Fountains – The Surprising Things You Need to Know Before You Buy a Fountain

As a designer and creator of indoor fountains I am very aware of both the benefits and potential disadvantages of a fountain and I always try to educate my clients on these considerations. I want happy clients but if your fountain doesn’t meet your expectations, you won’t be, and there are a surprising number of factors that will determine this.

The most important consideration is where you intend to place the fountain because this will determine what type you buy. Fountains come in different styles and create different sounds and volumes of sound. There is the type in which water flows into a bowl, types that drip into a bowl and there are types in which the water bubbles up. The best fountains have adjustable pumps so you can control the volume more easily but they all make distinctly different sounds.

A fountain with a constant, regular drip or flow is not a good choice in an area where conversation is frequent. Even the lovely sound of water falling gently into water can become irritating if it is constantly competing for your attention. A fountain with an irregular drip might be fine in such a setting and a bubble-up type that can be turned down so you still see moving water but don’t hear it is probably the best choice for a quite setting in which people regularly come together.

The drip or flowing water type fountain, on the other hand, is an excellent choice for several other locations. Often people like to have one or two of these in their bedroom if they are subject to frequent or constant external noises they don’t want to hear. They can focus on the pleasant sounds of moving water and forget the less pleasant, unsolicited sounds reaching their ears. However, if you are one for whom the sound of running water creates the urge to visit the bathroom, the bedroom is not a good choice for any audible fountain.

Another good location for the drip or flowing water type of fountain is a room adjacent to the room you frequently occupy. I keep a fountain going in my dinning room which I can hear from my office and I find it the perfect background sound. I am not constantly aware of it, but frequently those delicious sounds do reach my ear and I can choose to listen to it at any time.

An entry or passageway that receives frequent traffic but no long-term visits is an excellent location for a dramatic fountain with a very visible, and audible display of moving water. Such a fountain can really dress up such a space and contribute a very inviting, pleasurable dimension.

Bubble-up fountains are equally as pleasing visually and audibly but they make a very different kind of sound from the falling water type. Perhaps a brief explanation on how fountains function is in order here.

All indoor fountains work by means of a submersible recirculating pump (usually electrical but there are battery powered pumps) which resides within the fountain. The larger the pump the more water it can display. This is usually measured in terms of gallons per hour (gph) for a certain distance or height. A pump I frequently use in my falling water type of fountains will give 70 gallons at 4 inches of height and 26 gph at 24 inches of height at maximum.

In this type of fountain water is pumped up some device to a decorative element such as a ‘leaf’ or ‘flower’ from which it spills back into the bowl. In most of my fountains of this type I have what I call a copper ‘WaterFlower’ that is the decorative device through which the water is pumped. This is comprised of several elements.

There is a copper tube which I anneal (heat to cherry red to soften the metal), allowing me to achieve graceful curves with the tube. The copper ‘leaves’ and the ‘flower’ are cut from fairly heavy copper sheet. These I prepare (hammer for shape, grind and file the edges, scrub, scour and pickle) to ready them to receive the enamel.

Enamel is ground glass and enameling is an ancient art form not widely practiced today. I paint a gum solution on the copper pieces and sprinkle the ground glass over the surface. I set these on the little enamel kiln to dry and when ready I place them in the kiln at fifteen hundred degrees. The glass melts and adheres to the copper. To prevent cracking I do this on both sides.

I then solder the leaves and flowers to the stem. This fits into the bowl in any of several ways, a tube from the pump fits over the stem, water is pumped up the stem into the enameled ‘flower’ from which it spills into the bowl.

In the bubble-up type a short tube is placed on the pump which points straight up. The pump is covered in glass beads or rocks and the water bubbles up either as a spout of water or as just a rise of water over the surface depending on what sized pump is used and how the volume is set on the pump.

Generally the bubble-up fountain makes a gentler sound, much like a small stream flowing over smooth stones but because the pumps are all adjustable, this can range from quite a lively display to perfectly silent. This type is excellent just about anywhere. I have a writer friend who keeps one of these at mid-volume on his desk.

Cat fountains are very popular these days but if you intend to buy a fountain for your cat the same considerations apply. If it is going to be placed where you will often encounter it for considerable periods of time, make sure it produces a sound you like. Although cats like the drip kind of fountains and will spend considerable periods of time with water falling onto their tongues many homeowners prefer the bubble-up cat fountains. A lot of cats like to play with water and if they begin batting at it they may dislodge the waterfall so the bubble-up type is a safer choice of cat fountain if your cat is inclined to splash around.

Speaking of splash, be sure the fountain you buy doesn’t have any significant splash. Not only can this damage surfaces, it drains the fountain and this can lead to damaging the pump. This is not a worry for most fountains however, as this has almost always been taken into consideration by the maker.

The final consideration on choosing an indoor fountain has to do with the electrical cord and the location of the pump. Most makers of table-top fountains, as they are often called, have the cord going from the pump, over the top of the bowl. Some have devices for hiding this, others leave them quite visible. In some of these units the pump is not accessible, so not replaceable. Since you are probably buying a fountain as much for the looks as sound, a visible cord is not acceptable.

Fountains can be wonderful additions to a home. The right fountain in the right place can enhance your home décor in a truly lovely fashion and provide you with visual and audible delights quite unlike just about anything else. A well placed (and the right kind of) fountain can give you delicious and soothing sounds, either throughout the day or evening or intermittently, as you prefer. Fountains are rated highly by Feng Shui experts who say moving water is a healthy element to have in your home or office. Personally, I love them and I love making them.