Build a Stream Yourself Out of Concrete | 6 Tips for Creating

Build a Stream Yourself Out of Concrete | 6 Tips for Creating

If you want to enjoy the calming babbling of a stream in your own garden on mild summer evenings, this guide will provide you with valuable tips for making your own.

Which type of concrete is best?

Prefabricated concrete shells are already available in stores, but since these are mainly plastic imitations, do-it-yourselfers should use liquid concrete that can be individually modeled. In this regard, there are several types of concrete, all of which have different properties:

  • Flow concrete: very soft material that spreads automatically after pouring
  • Screed concrete: Concrete for the production of floors, ideal for thin layers of concrete
  • Mineral concrete: is considered a very high-quality material because it has a very high proportion of broken grain, is used in road construction and serves as a substrate for terraces, has good binding properties and is very robust
  • Fair-faced concrete: visually appealing when the surface is visible and not covered with natural stone
  • Blocked concrete: waterproof material
  • Vacuum concrete: very dense material, less cracking due to the removal of the water content

Furthermore, the concrete mix differs in terms of its consistency. For the construction of a stream, concrete mass is recommended, which is only mixed on site. For example:

  • In-situ concrete: is produced at the workplace and hardens quickly
  • Fresh concrete: available in different haptics (stiff, plastic, soft and flowable, the latter type being the most suitable)

Note: After the concrete has been produced, it must still be made waterproof. The do-it-yourselfer either mixes sealing powder from the hardware store with the mass or covers the casting with thick sludge or liquid pond liner. Only when the concrete mass has dried can water run into the stream bed.

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Another advantage of liquid concrete is that no ramming device is required for compacting. Compacting can be done with pokes. The purpose of the process is to let air escape from the mass so that no cavities are formed into which liquid can later penetrate. If the concrete mass has pores inside, it is particularly susceptible to frost.

The planning

Even on the smallest plot of land, there is a place for a waterfall if you plan carefully. However, the watercourse always has priority when it comes to space. The rest of the design of the garden (beds, etc.) should be based on the brook and not the other way around. Since curves and branches can be laid with concrete blocks without any problems, do-it-yourselfers can extend the length to a few square meters.

Tip: In order to get an exact idea of ​​the later course, it is advisable to stretch a rope. This help is particularly useful when concreting, as no changes can be made afterwards.

In order to create a coherent look, the length and width should be adapted to the size of the property. While narrow brooks often go under in large gardens, wide systems appear out of place in small garden areas.
Do-it-yourselfers do not necessarily have to adhere to the given dimensions, but the following values ​​have proven to be average optimal dimensions:

  • optimal width: 0.2 to 1.5 m
  • Minimum depth: 25 cm
  • Minimum length: 1.5 m

Do-it-yourselfers should also choose a place in partial shade. In direct sunlight, on the one hand, a lot of water evaporates, on the other hand, algae form. Trees should not shade the garden pond, however, as the falling leaves destroy the appearance and contaminate the water.

In addition, when choosing a location and the flow rate of the water, it should be taken into account that stagnant waters attract mosquitoes. A small stream next to the terrace is an optical and acoustic enrichment, but it also has the disadvantage of many insects if the water only runs moderately into the garden pond. A waterfall, on the other hand, destroys the surface tension and prevents mosquitoes from settling on the brook to breed.

Tools and materials

Do-it-yourselfers have three different methods to choose from when laying a stream on their own property. The following list of advantages illustrates why concrete blocks are a worthwhile alternative to conventional sheeting or represent the stream bowls made of plastic.

  • high leakage security
  • weatherproof
  • durable
  • to match any decoration

A disadvantage compared to the alternatives mentioned is that discrepancies cannot be remedied after concreting. A foil to line the river bed is necessary in any case.
Once the planning has been completed, the do-it-yourselfer pours the concrete into the appropriate mold. For concreting, he needs the following tools:

  • Spade or mini digger (depending on the depth of the waterfall)
  • Garden and hedge shears
  • Craft knife
  • Wooden panel
  • gravel
  • Spirit level
  • Pond fleece
  • mortar
  • water pump
  • Compatible pressure hose (suitable for the length of the stream)
  • Sand to fill
  • waterproof safety clothing (work gloves, rubber boots, etc.)
  • Suitable concrete mass

Tip: If the excavation is to be used again for later design, it is worth renting a container. In the case of small quantities, a simple tarpaulin serves as a storage option.

