Hypertufa Water Fountain Project
"Bowls of Life"
Use the links below to skip ahead to a certain section.
- Preparing Your Work Surface
- Supply List
- The Mold
- The Pedestal and Cup
- The Pump Housing
- Curing and Finishing
- Assembling Your Fountain
- Using and Fine-Tuning Your Fountain
- Safety Tips
Step 5 - Curing and Finishing
Let all the pieces dry in a shady location, protected from rain for 48 hours before moving. If you are in a very low humidity area, cover the bowls loosely with a plastic bag so the bowls don't dry out too quickly and crack. You may find you need to mist them lightly a couple times during the day if you are experiencing very hot temperatures, but mine air dried naturally with no additional misting or covering.
After about 24 hours, you can use a metal file or sand paper to gently shape the inside of the top of the cup, if you like. You can also use sandpaper to smooth the inside of the bowls, but I left mine rough. Just depends on how formal you want the fountain to look. You won't really notice the inside of the bowls anyway once they are filled with water.
After 48 hours, you will begin to notice the mix lightening up in color. That is telling you that the mix is drying out. You can now remove the molds from the bowl. Take off the duct tape and the bowls should come out pretty easily. If they don't or look like they want to crack, then let them dry longer; don't force it, as it can still break apart pretty easily at this stage. If you notice a seam where the molds come together, you can wet sand the area to make it less noticeable.
Once removed from the molds, let the bowls dry for another week in a shady area on a hard, flat level surface. At that point, you can drill a hole in the center of each bowl. This hole should be the same size as the hose you are using to attach to the submersible pump. The pump directions should tell you what diameter hose to use - it may also come with a piece of hose. If it doesn't, take the pump with you to the store and try different size hoses until you find the right fit. You don't need much. The length of hose depends on the height of the finished fountain. You can get these submersible pumps at pet stores, nurseries, home improvement stores, hardware stores and possibly discount stores and pool and spa shops. They also may be called fountain pumps and if you can find a pump that is a little more than 180 gph, that would be good too, you just don't need a real strong pump as you don't want the water to splash out of the bowls. The hoses can be found in the pool/fountain section or even the refrigerator section of the home improvement store as well as some pet stores. If you have trouble finding clear hose, I believe they make a black hose as well. You are not going to see it, so it really makes no difference what color it is, only that it's flexible.
Once the bowls have cured for a week, you need to coat the inside of the largest bowl with a waterproofing agent. My instructor used a Quikrete product called Hydraulic Cement. Follow the instructions when applying to the inside of the bowl. Let this cure for several days, or however long it states on the product you used. Just make sure the product you use will dry the same color as your fountain (light gray). This coating will prevent the bowl from sweating. The smaller bowls do not need this coating, only the largest bowl.
Step 6 - Assembly
After everything is cured, sanded and sealed, it's time to assemble the whole thing. Rinse the bowls several times to make sure there is no cement residue. I prefer to have my fountain indoors or on a covered porch or patio. Though I am sure the birds would love the fountain, it would need cleaning often (which requires taking it apart) and the waterproofing agent may not be completely safe for the animals.
Choose a location that is flat, level, water-resistant and that will support the weight of the fountain. It will be quite heavy when fully assembled, so you won't be able to move it easily once it's put together. Put the pump in the bottom of the largest bowl and sit the pump housing on top of the pump so that the cord comes out one side and the pump filter comes out the other. Make sure the pump housing is sitting level in the bottom of the bowl.
Now place the tubing on the pump so that it comes out of the hole of the pump housing. Take the middle size bowl and slide it down over the tubing so that the bowl sits on the pump housing and the tube comes out of the hole in the medium size bowl. Do the same with the smallest bowl. The hose should be about a 1/2" below the cup at the top of the fountain. This is just so you don't see the hose when it's running. An easy way to figure out what size hose you need is to just assemble the fountain and take a marker and mark the hose at the top of the fountain, then remove the hose from the fountain and cut it a 1/2" shorter than where you made the mark. I'm sorry I can't give you an exact length, but it will vary slightly depending on the molds you are using and how high the pedestals are in each bowl.
To figure out how high you need to set the pump, put the pump in a large bowl of water with the hose attached. If it's a 180 gph pump, set it to the highest setting and turn it on. The water should come out above the hose about 1-1/2" to 2". This will give you a starter point for your pump setting and should be done before you actually assemble the fountain.