Water in Motion: Top Water Features for Pools

Imagine escaping to a tropical paradise or chic modern resort without ever leaving your backyard. Many different elements can enhance the theme of these settings, but nothing adds drama and excitement to your pool like water features. From tropical waterfalls to elegant sheetfalls to whimsical fountain bubblers, discover which features will turn your pool into an at-home vacation destination.


Rock Waterfalls

More pool owners are requesting rock waterfalls and rock features to make their pool feel like a home resort. Rock waterfalls are commonly used on freeform pools and are ideal for natural-style pools that may resemble a tropical lagoon or mountain spring. These pools can be surrounded by large rocks that serve as a small deck and go to the edge of the pool as coping would on a traditional pool. Large boulder clusters or rock planters help the waterfall blend into the pool area.

Some rock styles and colors are universally popular, but each region of the country has a preferred color pattern and rock type based on the appearance of local stone. Many pool owners prefer natural stone, but faux rock is a great option as well because it allows for customized formations. We cast our faux rock from natural rock formations to give a truly authentic look. Faux rock is also lighter than natural rock, which makes it easier to install.

The size of the waterfall should be relatively proportional to the size of the pool, but multiple waterfalls on an average-sized pool will look great with the right landscaping. Using several waterfalls for a dramatic effect typically works better than one massive waterfall.

Photos courtesy of RicoRock, Inc.

Sheer-Descent Waterfalls

Sheer-descent waterfalls, also called sheetfalls, are more suited for modern and geometric pools. The water flows through a thin spillway creating a sleek elegant look as it descends into the water. Sheetfalls are often installed along a raised wall on one side of the pool. The wall can be finished in glass tile for a stunning effect or stacked stone for a more natural look. We have one sheer-descent waterfall with an ashlar pattern stone finish that works well on contemporary pool designs.

Photo courtesy of Morehead Pools. Little Rock, AR; Photography by Jim Cunningham


Sconces, Laminar Fountains, and Fountain Bubblers

Formal pool designs may employ sconces and scuppers; these wall-mounted water spouts can be sculptural or industrial in their design, offering unique ways for water to spill into the pool.

Fountain bubblers and deck jets can be used on almost any style of pool and are quite affordable. Fountain bubblers look like mini-geysers and are often installed on sunshelves, creating a fun shallow area where kids can play. Deck jets shoot arcs of water into the pool and can be installed on the deck or in planting beds.

Laminar fountains, a type of deck jet that produces a bubble-free arc of water, are more common on modern pools and often lit by colorful LEDs for a look that is both stunning and exciting. However, designers must pay careful attention to windy areas because too much wind will ruin the effect. Laminars are more expensive than standard deck jets, but either type can be installed on an existing pool. Fountain bubblers, on the other hand, must be installed during new construction or a major renovation since they are built into the pool floor.

Photo courtesy of Platinum Poolcare, Ltd.; photography by Linda Oyama Bryan


Control Settings, Lighting and Landscaping

No matter how many water features are installed, pool owners can turn each feature on and off individually with the proper setup. Plus, variable-speed pumps and individual flow valves allow for different water flows. Large waterfalls will have multiple source points for the water; when they are all on simultaneously, the waterfall will have more of a grand rushing effect. This creates both visual and acoustic drama. It can also be important when pool owners wish to block out street noise. When one of the flows is turned off or operating at lower speed, the waterfall will be more of a calm trickle, which is ideal for relaxing poolside.

Being able to adjust the height of fountain bubblers is also a benefit. If children are playing on the sunshelf, you don’t want the water to shoot too high, but if you are entertaining poolside at night, you may want to turn the bubblers up for a more dramatic effect.

When determining how to allocate your budget, don’t skimp on landscaping and lighting. These play key roles in bringing your water feature to life and blending it into the poolscape. Fiber-optic and LED lights can be used to illuminate the water itself, as well the surrounding landscaping and rockwork. Improvements in LED technology are quickly changing how waterfalls can be enhanced with affordable light kits.

No matter which type or how many water features you choose, the element of moving water can be the perfect addition to your poolscape.

Photo courtesy of Distinctive Pools, Inc., Lewisville, Texas

Bruce Riley is the founder and president of RicoRock, Inc., headquartered in Orlando, Florida. For over 10 years, RicoRock has been creating faux rock waterfalls from glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC), which are molded from natural rock formations to produce an authentic look and customized design.

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