A landscape stream with a waterfall

When most people think of streams, they imagine a babbling brook running through a pristine forest. But you don’t need to live in the country to enjoy the beauty and tranquility of natural streams in your own backyard.

In fact, with a little work, you can learn how to build a landscape stream that will add interest and value to your property. Here’s how!

How To Build A Landscape Stream

Time – 2 days to 3 weeks

Difficulty – Beginner

Cost – $5,000-$15,000

Tools Required

  • Level
  • Rubber mallet
  • Spade
  • Utility knife
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Pair of channel locks (like a wrench)
  • Tamp
  • Digging equipment

Materials Required

  • Ball valve and clamps
  • Decorative boulders
  • EPDM pond liner
  • Field boulders
  • Gravel
  • Flexible PVC pipe
  • Large waterfall pump
  • PVC primer and cement
  • Catch basin/reservoir
  • Hole saw bits (2” and 1”)
  • Underlayment fabric
  • Waterfall foam sealant

Step-By-Step Guide On How To Build A Landscape Stream

A landscape stream with multiple waterfalls surrounded by plants

1. Determine The Best Location For Your Water Feature

Stream Size

How big do you want your stream to be? This will depend on the size of your yard and the amount of available space. If you have a small yard, you’ll want to keep the stream on the smaller side, so it doesn’t overwhelm the space. If you have a large yard, you can go bigger with your stream. Just keep in mind that a larger stream will require more maintenance than a smaller one.

Stream Slope

You’ll need to use or create a slope for your stream, so the water flows down it. One way to do this is to bring in soil from elsewhere to create the slope. Or, if you’re digging a basin for your stream, you can use the soil from that to create the slope. Just make sure that the slope is not too steep or too shallow; otherwise, the water will not flow properly.

Visibility From House

Thinking about where you’ll see your stream is part of learning how to build a landscape stream. You’ll want to place the stream in an area where it can easily be seen from your house. A good rule of thumb is to place it within 10 feet of an outdoor living space like a patio or deck. That way, you can enjoy the sound of flowing water while spending time outside.

Interaction With Outdoor Space

Will people be walking or sitting near it? Will there be plants nearby? You’ll want to make sure that the location you choose makes sense in terms of how people will use and interact with the space around it. If you’re not sure if a landscape stream is right for you after considering your space, check out our guide to different types of backyard water features.

2. Design And Outline Your Natural Stream

Decide where you want it to go and what kind of look you’re going for. Do you want it to be straight or meandering? Narrow or wide? Paved with stones or lined with plants? Once you have a general idea, it’s time to start planning how to build a landscape stream.

You can take a hose and lay it out in different designs to get a better idea of how your landscape stream will look. Once you have the layout you want, you can use paint to mark out the outline. This will help you know where to dig.

3. Dig The Basin

The basin is where the water that cycles through the stream will be held. The hole should be square and about 2 feet wider than the diameter of the basin. It should be 6 inches deeper than the basin’s height, too.

Getting dirty is part of how to build a landscape stream. Use a shovel or post-hole digger to remove the grass and topsoil from the marked area. Once you’ve dug down to the appropriate depth and width, use a level to make sure that the hole is level all around. If it’s not, use your shovel to even it out.

4. Dig The Streambed

Dig out the streambed in your outline. It should be somewhere between 6 and 12 inches deep. The depth should depend on how powerful your pump will be and how much water you want running through the system.

5. Lay Down The Underlayment And Liner

Put in the underlayment first. This is what protects the liner from rocks, roots, and other damage. Without this, you may have to go through the process of how to build a landscape stream again to fix any damages to the liner.

Once the underlayment is in place, you can start to lay down your liner. There are a few different types of liner you can use, but we recommend an EPDM rubber liner. It’s durable and easy to work with. Plus, an EPDM rubber liner comes in larger rolls, so you won’t have to worry about seams. Simply unroll the liner and place it in the streambed. It should extend out over the stream bank.

6. Add Rocks

Rocks placed in and around a waterfall

Rocks and gravel serve multiple purposes as part of how to build a landscape stream.

They make your stream look more natural than if all you see at the bottom is a black EPDM liner. Rocks and gravel also protect the liner from UV rays and other things that can damage it. They’re also home to beneficial bacteria that help to filter the pond water.

