Most of us are familiar with storage drums in our day-to-day lives. Plastic rain barrels (drums) are basically cylindrical containers that are commonly used for the storage and transporting of various types of materials, predominantly fluids and powders. These fluids may range from water to special liquids used for industrial applications. The drums are also sometimes used to store harmful materials.
At Eagle Peak Containers, located in Athol, ID, you can find a large collection of one-specific type of plastic rain barrel. Like this brown 50 gallon drum, they are not glamorous rain barrels, but they are inexpensive.
Because plastic has excellent corrosion resistance capabilities, it is used extensively in the industrial sector. And plastic is generally referred because of its ease in transportation, low cost, and light weight. Plastic drums can also be recycled or refurbished and used again.
Some of the most attractive plastic rain barrels can be found at
located in Warriors Mark, PA – “home of the premium, functional, and attractive Spruce Creek Rain Barrels”.
Plastic rain barrels are the lightest above-ground water containers, so they are the easiest to move around your home-site and the cheapest to ship. Because of they are usually made of one continuous piece of material, with leak-proof seams, if used with plastic fittings, they are the least likely to leak - even when exposed to great weather fluctuations. And they come in a wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. However, the standard size for most plastic drums is 55 gallons.
The two major types are closed-head and open-head barrels. The closed head are constructed so there is no top to remove in order to access the inside of the barrel, and they are usually cheaper. The open-head barrels are constructed with a removable top, so you can have ready access to the inside of the barrel. Most plastic rain barrels come with two holes at the top: one for filling with water or other liquid, and the other, smaller hole, for letting air out while filliing.
Plastic rain barrels are often sold after being used once in an industrial application. You can usually determine if the application was for good-grade or non-food grade use. Food grade use is usually better – because you can be sure no toxic material has been stored in that container. However, since you will be collecting rain water from dirty roofs, you should never consider harvested rainwater for human use – unless you use a special filter. This “Aqua Fria” model can be found at
a manufacturer of unique rain barrels based in Albuquerque, NM.
Resin and Plastic:
Most people who buy rainwater barrels prefer barrels made of plastic or resin. That’s because barrels made of these materials are inexpensive and extremely easy to care for, use, and maintain. Plastic barrels are lightweight and sturdily constructed to stand most types of weather. Resin and plastic barrels are made in a variety of styles. Some of them are manufactured to look like an actual wooden barrel. Some models are also made to sit flush against a wall, so they are more cosmetically pleasing to some people. One of the bonuses about choosing to use a plastic or resin rain barrel is that many are made using recycled materials - which makes these rain barrels eco-friendly. Some of the materials used to make them would include recycled plastic, recycled plastic resin, and recycled polyethylene. Of plastic and wood barrels, plastic is far less expensive.
You can find a wide variety of plastic rain barrels, including this unusual “faux wood flat back” rain barrel at Gutter Supply, in Lake Bluff, IL
Recycled versus Recyclable:
Plastics are used in every conceivable industry: from drinking water to carcinogenic chemicals and from flower pots to insect poisons. Recycled (regrind) plastic may be acceptable for items such as mailboxes or septic tanks, but not appropriate for items used for storage of drinking water.
Painting Plastic Barrels:
All plastic rain barrels are made of polyethylene plastic. It does not make any difference whether it is high or low density. The plastic is relatively inexpensive, highly impact resistant, and easy to mold. But all polyethylene plastic has what is known as a high expansion/contraction ratio - compared to other materials such as wood or metal. Thus, due to changes in seasonal temperatures, the physical dimensions of any plastic rain barrel can change significantly enough to easily be calculated with a common tape measure. This is a huge problem for common paint. The bottom-line issue is that the paints found at the typical hardware store cannot accept this radical fluctuation in size, so the paint will soon crack and start the process of falling completely off of the rain barrel. Be aware of any painted plastic.
Warning: Not Potable Water:
It should be understood by anyone who uses any rain water collection system that the water collected should never be consumed by humans. The water should be fine to water the lawn, flowers, bushes, trees, and even garden plants. But, unless you use a special filtering system (usually only available for below-ground water collection systems), the water should never be considered safe for drinking, food preparation, or bathing. There are so many potential pollutants that might be collected in the typical rainwater harvesting system, that human use should be avoided as a precaution.