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Winterizing a Rain Barrel: Winter Means Cold and Ice


It was cold this weekend in Baltimore. This is important because it was really cold, below freezing during the day for the first time this … go around. Something about it said, “jb, hey bud … yeah you. Isn’t it time you got to thinking about winter; isn’t time for you to get busy with some basic winterization?”

How to Prepare a Rain Barrel for Winter

Truthfully, it wasn’t the first warning I had received. I mean – I received this in my email just last week. Titled How to Prepare Your Rain Barrel for Winter, the first few lines read:

The leaves have fallen, there’s a nip in the air, and we’ll soon be getting even colder temperatures. There are a few things to do to make sure your rain barrel fairs well throughout the harsh winter months.

These few simple steps will ensure your barrel lasts for years:

·Empty your barrel
·Remove or open your spigot and filter screen. Your barrel has little risk of cracking, but the valve is more susceptible to damage from freezing water.
·If your barrel uses a diverter, remove the diverter from the downspout and install the winter cover.

If you own a Rain Station, there are two options when it comes to winter storage:

·Bring it inside to the garage/basement
·Leave it outside with cinder block inside of it to prevent it from rolling/blowing away.

This message came from Blue Water Baltimore, a local conservation organization.  I had purchased a (subsidized) barrel from them earlier in the year and installed it, while I was installing new half round gutters. My barrel is a 65-gallon Rain Station in Granite manufactured by a company called EarthMinded.  I detailed the install, here >> Installing a Manufactured Rain Barrel.

I should say I love it, and though I would have liked to have used it a bit more, the hope is to keep it solid for many years to come. So … as it got to freezing this weekend, I got busy on putting the big guy to bed for the year.

While these instructions are specific to my rain barrel, I can’t imagine that these basic steps are that much different for any manufacturer or style.

As I emptied barrel, I gave my (still adolescent) Vinca a drink – they are now pretty neatly blanked under tiny maple leaves.

Still I think I may have waited just a tad bit too long. When I unlocked the barrel, twisting the lid off, there was a thin haze of ice right on the top of it. To totally unload it, I disconnected the fill hose and tilted the barrel forward on its platform (which I was thankful I installed) draining it into 2 alternating five gallon buckets. First from the spigot, then from the drain. When I was finished (it took about a half an hour), I left the spigot open and took the drain plug cap (not pictured) completely off.

* Installing the Barrel’s Winter Cover

I disconnected the fill hose from the downspout, but the diverter was frozen into place. Actually, maybe a good thing, because I spent about an hour looking for the Winter Cover with no luck.  (Yeah, I know, but that was like 14 projects ago.)  I’ll admit, while I did think about leaving the diverter in place, and coming up with an alternate way of capping it, probably not a good thing to leave it there with ice building up on the tongues through the winter months.

I weighted it down with a half cinder block and a couple of bricks. I sat all supplies inside before recapping the barrel. Hopefully that will do the trick through the winter.

Winter Means Ice

Since I could only squeeze Sunday in for work this weekend, I got a little, well, screwed. I finally got my hands on all the stone I needed to fill the new patio’s garden bed … a Pocono River Rock – gorgeous. But this particular stone needed washing. I laid it out on hardware cloth and pulled a hose over … just to find that my water supply at the hose bib was frozen up. (The hose bib sits only a few feet away from where my rain harvesting barrel sits.)

To free it up, I used a heat gun heating the pipe on the inside of the house. But even with the water running, it was a slow go.  So while I decided to postpone this project for a warmer day, it was a good reminder that it’s smart to drain and shut off the water supply at your (okay, my) outdoor hose bibs … if you don’t have frost or freeze proof sillcocks in place. In almost all instances, you’ll find a shut off valve just on the inside of the house from the hose bib.

I have mine cut off, for now … and hopefully only until a warmer day.

And Winter Means Snow

Gonna save that one for next time. Thanks for reading and wish me luck on finding a new cover. For more on the topic of Winterization, perhaps my article from a month or so back >> How to Winterize a House. Cheers. ~jb

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