How to build a small waterfall pond

Updated February 21, 2017

The sound of water splashing into a pond can be relaxing. It masks unwanted sounds of nearby traffic, neighbours, or children playing. Visually, a waterfall is soothing and adds another element of nature to your garden. A hidden waterfall serves as a bit of a surprise to those exploring your yard or it can become the landscape's focal point. It isn't difficult to build a small waterfall pond but it does take some time and effort.

Determine the height and width of the waterfall in proportion to the pond. A wide, high waterfall would look silly with a small pond, while a skinny, shallow waterfall would look more like a dribble with a large pond. The higher the height of the fall the more noise the water will make as it falls and the more capacity the waterfall's pump will need to have. The pump's capacity should be on the label, as well as directions on how to compute how large a pump you'll need.

Dig out the pond to the desired depth. You'll need a deeper pond for certain water plants like water lilies or if you want fish. The pond can be shallower if it's primarily a water feature and not a water garden. Use the dirt from the pond to build up the waterfall's base.

Shape the base for the waterfall. Mound the dirt to the desired height of the waterfall. Water with a garden sprinkler so the dirt settles and compacts.

Place the waterproof liner over the mounded dirt and in the pond. It only needs to be on the front of the dirt so it is underneath the waterfall. The liner will be covered with rocks so it can't be seen. The liner catches any spray from the waterfall and directs it back into the pond. If you don't use a liner the waterfall won't be able to bounce off rocks before it hits the pond. The liner for the pond should overlap the lip of the pond by about 15 (6 inches).

Build the waterfall using rocks placed on the liner over the base. If necessary peel back the liner and dig a shelf in the mounded dirt using the hand shovel so the rocks are stable. Replace the liner and position the rocks on the liner, nestling them in. Test the waterfall with a garden hose. Make adjustments in the rock placement and slope of the base if necessary.

Fill the pond with water and place the pump in the pond attached to a plastic hose. Run the hose up to the top of the waterfall and turn it on. Again make any adjustments. Finish placing rocks on the base of the waterfall, hiding the plastic hose by placing rocks over it. Be careful not to crimp the hose with rocks. Place rocks, edging, or bricks around the edge of the pond to hide the liner.


Go slowly and test often. Water follows the path of least resistance. While you may think it will splash over a ledge, in reality in may go behind the ledge. Get the right-size pump. If it is too large, the amount of flowing water will be too much for the waterfall. If it is too small, the waterfall will be more of a dribble. The motor of the pump may burn out faster as well. Keep in mind that the distance the water needs to be pumped is the height of the waterfall plus the depth of the pond.


Water and electricity don't mix. Make sure the pump is grounded and that the electrical wiring for the pump is installed by a professional. Don't use an extension cord for the pump.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Waterproof liner
  • Hand shovel
  • Garden hose
  • Rocks
  • Waterfall pump
  • Plastic hose
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About the Author

Katie Jensen's first book was published in 2000. Since then she has written additional books as well as screenplays, website content and e-books. Rosehill holds a Master of Business Administration from Arizona State University. Her articles specialize in business and personal finance. Her passion includes cooking, eating and writing about food.