Barrels Bring Benefits


Rain barrels

With the rainy season upon us, now is the perfect time to build a rain barrel.

The water savings from using stored rainwater rather than municipal or well water can be substantial over a period of time. A rain barrel also can help reduce the amount of water that may settle around the foundation of your home.

A typical ½-inch rainfall will fill a 50-gallon barrel. In fact, during a ½-inch rainstorm, a normal roof of about 1,000 square feet can fill more than five rain barrels. That’s why some people want to have more than one rain barrel at their home.

So how do you get started?

Many people make rain barrels out of inexpensive 50-gallon food-grade drums. Do not use containers that held harsh chemicals.

Often you can find barrels for around $10 from drum and barrel suppliers. Also, rain barrels often are available through classes at your county Extension office. Visit to find your local office.

Be sure to get a heavy-grade plastic container that won’t let in light. Clear or translucent barrels can speed the growth of algae, which can clog pipes.

Decide where to place the barrel; many people put them under a downspout for easy attachment. Also, consider the distance to your plants, gardens and flower beds.

If you don’t have gutters, put the barrel under a valley in the roof that sheds a lot of water. Be sure to put a screen, like window screen or wire mesh, over the open barrel to keep out debris, small animals and insects. This will take a lot longer to fill, but may be more practical for your location. Also clean the tank periodically to remove any settling.

Before installing the rain barrel, make sure to properly clean the inside. Use a mixture of ⅛ cup of bleach and 5 gallons of water as a cleaning solution.

Information about rain barrels can be found at and includes step-by-step instructions showing how to build the barrel. You also can download or order a 28-page publication from the site.

If you live in an area or subdivision with deed restrictions, you should review them before installing a rain barrel in your yard. Some deed restrictions do place limits on them.

It also is important to remember that stored rainwater is not potable water and should not be used for drinking, bathing, pets or recreation. But the quality of rainwater shedding off a roof or gutter system is more than adequate for plants.