How to set up and install a rain barrel

Preparing Your Rain Barrel Site Location

The rain barrel will need to be located near a down spout from your rain gutter, if you want to get water from a downspout.



If you don’t have downspouts, you can often still use a rain barrel. You just have to find one of those troughs where two parts of the roof come together and water pours out whenever it rains. Place the rain barrel under one of those spots, and you’ll get plenty of water.

Generally, downspouts are attached to the house by straps and will need to be dissasembled. Remove the screws holding the straps to the downspout and any screws that may have been put in to attach the spout to the gutter. Once the brackets have been released the downspout can be removed and set aside.

When removing the screws and detatching the downspout, remember to wear safety glasses if you are using power equipment. We wouldn’t want you to hurt yourself, would we?

Connecting a Rain Barrel to a Downspout

Now that the downspout is out of the way, we need to find a way to redirect water flow into the top of the rain barrel.

There are several comercial products available for this purpose.

The Garden Water Saver downspout redirector is an excellent choice in that it attaches inline between joints of your spout and once your rain barrel is full water is automatically directed back out through the original spout. It does require a small amount of cutting with tin snips in order to fit properly. Unfortunately, our downspout in this example is too large to use the Garden Watersaver.



It is important that the concentrated water flow be directed away from the house or into the barrel as too much water in one place near the house could result in foundation damage. Therefore it is unwise to simply let the water fall from gutter into the barrel for any significant distance. For this particular installation the best solution was to use a plastic flex hose available at most home improvement stores. The flex hose can be secured using the existing straps and expanded and directed to the needed position. You can also find these flexible downspout redirectors online.

Installing a Rain Barrel, the Conclusion

Your installed rain barrel should be placed on a reasonably stable and secure surface, like the wide concrete blocks in the picture above. A barrel this size will weigh a substantial amount when full of water. Water weighs something like 8 pounds per gallon, so you can see how it adds up quickly!

If you elect to use the lower mounting position for the spigot, be sure there is sufficient clearence for you to attach a hose in order to use the water you collect in the barrel. The installation process is not particularly complicated as you just saw, but it does require some planning.



{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Patrick December 9, 2010 at 5:37 pm

Your system does not show how to put the overflow water once the barrell is full back into the storm drain. I need a detail showing what type of barrel I need and how it will go back to the storm drain for overflow.

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steve December 10, 2010 at 4:32 pm

@Patrick, Here is a link that discusses a product that allows you to diver the water back to the storm drain when the barrel is full. I hope this helps. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QxttPDA8qLU

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jeff coulson March 26, 2011 at 12:05 am

just purchased two rain barrels are there any special systems to use off of the down spouts or is regular flex down spout ok by attaching to original spout

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steve March 28, 2011 at 5:37 pm

@jeff coulson, There are several options. A flex elbow is one option as you mentioned, or you can use a diverter. Here is a link to a popular diverter, but keep in mind it works best on sealed barrels but will still work on unsealed barrels. http://www.cleanairgardening.com/gawadoat.html

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Gerry April 22, 2012 at 8:48 pm

A flex down spout will work fine. Just be sure to cover the top of the barrell with insect screen, this will filter out leaves bugs etc.

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Cindy May 11, 2011 at 4:08 am

We have our hose hooked up to the rain barrel and we are only getting a slow stream of water coming out of the hose. Plus I have to hold the hose way down low in order for any water to come out. The rain barrel is full and the on/off switch on the barrel is set to on. Why am I getting no water pressure?

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rockin rob June 6, 2011 at 11:58 pm

@cindy ,i saw ur rainbarrel issue about low water pressure out of ur hose/rainbarrel…it sounds like u need to elevate ur barrel higher,as set it on some concrete blocks as the gravity /height is needed…tks

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AER May 26, 2011 at 3:31 pm

Try one of those soaker hoses.

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Claire June 7, 2011 at 12:15 am

OK, so -I’ve got the rain barrel set up and tried soaker hoses -still nothing in my garden . . . how the heck do you use the water from this barrel? I’ve only got about 4-5 inches clearance from the bottom spigot to the ground. I’m trying to water my veggies and can’t figure out how to get the water from the barrel to the garden. Got any suggestions?

