about us newsletter press view cart  


Eco-Art Crafts Made by You

Seaside Beach Fountain

Seaside Beach Fountain

Like me, have you just assumed that adding a beautiful fountain to your home would be too complicated or too expensive to do? Well, that's no longer true. Enter Dorcas Adkins, a fountain designer and manufacturer, who recently wrote a book of twenty easy-to-follow fountain designs to help people build their own.

The publishers have granted us permission to share the book's directions for the following small fountain filled with seashells, stones and memories of salty beach air. (Test and photos from: Simple Fountains for Indoors & Outdoors: 20 Step-by-Step Projects, by Dorcas Adkins, Storey Books, 1999).

Ms. Adkins advises that, after assembling the components, it takes less than an hour to build this fountain which can be used inside or outside. The ideal capacity for this design is one gallon, the ideal diameter is 12"-16" and the right pump size for it is approximately 80 gallons per hour.

If this fountain will be used outside, select a weatherproof material for the reservoir bowl (a ceramic bowl is good). For safety, a grounded cord is necessary for outdoor use. Plug it into a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI or GFI outlet--the hardware store salesman will know what this is, even if you don't). For an indoor pump, neither grounded cord nor GFI are required. A two-wire cord, less obtrusive, can be used.

Supplies for building fountains can be found at large garden centers and hardware stores with garden departments. If they are not available, consult the list of mail-order suppliers listed in the book.

fountain diagram


The Reservoir

  • Reservoir bowl, at least 3" deep x 10" in diameter (7.5 cm deep x 25 cm in diameter)

The Pump

  • Pump, 80 GPH (304 1 per hour)
  • GFCI outlet (for outdoors use)

Fountain Elements large shells

  • Large seashell
  • Vinyl hose: 12: each of 1/4", 3/4"ID (6,9 mm)

Decorative Elements

  • Stones, shells, driftwood, beach glass: enough to fill the bowl


  • Small handheld grinder with 1/4" (6 mm) or 3/8" (9 mm) stone tip, or electric drill with bit sized for smallest hose
  • Clear silicone caulk


  1. Prepare the Base
    First, place the pump in the bowl, leading the cord over the edge and bending it so that it drops quickly from sight. Set the flow control on the lowest setting and place a few large stones or shells around the pump. Choose flattened stones for more stable construction. Now select a large seashell, such as a conch, whelk, or abalone, to be the fountain piece. Set it in position on the stones so that it is supported above the pump. Ideally, the large opening in the shell will be oriented uppermost, so that water fills the shell and spills over its lip.
    At this point, don't put much effort into the stone construction; just pile up stones stably enough to support the shell in the position you want and see if the shell and the bowl are in proportion.

  2. Attach the Hose to the Pump
    By telescoping short pieces of hose together, create a tubing assembling short enough to be hidden in the pile of stones. The largest-diameter piece of hose has to fit onto your pump's outflow and the smallest-diameter end must fit tightly into a 3/8" (9 mm) hole that will be drilled in the shell. Unstack enough of the rocks so that you can fit the tubing on the pump. put water in the bowl, and plug in the pump to be sure water can pass through the assembled tubing. If the tubing seems too long, remove it and trim some of the sections with sharp scissors--without making them too short to function properly.

  3. Position the Shell
    Now place the shell on top of the piled stones. When you fell that the position of the shell is right, back up and check the overall proportion of your assembly. When you are satisfied, lift the shell and pencil a mark where the tubing will need to enter the shell.

  4. Drilling the Shell
    • With a Handheld Grinder
      A safe way to drill a hole in the shell without breaking it is with the kind of small handheld grinder that you can buy in hobby shops and hardware stores. Using a small stone grinding tip, grind through the shell and gently enlarge the hole to 3/8 inch (9 mm).
    • With an Electric Drill
      If your only option is an electric drill, be very careful. Use the sharpest bit you can find, and do not press hard into the shell. Remember that the drill bit (use the all-purpose type for metal and wood) is a wedge and can split the shell if pushed into it too hard before it has a chance to cut cleanly.

    The hole should be drilled as far inside the shell as possible so that when assembled, the tubing that carries water from the pump to the shell is not seen by the casual glance.
    drilling the shell
    Drilling this hole can be tricky. While drilling, check the hose's fit at frequent intervals: The tighter the fit, the better. While you're working at it, it's worth remembering the small mollusk known as a drill, which specializes in such work. This drill uses a raspy tongue to wear away the shell of a clam or scallop until a small hole is formed, then enlarges it until the animal inside can be dissolved with saliva and removed. When you find a clamshell with a perfect hole in its corner, it's the patient work of a drill.


    1. Anchor the Fountain Elements
      Now is the time to build your permanent assembly of stones, shells, driftwood, and beach glass to support the shell. These should be stacked loosely as much as possible. If they need to be fixed in place with clear silicone caulk, use it sparingly and only in dabs to join unruly elements to the pile. Use a hair dryer to dry any wet pieces before applying silicone caulk so that it will stick.

    2. Test the Water Flow
      Make sure the pump is set for minimum flow, then fit the tubing into the hole in the shell. Now press the larger end of your tubing assembly over the pump's outflow. Plug in the pump to see if your creation performs as planned. The shell should fill with water and overflow into the pool below. You may need to change the tilt of the shell, or change the shell itself, to make this work perfectly. Remember that you, the creator, can always fix your own mistakes.

    3. Decorate Your Fountain
      closeup of finished fountain You can add coarse beach sand or pea gravel to serve as a floor for your pool, and as a delightful texture in stone pockets. The shells of crabs, shrimp, sand dollars, and starfish can be used above the water, in positions where they stay dry. Beach glass and shells are best in wet locations where their colors show to full advantage. Even live plants such as small dune grasses can be tucked into small soil pockets in shells above the water level.

    See what you've missed

    If you've enjoyed this project, don't miss our crafts archive with projects including:

    Return to top