Installing a Rain Barrel

Rain barrels have been mentioned several times on the blog over the past year.  I have had one installed for several months and recently acquired two more, which have yet to be installed.  What has not happened was actually showing you how I chose to install the first barrel. Slight oversite on my part.

The concept is not difficult. Most of the steps are pretty straight forward.  There was one step, though, which made me want to throw a tool and walk away.  Instead, I put things down (nicely) and came back the next day.  No use in causing myself more work out of anger.  Let me show you how it all took place…

First, a rain barrel was bought.  After reading through comments, I chose to get an 80-gallon barrel since I knew we had a rather large roof area draining into this particular downspout.  The one I chose was not the color of the one linked, but instead matched our house better and was a bit lower in price.  If you are able to wait a bit, keep an eye on the prices as they do fluctuate. 

Some of the features I appreciated about this particular Athena rain barrel were:

  • a screened opening in the top to allow rain water to enter while keeping debris out
  • a spigot raised up high enough to allow a bucket to be placed under it
  • a location to attach overflow pipes
  • the ability to connect to more rain barrels as needed

I did not necessarily want the planting space on top (the picture with my hand) as I foresaw an issue with water and actual planting.  Sure enough, if I had  put a plant in there it would have drown as there is no drain hole.  Instead I added rocks found in the yard to the area till it is no longer a mosquito breeding area, but instead a nice rock filled container.

This contain is not a poured mold, as you can see by the ‘seams’ from the construction.  I have not had any issues with these so far.

Second, all the pieces for assembly and the items needed for support were set out. The barrel came with a metal spigot, a plastic spigot to attach a hose or to another rain barrel, and a metal hook from which you can hang a hose or other item.  I chose to add a bit of plumbers tape to help seal around the threads of the spigots.  As the barrels are plastic, there are no actual threads  in their designs.  As you insert the spigots they create the groove for the threads.

The barrel was elevated a bit for ease of use with a 5-gallon bucket and to help add a bit of gravity pressure to the outgoing water flow.  I was able to use materials on hand as this was located in our back yard and did not need to fit a specific aesthetic look.  The area was cleared out, the soil leveled, a layer of sand was added, then stones were placed on top.

A water-filled barrel is heavy.  The supports under it need to be able to handle the several hundred pounds it will end up weighing. I used four flat stepping stones and four edging stones which the previous home owner had left us.  The larger stepping stones allowed for the weight to be dispersed while the larger stones were able to be placed according to how the barrel sat most securely.  There was some rearranging once the overflow pipe was added, but not too much.

Third, the overflow was attached.  (This was the problem step. See above.) I knew the general idea for what needed to happen, read how other people did it (without any sort of specs or sized given), took measurements of my own barrel and went to the hardware store. The problem ended up being that my overflow “outlet” was exactly 1″ on the outside edge.  This meant I could not use a 1″ elbow or pipe, a 1 1/4″ was too big, and a 3/4″ was too small.  A flexible washer hose didn’t fit and a garden hose was the wrong size.

After many stops and starts, and a few trips to the hardware store, I decided to go with the tried and true solution – duct tape. Wrapping several layers around the overflow source a 1 1/4″ pvc elbow fit perfectly without the need for glue.  Snug, but not too tight. It has not moved even after several heavy rain events.

A further length of pipe led down to the bottom of the barrel, to another elbow, which had a final length of pipe to drain excess water away from the foundation of the house.

Due to where the barrel is located I ended the overflow drain pipe to be equal with the edge of the house.  I placed a downspout splash block under the pipe to further drain water away.  After the first rain event to over fill the barrel, I placed an extra length of downspout to the end of the overflow pipe.  This allowed the water to drain further away from our house, which is an issue with the soils we have. When I need to mow or we have people over, I slide the extra down spout piece off, then easily replace it when finished.  Once I work on this area of the yard more there will be more rain barrels and/or pipe running along the foundation out toward a flower bed.

Fourth, the barrel was set into place and connected to the down spout. I did not cut the downspout, instead unscrewing the pieces at the closest junction to the rain barrel.  (This is the extra piece mentioned above which I use at the end of the overflow pipe.)  With nothing permanent changed, if I need to relocate this barrel, raise it, or switch it for another one it will be easy to put things back the way they were.

After removing the downspout section I placed the rain barrel on the bricks and leveled it.  A flexible downspout extender was used to direct rainwater running down the current downspout to the opening in the top of the barrel.  After many a windy day it has yet to move.

I have since used this barrel with ease, filling up 5-gallon buckets of water as I needed them.  It has yet to run empty, but rather often is too full to accept more water. 

This post contains affiliate links.