waterproof adhesive sealant to apply to the bottom of flat rocks and stick them to liner.

You could need about 2,000lbs of gravel. You use gravel everywhere in a backyard waterfall. You use it to cover lots of the stream bed, hold larger rocks and boulders in place and the gravel will also help filter the water as it passes through your stream and waterfall system.


Following these steps will provide you with a beautiful backyard waterfall system that you built on your own. After you have the above in place you should your garden hose to spray rocks and gravel to loose and get rid of stuck on dirt. Then you can fill your pond basin with water, start up the pump and bring your backyard waterfall to life.

For your convenience, I’ve also added a bunch of “How to Build a Backyard Waterfall” clips to our video page, too.  I hope you enjoy!