Making a Trough Fountain from an Antique Water Pump

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This project was more a throwing together of new and old elements, than an actual “building” or “making from scratch” project. But as it is one of the most useful and atmosphere-enhancing elements of our backyard, I thought I’d share the details with you lovely people!
This water trough fountain is functional, (this water trough really IS a water trough for the goats), and it’s decorative, (the fountain makes a great feature in the barnyard – it looks and sounds great!)
Basically, my dad gave me the old manger that he built years ago, and his late 1800’s antique water pump that we had on our property when I was growing up. So both of the fountain features – the container and the “fountain” element are both family heirlooms of sorts! These provided the visual imagery of my childhood that formed my ideals of backyard living and urban homesteading. (Growing up in an urban residential area with gardens, chickens, rabbits, etc., I didn’t realize till just recently that my parents were pretty much urban homesteading before it became popular!)
So anyway, setting up these childhood memories in my own backyard for MY children to enjoy has been beyond fun for me. It’s been an absolute joy! Watching Tessa toddle around these features just fills up my happy and I can only daydream about passing these treasures on to her (or Thyme!) one of these days! (Makes me wonder – which one of my girls will get bit by the backyarding farming bug..?)

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When putting the water trough fountain together, we first had to decide how to make the wooden trough waterproof. We had a few options, among them using a waterproof caulk, or a pond liner. I really wanted to pursue the waterproof caulk option, because I liked seeing the wooden panels of the inside of the trough. But in addition to being rather expensive to thoroughly caulk for long time use, the chemicals in the caulk were not animal safe chemically speaking. (Remember, this is primarily the goats drinking water trough!)
So we decided to opt for the pond liner. The black lining blends in well once the water is filled up, it’s heavy duty, it’s safe for drinking water, and it’s easy to fix and patch in the event of leaks! So after installing the pond liner to the wood (using staples above the waterline) we then focused on the antique water pump.

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We’d purchased our fountain pump from Amazon.com (if you are making a fountain I recommend you do the same.. WAY cheaper on there!) and all we had to do was feed the water tube through the antique water pump.
But preparing the antique water pump for the fountain element was far trickier than I’d initially anticipated. The construction of the antique hand pump is such that you can’t feed a fountain tube through the thing unless you remove the inner workings of the pump. When consulting the ol’ interwebs, I kept reading, “take the pump apart and feed your fountain tube through the neck and out the spout”. Easy peasy, right? No. Just, no no no NO.
First, the cast iron of the antique pump was BEYOND rusted at the screw and joints, so simply “taking it apart” was a two freaking day job. NO JOKE.

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In our efforts to unscrew the rusted bolts, we resorted to: brushing the rust with copper brushes, liquid thread lubricants like WD-40, literally soaking the entire fountain in oil overnight, applying heat with a heat gun, and so on and so on. After two days of taking turns breaking our hands over these nuts and bolts, the darn thing eventually BROKE! We didn’t even get to properly unscrew it, it just snapped in half!
You’d think that solved the problem, right? Well, no. Now that the pump was in half, we could not discern how to remove the inner workings! They were solidly attached! And we couldn’t reach in to remove the guts of the pump.
So we ended up just snaking the fountain pump tube through the water pumps innards, zigzagging and pushing it past all the internal mechanics. It was a tight fit, and now that the tube is through the pump handle doesn’t move up and down.. it’s just kind of stuck in the mid-way position. But the fountain officially works now!
Since we were unable to replace the screws (broke the sucker in half, remember?) I got some C clamps and painted them black and used them to physically hold the fountain together. They’re super sturdy (which is great, since Odee likes to use the fountain to scratch his head!) and once all put together, it works like a charm!

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Now the goats can drink from a beautiful running fountain, with goldfish swimming in the trough as a natural form of algae control! It’s such a delightful sound, hearing the running water out in the barn as I milk in the mornings!

Are you a fan of fountains or outdoor water features? Share your thoughts below!

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Gingi Freeman
Gingi Freeman

Gingi is a photographer, cosplayer, amateur chef, crazy cat lady, anime otaku, bookworm, generic geek, world traveler, conservative Christian, homeschooler, devoted military wife and stay at home new mother of two little girls.


Gingi blogs about anything and everything that is relevant to being a supermom, stay at home wife, homeschooler and geek girl! You can contact her at gingifreeman@gmail.com or via the contact form on her website at www.domesticgeekgirl.com


Gingi Freeman

Gingi is a photographer, cosplayer, amateur chef, crazy cat lady, anime otaku, bookworm, generic geek, world traveler, conservative Christian, homeschooler, devoted military wife and stay at home new mother of two little girls.

Gingi blogs about anything and everything that is relevant to being a supermom, stay at home wife, homeschooler and geek girl! You can contact her at gingifreeman@gmail.com or via the contact form on her website at www.domesticgeekgirl.com

43 thoughts on “Making a Trough Fountain from an Antique Water Pump

  • 1 April, 2015 at 6:40 am
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    What a super idea! The Great Scot and I have been discussing a water feature and something similar to this would fit the bill just nicely… although it wouldn’t have the sweet memories yours does.

