He and wife, Jill, recently completed the waterfall with its remotely activated pump as part of an extensive, $150,000 renovation of their hilly garden. After terracing the slope with stone walls, they added a new deck with an endless pool and a spa, a patio with a fire pit, and an outdoor kitchen with a fireplace and a brick oven.
“The waterfall brings it all together,” says Jill Wadsworth, a managing director of a company specializing in employee recognition strategies. “It looks very natural, like it is almost coming from a brook. When we get up in the morning and walk into the kitchen, it provides a beautiful view.”
Such aquatic designs offer not only cooling reminders of creeks and rivers but also relief from the daily stresses of work and family. “The sound of water is incredibly calming in the hectic lives led by a lot of Washingtonians,” says real estate agent Kimberly Cestari of W.C. & A.N. Miller Realtors. “In the right setting, fountains and small ornamental pools set amid other nice landscaping add value to a property.”
The sound of gurgling water can also make owners and potential buyers forget about a home’s proximity to a noisy street. For attorneys David and Deborah Astrove, a bubbling fountain drowns out the traffic sounds from a busy boulevard near their Bethesda home.
“It’s so tranquil,” says Deborah Astrove of the backyard pool. “When you are sitting on the patio or porch, your eye goes right to the water. Visually, it holds the whole garden together.”
The limestone-rimmed basin punctuates the end of a long lawn framed by boxwood shrubs and hornbeam trees. “It’s a destination point, a place to walk to,” says District landscape architect Cynthia Ferranto, who designed the Astroves’ pool and garden. “It makes you feel cooler to see and hear the water and know that it is there.”
But backyard water features can be fraught with problems — mosquitoes, clogged filters and leaky liners, to name a few — that require costly attention. “Be prepared to spend money on maintenance that you may not recoup when it comes to selling your house,” says Morgan Knull, a broker with Re/Max Gateway.
Moreover, Knull says, many house shoppers are put off by the sight of a fish pond or a fountain, no matter how well they are designed. “Buyers are often intimidated when it comes to their maintenance.”
That upkeep includes cleaning filters and basins, ensuring pumps are working to move and aerate the water, and replenishing moisture lost to evaporation.
But with the right planning and design, experts say, fountains can run smoothly — even year round — to mimic the sights and sounds of nature. “If it is properly built, the water feature will not require a ton of maintenance,” says Donald Jump, vice president of Lorton-based Harmony Ponds Inc.