How to Build a DIY Waterfall on a Budget

Ready to add a homemade water feature to your backyard landscape? This step-by-step tutorial shows you how to build a small DIY waterfall, on a budget of $500 or less.

You’ll also like How to Build a Fire Pit Pergola for Swings and How to Install an Above Ground Backyard Pool.

how to build your own backyard DIY waterfall

This post contains affiliate links. Learn more and read our full disclosure policy here.

Our Backyard DIY Waterfall

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 DIY backyard waterfall 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 and add some tranquility to the area.

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 garden waterfall kits to 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 in your own backyard, create your own rock out of concrete and then “pretty up” the area with found rock and plant life.

We did this all in one long weekend, for LESS than the cost of buying a basic waterfall kit.

Are you ready? Let’s get started!

DIY Waterfall Tutorial on a Budget

How to Build a DIY Waterfall on a Budget

Materials & Tools

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

A note about the pond pump: Since LZ is using a natural pond and the pump is for water aeration, her pump runs continuously. For most backyard waterfalls, though, you’ll want to choose a pond and waterfall pump and install an outlet and switch where you can easily turn the pump off when not in use.

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

Step 1: Choose the Location

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

No Pond? Create Your Own Water Source

LZ’s pond supplies the waterfall’s water source. If you’re building in your backyard without a natural water source, you’ll need to first create your own water reservoir and then build the rest of the waterfall. The easiest way to do this is to purchase a rigid pond liner that you can get at most home improvement stores or many gardening/landscaping stores — and of course, on trusty ol’ Amazon.

Then, at your chosen location, you’ll mark and excavate to fit the pond liner. Level the liner using sand or gravel beneath as needed. Fill any gaps around the edges with sand to keep the liner securely in place.

Alternatively, for a less structured and more custom look, you can also use 20 mil black plastic pond liner. Dig the pond, add a 1-2 inch layer of sand at the bottom of the hole, and lay out the liner. Secure the liner around the edge of the pond in a few spots, then fold the pond liner to fit the profile of the pool you dug. As you build the waterfall, you’ll add rocks to hold the pond liner and you can trim the excess as needed.

Step 2: Make Pond Rocks

Next, it’s time to make some artificial rocks out of concrete.

Begin by mixing your concrete, and coloring it if you’d like.

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

After your cement and color is thoroughly mixed, placed it within the mold, smooth it over (we used a piece of wood we had on hand) and then immediately remove 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.

how to 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!

how to use a paver mold to 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 to resemble flagstone or slate.

Also, just remember these little guys take a long time to thoroughly dry. They will be extremely fragile for the first 24 hours.

how to make your own rocks from concrete for a DIY waterfall feature

Step 3: Create The Waterfall Fountain

To make the water flow and “fall” out of the rock instead of shoot out at the top of the waterfall, 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 DIY waterfall fountain from PVC in a pond
building a custom DIY waterfall fountain head for a backyard 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 DIY waterfall fountain head from PVC pipe 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 DIY waterfall fountain head from PVC pipe for a backyard pond

Step 4: Frame the Waterfall Structure

Next, assemble the framework. For our long cascading waterfall, we built three staggered boxes that measured 24″ by 36″. For small spaces, you’ll likely want to stack the boxes to build a taller waterfall and create the frame (and stack the rocks later) in accordance with your space.

The first box was made from 2X6’s and the other two from 2X4’s. For extra durability, use pressure treated lumber or redwood — but since this frame will be covered with concrete, we just used regular construction grade lumber.

The most important step here is to make sure the wood frames are level (to avoid water running over the sides). We screwed them to each other with 3″ screws.

building a custom DIY waterfall in a pond -- the wood frame to support the waterfall

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 DIY waterfall in a pond - build the cascading waterfall frame from lumber

Step 5: Configure Water Supply Lines

Temporarily place your fountain head inside the top of your waterfall structure to see where your supply lines need to be run.

For a taller and more compact waterfall, you’ll likely need to run some additional tubing or copper pipe to place the fountain head where you want it. You can also use a durable container, like a flower pot, to help hold the structure and protect the tubing, if needed.

building a custom DIY waterfall for a backyard pond - cascading waterfall frame structure with homemade PVC pipe fountain head

Step 6: Cut Foam Insulation to Fit Frame

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 on a budget

Step 7: Install Fountain Head Extensions

Cut and connect some 12″ PVC 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 on a budget

Step 8: Install Foam Installation in Frame

Install 1×2 supports for the foam sheets. You could also use rebar here if your waterfall structure is taller.

use insulation foam, pvc pipe, lumber, and concrete to make a DIY waterfall feature on a budget

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.

how to make a budget friendly cheap backyard waterfall - use foam, pvc, lumber, and concrete to make a DIY waterfall feature

