Paint Bucket Water Feature

16 Materials
2 Hours

My husband always wanted to create one of those floating water features where the tap is magically suspended above a watering can. He bought some of the supplies, but that's as far as he got. A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled on his stash and decided to order a pump so I could make it for him.

Unbeknownst to him though, I wasn't going to make just any water feature! Painting is a big part of his job so I decided to substitute the watering can he had planned to use for a paint bucket instead and take it from there. NOTE: Since I'm limited to 14 pictures + video on Hometalk, if you're interested in seeing all of the step-by-step pictures, head to the Birdz of a Feather link at the end of this post.

To start, I gathered all my materials; the full list of supplies can be found on my blog site at the link at the end of this post, along with more detailed pictures of the entire process. About the Tubing: The tubing has to be rigid so it will hold the weight of the brass spout. We bought a few different sizes to test out. The first one we tried was 1/2" interior with a 3/4" outside diameter. It worked just fine but we thought the smaller tube we ended up using looked more realistic in terms of water flow.

We used 1/4" interior with a 3/8" outside diameter. Keep in mind that the interior dimension of your tubing has to fit over the outlet of your pump, so take that into consideration. As an option, if you can't find tubing with an interior diameter that fits over the pump outlet, you can always look for fittings for the pump itself. We cut a piece of the tubing about 14 1/4" long. The length you cut will depend on the height of your container (along with the pump once it's attached) so cut the length of the tube to the proportion that looks good with your particular container. We put some masking tape around the top so we could evenly mark our holes.

Using a 1/8" drill bit, hubs drilled 2 rows of holes around the edge of the plastic tube. He drilled 4 on each row for 8 holes in total - about 3/8" down from the edge. He staggered the positioning of the holes on the second row. Below you can see we have one row drilled and have the second row marked with the holes offset. We initially started with a larger tube, but as I mentioned, ended up using a small diameter (3/8" instead of 3/4").

Once the holes were drilled, we tested the tube on the pump to gauge the flow of the water and see how it would work. I told hubs that I was only using the paint bucket for the trial run, so we brought the tube, pump, faucet and paint bucket to our laundry room sink to give it a go.

The pictures from this point forward show the 3/8" tubing we settled on. After some adjustment with the flow, we ended up putting the pump flow on a medium setting. We found that worked best for us, but you will need to do your own experimenting to see what works for you. So far so good!

Once we were happy with the mechanics of the water works, I turned my attention to the paint bucket and hubs went on his merry way - oblivious to the fact of what I was really making for him! I took apart the grommet and used the larger side to trace a circle with the chalk pencil on the back of the can about an inch or so down from the top. Don't put it too low because it needs to be above the final waterline which will cover the pump mechanism and you don't want the water leaking out! I used a diamond tip engraver to trace around the circle so I'd have an outline to follow with my cutting tool.

I used a fine hacksaw to cut the circle out (you could also use a jigsaw with a fine blade) and installed the larger side of the grommet into the hole to test it out. You could use some clear caulk around the edges before you permanently install the grommet to seal it. Snap the second piece of the grommet on; it provides a good strain relief for the cord and the black blends in with the bucket!

Moving onto the decorative steps, I first cut a piece of the sheet protector and placed it under the paint can to catch the intentional spills. It's probably a good idea to glue it onto the bottom at this point because it's going to be there permanently, as you'll see later.

I used a glossy paint for this project because when it dries, it will still look like it's wet and I love that look. I took the paintbrush and dipped it into the paint, then painted the interior of the paint can lid. Set both the lid and the paint brush aside to dry.

I wanted 'controlled' drips around the rim and edges of the paint can so I used an eyedropper that I saved from some vitamin drops to place several paint runs around the top. You could probably just do this step with the paint brush too. At the bottom of the can, on top of the sheet protector, I added more paint to mimic the flow of the paint spill. Once I was satisfied with the amount of paint, I set the can aside to dry.

I used some water proof mastic to seal the end of the tube to the faucet and also at the connection to the pump and let it dry for the recommended time.

In the meantime, I slid the can onto a board and cut around the paint spill on the plastic sheet so I could removed the excess.

I carefully transferred the can onto a lazy suzan for my final display.

The bottom of the pump I purchased has suction cups on the bottom so I inserted it into the can and pressed it down against the bottom. Now you can pull the cord of the pump through the back and pop on the other half of the grommet as you saw earlier. There's no need to seal this part; in case you ever need to remove the pump you'll be able to get the cord out again.

The top of the tube will be top-heavy due to the weight of the faucet, so I added clear dollar store gems around the pump to steady it and keep it from tipping. I only purchased two bags, but could easily have doubled it! Make sure that the pump is being held securely by whatever you choose to weigh it down; you don't want it to tip and spew water everywhere when you're not in the room!

Pour enough water into the bucket to make sure the pump is fully submerged, but not so high that it will leak out of the hole you cut for the cord!

When it was time to pull the whole look together, I set it up in my office so I could try it out . I fed the cord down through the counter top and left it dangling until I was ready to plug it in. I positioned the paint lid beside the paint bucket, then leaned the paint brush on top of the lid.

When I plugged it in, I was amazed at how realistic it looked. It looked like real flowing water from a magically floating tap and the paint was so shiny I thought it was still wet (but it wasn't!). I couldn't wait to surprise hub so I moved the whole shebang upstairs!

Hubs grinned from ear to ear when he walked into the room and saw it; I love getting surprises, but I love giving them even more! I hope he has room for this at his office; I think his co-workers would get a kick out of it - and I'll undoubtedly need the space for my next craft project :)

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Suggested materials:
  • Paint can   (Recycled)
  • Paint   (Left over)
See all materials
Birdz of a Feather
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
3 of 10 questions
  • Anne Anne on Feb 11, 2017
    I have a water fountain just as the one you made except mine has a bucket with the water spout . I need to replace the clear tubing and can not locate it . Would you mind telling me where you purchased yours - Your fountain feature looks great .

  • Tur27034949 Tur27034949 on Oct 11, 2017
    Where can I get the acrylc tube?

  • John Rosso John Rosso on Jan 04, 2018
    How did you cut the round hole in the paint can with a hacksaw?

Join the conversation
3 of 132 comments
  • Kathleen Walker Kathleen Walker on Sep 01, 2020

    I love it!

  • Dana Dana on Aug 13, 2022

    I did this project about 25 years ago, I had a galvanised pail. Not spilled paint, which looks great. I added flowers around the sides and top, loved it but it’s been long gone. I may have to make another one sometime. Thanks for sharing!