How to Build a Rain Barrel and Install it on your Gutter Downspout

Build a rain barrel and install it to your gutter downspout

Here's how to build a rain barrel and install it to your gutter downspout

Rain barrels are a great way to collect rain water for use in your yard. It is actually pretty easy to build a rain barrel. There are many different tutorials out there that can help you build a rain barrel, including our own step-by-step guide on how to make a rain barrel. However, not many of those guides take the next step and show you how to install the rain barrel. It can be pretty tricky to modify the ground where the rain barrel will go and change your gutters and downspouts in order to accommodate the rain barrel. In this post, we will show you exactly how we installed our rain barrel on our gutter downspout in our backyard.

Step 1 – Decide Where to Put the Rain Barrel

Where you put your rain barrel depends on what you plan on doing with it. We wanted to use our rain barrel to water the plants we have in our raised vegetable garden bed and in containers on our patio, so we decided to put our rain barrel at the back left corner of our house, as we have a gutter downspout there and it is close to our raised garden bed and our patio. However, you may want to use the rain barrel to water your plants or wash your car, so you may want it in a different location.

Just think about how you plan on using the water you collect in your rain barrel and the best location should become clear to you.

Step 2 – Level the Ground for the Rain Barrel

Level the Ground for the Rain Barrel

Level the Ground for the Rain Barrel

Now that you know where you are going to put your rain barrel, you need to make sure the ground where it will go is nice and level. If you are installing it on a sidewalk or driveway, then you probably won’t need to do too much work, as the ground should be pretty close to level already. However, if you are installing it on top of dirt or grass, or in a spot where you have mulch or plants, like we did, you will need to level the ground.

To level the ground, we used a shovel and a level. Simply use the shovel to remove any plants or mulch from the area and level it out at best you can. Then, use your level to verify that the ground is indeed level, or at least pretty close to it.

Step 3 – Install the Platform

Your rain barrel needs to sit up a bit in order to get head pressure on the water to make it come out of the barrel. So, you need to sit it up on a platform. There are several different materials available to use to build your platform:

Create the platform for the rain barrel

Create the Platform for your Rain Barrel

  • Cinder blocks – We think this is your best option as cinder blocks are a good size, are very sturdy, last forever and are very cheap to purchase. However, some people don’t like the way they look.
  • Brick – Can be a good option, especially if you have some lying around that you can use and don’t have to purchase them. If you do have to buy them, it can get expensive, as it takes quite a few bricks to build a platform as high as it needs to go. They can also be a little small, hard to stack properly and hard to get level.
  • Wood – Some people choose to build a platform out of wood. If you want to go this route, you should use pressure-treated lumber so that the wood will not rot after being exposed to the elements. Pressure-treated lumber can also be expensive though and you have to have the right tools and some knowledge of carpentry to be able to build a good platform from wood.

We decided to use cinder blocks for our platform. Now that the ground where our rain barrel was going to go was nice and level, we started stacking the cinder blocks to build the platform. As you stack the cinder blocks or bricks, you will want to put your level on top of them occasionally to ensure that the platform is staying level. If it is not, remove the platform materials and re-level the ground as needed. It will probably take a couple of tries before the platform stays level.

Step 4 – Assemble the Gutter Downspout

Remove the Gutter Downspout and Re-assemble it as Needed

Remove the Gutter Downspout and Re-assemble it as Needed

Once your platform is ready, put your rain barrel on top of it to see how it sits and how high it goes on your current gutter downspout. Mark the spot on your gutter just above where the top of your rain barrel hits it so that you know where the end of your gutter downspout will need to be after the rain barrel is fully installed.

The next step will depend on your personal gutter downspout set up. For our installation, our gutter downspout consisted of two pieces. We took the entire gutter downspout down so that we could measure how much of a downspout we would need to get from the gutter attachment to the top of the rain barrel. After you know how much of a downspout you need, you can either cut your existing downspout, rearrange the pieces you currently have, use an entirely new downspout or combine old and new pieces to get a downspout of the proper length.

We ended up using the long piece of our existing gutter downspout in combination with a new piece of flexible gutter downspout, as it provided the easiest way to get the proper downspout length that we needed. It also allowed us to not have to cut the existing downspout so that we can put it back later if we move or decide that we want to move the rain barrel to a different place.

Now that you know which pieces of gutter downspout you will use for your rain barrel, simply put them together and attach the downspout back to the gutter attachment and to the house so that your downspout will funnel your rain water into your rain barrel. The downspout should stop about an inch above your rain barrel and should direct the water straight into the barrel so that the water does not splash off of the top, which would mean capturing less water, possibly causing water damage to your house and causing erosion in the ground around where the rain barrel is installed.

So, now you know how to build a rain barrel and install it onto your gutter downspout. If you have any questions on installing your rain barrel or have some additional tips and tricks to help others, please let us know!

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Comments on How to Build a Rain Barrel and Install it on your Gutter Downspout

May 21, 2011

mikerosss @ 4:08 pm #

What a great resource!

June 1, 2011

idunit2 @ 11:54 am #

You might add a step in your instructions.

After the rain barrel is first filled, the level needs to be checked again.
400 lbs of water can cause the blocks to settle somewhat.
It might not hurt to have a slight tilt toward the house.
Also, I’ve found that a layer of “crusher run” gravel helps to level any project dealing with concrete blocks

June 21, 2011