Make a Splash This Summer: Create a Relaxing Retreat With Water Features!

As humans, we’re drawn to water. If you’ve ever heard of Blue Mind Theory, you know that being in and around water increases our dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin levels, which makes us feel happier, decreases stress, spurs creativity, expands our capacity for compassion, and reduces our heart rate. Indeed, we experience many positive effects when these negatively charged ions enter our bloodstreams, whether we’re breathing in the scent of water or immersing ourselves in it. We also benefit from visually processing aquatic hues, which calm and soothe our human brains. 

70% of the Earth and ⅔ of our bodies are composed of water. On a foundational level, it’s almost like being in and around water makes us feel connected to something bigger than ourselves.

While we might prioritize an annual beach vacation or enjoy stealing away to the cabin on the weekends, regular life doesn’t allow most of us as much water exposure as we’d like. Fortunately, we can create a relaxing retreat in the midst of our day-to-day life by incorporating water features into our yards. 

From simple fountains to streams or ponds, there is a water feature to suit nearly every homeowner’s preferences, property, and budget!

Types of Water Features

Birdbaths and fountains

If you’re a nature enthusiast looking for a small commitment, consider adding a bird bath near your deck or patio. You’ll still get the calming effect of the water with the added benefit of a variety of happy birds flying in to clean off their dusty feathers. 

If you long for moving water and the glimmer of light reflecting off of it, you can “dip your toes in” with a small fountain or a mini pond in a bowl. These water features are generally easy to install and only require a small amount of water and a small pump to recirculate it. They require monthly cleaning and occasional maintenance but boast a small price tag and minimal setup. 


If you hike remote trails to experience the sights and sounds of majestic waterfalls, you can have the next best thing—a backyard waterfall—without the hiking! Waterfalls can be constructed to pour into an in-ground pool or as a standalone feature, with boulders and smaller rocks for elevation, a liner, and a pump system. 

Streams & ponds

If a waterfall doesn’t suit you but you want the sound of moving water, a stream might be just the ticket. Homeowners are often surprised to learn that they can build a stream running through their property, but if you’re up to the planning and excavation, they’re fairly straightforward to construct. Build your stream to run from higher to lower ground, and place the recirculating pump at the bottom. The pump will send water back to the top, giving your stream the appearance of a continuous flow. Add large rocks or boulders to your stream for a “babbling” effect.

If you want to go big, jump in with both feet and design a pond for an immersive natural experience!

A pond offers the peace and serenity of calm water. It can be designed to look natural and provide a happy habitat for frogs and fish. Add water-loving plants like marsh marigolds, swamp milkweed, lobelia, and ferns to soften the edges and help your pond blend into its surroundings. Plants also help hide technical features like the pond liner and leaf screen. 

Tips to consider when designing your water feature

Sustainable landscaping

  • Before you begin, check with your city’s permitting department and research which permits you need and how much they’ll cost. Also, be sure to secure your permits before any work begins! At the same time, make sure you’re clear on what the building code requires so your water feature is compliant. For example, if your water feature is deeper than 18”, it may be considered a swimming pool and have similar barrier requirements.
  • If you choose a large water feature with moving water, you will likely need an electrician to wire in a GFCI outlet. Be sure to budget electrical work into the total cost of your project!
  • If you have small children or pets (or if your neighbors do and they could wander into your yard!) take precautions to keep them safe. This could mean constructing a fence around your pond or minimizing the depth of your stream. Also, double check that any chemicals you use to treat the water are non-toxic!
  • Make sure your pump is accessible so you can remove and store it during the winter months.
  • Expect wildlife! From bugs to birds and frogs, water attracts critters. If you’re not thrilled with the idea, you may want to stick with a small recirculating fountain. They still add tranquility to your outdoor oasis, are economical, and low maintenance.

Determining the location of your water feature

Landscaping Ideas to Boost Your Home's Property Value

  • Do you want to see your water feature from your deck or the inside of your home? Do you want to cover up an awkward, unsightly space? Carefully consider your water feature’s placement in relation to your goals.
  • Are you trying to mask the sound of nearby traffic or drown out noisy neighbors? Look for a pump with adjustable flow to increase or decrease water volume and water sounds.

Aesthetics & materials for your water feature

  • Make sure you design your water feature to scale with your property. If you have a postage-stamp yard, a large waterfall might look odd. On the other hand, if you have a sprawling property, a long, winding creek or large pond might be the best choice. If you want a smaller water feature on a larger property, consider “anchoring” it to your patio or deck area so it doesn’t look like it’s floating in the middle of nowhere.
  • Determine if you want a natural-looking water feature or one with a more sleek and modern vibe.

Lighting up your water feature

  • Lighting is purely optional, but it can really enhance the mood. Whether it’s small solar LED lights around your pond or a light behind your waterfall for dramatic effect, lighting options are highly customizable. Plus, since you’ll be able to see your water feature after sunset, lighting helps you make the most out of your investment. Spend time searching Pinterest boards to get ideas for different ways you can light up your project!

DIY vs. professional installation 

Woodbury Landscape Company

On a beautiful sunny day, you might be lounging on your deck when inspiration blows in on the summer breeze. Then, before you know it, you’ve got a goal of designing and building a water feature in your backyard well before the snow flies. While you can certainly gather all the supplies, research the permitting and code requirements, and follow YouTube tutorials to DIY, it’s easy to end up over your head project and  budget-wise.

Experience all the therapeutic benefits of water and create a backyard oasis without the hassle! Consider partnering with McDonough by calling us at 651.755.7901 or contacting us here

Posted in Blog.