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Creating the Ultimate Backyard Retreat – Part II

Water features and design components for swimming and socializing


By Barry Justus

A number of design options are also available to add various water features to your backyard retreat. Large cascading rock waterfalls, which have dominated the pool area for decades, are declining in popularity. These types of water features rarely look realistic, often leak and dramatically increase energy costs, making your backyard less sustainable. It is also rare that a traditional ‘pile of rocks’ water feature is an esthetic match to a home’s architecture. Fortunately, there are more appropriate and subtle design choices available to modern homeowners.

Wet walls

A wet wall is waterfall-style feature in which water cascades down the face of the wall. It can be made of glass, glass tile, stainless steel or stone, among other materials. They can be located adjacent to, inside of or outside the pool. Wet walls tend to be subtle, but can be more dramatic when a rough texture or increased water flow are added. Variable-drive pumps will allow you to determine the water flow rate and, consequently, the finished look and sound of the feature.


Sheers (or sheets of falling water) come in all sizes, but often, less is more. For example, wide sheers falling from a great height, while visually impressive, tend to be quite noisy. Smaller custom-made mini sheers can be constructed of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), stainless steel, copper and tile. Sheers can be clustered in groups at the same height or spaced randomly for a unique look, feel and sound. Spouts often emit from a statue or wall sconce.

Laminar jets

Quality laminar jets are the ultimate dramatic spout of water. These crisp, tight columns of water can be programmed to leap in unison or choreographed with integral colour effects; nighttime choreographed displays are priceless. The clear, clean tubes of water glide effortlessly across the sky, landing with little or no splash. However, be sure to avoid less expensive ‘jets’ of water, which are not true laminars. These imitations pale in comparison to the real thing. In fact, they often mimic the messy look of a stream of water from a garden hose when someone has stuck their thumb over the end—not exactly the epitome of luxury.

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