installing a rain barrel


I originally posted a portion of this article on the social media site Hometalk, here.

In it, I discuss purchasing and installing a manufactured rain barrel. The rain barrel featured in this post was bought from a local conservancy – Blue Water Baltimore.

Here on BuildingMoxie.com, we had previously covered building your own rain barrel, so I figured pulling that article over would make for a nice balance. Plus, it is a good opportunity to add a bit more detail about the process of installing a pre-fab rain barrel. Enjoy! ~jb


The rain barrel kit shown here was made by a company called EarthMinded. It included not only the barrel, but also the downspout diverter, a connecting fill hose, a spigot, an overflow valve & cap and all other required fittings & gaskets.  Note: Beforehand I requested a kit that would work with my (at the time) “new” round downspouts. (There stock package fits the more popular rectangular downspout.)

Round Downspouts

It took me roughly 3 hours to assemble and install. Building an appropriate stand for the rain barrel was probably the most time consuming part of this operation and I will cover this a more below.

Blue Water subsidized my purchase and even monitored how much of impact it had. The 65-gallon barrel plus the kit (at the time) cost me $130. (If I recall roughly $105 + the cost of the round downspout conversion kit.) I know this may seem steep to some, but Blue Water and other organizations like them also offer classes on constructing your own. For me, the manufactured barrel was just a more convenient and attractive option.


Why & When to Install a Rain Barrel?

While I used it both to water grass I recently planted and other plantings in the vicinity using a hose, we more frequently filled our watering can from the rain barrel. While I didn’t, I could have just easily added a garden hose splitter and branched a soaker off of it for that the garden bed that sat right next to it.

Scrap 5/8-inch garden hose with hose repair mend

When I installed half round gutters (and their corrugated downspouts) on our Victorian Farmhouse, I made sure to incorporate at least one rain barrel. Installing a rain barrel while installing downspouts is frankly the best time to do it. But don’t let that stop you from looking at retro-fitting. It’s easy enough to install a rain barrel too if you already have your gutters and downspouts installed.



Purchasing the Manufactured Rain Barrel and Kit

Rain Barrel Selection Blue Water BaltimoreThrough some research I learned there is no shortage of techniques for making rain barrels nor is there a shortage in the shear number of rain barrels now on the market. From this research, I ended up choosing a 65-gallon rain barrel made by a company called EarthMinded.

I picked it because 1) it looked good & 2) was comparatively large 3) it looked easy to install and 4) it could be bought through that local conservancy that subsidized the barrels, bringing their cost down. (Felt good supporting a local group doing worthwhile things.)


Set Up and Installing the Rain Barrel

* Locate the Rain Barrel

With rain barrels (like real estate) location location location is everything. This barrel, unlike others that you might build or purchase, makes a positive connection to a gutter’s downspout. (Honestly, this was another reason I chose this barrel.) That said, the rain barrel must be positioned as such that it’s provided fill connection hose can easily reach that downspout.

Where I placed it, on the side of a side porch, I was able to screen it (at least partially) from the road with (previously planted) Azaleas. I set the barrel just downhill of last year’s Vinca planting and just uphill from a bit of grass I intended to overseed.

Prepping for Grass Seed after fixing run off

It would sit inside the footprint of a stone-lined and mulched garden bed.

* Assemble the Rain Barrel

1. Install the Overflow

To start, I attached the overflow at the bottom of the barrel. Note: During the process of assembly, the locking lid is left off.

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With this kit, barrel fittings (the overflow & spigot) are plastic. For an upgraded install, it may be wise to upgrade both the overflow outlet and the spigot. (EarthMinded conveniently offers them in a kit containing a ¾” brass spigot & ¾” brass drain assembly.) If moving forward with the plastic fittings use a 10” Adjustable Wrench and work carefully as to not cob the threads and/or mar up the nuts on the fittings.

The overflow comes with both a drain plug and a cap. Install the cap now.

2. Install the Spigot

Similarly the spigot is installed. Provided gaskets seal it tight to the barrel.  (These are the gaskets that look like teardrops.) The spigot, like the overflow, accepts a standard garden hose connection. Perhaps a different story, but I grabbed a salvaged piece of 5/8″ hose and installed a set of garden hose repair fittings. This worked exceptionally well especially considering the rain barrel has, well, only a low-pressure, gravity-driven output.

EarthMinded Rain Barrel Kit

3. Install the Water Inlet

The inlet is inserted into the fill hole below the rim on the backside of the barrel. Gaskets mate both from inside and outside the barrel. Push the inlet in until it sits flat against the barrel.

4. Set the Rain Barrel – Building a Rain Barrel Stand

For this, I built a sorta rain barrel stand. There were a couple of things to consider here. First, I needed the rain barrel elevated far enough from the ground that it would be easy to fill a gardening can. Plus, I knew there would likely be frequent occasion to drain the barrel (or at minimum when it was time to winterize). By sitting the can on a stand, it made the barrel tippable. Lastly, I knew the full barrel would be heavy under the weight of 65 gallons of water. I wanted to give it a firm base to rest on.

