How to set up your own rain barrel

Rain barrels are great! These big plastic beauties are the latest garden fad to hit drought-stricken areas such as ours. They are a terrific way to capture water naturally and for free. The barrel will fill up fairly quickly, even with a very small amount of rain. This water can be used to nourish your potted plants and gardens! Among other things, we also plan to use ours to fill up our dogs’ water dishes.

How to set it up:

1. Locate a rain barrel, buy it and bring it home. It fit easily in the backseat of our Toyota Corolla. We wanted to support local business, so we bought one that was made by a local company (RainWater Solutions) and available to purchase from a local garden store.

2. Choose a gutter downspout where you want to capture the water. We selected a downspout in our back yard, guessing that the rain barrel would be too appealing to thieves if it was in the front yard…

3. Create a stable platform to put underneath the barrel. Because the area where we chose to put the rain barrel was a patch of muddy, lumpy lawn, we wanted to ensure that the barrel would have a flat, stable area to sit on. To do so, we went to Home Depot and bought four large decorative concrete slabs ($3.99 ea), and we lined them up on the ground under the downspout. (FYI, there were much cheaper ones available (e.g., $1.69 ea), but we wanted the kind that look like brick.)

4. Gather the tools to install the barrel:

  • Small hacksaw
  • Small pliers
  • Screwdriver
  • WD-40

5. Shorten the downspout by removing its lower section. Per the instructions that came with the rain barrel, we needed to adjust the length of the downspout so that the rain barrel could easily fit underneath. Three inches above the rain barrel lid was the suggested distance. Indeed, our downspout was much too long. To adjust, we first squirted WD-40 on the rusty screws to loosen them. Once they were greased up, Clinton used pliers to unscrew them. This allowed us to remove the lower section of the downspout.


6. Use a small hacksaw to cut the gutter downspout. One of us held the downspout steady while the other one sawed. This took approximately 5-7 minutes to complete. We fitted the elbow back onto the now shortened downspout.

7. Scoot the rain barrel so it is lined up under the downspout. Almost done!

8. Install the rain barrel attachments, if applicable. The rain barrel you purchase might be different than ours. Per the instructions that came with the barrel, we installed two spigots and then tightened a hose clamp to attach a long plastic tube to the side of the barrel. This tube cleverly directs any barrel overflow away from the house. Finally, we screwed down a piece of screen to the top of the barrel.


9. Voila! Watch the rain come down the spout and into your barrel! The leaves, bugs and other debris will be filtered by the mesh screen at the top of the lid.