    • 1 April, 2015 at 3:38 pm
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      Aside from the whole “taking two days to break the pump apart”, it was a fairly easy project!! If you make one, try to buy your pump on Amazon.. literally half the price and works just as well as the big box store pumps!

  • 1 April, 2015 at 8:33 am
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    Wow Gingi, I am not as patient as you… I can see how you are able to make such interesting items… this is such a cute idea and the old pump makes it look so authentic… fabulous job xox

    • 1 April, 2015 at 3:40 pm
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      Haha, I am actually the least patient person I know.. I’m just stubborn as heck! 😉

    • 1 April, 2015 at 3:43 pm
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      Awww, thank you Stacie! <3

  • 1 April, 2015 at 1:22 pm
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    This is so cool! I love heirlooms and antiques. Have you ever watched Fixer Upper on HGTV? I’m obsessed with Jojo’s decorating. She’s the queen of making old look amazing. And, she and her husband are so darn cute. Anyway, your trough reminds me of something she’d do.

    • 1 April, 2015 at 3:43 pm
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      No I haven’t, but you’re not the first person to recommend that show to me! Haha.. looks like I need to actually, ya know, go watch it now! Sounds like it’s right up my alley!! 😉

  • 1 April, 2015 at 3:56 pm
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    Its nice and high distinction to the good job. I like fountains but not easy space in my little garden. Btw, I always have issue leaving comments on your blog. Something is not right with copying the password. Comments say error. Wonder why. Tried to comment on the bourbon drink yesterday but didn’t get me anywhere. The drink is so vibrant and loved.

    • 1 April, 2015 at 4:58 pm
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      I didn’t even realize I have a password on my comment box! Huh!! I’ll have to look into it.. thanks for letting me know! I’ll try to get it sorted out ASAP!! <3

  • 1 April, 2015 at 5:46 pm
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    What a great idea! Love the pictures.

    • 1 April, 2015 at 6:43 pm
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      Thanks! <3

  • 1 April, 2015 at 6:13 pm
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    There’s something about the sound of water that is so relaxing… I enjoyed reading about your project, complete with photos!

  • 1 April, 2015 at 7:06 pm
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    Ohh, this is lovely. Bet it makes your yard look perfect. What lucky goats 😛

    Corinne x

    • 1 April, 2015 at 7:30 pm
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      Yeah, those suckers are spoiled rotten, thats for sure!! 😉

  • 1 April, 2015 at 7:33 pm
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    That is awesome! I feel like there is nothing that you can’t make or do!!!

    • 1 April, 2015 at 9:05 pm
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      Yeah, I’m so glad we put this in our yard! It’s one of my favorite home upgrades! <3 <3

  • 1 April, 2015 at 7:59 pm
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    Wow this is gorgeous and it sounds like such a peaceful addition to your yard. I love fountains, I find them to be incredibly soothing. I would love to have something like this in my backyard, the authentic vintage look is just stunning.

  • 1 April, 2015 at 10:17 pm
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    So cool! Love that you made it with stuff from your childhood. So special. I really like water features in the yard. I have a little fountain, but I bought it so it is not nearly as special or cool as yours!!!

    • 1 April, 2015 at 10:36 pm
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      Hey, sometimes bought items BECOME special family features.. who knows, your kids might find it super special when they inherit it someday. 😉

  • 2 April, 2015 at 2:09 pm
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    This is awesome! The fact that it’s made up of family heirlooms makes it even more wonderful. I just love reading about your homesteading life, Gingi. I didn’t realize you were raised this way too. What an incredible gift your parents gave you that you are paying forward with your kids. I’m beginning to loathe subdivision living with all the rules and regulations. For now I will just live vicariously through you, my friend :).

    • 2 April, 2015 at 3:19 pm
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      LOL, I’m kind of pushing the limits within the city limits myself. 😉 Next house we purchase, it’s gonna HAVE TO be in the country!

  • 2 April, 2015 at 10:34 pm
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    Wow – a worthwhile project well done.

    All the best Jan

  • 3 April, 2015 at 12:29 pm
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    Seriously, this is soooo fabulous! I am in love! What a great idea! Now I feel like I need to have something like that in my backyard as well. Even when I don’t have any goats running around.

    • 3 April, 2015 at 3:41 pm
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      Awwww, I am glad you like it!! I am quite smitten with it myself!!

  • 27 September, 2015 at 4:46 pm
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    Thank you for posting this. I have had the identical pump for years and finally have a place to put it. I’m having trouble getting the water to flow “nicely” out of the spout. It seems to either jet out 3 feet past where I want it or it dribbles. How did you find the right placement for the hose?

  • 28 January, 2016 at 12:14 am
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    I am impressed with your perseverance in unscrewing the rusted bolts on the water pump. Also, your ingenuity in using the C clamps to keep the fountain together even after running into issues is amazing. I have been thinking about adding a water feature in my backyard, because there’s nothing quite like hearing running water!

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  • 2 December, 2016 at 7:21 am
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    Great idea! Want to try mine with a galvanized tub.

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