Begin by placing the largest rocks at the bottom of the hole, around the perimeter. Then, fill in any gaps with smaller rocks until everything is covered.

Now that the foundation is complete, it’s time to start building up! Begin by stacking smaller rocks on top of the larger ones, using smaller pieces to fill in any gaps as you go along. It’s important to remember that waterfalls are meant to look natural, so don’t worry about making everything perfect. A few imperfections will actually add to the overall effect.

You can also add stepping stones through the stream so people can cross it instead of having to walk around it.

7. Install The Pond Pump

The first step in installing a pond pump is to choose the right size and type of pump for your landscape stream. There are two main types of pond pumps: submersible and external. Submersible pumps are designed to be placed directly in the water, while external pumps are installed outside of the water.

*We recommend the submersible pump for those DIYing how to build a landscape stream

Pond pumps are also available in a variety of sizes, so it’s important to choose one that’s appropriate for the volume of water in your stream.

If you’re using a submersible pond pump, dig a hole in the streambed large enough to accommodate the pump. The hole should be deep enough so that the top of the pump will be level with the surface of the water when it’s installed. Then, place it in the hole you’ve prepared and connect it to an extension cord or power outlet.

If you’re using an external pond pump, create a firm foundation for it by pouring concrete into a mold or digging a hole and filling it with gravel. The external pond pump should be placed on this foundation so that it’s level with the surface of the water. Then, connect one end of a flexible hose to the intake valve on the side of the pump and position the other end in your streambed so that it’s submerged in water. Finally, plug in the power cord or connect the hose to a plumbing system according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

8. Add Plants

How to build a landscape stream can also include adding plants!

Make sure that the plants you choose are appropriate for the conditions in your stream. Aquatic plants will need to be able to tolerate both wet and dry conditions, so be sure to select varieties that can handle both extremes.

Also, consider the size of your plants. Smaller plants will be less likely to damage the liner of your stream, so they may be the best choice for this purpose.

Pickerelweed and water hyacinths are great choices for landscape streams.

9. Fill Landscape Stream With Water

This is to make sure the water stays in the liner and that it flows well. It’s a critical step in the process of how to build a landscape stream because it allows you to see where any adjustments need to be made.

10. Trim Liner

Roll up the excess liner around the edges of the stream and cover it with mulch, straw, or other organic matter to hide it. You can also trim any excess liner around the basin or pump.

11. Adjust Rocks To Create A Perfect Flow

You’ll want to move the rocks around to make the water flow smoothly and evenly over them, like a natural stream. If you find that some of the river rocks are too big or too small, you can always swap them out for ones that are a better fit.

The goal is to create a natural-looking flowing stream, so take your time and play around with different arrangements until you find one that looks just right. Remember, there’s no wrong way to do this—just have fun and be creative!

Use waterfall foam sealant to fill in any gaps between the rocks on your backyard waterfall once you are finished.

12. Add Lights And Filtration (Optional)

Part of how to build a landscape stream can also be to install additions that help you love your water feature even more.

The lights will help show off your stream at night. You can place them in the stream, around it, and even behind some waterfalls. Color-changing LEDs can help you have more fun by allowing you to change the look of your stream.

*We recommend hiring a professional to do this, as electrical work can be dangerous

The filtration will keep the water clean and clear. To filter the water, we recommend using a small submersible pump with an attached filter media bag.

13. Finishing Touches

Go back over everything to make sure it’s all in place. This includes ensuring the liner is tucked correctly, so it doesn’t show, that no water is escaping the streambed and that it looks as incredible as you imagined.

That’s how to build a landscape stream!

Complete Your Landscape Stream Without Getting Dirty By Hiring Amen Corner Ponds

A beautiful landscape stream built by Amen Corner Ponds

A beautiful landscape is not complete without the soothing sound of running water. That’s why Amen Corner Ponds offers landscape streams to our clients. Our professional installation team will work with you to create a stream that perfectly complements your landscaping and adds the finishing touch to your outdoor oasis.

If you’re interested in adding a landscape stream to your property, please fill out our contact form today. We would be happy to provide you with a consultation and estimate. Thanks for reading!