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How to Install an Outdoor Drinking Fountain

An outdoor drinking fountain is handy and is a unique feature for any backyard. Use these step-by-step instructions from Ed Del Grande to install one.

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Step 1: Dig a Trench

Start by selecting an area by the house where the water line will run. Dig a trench a few inches deep and test-fit the line to make sure it will fit under any obstructions such as fences or gates. Locate an area by the house where the water line will come through the wall and dig down a few inches so the pipe can be buried where it exits the house. Using a drill and a 1" masonry bit, drill a hole where the water line will run from the inside of the crawlspace.

Step 2: Sleeve and Insert the Water Line

When running a copper water line through brick or concrete, take this tip from Ed: Always sleeve the line for added protection. Sleeving a water line means putting a larger pipe in the hole you just made in the brick or concrete, then sliding the smaller pipe through it. This will give the water line double protection. Insert the water line through the hole from the crawlspace first, then sleeve the line from the inside. Shut the water off at the main and drain the system by opening an inside and an outside faucet. Be sure all electric water heaters are turned off at the breaker and gas water heaters are turned to the pilot position to prevent damage.

Step 3: Tap Into a Cold-Water Line

Use a pipe cutter to tap into a cold-water line, making sure to have a rag and bucket handy to catch any remaining water left in the line. Next, move an inch or so left from the first cut and use a mini pipe cutter to remove a small section of line.

Step 4: Solder Pieces

Using basic soldering techniques, solder a 1/2" copper tee onto the cold line and run a new water line for the fountain. Make sure to clean and flux each joint thoroughly. Next solder the 1/2" ball valve onto the new line close to an area where the new line leaves the house.

Step 5: Run the Water Line

Now that the water tap under the crawlspace is complete, it's time to run the actual water line. Using the shovel, dig down 4" or 5" and pull back the soil from the retaining wall. Once the trench has been dug, begin uncoiling the copper tubing into the trench, making sure it doesn't kink. Now use the shovel to cover all of the copper tubing back up.

Step 6: Start Making the Final Connections

Next, rough in water and drain lines while pouring concrete. With the water line in place next to the concrete pad, start making the final connections. But remember, don't bury this whole area because right at the base of the pad, a valve is needed so the water lines can be drained come wintertime, or they could freeze. Now, obviously, you'll need room to open that valve; in addition, you do have a connection going from 1/2" to 3/8", and you want to make sure you have access to that fitting. To solve the problems, Ed installs what's called an access pit. A box that's dug into place, it does two things: it provides plenty of room to work and get access to the pipes if there's trouble, and it enables you to winterize the system.

Step 7: Dig a Hole

Dig a hole by the slab large enough to fit the access box into (Image 1), making sure it will sit even with the base of the fountain once the sod work is done. With the access pit dug, finish uncoiling the 1/2" copper tubing, cut it to the desired length and place it under the access box (Image 2). Use a cordless drill to drill a hole in the side of the access box where the water line from the fountain will run into the box (Image 3).

Step 8: Install the Service Valve

To install the service valve to the drinking fountain, attach the double lavatory stop to the 1/2" copper tubing. Slide the nut and ferrule over the end of the tube and attaching it to the stop. Use an adjustable wrench and slip-joint pliers to make sure the connection is tight and that one side points up and one points down. Place the finished connection in the pit and put the access box over the top of the lavatory stop.

Step 9: Run a Flexible Supply Line

Run a flexible supply line through the concrete slab and access box and attach it to the lavatory stop, making sure to tighten the connection with an adjustable wrench (Image 1). Pour gravel chips in the bottom of the access pit, spreading them evenly to assist in drainage and to help hold the access box in place (Image 2).

Step 10: Cover the Copper Tubing

Cover any remaining copper tubing with dirt and fill in the area around the access box. Next, remove the nuts from the bolts on the concrete slab and remove the plywood on top, using a crowbar.

Step 11: Complete the Final Connections

With the rough work done, it's time for the final connections. It's not too complicated, and the first step is to mount it right to that concrete slab so it won't topple over. Next, connect the drain line with the PVC coupler and some extension pipe. Finally, the water line is the easiest: connect the 1/2" fitting to the 1/2" fitting supplied with the drinking fountain.

Step 12: Set the Fountain in Place

Set the fountain in place over the mounting bolts and screw the nuts and washers onto the bolts; then tighten them with a socket wrench. Remove the access panel and measure the distance from the internal drain line to the bottom of the fountain (Image 1). Transfer this measurement to a section of PVC and cut it to the desired length to create an extension for the drain line (Image 2).

Step 13: Connect the Water Lines

Slide the 1-1/2" coupler over the drain extension and apply PVC primer and glue to the opposite end of the drain extension. Place the drain extension in the roughed-in PVC line in the concrete slab, connect the coupler to the internal drain line and tighten it down. Connect the flexible supply line to the 1/2" water supply inside the fountain, making sure the connection is tight. Using the four hex-head screws, replace the access panel, turn the water back on at the main and switch the electric water heaters back on at the breaker or turn on gas heaters.