Build a Waterfall on a Budget

How to build a DIY waterfall on a budget (as in, $300!)

Hello Remodelaholics! It’s LZ from The Summery Umbrella, and I’m super pumped to share this amazing, new DIY post with you today. This particular project started off not as a want, but rather a need. When my husband Mike and I first moved into our home the previous owner had not been able to take care of the large yard, and then on top of that no one had been living in our home for over 6 months. The pond was a complete mess to say the least! We desperately needed an aeration system, and quickly added a pump that was within our very small budget.

Now, almost a year later we are more than ready to design a “prettier” focal point. Like with all of my projects I wanted to keep the costs down, but also create a beautiful piece of work that my family and I could enjoy for many, many more years to come. For instance, do you remember when I created the DIY Potting Bench or even the Mason Jar Pendant Light? Very similar for sure!

With that being said, have you ever priced out a pond waterfall kit? From my research I found a range of $600 – $4,000 (depending on if you needed to hire help). Definitely out of my budget! How about flagstone, ledge or slate rock? Jaw dropping, right? Some of the local stores in town were asking a minimum of $60 for one rock at 25 lb. No way. I’ll do it my way, thank you very much!

Today I am going to show you how to build a waterfall on a budget, create your own rock out of concrete and then “pretty up” the area with found rock and plant life. Are you ready? Let’s get started!

DIY Waterfall Tutorial

Build a Waterfall on a Budget

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Materials Used:

  • 2x4x8’s (pressure treated)
  • 2x6x8’s (pressure treated)
  • 1x 6’s (pressure treated)
  • 2″ foam insulation
  • 1″ PVC T-fitting (3)
  • 1″ PVC elbow (8)
  • 1″ PVC connectors (6)
  • 1″ PVC pipe 10 foot sections SCH20 (10)
  • 1/6 hp submersible multipurpose water pump
  • wood screws
  • liquid cement color
  • concrete mix (we used 6 80lb bags)
  • concrete mold
  • mortar (2 40lb bags)
  • purple primer
  • medium clear pvc cement
  • “found” rock

Tools Suggested:

