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Caring for Stone Water Fountains
Winter is Coming...


Winter is already here, as are the freezing temperatures that accompany it. Clients who have water features have a few options for what to do when the temperatures drop low enough to freeze their fountains.

Have you ever wondered how to prepare your customer's stone fountain for winter weather?
Here are some recommended steps and why:

1. Empty the reservoir. You can either let the water evaporate, pump it out with a submersible pump and hosing, or pull it out with a shop vacuum. This process can double as cleaning in preparation for use in the spring, so that you can fill up with fresh water and it's ready for another 3 seasons of use.

2. Disconnect and unplug the pump, then put in on the shelf. Keeping the pump out of the cold weather will help to prolong its life. Submersible pumps have an average life span of 3-5 years, depending on how often it's running and how you care for it. Of course, if you have hard-wired the pump, then this is not an option. You could wrap it in plastic or plastic zippered bags to keep it protected if it needs to stay in the reservoir.

3. Let the fountain "transform" into a piece of sculpture. If the fountain is carved from a solid block of granite or basalt, the stone is so dense that it can withstand freezing temperatures, and can remain uncovered as a dry piece of sculpture (unlike softer, more porous stones, ceramic, or concrete materials).


Fountains carved from solid granite or basalt can withstand freezing temperatures because the stone is dense. For these, just wait for it to become an ice sculpture rather than a flowing water feature.

An alternate school of thought: don't worry, be happy!

Water features can be run year-round and turned into beautiful "ice sculptures." If your clients choose to run their fountains through the winter, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Typically, when average winter temperatures are upon us, the top few inches of the underground reservoir's water freeze and the pump is still able to run underneath this frozen layer in the water below. The water will then freeze in a "layer cake" effect over the stone itself, and thaw out as the sunshine emerges, and melt back into the reservoir below. Of course, if you're in a climate that's so cold that the water freezes solid, then the poor pump could die a slow, painful death.

The idea is to keep an eye on the weather and the fountain's water level, and since the ice will cause the reservoir's water level to drop quickly, you'll need to keep it full enough for the pump to continue to run. The fountain can build up an ice shell but still run. If it is a particularly cold winter, it must eventually be shut down when the water flows outside of the reservoir's parameters. In short, use your best judgment for what each fountain setup can handle.

The good news? A replacement pump is typically about $70-$165 depending on which design you have, so if your clients wish to enjoy it year-round, they can! The pump might have to be replaced more often, but it's a small price to pay for year-round enjoyment. If you live in North Dakota or other areas that experience freezing temperatures, you might consider taking the first steps mentioned above and shut the fountain down, since it might become more of a babysitting situation than you bargained for! If you're in Florida or other warmer climes, it's smooth sailing for 4 seasons of non-stop enjoyment.

As the seasons change and the buds of spring begin showing, maintenance of gardens and fountains are at the top of our to-do lists. With the most basic of maintenance tasks the fountain will run beautifully all season.


Much like a frozen lake, a fountain's reservoir will freeze from the top down, allowing the pump to still run underneath a frozen layer of ice. If the water freezes solid, then the pump will likely die if it is not shut down in time. Keep an eye on the weather when deciding to keep the pump running or turn it off.

We've made a checklist into yearly and weekly or regular maintenance below:

Weekly or Regularly
Check to make sure the basin has enough water. Fountain pumps will "speak" to you when the water is running low. Another sign of low water levels is small air bubbles forming at the top of the fountain. It means that the pump is sucking in air and not water. As a general rule, most fountains lose 2 gallons of water a week to evaporation in dry climates.

Check that there isn't debris accumulating on rocks around the fountain. As debris breaks down, it easily falls down into the reservoir where it can clog the pump and shorten its lifespan.

Add water treatment chemicals as necessary. The two types recommended are wildlife safe products for preventative water treatment, one for algae and another for mineral deposits in the water (hard water). Follow manufacturer's instructions on amount and frequency of use on each of these products.

If the fountain needs cleaning, unplug or turn off the pump. Take a stiff brush and some soapy water and clean all of the surfaces. Polished surfaces can be scraped (carefully) with a razor blade to remove any stuck-on calcium or minerals. On rougher areas, use a wire brush to remove calcium that's hardened to the stone.

If sediment has built up in the fountain basin, use a wet/dry shop vacuum to clear out sediment and remaining water. Rinse the basin once more and refill. Plug the pump back in and enjoy! We'd recommend doing this at least once yearly.

If your client plans to run the pump through the winter, just be sure the entire basin doesn't freeze.

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December 14, 2019, 7:43 am PDT

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