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How to Install a Rain Barrel

Rain Barrel

Anyone who has ever lived through water rationing has looked to their downspouts during a storm. If only you could save some of that rain for later. The good news is that you can, through the installation and use of a rain barrel – or realistically, as many rain barrels as you have downspouts.

What is a Rain Barrel?

rain barrel

Rain barrels are containers used to capture and store rainwater. The typical capacity of these containers is between 50 and 80 gallons. A hose connected to the barrel allows you to use the water in your yard or landscaping beds. Depending on your annual rainfall, it's possible to save up to 1,300 gallons of water per barrel in the warmer months of the year. You can calculate this against your water bill to see how those savings add up. Here's a quick and easy guide on how to install a rain barrel.

What You'll Need

Collect all the supplies needed to properly set up your rain collecting station.

  • A premade rain barrel
  • Some type of base. You can buy a ready-made base, or you can make your own. All you need are cinder blocks, bricks, flagstones, or some other durable, reliable material.
  • A garden hose
  • Hand saw or Tin snips

Cut the Downspout

Man cutting Gutters

First, measure the height of your barrel and the height of the base you will place it on. You will use this measurement to calculate the length of your downspout to reach the top of the barrel. The water will fall through a hole in the top of the barrel to be collected. Then, cut the downspout to the appropriate length, but err on the long side: You can always cut more if you need to.

Build the Base

Cinder Blocks

Construct your base from your material of choice. Do a little research for inspiration from what others have done. It's possible to build a base with cinder blocks and conceal it with wood planks or other materials that match your landscape. You may also want to consider planting a water-loving perennial or herb around the base.

Don't skip the base. The elevation from the bottom increases the gravity pressure of the water inside, making it easier to deliver it via a hose to your lawn and garden beds.

You'll also notice that most rain barrels come with an overflow hose that extends from the side of the barrel, near the top. If you wish, you can have a second rain barrel close to the first, designed to catch the overflow during a heavy rain event. If you choose to do this, you may want the first barrel on a slightly higher base than the second, to assist the gravity feed.

Place the Barrel

Rain Barrel Base

Once your base is built and secure, place your barrel on top of it. Ensure that the downspout is directly over the inlet opening. If the downspout is too long still, cut off more to sit directly over the rain barrel screen. 

Next, attach your hose, and make sure to shut the valve. Now all you have to do is wait for the next storm, and voila. You should have enough rainwater to supply your garden for at least a few weeks.

While rain barrels are a great way to save money on your water bill, there's another excellent reason to collect rainwater. The pH of rain is precisely what plants want. Unlike water from the tap, which may contain chlorine, fluoride, and other minerals and elements that affect pH, the water that falls from clouds is perfect for the garden. So in some ways, your rain barrel is like a candy jar for your landscape. If you install a high-quality system, you can enjoy water bill savings and pampered plants for years to come.

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