10 Things You Should Know About Large Water Features
People have been comforted, moved, soothed, and inspired by water since the beginning of time. Studies show that people who live near large bodies of water, like the ocean, a waterfall, or even lakes and streams, are healthier and feel better. Scientists and researchers say they’re not sure why being around water soothes us, and helps our mental health, but it does. It’s one reason why so many of us want to live near water, have a swimming pool, or even a large water feature in or around our home.
“People do love water features, especially large ones,” said New York architect Stuart Narofsky. Narofsky specializes in designing and installing large water features around the country. People want larger features for a variety of reasons, he explained. Among the top reasons people want waterfalls, troughs, and water features is for the comfort water brings. They also like having a unique feature that gives their home increased value and curbside appeal.
One recent installation Narofsky finished is a long water trough that leads visitors around the home to the entranceway. “It’s unique, and playful, and adds a lot of interest to the home – which is primarily geometric and modern.”
While design and installation costs can range from thousands to tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars for complex or elaborate features, Narofsky said the questions homeowners need to ask themselves stay the same:
What do I want or expect to gain from the water feature?
Smaller, non-permanent water features can easily be removed if the owner or new owner doesn’t want them anymore. Consider size, permanence, and impact on the value of your home before deciding on a large installation. Talk to your realtor to see if a permanent water feature will enhance or hurt the value of your home.
What will the feature I want cost?
Like any home renovation, large water features are an investment. Most homeowners don’t have the DIY or design skills to design or build a large water feature. “There’s plumbing, electrical if you have lighting, and a variety of permits and structural considerations you have to consider,” Narofsky said. Add design costs, excavation, and construction costs and it’s easy to see how even a simple water feature can cost more than a simple DIY fountain. Be realistic about what you can afford. Consider installing the feature in stages, or buying a pre-designed water feature at a pool, big box store, or other company that makes, delivers and installs small to medium features.
Do I live in a part of the country where the feature can be used year-round?
Florida, California, and most of the southern and western states have mild climates where water features can be enjoyed year round. If you live in an area where freezing temperatures exist much of the year, consider a design that will still be pleasing even if it needs to be drained or dry part of the year.
How much maintenance will the feature I want require?
Water features, no matter how simple, still require maintenance. Leaves and debris must be cleaned out regularly. If the water is not moving you’ll have to cope with mosquito issues. Features in cold climates will need to be winterized. It’s not a lot more maintenance, Narofsky said, “But it’s still something to think about.”
Will the feature serve a dual purpose?
Some homeowners like their water feature to serve a dual purpose – like a wading pool, or koi (fish) pond, or even a nature habitat as well as a fountain, or waterfall. Some homeowners like to combine a hot-tub with a fountain. Think about ways to get the most out of your feature.
Where should the water feature be placed?
Some homeowners like to show off their water feature and want it in front of their home where it adds to the curb appeal. Others like to place it out of sight of the street, often where it helps shield their privacy. One of the things to consider when placing the feature is the wildlife it will attract. Butterflies, birds, and bees may seek it out, but so will deer, dogs, cats, and other wildlife. Consider your location (city vs rural area) and how you want to deal with animals, insects, and other visitors, including neighborhood children.
Is there any zoning or other constrictions your homeowner’s association or city place on you?
In some parts of the country, certain water features are considered “pools” and require you to have fencing or other features to protect people or children who may come in contact with the feature. Check with your zoning officials and homeowners association before you start designing or installing your feature.
Will it need to be lit or not?
Many water features come alive at night when lit well. They have both an evening mood and a daylight mood. Think about how often you will use the feature. Will you use it for relaxing, entertaining, both? Think about features like seating and lighting.
Will I need to change or alter my landscaping?
Landscaping is a part of most water features, whether it’s a matter of necessity or aesthetics.
Will it blend in, or fit with the home and land I have?
Some homes are better for certain kinds of water features than others. Some of the choices you have regarding designs include:
- Deep or shallow ponds
- Natural looking pond features, or more structured features
- Modern or rustic settings
- Dual duty such as having a fire pit next to the water feature
- Pots of plants, or rocks
- Koi (fish) ponds
- Quiet features, or features where the water makes a constant sound
- A water pad – where water bubbles up and out onto a flat table or surface
- Water with an architectural appeal – either a stone wall or other sculpture