Installing a Rain Barrel

About 4 years ago I won a big ol' rain barrel from my town in a lottery.  It says a lot about my nature that I promptly entered the lottery, promptly picked up my winnings, and promptly put the barrel in my garage to gather dust ever since.

uninstalled rain barrel

Well, it must have been the drudgery of our ultra-long, ultra-terrible winter that has really allowed me to awaken anewed this spring with a desire to DO SOMETHING.  Anything.  Including installing a rain barrel.

It turns out, this is about the easiest thing you can do.  Why did I wait so long?

So, here are the steps to installing one of these:

1.  Find a spot!  It needs to be a spot by a downspout and, if your barrel is ugly like mine, someplace tucked away.  It also helps for it to be in a useful spot.  For me, I selected a spot by the downspout behind my garage that happens to be right next to where I have put a new raised garden bed.

rain barrel location
behind garage

2. Prop it Up.  Lucky me, I had a crapload of old brick garden edging that I could use to do this.  You have to put the barrel up high (12" is recommended) in order to get the forces of gravity working on it so that the water flows out when you use it.  You'll notice from my photos that my laziness got the best of me- I only did about 8 inches.  Make sure whatever you use can stand the incredible weight of a full barrel of water.

prop up rain barrel

3.  Re-do your downspout.  There are a few ways you can do this depending on your set up.  For me, I only needed to cut off my downspout about 8-12 inches from the top of the barrel and pop on a section of flexible spout supplied with the barrel.  I had to buy a hacksaw to saw off the section and the rest was as easy as screwing the new pieces on.  Notice I did have to remove the old brace holding the spout against the wall and reattach it higher up.

cut downspout
new spout

Since I've installed it, we've had some pretty hefty rains and it is at least half full.  Since we have been getting rain, I haven't had to use it it but, when I do, it will be free water for my garden!  

This isn't that big of a deal financially here in Illinois, where water runs cheap.  If you live in a land where water is more expensive, though, it could help some.  The funny thing is that water tends to be more pricey where it is more scarce and where it is more scarce, the harder it is to fill your barrel!  There are other cheaper water conservation tips you can try like filling a bucket while you warm the water for your shower or while you wash veggies.

Rain barrels can be expensive- this same barrel is $80 at Whole Foods.  They make fancy ones for $100+ at garden centers and you can often find these for $50 if you aren't shopping at Whole Foods.  If you don't have a hacksaw, I picked one up for about $8 so no big output there.  And, just a warning, some places have weird laws about collecting rainwater because there is some idea that it belongs to the government (?!).  Not to get political or anything, but that is insane.

In any case, I love that I can reuse the water that would just go back into sewers to water my veggie garden in dry times for FREE.  And it couldn't be any easier!