Custom water features and fountains is a collective term that includes all types of fountain like designs such as tabletop fountains, container water gardens, stand-alone fountains, bubbling urns, rock waterfalls, natural ponds and even swimming pools.

A beautiful paradise can be created by simply adding a water feature that will transform any outdoor living space where tranquility, serenity and relaxation are the result. Water features are often the focal point of any space as they not only produce soothing sounds, but create movement and visual interest. They attract birds and wildlife which just accentuates the satisfaction that you enjoy.

There is the right water feature for every budget and landscape space. Whether you have a small space garden or balcony or an expansive backyard, a water feature can be selected or custom designed just for that specific setting. From simple cascading urn fountain to a large Koi pond, your landscape and your enjoyment can only be enhanced with a water feature.

Since water features and fountains are so popular, there are many manufacturers that offer pre-fabricated models that are offered in a multitude of styles and applications. Among these are:

Table top fountains, designed primarily for small indoor settings

Wall fountains

Corner fountains

Small garden pond kits

Statuary based fountains (people, animals, figurines)

Contemporary sculptural like fountains

Tiered bowl style

Pre-fabricated fountains are made of either cast concrete, polyresin, fiberglass resin, stone or other types of materials that can be cast from pre-designed molds. Each requires a certain amount of assembly to provide for placement of the basin, the pump and plumbing.

A water feature can also be created by which type of device is used to distribute the water or which affects the water it flows, sprays or cascades. Scuppers are devices at the end of a distribution pipe or open channel that pours water into a lower basin. Scuppers can be open cups made of copper or decorative surrounds with designs such as lion heads, sun or floral designs. Typically scuppers are part of an overall custom water feature design.

Nozzles can be purchased that produce a variety of spray patterns and can be used singly or in a series and are also part of the custom water feature category.

With all the choices available for a pre-fabricated fountain, why consider a custom designed and built fountain? The answer is how unique you want the water feature to be and perhaps the space just needs to have fountain custom designed because most pre-fabricated choices are either not to scale or other issue that won’t work with the space or the design criteria.

Keep in mind that any kind of pond falls into the category of custom water feature. Just because there is a kit available does not make it simple to assemble. So when I use the term custom, I am referring to above ground features.  All three of the example pictures shown were designed by me,  John Stuart Leslie.

Here are some guidelines and tips to consider:

1) Always provide a water leveler whether you build a custom water feature or buy a prefabricated model. You don’t want to rely on filling the basin using a hose to make up for loss of water from evaporation. For very small basins or indoor models this is impractical and you are forced to fill the basin manually. But for an outside custom built basin it’s a must.

2) Calcium deposits will accumulate on parts of the surface of the water feature either from direct contact or splash. This can build up over time and become quite unsightly. There are products on the market that claim to reduce calcium build up worth a try. The only other thing is to periodically remove it with “hard water remover” type products.

Depending on the materials and colors of your water feature, selecting the lightest color such as ivory or off white or anything in the travertine family if using that stone will lessen the visual impact but don’t necessarily design based on the calcium build up.

Some water features the way they are designed will not show the build up while the water is flowing. Most all will when the water is shut off and the surfaces are allowed to dry off. So another technique is to always keep the fountain running except perhaps at night when you are not enjoying it.

3) The budget may point to a prefabricated model due to cost. There is much more labor involved with a custom water feature than the assembly of pre-manufactured parts.

4) Maintenance – both have pumps with some kind of filter, so both will require periodic checking to remove debris. Make sure the pump and or filter assembly is easy to get to otherwise you may have to partially disassemble the fountain just to perform maintenance and you will probably end up doing that seldom or only when necessary.

With a custom water feature, the basin is often a large part of the mass of the feature and will over time accumulate debris at the bottom. You will need to evacuate all the water in order to clean the walls and bottom of the basin and then refill it. The easiest way to do this is when initially installing the pump, place a diverter valve on the output side of the pump so while the pump is on, you can divert the water to an evacuation line which can attach to a garden hose so you can direct the discharge water to a place that can handle it.

5) Scale and proportion is the most important design consideration when choosing a pre-fabricated water feature. Make sure it fits the scale of the space. Have the space figured out before you select a fountain, purchase it and then only later decide where it would best look good. The spot where you want a fountain will dictate its general dimension in terms of overall height and basin width.