How to Winterize A Fountain: A Step-by-Step Guide
Outdoor fountains can be a gorgeous addition to any backyard or garden. However, you will need to know how to winterize a fountain if you’re going to add one to your backyard landscape. Beleive me, when frigid winter temperatures arrive, special care must be taken to avoid weather damage to your cherished water feature. Learning how to properly winterize your outdoor fountain is crucial for protecting it from cracking and other problems caused by freezing water.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk through the key steps and best practices for winterizing both portable and stationary fountains. Follow along to keep your fountain safe and ready to flow again next spring!
5 Key Takeaways
- Winterizing protects fountains from cracking and other freeze damage during cold months
- Draining all water from basins, pipes and pumps is crucial – leaving pockets can lead to destruction
- Use air compressors or wet/dry vacuums to fully clear plumbing systems of lingering water after draining
- Add RV antifreeze to basins and pipes for an extra layer of freeze protection
- Disconnect, dry and store pumps indoors, and cover/insulate fountains above ground level
Before jumping into the winterization process, let’s first answer a critical question – why go through the effort of winterizing an outdoor fountain in the first place?
There are two key reasons:
Prevent Weather Damage – Freezing temperatures can cause water inside your fountain to expand, putting pressure on delicate materials like concrete, ceramic and resin. This can lead to cracks, fractures and other structural harm over the winter. Proper winterization drains away water so it can’t freeze and damage the fountain.
Avoid Pump Failure – Most fountains recirculate water using an electric pump. Leaving water in the pump or connecting pipes makes them prone to freeze-cracking. This can render the pump useless come springtime. Winterizing removes remaining water that could destroy the pump.
In short, taking the time to winterize saves your fountain from destruction so you can enjoy its beauty for years to come. Now let’s get into the nitty gritty steps for proper winterization.
Timing is an important consideration when winterizing your fountain:
Begin the process before the first hard freeze in your area, ideally when nightly temperatures dip into the 40s Fahrenheit.
For best results, pick a dry, sunny day with little to no chance of rain or snow. This makes draining and drying the fountain much easier.
Avoid procrastinating! It’s better to winterize early rather than leaving it to the last minute when freezing could happen any night.
Many people winterize their fountains in late October or November, but the ideal timing depends on your local climate. Consult your average first freeze dates and get it done several weeks prior.
Gather the following supplies before getting started:
- Submersible pump (or sump pump) – To drain remaining water
- Wet/dry shop vacuum – To purge water from pipes
- Soft towels or cloths – For drying the fountain basin
- RV antifreeze (non-toxic propylene glycol) – For pump & pipe protection
- Sealant or caulk – For sealing cracks
- Tarps or burlap – For covering the fountain
- Extension cord – For running pumps/shop vac
- Work gloves – For protection while handling pumps
- Air compressor – For blowing water out of pipes
- Garden hose – For directing water away while draining
- Scrub brushes & mild detergent – For cleaning basins
- Plastic bins – For storing pumps indoors
The winterization process differs slightly depending on whether you have a portable (moveable) or stationary (permanently installed) fountain:
Portable Fountain Winterization
- Bring fountain indoors to a protected area like a garage or shed
- Drain basin water; scrub away dirt and algae
- Disconnect pump and hoses to dry and store separately
- Optional – Use RV antifreeze in basins/tubing if storing outdoors
Stationary Fountain Winterization
- Drain all water and clear piping using pump or air compressor
- Seal up and insulate external piping that can’t be cleared
- Add RV antifreeze to remaining water in basin and pipes
- Cover, insulate and protect the fountain from elements
While portable fountains are easier to winterize, stationary types take a bit more effort and care. Make sure to follow the detailed steps below for whichever fountain type you have.
If your fountain contains live plants or fish, these should be removed first and relocated indoors:
- Extract plants from fountain planters and repot into indoor containers. Trim away any dead or damaged foliage.
- Fish like koi can be moved to an indoor aquarium or tank, with a pump and heater to maintain water temp.
- Eliminate any debris like leaves, dirt and algae from the water using a skimmer and scrub brush. This prevents later buildup.
Cleaning the fountain and removing plants/fish prepares for the next crucial step – draining the water.
With debris eliminated and plants/fish removed, it’s time to drain the fountain fully of water:
For Portable Fountains:
- Tip the fountain to pour water out of basins and bowls if possible. Absorb any remaining pooled water with towels.
- Use a submersible pump placed in the bottom basin to pump out remaining water, directing it away from the fountain with a hose.
- Remove hoses and tubing from the pump. Allow them to air dry before storing.
- Dry the interior of basins fully with towels to prevent pooling.
For Stationary Fountains:
- Shut off the water line to the fountain via the shutoff valve.
- Remove drain plugs from the lowest point in the fountain basins and allow water to completely drain out.
- Use a submersible pump to draw out any remaining water from basins, tubing and piping. Pump to a safe drainage area away from the foundation.
- Open all drains and valves in the fountain plumbing system to ensure water purges completely.
Thoroughly drying out the fountain is crucial to prevent any remaining pockets of water from freezing and causing damage.
Use these tricks to remove pooled water from fountain bowls and curves:
- Tilt the fountain basin while pumping if possible to direct water to drains and pumps.
