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How To Connect Rain Barrels – DIY Guide for Homeowners

DIY Rain Barrel System - How to Connect Rain Barrel To Your Home

Below you will find our guide on How to Connect Rain Barrels. I know for me; when I began looking into how to be more energy efficient and save money at home, I thought it might be a good idea to Connect Rain Barrels to my rain gutter system, and boy was I right. 

As you may know, connecting rain barrels to your downspout takes huge advantage of any local rainfall. After some in-depth research, we discovered how simple the project is and decided to write an in-depth article to help you connect your own rain barrels.

Note:  to connect a multiple-rain barrel system, check out our “How to Set up more than one rain barrel” section below.

Whether you already have a single rain barrel in place, are wondering how to connect multiple rain barrels, or you’re looking to install your very first rain barrel – you’re definitely in the right place, and here’s how to begin:

Materials To Build a Rain Barrel (DIY)

If you’re looking to connect a rain barrel and want to do it yourself:  You will need a rain barrel, a diverter, a spigot, and fittings/adaptor. 

(Here is a complete DIY kit that gives you the barrel and has all the fittings you’ll need).

1) Pick the “Type” of Rain Barrel You Prefer:

You’ll also need to decide what type of rain barrel you’d like. There are many options and types of rain barrels. I’ll go into more detail later in the article, but for now, I’ll touch on some of the most common types of rain barrels:

  • Plastic rain barrel. These are very popular and readily available in most DIY or hardware stores. They’re usually made out of PVC or polyethylene
  • Wooden rain barrel. These are a classic choice and can look beautiful if designed right.
  • Pop-up Rain barrel. As the name suggests,s these are flat packed, pop up, and ready to use. These can be a rapid option and are easily moved.
  • Rain barrel and planter. These can look great and can be a feature of your garden. It’s just like it sounds: a rain barrel with a planter and flowers or plants.

How to connect a “Single Rain Barrel to Downspout:

Twelve simple steps to connect your first rain barrel – these instructions are everything you need to set it up

  1. First, you will need to decide on using single or multiple containers for collecting rainwater – After all, a 1,000 sq. ft. roof can shed up to 500 gallons of water in an hour!
  2. Next, determine which gutter downspout you’ll use to connect your rain barrel or barrels.
  3. Buy the rain barrel type you want to install, and assemble it. Assemble the rain barrel based on the instructions, which may include installing a hose connector or spigot and connecting the overflow hose.
  4. Prepare the area where the rain barrel will sit. A solid flat surface, such as concrete, should be sturdy and stable. If you put the barrel on grass, mud, or sand, you can install concrete pavers to ensure the rain barrel is sturdy and level.
  5. A solid surface raised a few inches above the ground is advisable. A 50-gallon rain barrel weighs 420 lbs when full of water, so you don’t skip this step.
  6. Place the rain barrel on the spot you’ve decided. Make sure the area is level and the barrel is stable.
  7. Drill a hole in the rain barrel for the lower spigot. Refer to the instructions for the size of the hole to drill. If you’ve gone for the DIY kit, you’ll see the connector and the size of the hole.
  8. If you’ve gone for a complete barrel and kit package, it’ll be a similar process (but the barrel may already have the hole drilled). The best location for doing it yourself is usually central and nearer the bottom (3-4 inches off the bottom of the barrel is usually a good location).
  9. Insert threaded bushing into the rain barrel.
  10. Insert the spigot in the hole. This will be where the water comes out of the barrel.
  11. Drill a hole to connect the rain barrel to the rain downspout. This will be the same process you did when drilling the hole for the spigot. The barrel may already be pre-drilled if you’ve bought an all-in-one kit.
  12. Note:  If you went for the DIY kit, select an area near the top (3-4 inches off the top) and central. I’d recommend 90 degrees from the spigot location.
  13. Push the rubber bushing into the hole just drilled in the rain barrel
  14. Drill a hole in the rain downspout. Make sure you measure this correctly and follow the instructions on the pack. You’ll have a connector that goes into the downspout, so it’ll need to fit that size.
  15. Once the holes are drilled in the rain downspout, you can push the connector into place.
  16. The final step is to attach the rubber tubing to the connector in the rain downspout and the rubber bushing in the rain barrel.

If you follow these steps, you should have a fully functioning rain barrel system to harvest the rainwater for use in your garden for years to come.

You can also check out this Quick Rain Barrel Video:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKD3bqIItpE]


How to Connect Two or More Rain BarrelsRain Barrel

Many people connect two (or more) rain barrels 

to double the water they can collect. A decent-sized garden could be a great way to ensure you don’t have to water your plants with tap water.


