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BUYING OR BUILDING A WATER FOUNTAIN: THINGS TO CONSIDER
A great deal about fountains has changed over the last decade. Now there are really high class ones made of copper, stainless steel, bronze, concrete, and stone, and some fairly nice ones made of resin and fiberglass. There are several things to consider, though. As a pump wholesaler, I speak with fountain owners all the time and also look at lots of samples of
fountains at trade shows and in magazines. Before purchasing a fountain, there are quite a few questions to ask. What looks good in a store might not look good at your home or business.
Bronze and Stainless Steel Fountains
These are at the high end of fountains, and can retail for ten to twenty thousand dollars. They are plain classy. But will one of these fit in where you want to put it? Do you have the right yard or business or location for such a classic kind of display? Also, do you like the aging process (the verdigris patina) that bronze undergoes? Can you afford one of these? If you answered yes to these questions, a bronze or stainless steel
fountain might be right for you. It will last your lifetime, your kids’ lifetimes, their kids’ lifetimes, etc. And they are durable enough to be moved from house to house.
fountains, these too tend to be classy, especially the name brand ones like Water Wonders, which mix copper with glass and slate. These make especially nice Wall fountainswall fountains. There are certain things to think about, though. Are you locating the fountain in a room with good acoustics? Some rooms make the pump noise really echo, especially small rooms with walls that are close together. Do you know someone or can you hire an electrician to hide the cord in the wall? These fountains are a bit too expensive to buy if you’re going to let the cord run outside the wall for everyone to see. Finally, it is a good idea to go listen to them run at a store before purchasing. Some of them make little water noise and some make a lot. To increase water sound you might have to turn up the pump to the point of there being slight splash.
These still provide the most bang for the buck, primarily because concrete is so inexpensive. In fact, a huge part of the cost of concrete fountains is in transporting them to stores for sale and in the labor of painting them. The concrete itself is the least expensive part of the fountains’ manufacture. Most concrete companies (though not all) reinforce their fountains with steel. This makes them strong but also means the concrete must be sealed. If not painted (as most fountains from Mexico are not), then they do need to have a clear sealant put on them. Otherwise the water will seep through to the steel, which will rust. Eventually, the fountain is likely to crack. One final word of advice on concrete, beware of “cute.” Cute
fountains (mama dogs with baby dogs, boys peeing) sometimes don’t look so cute over time. Ask yourself if you’ll still think the fountain is cute years later. Remember, concrete fountains can last hundreds of years. And they are difficult to move so pick something that will stay put. The traditional Italian 3-tier fountain is always a safe bet.
Resin and Fiberglass
The quality of these has gotten a lot better, and they have the clear advantage of being more easily handled than concrete ones. Some do look like concrete and stone, though they tend to look much more realistic at first glance than they do after a week has passed. Then it is pretty clear that they are faux. These are also a lot easier on employees who work in tores, as they don’t have to worry as much about their backs. We would sell these at our store but just don’t like their looks as well as the real thing.
These look incredibly good or mediocre. The handcrafted stone fountains out of Mexico and many of the large ones out of China are beautiful. But there are also mass-produced stone
fountains, which use crushed stone mixed with resin. These just don’t look like real stone to us even though they are.
Making Your Own
There are lots of ways to make your own
fountains. The easiest way, perhaps, is to place a pump in a small tub or on some liner. Then place a wire or plastic grate on top of the tub or the liner, and layer pebbles, rocks, etc. over the wire or plastic grate. Your pump and plumbing will be hidden! No one will no where your water is coming from. You can then connect black PVC piping to the pump (black sprinkler pipe is incredibly inexpensive yet professional looking) and let the water rise up seemingly out of rocks in your yard. You won’t have to worry much about pets as the water source is covered with stones. Likewise, you won’t have to worry about kids drowning. You can also build a little
waterfall over such a pit if you want, just throwing in boulders to hide your electric and tubing, etc. Some people use bamboo for spouts. You can also drill holes through slate (we’ve found it’s really easy if you soak the slate for a day first). Slate is so porous, however, you ought to seal it once you’re done drilling. You can also find rocks in nature that already have holes in them.
How Big of a Pump do I need?
Basically, if you buy a
fountain at a store you should have instructions on the best size pump for that particular piece of garden art. If you are making your own fountain, here is a rule of thumb: for every inch of width you need to pump 100 gallons per hour. But note that a100 gallon per hour pump is not pumping the same volume at one foot head (elevation above the pump), two feet head, three feet, and so forth. If you are making your own
fountain, it is likely you will have to guess which size to buy, and you might be wrong the first time you build one. Most pumps are adjustable but often can be adjusted down only a bit. However, magnetic-driven pumps, the most common kind, are inexpensive and durable.