Every homeowner wants a calm oasis in the backyard. For some folks, this means a fully loaded outdoor kitchen complete with a pizza oven and mini fridge, while for others it’s a simple hammock strung between two trees.
But for the ultimate in backyard tranquility, we’re here to suggest you add a water feature. Cooling and quiet, installing a new H2O design can transform your outdoor space into a true escape.
“Water features can help homeowners attain a ‘vacation in their own backyard’ feeling that so many desire right now during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Alan Weene, operations manager at Reflections Water Light Stone.
Plus, even a small water feature can act as natural air conditioning, say the experts, and you’ll boost your property’s biodiversity too.
“Water features create a small microclimate, cooling the air on hot days, and they support local wildlife and pollinator species with a source of drinking water,” says Samantha Anderson, landscape designer at Home Outside.
But the greatest benefits just might be psychological.
“Placing oneself in an environment with moving water can promote a high level of energy and a positive state of mind, and may even encourage better performance in the classroom or workplace,” says Weene.
And you don’t have to own a large lawn to get the benefits of a water feature—even city dwellers can squeeze one in, and reap the benefits.
“The sound of water outside your window can be amazingly soothing and help to mask less enticing noise coming from nearby AC units or street traffic,” says Emma Lam, lead designer of A Small Green Space, whose firm designs and installs a variety of garden features in petite urban spots.
Ready to get your feet wet? Here’s what you need to know about various water options for home gardens, including prices and benefits.
Start small with a birdbath
The easiest and fastest way to get water into your garden design is to add a birdbath.
“These options don’t require any type of prep work, just a firm, flat surface to sit on, and they quickly add a touch of color and movement to your flower beds,” says Weene.
Birdbath choices are abundant at home stores and garden centers, so try to complement your home’s style and bloom shades when selecting one. Caring for this birdie pool is a snap—just keep it filled, fish out leaves and sticks when you notice them, and do a deeper clean seasonally.
Try a bubbler fountain
Another easy pick in terms of maintenance and installation are bubble fountains, which are basically pre-packaged or free-standing options that come ready to go. (Just add water and plug it in.)
Lam is a fan of compact recirculating water fountains for small spaces like city decks and patios.
“Bubble fountains have a reservoir that you fill, and their gentle burbling provides ambient sound as well as a visual feature,” says Gary McCoy, a Lowe’s store manager and lawn and garden expert.
Bubblers, like birdbaths, can match your outdoor space’s theme.
“The ‘fountain’ portion can be a rock, stone statuary, or something made from fiberglass or metal,” says John Cook, landscape installation manager at FormLA Landscaping.
Dig a pond
The next level up in degree of difficulty (e.g., installation, maintenance, cost) are ponds. You can definitely go the simple route, says McCoy, by “digging a form, lining it with plastic, filling it, and then installing a pump.” But these features can also be highly complex.
“Custom ponds, streams, and waterfalls require considerable space, time, and expertise to put in successfully as these include excavation, plumbing, mechanicals, and decorative plantings to surround it,” says Weene.
Water feature costs
You can expect to pay $40 or so for a small platelike birdbath that sits on a table or a few hundred, depending on the materials it’s made from.
“A small DIY pond could potentially be realized for a few thousand dollars, but once you add rocks, fish, plants, and filtration, that price can quickly increase,” says Weene.
And if you’re keen to put in a larger pond, waterfall, or natural pool, get ready to pay tens of thousands of dollars.
“As a rule of thumb, the budget for a professionally designed and installed water feature might be $100 to $150 per square foot,” he says. And don’t forget the power source details.
“Consider utilities, such as electricity, a waterline, or whether your water feature is solar-powered,” says Anderson.