Option 1:  The Simplest method for Connecting two or more barrels:

  • Install your first rain barrel a most minor 6″ above barrel number 2.  Note: if you need a quick reminder about installing a single rain barrel, follow the instructions I listed in the article above:  How to install a rain barrel. 
  • Since you are connecting two or more barrels, ensure adequate, sturdy, and very level space.
  • Connect your rain barrels with a hose at the top so the surplus will flow into the second barrel—However, make sure your first line up and install your first barrel under the downspout you are using. Using a 1 1/2″ hole saw, drill a hole in the side of each barrel at the same height and about 3” from the top.
  • Insert the connector kit (see link above)  in barrel number 1 and in your second barrel, and connect both holes with the hose provided.
  •  Attach a commercial-grade Spicket to the bottom of your first barrel.  As your first barrel fills, the second barrel will accept overflow.
  • Overflow: Ensure you attach a 3rd hose 3″ from the top of barrel #2 to act as an Overflow and run that hose to a permeable area in your garden.  (If you’re using an adjustable diverter in your downspout, you may not need the overflow hose). 
  • This precaution is used if the diverter in your downspout allows too much water to collect in your system; the excess will have someplace to flow.

Need a rain barrel connector kit? You can find one here on Amazon!

Option 2:  Connect (daisy-chain) 4 or more rain barrels :

Connecting Multiple Rain Barrels - Best Home Gear

Daisy Chain Rain Barrel Instructions:

  • Use the above diagram as an excellent method to link multiple rain barrels.
  • We suggest raising your barrels off the ground and onto a flat solid surface.
  • Get commercial-grade spigots. Remove the plug from the lower port and attach a spigot to the hole.
  • You’ll need a Y-splitter, which attaches to the spigot. This will give you the option to connect to 2 different barrels.
  • You’ll need a short piece of hose with two female ends, which can be attached to the next splitter and barrel.
  • You’ll need a submersible pump and attach a hose to it. Drop the pump into the mother barrel. You can feed the hose out through the bung at the top of the barrel. This can then be attached to a sprinkler system. You’ll usually get around 15 minutes of watering per full barrel.

Are you looking to spend more time on your patio in colder months? Check out the Top 8 Patio Heaters!

Is Rainwater Collected from Roofs Safe for Consumption?

In Most Cases, Rainwater is perfectly safe for vegetable or herb gardens. There are, however, a few precautions that you should consider:

1) Water the Soil and Not the Plants

The NACCA study points out – that rainwater, when applied to the ground, moves through the soil and is largely “filtered” and safe for plants before it reaches the roots. However, it is never advised to water the plant’s leaves or vegetables directly.

There are proven trace amounts of metal and other contaminants found in rainwater runoff from roofs that should never directly come in contact with food sources.

2) Don’t Drink The Water!

Many studies, such as Rutgers University, have concluded that while using harvested rainwater to water your garden – is a safe food for human consumption, using harvested rainwater for human consumption is not ok.  Because of the materials and environmental exposure to roofs, rainwater is not considered safe for humans.

3) Environmental Impact on Harvested Rainwater

Roofing materials vary greatly, and while some materials such as asphalt, slate, or composite pose a lesser risk of contaminants, wood shake shingles were singled out as the worst offenders. 

Wood shakes are porous and absorb – and therefore release – environmental contaminants to a much more significant margin than fewer porous materials.

In addition, birds and rodents can and do visit rooftops – and when they leave behind their calling card – that waste can produce E-coli.  While Rutgers specifically tested for E-coli in their 12-barrel study, that contaminant was not deemed harmful for garden soil, assuming that collection barrels are adequately maintained.

4) Maintaining Safe and Clean Rain barrels

The Rutgers study Rain barrel users should initially clean rain barrels with a 3% bleach solution Before collecting water to irrigate and grow a vegetable/herb garden. Use a household, unscented bleach with a 5–6% chlorine solution at a mix rate of 1/8 teaspoon (8 drops) of bleach per gallon of water.

A typical 45-55 gallon rain barrel will need approximately one ounce of bleach added monthly.  If you have frequent rainfall, consider adding bleach solution more often. 

Again, this step is required to maintain rain barrels for garden soil rainwater use. Not human water consumption.

Different Types of Rain Barrels

As we touched on earlier, you can choose many different types of rain barrels. Every budget has an option, so installing one doesn’t have to cost a lot.

If you’d like to make your rain barrel a focal point of your garden, you can select a beautifully designed wooden barrel or a barrel and planter.

DIY rain barrel converter kit – Check out a DIY rain barrel converter kit on Amazon here.

Plastic rain barrel

Plastic Rain Barrel - Best Home Gear
Plastic Rain Barrel – Besthomegear.com

If you’re on a strict budget and would just like a rain barrel solution but are not too concerned with its design or functionality, then a plastic rain barrel could be the best solution for you.

