Who to Hire to Install a Fountain

Updated June 30, 2016
Landscapers placing smooth gray decorative stones around the base of a 1-ton bubbling boulder fountain
Holeman Landscape workers place decorative Mexican stones around the base of a bubbling boulder water feature. (Photo by Frank Espich)

Experience and a designer's eye are important in water feature installation.

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While not all landscapers can install water features, many professional landscape architects on Angie's List specialize in the service. David Gorden of Holeman Landscape in Indianapolis says homeowners should search fo two specific qualities in a fountain installer.

"I'd look for experience. You can see that by looking at photos of their work," he says. “Also, make sure they have a design sense, that they think hard about where it’s going to go, how big it should be, where it’ll be viewed from."

Once you've chosen someone to install your water feature, they can guide you through the key elements, including:

1. Location

This is your starting point. Before you choose a fountain, you have to know where you want it. From there, your landscaping professional can tell you what features best fit the space.

"When it’s up close on a patio or seating area, the water can be a trickle and still have an impact," Gorden says. “One that's off in the distance in a yard, we treat them differently. In that case, it needs to be bigger and bolder so you can see it and see the water spilling out."

Bubbling Boulder Installation

2. Shopping for outdoor fountains

Outdoor water features come in all shapes, sizes, materials and designs. If you can think of it, someone can probably make water come out of it.

“It’s all about personal preference and what fits the setting,” Gorden says.

Stone fountains dominate the marketplace. You can choose from smooth, sculpted, artistically designed rock water features, or unsculpted stones direct from nature.

Current trends favor the latter, including weathered limestone, sponge boulders, sandstone and fieldstone. Once you select your rock at a local lawn and garden supplier who specializes in hardscapes, they'll make it fountain-ready by drilling one or more holes through it.

Not every rock on the lot can take the drilling, so before you fall in love with one, browse the selection with the on-site expert.

"You'll have someone pick out a rock or bring one in, and I'll look at it and have to tell them I can't do it," says David LaFara of Tiffany Lawn & Garden Supply in Indianapolis. "I can see seams that they can't, and if I drill one with a seam, it's gone. Even if I can drill it, I'm not interested in selling something that'll fall apart a few years from now."

A large brownish rock with a natural opening
As long as it is structurally sound, uniquely formed rocks like this one can be turned into a water feature. (Photo by Frank Espich)

3. Vegetation for decoration

Most landscape architects will tell you a fountain needs neighboring plant life to maximize its visual appeal.

“I think they look best when they’re surrounded by plants,” Gorden says. “Water features can be a little stark if they’re sitting there by themselves. Having some greenery around it sets it off.”

Your chosen service provider can help you select native plants that provide an attractive background and/or foreground.

4. Cost of yard fountains

For a quality water feature, pump and basin, you can spend anywhere from $500 for a DIY kit to more than $10,000 for a large feature with full installation.

Fountain stones suitable for drilling start at around $100. Larger rocks with multiple holes can cost between $1,000 and $2,000.

Your seller or installer should be your go-to for any maintenance issues or winterization. Most want to be engaged with the buyer, especially if they found the rock originally.

"I tell anyone I give the rocks to, 'Please send me pictures. I want to see the thing running,'" says LaFara, who personally selects stones from quarries in Missouri, Wisconsin and elsewhere. "And if they have a problem, I will go to them and see what it is."

Let us know if you've had a water feature installed, in the comments section below.

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