  • drill and bits
  • level
  • circular saw
  • reciprocating saw (fine tooth blade)
  • pencil
  • screw gun
  • measuring tape
  • framing hammer
  • ruler or anything with a straightedge
  • rake
  • wheel barrow
  • shovel
1.) First things first, decide where to put your waterfall.
Ever since we bought our home I have been majorly crushing on this itty-bitty island right smack in the middle of our heart-shaped pond which is approximately 3/4 of an acre.
It was a little consumed with saplings and plant life so we had to row our little boat over there to clear out an area for the waterfall.
DIY waterfall in a private pond
It would have been too much of a hassle to bring all of the unneeded branches back over to the “main land” so the rest were burnt directly on the island.
DIY waterfall in a private pond
2.) Next, it’s time to make some artificial rocks out of concrete.
Did you know that they have cement colors? I sure didn’t!
make your own rocks from concrete for a DIY waterfall feature
Make sure to read and follow the directions on the cement color bottles first. I do believe we did it the wrong way the first time around. Oops!
make your own rocks from concrete for a DIY waterfall feature
3.) After your cement and color is thoroughly mixed we placed it within the mold, smoothed it over with a piece of wood we had on hand and then immediately removed the mold.
NOTE: Use a tarp when accomplishing this step. This way your new rocks will not stick, and will be easy to remove when they have completed dried.
make your own rocks from concrete for a DIY waterfall feature
I was a little nervous to immediately remove the mold, but our first one (and then every one after) worked out just fine!
make your own rocks from concrete for a DIY waterfall feature
We ended up using three bottles of cement color (each with their own bag of cement), and then an additional two more bags of concrete with their usual color without a mold. They were created by just making large square-like sections on the tarp.
Also, just remember these little guys take a long time to thoroughly dry. They will be extremely fragile for the first 24 hours.
make your own rocks from concrete for a DIY waterfall feature
4. ) To make the water “fall” out of the rock instead of shoot out we divided the supply line 4 ways with some 1″ T-fittings and 1″ elbows. We pre-cut 2″ long pieces of 1″ PVC to connect all the fittings (male connectors).
building a custom waterfall in a pond
building a custom waterfall in a pond
After priming all the pieces to be connected we started with one T-fitting and two male connectors, then added two more T-fittings to that.  From those two T-fittings four more male connectors were used to  add the the four, 90 degree elbows.
 building a custom waterfall in a pond
As you can see in the below picture this will be your end result. Don’t worry, this will not be seen! This is just merely the fountain head that will be underwater.
building a custom waterfall in a pond
5.) Next, assemble the framework. This was done with three staggered boxes, ours measured 24″ by 36″. The first box was made from 2X6’s  and the other two from 2X4’s.  The most important step here is to make sure they are level (to avoid water running over the sides). We screwed them to each other with 3″ screws.
building a custom waterfall in a pond
6.) Temporarily place your fountain head inside to see where your supply lines need to be ran.
building a custom waterfall in a pond
7.) Where the last box hung off the edge we used some cut 2X4’s to brace it up and hold it level (see picture below).
building a custom waterfall in a pond
8.) Next, cut and fit the 2″ foam insulation to fit in the boxes.
use foam, pvc, lumber, and concrete to make a DIY waterfall feature
9.) Cut and connect some 12″ extensions to come up through the foam. When we pressed the foam to the top of the fountain head it left an impression which enabled us to cut holes for the pipe to protrude from. Again keep calm, this will all be hidden later.
use foam, pvc, lumber, and concrete to make a DIY waterfall feature
use foam, pvc, lumber, and concrete to make a DIY waterfall feature
10.) Secure the foam into place with some screws. Don’t drive the screws all the way through, just enough to hold the foam in place.
use foam, pvc, lumber, and concrete to make a DIY waterfall feature
11.) Use some 1X4’s to create a “lip” around your boxes (see next two pictures for examples).
how to build a waterfall
how to build a waterfall
Have you been wondering how all these shots have been taken? I thought you’d get a kick out this picture! Let me just start off by saying that I have been known to be a little clumsy. Rowing this little boat around the island while taking pictures (some of them I was standing up in!) was quite amusing. However, I can proudly say that I did not fall in throughout the entire duration of this project!
how to build a waterfall
 12.) Connect your water supply line to the fountain head and burry it as necessary. Fill some of the voids with leftover foam and our homemade “rocks”. Our water supply line is on the far right side of the below picture.
how to build a waterfall
13.) Mix your concrete and apply liberally to all the boxes making sure it fills in all the little gaps and cracks. Also, ensure that it is approximately 1″ thick in all areas, and then slope it up to the lip with a scrap piece of wood (or your hands, if you dare!). This creates a nice trough for the water to fill in and run out. However, waterfalls aren’t troughs so we added some more of our homemade “rocks” to break it up. Do this while your concrete is still wet to ensure they adhere.
NOTE: Our homemade rocks had a beautiful color when they were first made, but as they hardened their color faded significantly.
how to build a waterfall
Here are a few different angles just to give you an idea how ours looked at this step.
how to build a waterfall
how to build a waterfall
14.) Mix the mortar and apply to the outer sides of the structure, and place your “rocks” into the mortar to break up the edges and make it look more natural.
how to build a waterfall
15.) After everything has thoroughly dried (I highly recommend a minimum of 24 hours. The longer, the better), it’s now time to hook up the water pump and test it out! Since we already had one in place we just had to connect our PVC pipes from the island to its location.
how to build a waterfall
As you can see in this below picture the distance is a little bit of a hike and required a lot of PVC.
DIY Waterfall on a Budget
16.) Connect your water pump. Make sure to follow the instructions on your water pump since each one is a little bit different.
I let Mike jump in the pond and attach our PVC to our water pump. I’ll be honest! There was absolutely no way that I was going in that pond. I’ve seen water snakes and snapping turtles in it before, and I’m quite alright watching from dry land!
diy waterfall and pump
17.) Prior to turning on your water pump for a test drive ensure that your concrete has indeed hardened, and then go ahead and trim off those PVC extensions approximately 1/4″ above the concrete. We used the reciprocating saw to do this (prior to turning on the water), and then tried it out!
make your own waterfall on a budget
I love it when a plan comes together!
make your own waterfall on a budget
18.) Last, but not least, we gathered up some “found rock” and place them around around our new waterfall.
Now honestly, this step will all depend on your location. I grew up in the Midwest around a lot of farms (and even now in North Carolina), and I’ve always been able to easily find rock around these fields. I am by no means encouraging you to enter onto any farm or field that you wish. However, Mike and I have quite a few friends who own farmland who have beautiful rock that they just can’t get rid of quick enough! What I am encouraging though is that you ask your own family and friends (or maybe even a neighbor) if they need help getting rid of these “hindrances”. To date, I’ve never been told no.
make your own waterfall on a budget
 There’s really no perfect way to add rock. Just start off by testing them out. Place them all around your waterfall on both the inside and around it.
DIY waterfall for $300!
Add a few flowers and mulch, and voila you’ve created your own little oasis! Not to mention, if there is a part of your structure that isn’t as appealing to you (for whatever reason) just add your found rocks, mulch and plant life close by to cover it up.
how to build your own waterfall
how to build your own waterfall
diy pond waterfall
DIY Waterfall Tutorial
  diy waterfall pond
 I would have loved to get more pictures from a distance, but unfortunately it was so hard to see anything!
diy pond waterfall
Creating a custom water feature can be pricy! Follow this DIY tutorial for how to build a waterfall on a budget, including creating your own rock out of concrete.
Cost and Time Involved:
wood: $40
foam insulation: $38
PVC: $40
screws: $6
cement color: $15
purple primer & pvc cement: $7
concrete mix: $24
concrete mold: $15
mortar (2: 40 lb bags): $8
water pump: $64
lilies: $36
3 bags of mulch: $10
found rock: $0
total: $303

This project will ultimately depend on your budget.  We had a very small budget so we had to get quite creative in order to make this work. This particular project took us all weekend (plus a Friday night), but that was mainly due to the concrete. I honestly do not think you could do it less time because you have to wait for everything to dry, but at least you won’t be out in the sun all day!

I hope you enjoyed reading this tutorial and happy building!


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    1. Thank you so much, Karianne! I have to warn you… they are addicting! I want another one on the other side of the pond now ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. Hi Mila! Thank you so much for such sweet comments ๐Ÿ™‚ I cannot tell you how happy we are with this end result. Such a fun project!

  1. I so love waterfalls. That is a great tutorial for anyone with a nice place to put one in. Waterfalls add so much character to an area. Thanks for sharing this creative idea on #HomeMattersParty

    1. Hi Kathleen! I couldn’t agree more. There is just something about a waterfall that is so soothing, and just “makes” an area more inviting!

    1. Thank you so much!! We had so much for creating this beauty, but it was indeed a little trying at times. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I’ve wanted a waterfall for so long, thanks for the great ideas and the money saving tips!

  3. Thank you for creating such a wonderful narrative and clear instructions on creating a waterfall. I really enjoyed following the process. It has inspired me to give it a try!