There’s no reason you can’t change the barrel in the future, but to get you started, it’s a great option.

You’ll easily be able to pick one up in most DIY or hardware stores or online.

Here is a simple rain barrel on Amazon. This isn’t a complete kit, so you’d need the barrel converter kit further up this article.

Here is a link for a complete plastic rain barrel kit, which already includes a spigot and has the holes drilled.

Wood rain barrel

wooden rain barrel - best home gear
Wooden Rain Barrel – Besthomegear.com

I love the look and design of a wooden rain barrel. They can be beautiful creations that can enhance any garden. These can be specially made for you or simply search online. Below is a style that I like.

Check out a wooden rain barrel here on Amazon!

Pop-up rain barrel

popup rain barrel - best home gear
Pop Up Rain Barrel – Besthomegear.com

A collapsible pop-up rain barrel is probably one of the easiest and fastest solutions. They’ll most likely come with the holes already in place and sometimes even with the spigot already attached (shown below)

Check out a pop-up rain barrel here on Amazon!

Rain barrel and planter

Rain Barrel Planter
Rain Barrel Planter

If you have the budget and love gardening, then I don’t think there’s a better solution than a rain barrel and planter. There are many different designs and styles. Browse the link below if you’re interested in this type of barrel.

Check out a rain barrel and planter here on Amazon!

Installing a Rain Barrel System:  (FAQ)

What are the Benefits of owning a Rain Barrel?

  1. Rainwater is much better for plants and flowers than water from a tap. Tap water contains fluoride and other chemicals unsuitable for plant roots. Rainwater is natural and is much better for plants.
  2. You’ll have your water source, even in periods of drought or hosepipe bans or watering restrictions.
  3. Reduce runoff pollution. When it rains and water lands on the ground, it can pick up commercial pollutants, soil, oil, or fertilizer, which can run off into lakes and rivers, harming nature.
  4. Helping reduce water waste. Capturing your rainwater minimizes the need for as much water to go through the lengthy and costly water processing cycle.
  5. Save money! You’ll also save money and reduce your water bill.
  6. Help the environment and inspire others to do the same.

How much does a rain barrel weigh?

A 40-gallon rain barrel will typically weigh around 30 pounds when empty. When filled to the rim, the weight will increase to about 360 pounds. This is why it’s so important to have an extremely solid and stable area where it sits.

What can you use rain barrel water for?

There are many things you can use rain barrel water for. The most common is watering your plants, vegetables, and flowers.

You can also use the water you collect to wash your car ( Fewer Spots) or your dog (even if he’s not named Spot).

If you have enough water barrels and excess water, you can also use it to water your lawn during dry or hot spells.

What Size rain barrel do I need?

When you’re trying to decide what size rain barrel you need, you should consider how much water you’re likely to be using. Untreated water can stagnate if left for some time, so we don’t want it to sit unused for an extended period.

Typically 15 minutes of watering plants will use around 45 gallons of water.

A good calculator helps you determine how much water you can expect to collect based on your area and roof size.

Rain barrels come in sizes ranging from 200-2000 liters. If just starting it may be wise to go for a 300-600 liter barrel.

How many inches of rain does it take to fill a rain barrel?

As a rough guide for every inch of rainfall on a roof catchment area size of 1000 square feet, you should be able to collect around 500 gallons of water – per hour!  That’s a lot of Rainwater, so it’s pretty easy to see why daisy-chaining multiple barrels together makes sense!

This method of connecting multiple barrels will also help you with rain barrel overflow solutions, as you will have a full rain collection for your personal needs.

Common mistakes connecting a rain barrel

When setting up your rain barrel system, it’s just as important to know what not to do and how to avoid these mistakes.

  • Making it too complicated. You don’t need to make it a costly solution to harvest rainwater.
  • Keeping your barrel open. You must avoid having your barrel open, or you may have problems with flies or mosquitos laying eggs in the water.
  • Not having the right setup. Please don’t rush into setting up a rain harvesting system before researching it. This can lead to many more problems down the line.

I hope this article has given you the inspiration and confidence to have your rainwater harvesting barrel(s) and take advantage of this free resource.

Want to find more Gear and Equipment for your Home?  Head on over to BestHomeGear.com

Additional Reading

Photo Credit from Flickr Creative Commons License goes to Nishanth Sarma and Anthony DiLara.

Kevin is the author and editor for Best Home Gear. In addition to his work in publishing, Kevin enjoys exploring the Outdoors in Michigan and Arizona, Hiking, Cycling, Fishing, Reading, and Completing Projects for Home and Garden.


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