The slope

A steady gradient of around 2% to 5% is necessary for the water to flow independently. The value determines the flow rate at which the water masses splash into the garden pond. Even if nature does not provide a suitable gradient, a standstill can be avoided with just a few interventions. It makes more sense to move the stream deeper into the ground than to build a hill. For this purpose, the do-it-yourselfer places the river bed about 15 cm to 20 cm deeper in the earth.

However, the creek must not drop too steeply, otherwise the water falls too quickly and carries with it decoration and microorganisms. Here, too, there are empirical values ​​that guarantee a consistent flow rate. The norm is that around 1.5 liters of water per minute should flow into the catch basin per centimeter of width.
If the slope is too steep, there are several ways to flatten the course:

  • Integrate steps and routes into the stream
  • expand the width
  • lower the creek bed
  • Install obstacles such as stepping stones
  • Install bends

The catch basin

Most of the streams flow into a small pond. However, this can also be replaced by a tiny collecting basin consisting of a plastic bowl, as long as it has enough capacity to install the pump. The size of the catch basin must match the amount of water running down to avoid flooding. To do this, the do-it-yourselfer orientates himself on the above guideline value.

The building instructions

  • mark the planned route with wooden sticks
  • at this point remove the turf or top layer of soil
  • starting at the source, excavate the creek bed
  • then work from the top down to the garden pond
  • build in the required steps
  • remove all roots from the stream bed
  • compact the earth well
  • Place a wooden board over the stream and check for straightness with the spirit level
  • Scatter the course with sand
  • Spread out the pond fleece
  • Place the film over it and smooth it out (must protrude slightly at the edges)
  • Bend the protruding film with the underlying fleece into an S-shape so that a small hollow is created
  • fill this with gravel
  • mix the concrete and pour it into the stream bed
  • get in shape immediately
  • Cut off protruding pond liner with the cutter knife
  • Place the pipe at the source and fix it with mortar
  • Fill the brook with gravel, fix with mortar if necessary
  • Repair unsightly spots on the bank edge
  • Place the pump approx. 80 cm deep in the collecting basin
  • Establish a pipe connection to the mouth
  • Let the water run in and check whether it overflows at one point

The design

A self-built stream can be embellished, individualized and adapted to the rest of the garden design with various decorative elements. A small waterfall looks particularly suitable in rock gardens, on Mediterranean properties or in Japanese gardens. There are no limits for your creativity. For example, boulders or other concrete blocks can decorate the bank. The do-it-yourselfer can also lay out pottery shards or build a bridge here. It looks particularly pretty when the stream gurgles in the glow of solar lighting at dusk.

Tip: When designing a stream, less is more. Excessive bank decorations appear overloaded, make maintenance difficult and draw attention away from the waterfall.

The most natural look, however, is a planting of the shore zone. Many varieties feel good near water, and some even thrive directly in the garden pond. When choosing the plants, the gardener must of course pay attention to the requirements of the location, such as the lighting conditions and the sensitivity to waterlogging.

Suitable stones for embellishing

After the concrete has been poured, the do-it-yourselfer can immediately give his stream a natural look by placing natural stones in the still liquid casting. Granite, sandstone, basalt or quartzite harmonize particularly well with a waterfall. Washed pebbles or boulders are also suitable stones to loosen up the overall picture a little.

Suitable bank planting

  • Gunsel (Ajuga reptans)
  • Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis)
  • Japanese sword lily (Iris ensata)
  • Cuckoo’s light carnation (Lychnis flos-cuculi)
  • Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)
  • Wasserdost (Eupatorium cannabinum)
  • Common Knotweed (Polygonum bistorta)
  • Meadow sword lily (Iris sibirica)

Suitable aquatic plants

  • Bach Speedwell (Veronica beccabunga)
  • Burning buttercup (Ranunculus flammula)
  • Doldige swan flower (Butomus umbellatus)
  • English water mint (Preslia cervina)
  • Heart-leaved frog spoon (Alisma parviflora)
  • Pennywort (Lysimachia nummularia)
  • Narrow-leaved cottongrass (Eriophorum angustifolium)
  • Swamp forget-me-not (Myosotis palustris)

Note: A stream in your own garden is an enrichment especially for animal lovers and insect watchers. Bees and butterflies find food and protection in a colorful flowering bank of vegetation. Birds like to go to the catch basin to drink.