Rain Barrel Installation Tips

Rainwater-Harvesting-4-Homes.com doesn’t currently offer installation services, but we do offer installation tips. While installing a rain barrel is a fairly easy job that most people can do themselves, it helps to have a pioneer give you some direction. At this time I’d like to clarify the difference between constructing a rain barrel and installing a rain barrel “system”.

Construction of a rain barrel relates to affixing the various inflow and outflow devices to the actual rain barrel – to allow water into the barrel and to direct water out of the barrel.

Installation of a rain barrel relates to the selection and preparation of the raised area (i.e. concrete block, landscaping stones, wood platform, etc.) on which the rain barrel is placed.

With that distinction in mind, here is a short list of installation tips.
Level Surface
Safety is the first installation tip! A flat, level, and firm surface for placement of your water barrel is very important. A full rain water barrel can weigh more than 400 lbs., so moving it later is going to be difficult if you don’t start with a level area – and you don’t want the rain water barrel to tip. Once the barrel starts to move, no one can get it upright again. You’ll have to drain the rain barrel to upright it.

Solid Foundation
Select a place for your rain barrel under a down spout on level, solid ground – free of any rocks, roots or debris that can make your rain barrel rock from side to side. Remove leaves and organic material that will make your base soft and unsecured. Level the ground with a shovel or rake if needed. Build a solid foundation using wood, cinder blocks, or flat landscape/paver stones. Remember to space the blocks/stones on either side of the bottom of the barrel, so you have an open space in the middle for a release spigot and watering can.

Elevate Rain Barrel
An important, and often misunderstood installation tip is to raise your barrel at least a few inches (and up to a few feet) by placing it on top of concrete blocks or flat landscape/paver stones. Make sure your blocks/pavers are sturdy and level. The higher you raise your rain barrel off of the ground, the more water pressure you’ll generate. But, if you want more pressure without elevating the rain barrel, you can always use a rain barrel pump. If you do elevate, make sure everything is level, stable, and secure. Did I mention that a full rain water barrel may weigh more than 400 lbs.

Once you position your rain barrel, you will need to remove a section of your gutter downspout to redirect water into your barrel. There are two major types of downspout routers: (1) diverter – metal section which can be adjusted to divert the water either down the downspout or into the rain barrel; and (2) a flexible tube (downspout connection) which connects directly from the end of the cut-off downspout to route the water into the rain barrel. In either case, you should attach the diverter or cut the gutter downspout (with a metal hack saw or metal cutting pliers) about 2–3 feet above the top of your rain barrel. The flexible tube extends up to 50 inches, so an exact measurement is not needed as the gutter flexes like an accordion. Attach the flexible tube to the downspout and secure with two screws (optional, but recommended) or directly to the diverter. Store the remaining end of the gutter for possible use later.

Overflow Water
Another significant installation tip is to route excess water (i.e. when the rain barrel is full) away from your home. In order to do that, make sure the overflow valve or pipe in your water barrel is positioned or pointed away from your home’s foundation. I connect garden houses near the tops of my rain barrels and route the overflow water to areas that can always use additional water – those areas that don’t get full rainfall, like plants under or around trees, bushes, and under roof overhangs.

Winter Storage
Unless you live in a moderate climate, you may want to empty or drain your rain barrel for the winter. And if the rain barrel will remain outside, you may want to turn it upside down to prevent water accumulation, which can freeze, expand, and potentially crack the barrel.

Rain Barrel Precautions
Most importantly

  • Never allow hildren to play or climb on rain barrels! Children should never play around a rain barrel unsupervised. Climbing on a rain barrel can be very dangerous. Rain barrels are heavy once filled with water – weighing up to 400 lbs for a 55 gallon barrel.