- Use towels or a wet/dry shop vacuum to soak up water from tight spots the pump can’t reach.
- Forering a thin piece of wire or hook can help clear clogged drains and tubes.
- Compressed air blown through pipes can help purge any remaining droplets stuck inside.
After draining the visible water, pockets inevitably remain trapped inside fountain pipes and pumps. Removing this is critical to avoid freeze damage.
Use either a wet/dry shop vacuum or an air compressor for this:
Shop vacuum – Place the hose end into the pipe openings and turn on the vacuum. The suction clears away every last droplet inside the tubes.
Air compressor – Insert the nozzle into plumbing openings and blow air through each pipe. This ejects the water out the other end. Caution – wear eye protection, limit air pressure to 30 PSI or less, and open outlets slowly to avoid damage from bursting air.
Clearing out ALL water from fountain plumbing protects your investment from breaking over the winter.
After water is removed, adding RV antifreeze provides an extra layer of winter protection:
Use propylene glycol based antifreeze designed specifically for RVs and plumbing systems. This prevents corrosion or fouling.
Add several gallons to each fountain basin, enough to cover the bottom 1-2 inches. This displaces any residual moisture and keeps basins from cracking.
Run antifreeze through pipes and tubing using a submersible pump. Fill the system fully.
Antifreeze dropped into drains can help prevent freezing and damage.
Using RV antifreeze is recommended but optional for winterizing most standard backyard fountains.
The recirculating pump is one of the most critical fountain components to winterize:
Unplug the pump and disconnect all tubing/piping to access it. Avoid damaging connectors and gaskets.
Clean the pump exterior by scrubbing away dirt, calcium deposits and algae buildup. Soak in a 50/50 vinegar/water solution to de-scale and sanitize interior parts.
Dry the pump fully with towels. Remove any lingering moisture on cables and connectors.
Store the pump in a dry indoor location like a basement or closet. Place it on absorbent towels inside a plastic tub or bin.
Proper pump winterization prevents freeze damage and keeps it operating smoothly when spring arrives.
Winterizing offers the perfect opportunity to give your fountain a thorough deep clean:
Use a mild, non-toxic cleaner (like citrus or castile soap) and a soft scrub brush to remove stains, dirt, algae and mineral deposits from basins, sculptures, statues and hardware.
Inspect for cracks and apply waterproof sealant or caulk to any crevices or gaps. This prevents seepage and damage over winter.
Clear away leaves, debris and other organic matter from the fountain area to avoid staining and future clogs.
Consider polishing painted or stained fountain finishes with appropriate cleaners and protectants.
Take advantage of the emptied, dry fountain to spruce it up before storage and winter.
Prevent winter damage by keeping your fountain protected from the elements:
Raise portable fountains off the ground using wood planks or bricks to prevent freeze/thaw cracking from ground moisture.
Pad the bottom of stationary basins with foam or burlap insulation to minimize ground freeze conduction.
Cover the entire fountain above ground level with a waterproof, breathable cover. Secure the cover tightly to keep out moisture. Use tape, bungee cords or weights for the best hold.
An additional layer of breathable insulation (like burlap sacks or blankets) over the waterproof cover offers added protection.
Elevating your fountain and using protective covers shields it from ice, snow and winter precipitation while still allowing humidity and condensation to escape.
Follow these additional tips and tricks for the best results when winterizing:
Remove and store small finials, spouts or hardware pieces that could break from the weight of snow/ice.
Understand how your fountain material (stone, ceramic, resin, etc.) reacts to freezing and handle accordingly. More delicate materials need extra insulation.
Hire a professional for winterization if your fountain has complex plumbing or electrical systems. Better to be safe than sorry!
Do a quick spring inspection and test run when warm weather returns. Confirm water flows smoothly and no damage occurred over winter.
To keep your prized outdoor fountain flowing for years of enjoyment, be sure to properly winterize it each cold season. Following this complete guide will protect your investment from weather damage while saving you from pump repairs or fountain replacement down the road.
What supplies do I need to winterize my outdoor fountain?
Gather a submersible pump, wet/dry shop vacuum, RV antifreeze, tarps or burlap, sealant, extension cord, and work gloves before starting. Optional items include an air compressor, garden hose, cleaning brushes, and plastic storage bins.
How can I fully drain my fountain before winter?
Use a submersible pump to empty basins, tilt the fountain while pumping, remove drain plugs, towels to absorb moisture, and a shop vac or compressed air to completely purge the smallest water droplets from pipes.
Should I disconnect my fountain pump for winter?
Yes, unplug the pump, disconnect tubing, clean away debris, dry fully, and store in a bin on absorbent towels in a dry indoor spot like a basement or closet to prevent freeze damage.
What’s the best way to protect my fountain from winter weather?
Elevate portable fountains off the ground on wood or bricks and cover the entire structure above ground level with a secured waterproof, breathable cover. Add insulating barrier layers for extra protection.
How often should I winterize my outdoor fountain?
Aim to winterize fountains before the first hard freeze, typically once a year in late fall depending on your climate. It’s better to winterize early rather than leaving it to the last minute when freezing can happen overnight.
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