Outdoor water elements can lend something extra to your home | SummitDaily.com

Outdoor water elements can lend something extra to your home

This stream runs through the Berrys' backyard in Silverthorne.
Jessica Smith / jsmith@summitdaily.com |

There’s just something about water that’s relaxing. Whether it’s the sound of a trickling fountain or babbling brook, the dancing pattern of reflecting light or even just that cool fresh smell, water adds an important element to any home or building.

In fact, the term feng shui literally has water (shui) in its name. Translated to English as wind-water, feng shui is the Chinese philosophy of using natural elements to balance the energy in a given space.

Water has historically been an important design aspect. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were thought to have been made feasible with an ancient pump system, and civilizations from Assyria and Egypt to Rome and medieval Europe used fountains and other water features to enhance their homes.

And, just because Summit County sits around 9,000 feet or higher in elevation and gets lots of snow doesn’t mean that water features are out of the question.


When it comes to outdoor water features, homeowners have a range of varieties to choose from, depending on the space they’re working with and their own personal style.

Some houses, for example, come with a natural water feature already built-in, in the form of a stream or pool. In that case, it’s simply a matter of landscaping around the stream.

Silverthorne residents Jolie and Gene Berry, for instance, considered the stream that runs through their backyard one of the reasons that they bought and continue to enjoy their house. They call it “the brook,” and it descends as a small waterfall through their property and continues on throughout the Three Peaks neighborhood near the golf course.

“It’s just a wonder,” said Jolie Berry.

Both avid gardeners, the Berrys have planted all kinds of flowers along the water’s edge. Flagstone steps lead down from the back porch to a small seating area with benches, chairs and a table. The scent of flowers and sounds of the cascading waterfall fill the air.

But, you don’t need a waterfall in your backyard to have an outdoor water feature. Many features go for an artistic rather than natural approach, featuring panes of glass or metal sculptures that manipulate the flowing water. Sometimes they’ll even combine with other natural elements.

“We are going to be seeing more water features, (and) they will be combined with fire features,” said Nancy Andersen, owner of Cornerstone Creations.

One of the nice things of having a combined fire-water feature is that often the fire will heat the water pump, which keeps it from freezing in colder weather.

Choosing which style of water feature to add to your home depends on your surroundings, Andersen said.

“If you’re right on the back of a forest or on a hillside, then the natural scape can blend right in where you don’t know it is artificial,” she explained, “but if you’re on a flat property or all you have is a big balcony, … you’re probably not going to want to do a natural scape. So a piece of art would be more appropriate.”


There are some important things to consider with an outdoor water feature in Summit County. While a stream will be fine during a winter freeze, a pump operated water feature might not be. They should be shut down or, if portable, moved inside during very cold weather, Andersen said.

Outdoor water pumps need to be hardy, she added, and able to take on whatever debris might get sucked in, like sediment or leaves.

Aside from the cold weather, she states maintenance as the biggest issue with outdoor water features.

“They really are better for people who are living here full-time, year-round, that can actually manage the feature themselves and maintain control over it,” she said.

Or, they could hire someone to maintain it for them, similar to having a maintenance person on hand for a hot tub, for example.

One option for people who want the water feature without the hassle, are small tabletop features, she suggested. These are small portable features that could sit on a patio or outside table. Though they don’t have the same striking look as a larger feature, they can still offer a soothing sound.

The sound of a water feature is one of its best benefits, she said, especially for homes near a busy street or properties that get noise from Interstate 70.

“All of a sudden, now you’re hearing water over, superseding the traffic,” she said. “It can help enhance your outdoor living in a situation when you’re not in a remote location.”

Whether your water feature is natural or artistic, large or small, there is little doubt that it will bring you to an even higher level of relaxation and enjoyment in a place already known for its natural features and remote beauty.

This article originally appeared in Summit County Home magazine.

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