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steve June 10, 2011 at 11:42 am

Clair, I imagine the soaker hose is not getting enough water pressure. Here is a link to a rain barrel water pump that that is solar powered. Here is the link. Or you could use a watering can. http://www.cleanairgardening.com/solar-powered-rain-barrel-pump.html

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Paul June 13, 2011 at 7:56 pm

Because the barrel is not pressurized, the water will only come out by gravity. As Rockin Rob had suggested, you need to put the barrel up higher to get the water to flow.

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Paul D November 7, 2011 at 7:10 pm

Any thoughts on how you would “daisy chain” several barrels? My initial one is the sealed type connected via. a diverter, but I have another one I want to add next to it to increase capacity.

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steve November 9, 2011 at 6:32 pm

@Paul D, Try a hose!

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Wayne May 1, 2012 at 3:07 pm

I have the same question, how to daisy chain closed barrels.

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steve May 4, 2012 at 3:28 pm

@Wayne, First you need to buy a few daisy’s, then hook them together like a chain. When you are all done, but some hose and connect your rain barrels together. The first rain barrel can be a little higher than the second to help with the flow of water.

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James Herman February 9, 2012 at 4:52 pm

What can be done for winter months and freezing?

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steve February 10, 2012 at 4:07 pm

@James Herman, If you live in an area with hard freezes you should disconnect the downspout from the rain barrel either turn the rain barrel upside down or put it in a shed. If you live in an area that does not get below 32 degrees, just open the valve so the water can flow out and not freeze.

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Debbie April 10, 2012 at 8:05 pm

I live in Florida where water conservation is really needed. So I was looking at getting a rain barrel system but I am amazed at the cost to do this. Here we have people who are trying to be conservationist and the cost to help save our earth is so high. I mean you buy one barrel at a cost of $100.00, then you have to have a pump or you can’t use the water, so now you have another $140.00 . Then you have anything else you need to keep the water fresh, soaking hose or whatever else you need to connect it. I am disabled and just can’t afford this kind of money. This is one of the reason that a lot of people don’t do there part in trying to save the earth. It is expensive.

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Julianna July 10, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Debbie – I was concerned about this too, as rain barrels around my area can be anywhere from $60-$100. However, I looked around and found out that my local environmental non-profit agency was running rain barrel workshops using donated barrels, so I got mine for free. Maybe there is a program in your area that is similar. Also, you don’t actually need a pump to use the water, it’s just a matter of setting the rain barrel on a higher platform – I’m using some cinder blocks ($4) and old paving stones (found laying unused in the garage.)

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Gerry April 22, 2012 at 8:37 pm

You can get a sturdy 30 gallon garbage bin at a home center.
I have one under each downspout and use a watering can. if you need a hose you can attach a spigot to the bottom of the bin and use blocks or a wood frame to raise the bin about 18 inches or more above the ground. Use the largest size hose you can find, as a small diamater hose will reduce gravity flow. Cut a hole in the lid and use a piece of flex pipe to direct the water inro the bin. Cover the hole with a piece of insect screen to keep bugs out. Cut a 2 inch hole near the top of the bin and attach a waste pipe elbow and a piece of waste pipe to direct overflow back into the drain.

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steve April 24, 2012 at 1:07 pm

@Gerry, Yes, a garbage bin will work as a rain barrel but keep in mind, it will need to be covered. An open rain barrel, whether its a actual rain barrel or garbage can used as a rain barrel is a death trap for animals and small children. Never leave a rain barrel uncovered.

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Eleanor Milligan August 25, 2012 at 1:19 pm

How high must my rain barrel be to get a good flow? Last year, the pressure was not sufficient to reach my flower beds which are higher than the rest of the yard.

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steve August 27, 2012 at 1:55 pm

@Eleanor Milligan, Typically the bottom of the barrel needs to be higher than the area you are watering. However you don’t want to go to high unless you can keep the rain barrel secure at that height. When full the barrel will be extremely heavy and you don’t want it falling over and hurting someone.

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Peggy May 4, 2016 at 1:41 am

How do you keep mosquitoes from hatching out of the barrel?

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