Step 9: Install Waterfall Edge

Use some 1X4’s to create a “lip” around your boxes (see next two pictures for examples).

how to build a DIY waterfall for a backyard garden
how to build a DIY backyard garden 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 DIY waterfall

 Step 10: Connect Water Supply

Connect your water supply line to the fountain head and bury it as necessary. Fill some of the voids with leftover foam and those homemade “rocks”. Our water supply line is on the far right side of the below picture.

how to build a DIY waterfall using insulation foam and lumber and concrete

Step 11: Skim Coat the Waterfall Frame with Concrete

Mix your final bag of 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 concrete DIY waterfall for a backyard pond or garden

Here are a few different angles just to give you an idea how ours looked at this step.

concrete DIY waterfall step by step tutorial
how to build a DIY waterfall on a budget using concrete and insulation foam

Step 11: Add More Rocks

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 DIY waterfall on a budget using concrete cement

Step 12: Let The Concrete Dry

Allow plenty of time for concrete to thoroughly dry and harden. I highly recommend a minimum of 24 hours and 48 hours is pretty standard for manufacturers to recommend. The longer, the better! (The concrete will take several weeks to fully cure, but you can work with it once it’s dried 24-28 hours.)

Step 13: Trim PVC Fountain Head Extensions

After everything has thoroughly dried , it’s now time to hook up the water pump and test it out!

BUT FIRST: 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 DIY waterfall on a budget

Step 14: Connect The Water Supply & Test

Connect your water pump. Make sure to follow the instructions on your water pump since each one is a little bit different. If you’re not working with a pond like ours, now is the time to fill your pond liner with water.

Since we already had the pump in place we just had to connect our PVC pipes from the island to its location.

how to build a DIY waterfall

As you can see in this below picture the distance is a little bit of a hike and required a lot of PVC. A small backyard installation will require just a length of tubing to get from the water to the pump.

DIY Waterfall on a Budget

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

I love it when a plan comes together!

make your own concrete DIY waterfall on a budget

Step 15: Add More Rocks

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.

use rocks to make your own DIY waterfall on a budget

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.

 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.

on a budget, DIY waterfall for $300 - step by step tutorial at Remodelaholic

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 DIY waterfall for a backyard pond or garden

If your pond is self-circulating, you’ll need to ensure the water level stays filled and you’ll turn it off when you’re not using it.

diy pond waterfall on a budget

Because ours is needed to aerate the pond water to keep it cleaner, our waterfall is designed to stay running all the time, and obviously we never need to refill the water reservoir!

DIY Waterfall Tutorial on a Budget
cheap diy waterfall for a backyard garden 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.

How Much Does It Cost To Make a Waterfall?

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!

  • 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

I hope you enjoyed reading this tutorial and happy building!

—————————————-

Make your yard even MORE amazing with these projects, too:

How to Build a Backyard DIY Waterfall on a Budget

Ready to add a homemade water feature to your backyard landscape? This step-by-step tutorial shows you how to build a small DIY waterfall, on a budget of $500 or less. Follow this tutorial for how to build a DIY waterfall on a budget, including creating your own rock out of concrete.
Print Recipe

Equipment

  • 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

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

Step 1: Choose the Location (Create Your Pond)

  • LZ’s pond supplies the waterfall’s water source. If you’re building in your backyard without a natural water source, you’ll need to first create your own water reservoir and then build the rest of the waterfall. The easiest way to do this is to purchase a rigid pond liner that you can get at most home improvement stores or many gardening/landscaping stores — and of course, on trusty ol’ Amazon.
  • Then, at your chosen location, you’ll mark and excavate to fit the pond liner. Level the liner using sand or gravel beneath as needed. Fill any gaps around the edges with sand to keep the liner securely in place.
  • Alternatively, for a less structured and more custom look, you can also use 20 mil black plastic pond liner. Dig the pond, add a 1-2 inch layer of sand at the bottom of the hole, and lay out the liner. Secure the liner around the edge of the pond in a few spots, then fold the pond liner to fit the profile of the pool you dug. As you build the waterfall, you’ll add rocks to hold the pond liner and you can trim the excess as needed.

Step 2: Make Pond Rocks

  • Begin by mixing your concrete, and coloring it if you’d like.
  • Make sure to read and follow the directions on the cement color bottles first.
  • After your cement and color is thoroughly mixed, placed it within the mold, smooth it over (we used a piece of wood we had on hand) and then immediately remove 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 completely dried.
  • 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 to resemble flagstone or slate.
  • Also, just remember these little guys take a long time to thoroughly dry. They will be extremely fragile for the first 24 hours.

Step 3: Create The Waterfall Fountain

  • To make the water flow and “fall” out of the rock instead of shoot out at the top of the waterfall, 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).
  • 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.
  • As you can see in the 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.