For the stand, I used a spare piece of blue stone. This 1 1/8″ thick slab measured about 2 x 3 feet. It was not only easily large enough to hold the barrel’s base, but it was also thick enough to support the barrel’s weight.

Setting Leveling Gravel Base

To install it, I purchased two bags of pea gravel. There was slight slope where I was working, so I both “cut” and built up the location such that the ground would be roughly level. I tamped using a 10 x 10 hand tamper, laid down a piece of landscape fabric and covered the area with the pea gravel.

I then took a 4-foot scrap of pressure-treated 4×4, cut it into two lengths measuring about 22″ and then further treated their undersides using wood preservative. Then placing them on the gravel bed. I used my 2′ level to both level and to space their outside edges exactly, well, two feet apart.

These steps provided a solid, level and elevated base (all very important). By paying close attention to leveling the base, leveling the barrel was then a snap.

Note: Later gravel was covered with mulch to incorporate it with the garden bed, and porches also received lattice skirting and more plantings. I want to tell you my overseeding project also was a huge success. The grass, in the end, was better on this shaded slope, but it never grew to be the lushest.

5. Connecting the Rain Barrel to the Downspout

When I went to purchase the barrel, the provided connection kit was designed for a rectangular downspout (as with K-style gutters). I had the option however of purchasing a round downspout kit (a small upcharge). The difference being the shape of the diverter provided with the kit.

Looking Down Downspout Rain Barrel Diverter

Likely the most challenging aspect of the job (well, maybe just for me) was making that connection. The rain barrel is fed directly from a downspout. (Again, you need to remain conscious of this as you work to set the barrel.)

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* Positioning the Diverter and Making the Cut Out

Once I was satisfied with placement of my barrel, I again used my level to transfer the hose connection location to the downspout. As mentioned above, I installed my rain barrel at the same time I installed the downspouts on the house. This meant that I first had to rough fit my downspouts. I would later set the diverter such that I could allow for a slight fall from the diverter to the barrel.

To complicate matters, I was using corrugated downspouts – which I knew would not make for a solid and sound surface for connecting the diverter. So, for this, I purchased a ten-foot length of (truly) round downspout. I then cut, crimped and patched in about an 18″ section of it. While absolutely not a necessity, EarthMinded‘s kit includes the correctly sized 2 1/8″ bi-metal hole saw for making the appropriate cut out. Working on my workbench, I drilled the hole in for the diverter where I had my downspout marked from above.

Round Downspout Patch Rain Barrel Diverter

* Installing the Diverter

To install the diverter, pinch the diverter’s collection funnel and slip into the downspout’s cut out. To give myself a little added insurance, I added a dollop of GeoCel clear Gutter (Construction) Adhesive. (This stuff works well here, because it tears away easily when it is time to winterize.) The diverter’s flange is then attached to the downspout with two self-tapping stainless screws.

Hose Cut Brought Tight and Level

EarthMinded’s provided fill hose had three distinct sections, each roughly a foot in length. Because I set the barrel closer to the downspout, I chose to cut this hose down by one section. (This was easy enough with a utility knife.) Insert each side of the hose 1) into the diverter’s flange & 2) into the fill inlet (installed in Step 3 above). Install it firmly, such that the hose end’s “bottom out.”

6. Finishing Up

Once the fill hose was installed, it was then easy to just shimmy the barrel base away the from the downspout, bringing the fill hose taught.

Finally, I installed the locking lid and my rain barrel was ready for action.


Additional Notes

Assembling and installing the barrel was super easy. And I’ll admit that EarthMinded‘s instructions were excellent. (They can be found here.) The only thing better than how easy this rain barrel was to install was, perhaps, just how happy I was with the barrel after it was installed. It had a finished look that homemade barrels just don’t have. Water flow was fantastic, even good enough to drive a hose.

Rain Barrel

While I provide a link to EarthMinded’s shop on Amazon, it doesn’t appear that the 65-gallon barrel I used can be found there. (Instead, here on EarthMinded‘s site.) If you are curious, my barrel was Granite, but it also comes in two other colors.

* Mosquitos, Debris & Winterizing

As with any amount of stored, standing or otherwise reservoired water around the yard, you’ll want to treat your rain barrel with Mosquito Dunks or the like. I also employed these in our concrete pond. Debris too (leaves, etc.) entering the barrel can be a concern. I fitted my gutters with round downspout strainers, and this really seemed to help. However, if your spigot and/or overflow does not have an installed screen, add one. That said, it is still worthwhile to skim the barrel of debris each time a mosquito dunk is added.

None of this however works if you don’t have a good plan for Winterizing your Rain Barrel. (Fortunately, I already posted about that there.)

Happy water collecting and thanks for reading. ~jb