How to Create Waterfall Charts in Excel

Waterfall LeadWhen you want to see how different parts of a total contribute to the final calculation, a waterfall chart (sometimes called a cascade chart or a bridge chart) can be a very useful visualization tool. Unfortunately, Excel doesn’t have a built-in waterfall chart option. With a bit of creativity, however, it’s possible to build one using a modified stacked bar chart. This tutorial will show you how to build your own waterfall chart, complete with different colors for positive and negative values and connecting lines…

Examining the Waterfall Chart

Normally, we’d start by looking at the data set we are going to use, but a waterfall chart is not a standard chart type in Excel. To understand what we need to do to make one, it’s useful to examine what goes into making a waterfall chart work in Excel.

Example Chart

The first thing to note is that the chart is divided into the positive Y-axis and the negative Y-axis, and there are separate bars for each side. This is because the waterfall has to step from piece to piece on its way to making up the total at the end. If we provided positive and negative values in a single data series, Excel would layer them on top of each other along the X axis. We’ll need to break down our data later to match these two sides of the axis.

Plus Minus Y-Axis

In addition to the split Y-axis, the waterfall chart is broken up into different elements that make up the data bars, the connecting lines, invisible spacer bars that off-set the parts of the waterfall, and the data labels.


All of these pieces will require separate lines in a data table in order to make up the complete chart. If it seems like a lot of work, don’t worry… This design will automatically do most of the data crunching, leaving us to choose the important things, like colors and formatting.