Step 4: Frame the Waterfall Structure

  • Next, assemble the framework. For our long cascading waterfall, we built three staggered boxes that measured 24″ by 36″. For small spaces, you’ll likely want to stack the boxes to build a taller waterfall and create the frame (and stack the rocks later) in accordance with your space.
  • The first box was made from 2X6’s and the other two from 2X4’s. For extra durability, use pressure treated lumber or redwood — but since this frame will be covered with concrete, we just used regular construction grade lumber.
  • The most important step here is to make sure the wood frames are level (to avoid water running over the sides). We screwed them to each other with 3″ screws.
  • 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).

Step 5: Configure Water Supply Lines

  • Temporarily place your fountain head inside the top of your waterfall structure to see where your supply lines need to be run.
  • For a taller and more compact waterfall, you’ll likely need to run some additional tubing or copper pipe to place the fountain head where you want it. You can also use a durable container, like a flower pot, to help hold the structure and protect the tubing, if needed.

Step 6: Cut Foam Insulation to Fit Frame

  • Next, cut and fit the 2″ foam insulation to fit in the boxes.

Step 7: Install Fountain Head Extensions

  • Cut and connect some 12″ PVC 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.

Step 8: Install Foam Installation in Frame

  • Install 1×2 supports for the foam sheets. You could also use rebar here if your waterfall structure is taller.
  • 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.

Step 9: Install Waterfall Edge

  • Use some 1X4’s to create a “lip” around your boxes (see next two pictures for examples).

Step 10: Connect Water Supply

  • Connect your water supply line to the fountain head and bury it as necessary. Fill some of the voids with leftover foam and those homemade “rocks”. Our water supply line is on the far right side of the below picture.

Step 11: Skim Coat the Waterfall Frame with Concrete

  • Mix your final bag of 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.

Step 12: Add More Rocks

  • 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.

Step 13: Let The Concrete Dry

  • Allow plenty of time for concrete to thoroughly dry and harden. I highly recommend a minimum of 24 hours and 48 hours is pretty standard for manufacturers to recommend. The longer, the better! (The concrete will take several weeks to fully cure, but you can work with it once it’s dried 24-28 hours.)

Step 14: Trim PVC Fountain Head Extensions

  • After everything has thoroughly dried , it’s now time to hook up the water pump and test it out!
  • BUT FIRST: 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!

Step 15: Connect The Water Supply & Test

  • Connect your water pump. Make sure to follow the instructions on your water pump since each one is a little bit different. If you’re not working with a pond like ours, now is the time to fill your pond liner with water.
  • Since we already had the pump in place we just had to connect our PVC pipes from the island to its location.
  • The distance for our pond is a little bit of a hike and required a lot of PVC. A small backyard installation will require just a length of tubing to get from the water to the pump.

Step 16: Add More Rocks & Flowers

  • Last, but not least, we gathered up some “found rock” and placed them around our new waterfall.
  • Ask your own family and friends (or maybe even a neighbor) if they need help getting rid of these rock “hindrances”. To date, I’ve never been told no.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Notes

A note about the pond pump: Since LZ is using a natural pond and the pump is for water aeration, her pump runs continuously. For most backyard waterfalls, though, you’ll want to choose a pond and waterfall pump and install an outlet and switch where you can easily turn the pump off when not in use.
If your pond is self-circulating, you’ll need to ensure the water level stays filled and you’ll turn it off when you’re not using it. Because LZ’s is needed to aerate the pond water to keep it cleaner, the waterfall is designed to stay running all the time, and obviously they never need to refill the water reservoir!
How to build a DIY waterfall on a budget (as in, $300!)

First published 15 June 2015 // Last updated 03 May 2023

Website | + posts

Hi! I'm LZ, and I am the owner of The Summery Umbrella shop and blog. I love being creative in any form that it takes (writing, painting, DIY, food, etc), and find a hard time sitting still.

We love hearing from fellow Remodelaholics, so let us know what you like about this and leave any questions below in the comments. If you've followed a tutorial or been inspired by something you've seen here, we'd love to see pictures! Submit pictures here or by messaging us over on Facebook.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




14 Comments

    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 😉

    1. Hi Mila! Thank you so much for such sweet comments 🙂 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
    Kathleen

    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. 🙂

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

  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!

  4. 5 stars
    Hey LZ! This DIY backyard waterfall project is absolutely stunning! It’s amazing how you turned a neglected yard into a tranquil oasis. The transformation is truly inspiring. The before and after pictures speak volumes about the hard work and dedication you put into this project. I love how you shared the backstory of your home and the need for this beautiful addition. It’s not just a want, but a necessity for rejuvenating the space. Kudos to you and Mike for your vision and the incredible execution. Keep up the fantastic work and keep those awesome DIY posts coming! Can’t wait to see what you’ll tackle next.