How To Design A Pool Waterfall

elaborate backyard landscape with pool waterfall

Usually the first feature considered when putting in a pool is the waterfall. Waterfalls are central features which draw attention from every vantage point. A properly built and located pool waterfall will do more than just draw the eye. It will provide a soothing trickle or gush of water and give you that resort feeling right in your backyard.

Ins And Outs Of Pool Waterfall Design

You might wonder how to design a pool waterfall and what kind of rocks you should use. Pool waterfalls are generally designed by the square foot of the pad they sit on. Waterfall pads are usually half moon shaped gunite pads engineered to support the weight of the rocks. The pads should always slope toward the pool, or at least step toward the pool. This way you’re not relying on the rocks themselves to be waterproof in their installation.

long pool waterfall with greenery around it
Courtesy of Get Rocks

How To Prevent Pool Waterfall Leaks

Waterfalls are often known to leak, so it’s a good idea to design them so the water always ends up back in the pool. When selecting a type of rock for your pool waterfall, it’s a good idea to ask your waterfall builder what they recommend in your area. The last thing you want is to install a waterfall and immediately start getting iron leaching streaks running down the wall of your newly completed pool. This can be prevented with the right rocks being selected.

Pool Waterfall Rock Types

You typically have at least two distinct options for the rocks. You will usually choose between surface boulders or pit boulders.

Surface boulders come from fields and forests. They sometimes have lichen on them along with a weathered natural look. See the picture below for an example of a surface boulder.

pool waterfall with surface boulders around a pool

Pit boulders come from blasted stone pits where boulders are broken out of the earth. Pit boulders have a jagged look which can makes for an ideal design statement depending on the project. See the image below for an example of a pit boulder.

pool waterfall with pit boulders alongside a pool

How To Structure Your Pool Waterfall

Placing boulders is a delicate matter when it comes to waterfall building. As a general rule, always think of how the water will move and cascade. You don’t want to create excess splashing or spray out of the pool. Additionally, you also don’t want it to look imbalanced from side to side. This is why we always recommend hiring a professional when considering a natural rock waterfall. They really are not easy to build even though professionals can make it look easy when they build them.

Pro Tip: Get A Bypass Line

Choosing how much water you want to flow to the waterfall is also a part of the equation. If you have a separate pump running the waterfall it’s a good idea to add a bypass line to the pool to help you balance the water flow. Even if the waterfall pump is a variable speed pump, the bypass is a good idea. Sometimes you just can’t get it right without a few last minute tweaks and the bypass line makes all the difference. If you are running the waterfall off of the main filtration pump your pool returns become the bypass line.

If you are going to turn on the waterfall by manually turning a valve however, you may want to add two valves so you can set one to the desired flow, then just turn the other one to completely open whenever you turn on the waterfall. Or, you can use an automation system to operate the valve for you, which makes everyone’s life just a little bit easier.

Pool Waterfall Renovations

What if I have a pool already, can I still add a waterfall? Luckily the answer is yes, you can add a pool waterfall onto an existing gunite pool. All that is necessary to add a waterfall to an existing gunite or concrete pool is the desire to do so and a little creativity.

First, you’ll have to figure out where your water source will come from. Typically you can divert water from your pool return line to the new waterfall by adding a valve and some piping. Next, you’ll have to consider what the waterfall will be built upon. Consult a professional to build the pad for the waterfall. Often this will be a poured concrete pad, but waterfalls can be built on an EPDM pond liner as well. Once you have the base installed and the plumbing in the vicinity of the waterfall, it’s time to place rocks. Depending on the type of rocks and their size a crane may be necessary.

wide pool waterfall in backyard with multiple splash zones

Bottom Line

When adding a waterfall to a swimming pool or building one brand new, we cannot stress this enough, it’s best to consult a professional. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have the pool waterfall of your dreams. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and make sure you get exactly what you want when you build your waterfall.