Choosing a Rain Barrel for Your Gutter System

Rain barrels are designed to collect water from the gutters and store it until needed for gardening and backyard cleaning tasks. Today’s rain barrels might look like the traditional wood wine barrel, but they can include features that make them a functional and smart addition to any front or backyard. Things to consider before choosing a rain barrel for your gutter system include capacity, construction material, and features.

How Much Water?

Regardless of the style and design, aboveground rainwater harvesting systems will take up space: multiple rain barrels can reduce available gardening and landscape areas. Before selecting a rain barrel, first calculate how much water you would like to capture. Also ask yourself the question what you will be mainly using the stored water for – watering the lawn, watering plants and shrubs, or cleaning the driveway, front steps, and exterior windows? The answers to these questions will help you determine the capacity and number of barrels you will be installing.

Rain Barrel Materials

The material you select for a rain barrel to be installed as part of the gutter system should blend into its surroundings. Match rain barrels to your home’s exterior – style, colour, and texture.

The most common material for rain barrels is a resilient, thick plastic that is inexpensive and lightweight. To extend their lifespan, plastic rain barrels should be placed in shaded areas or out of direct contact with sunlight and the elements.

Stone or clay rain barrels are often used for smaller-use applications such as watering a specific landscaped area like a herb garden. Even though they are heavier to install and move around when cleaning, natural stone and ceramic barrels lend a sophisticated, decorative element to the backyard.

Wood is a popular choice when you want to create and maintain a natural organic feel to your garden. Wood rain barrels are typically heavier and more expensive than those made of plastic. Common woods used in rain barrel construction include oak, hickory, cedar, and beechwood.

While practical and efficient, galvanized metal rain barrels don’t have the same aesthetic appeal for homeowners as plastic, clay, or wood. They include a flexible membrane liner and are generally used for large, permanent storage applications.

Rain Barrel Features

Don’t want to have to take the lid off every time you need to fill up the watering can? You would like to be able to hook up the garden hose. You have children – do rain barrels come childproofed? To get the rain barrel that will best suit your needs, choose features that are the most useful to you.

Childproof opening: A water barrel with a childproof opening will also help keep out pests and other animals.

Removable lid and screen: Including a removable lid and screen prevents debris from getting into the barrel. It also will reduce the number of times you will need to clean the inside.

Flat back: Round takes up more space than square. If the rain barrel needs to be flush against the wall to address space issues, select a round barrel with a flat back or a square-shaped rain barrel.

Spigot, tap, or both: Easy access makes the rain barrel user-friendly. A spigot allows you to connect a garden hose while a tap lets you fill up containers such as pails and watering cans.

Overflow valve or hose: Overflow valves or hoses allow you to direct the water to a safe place, away from exterior walls and the foundation in the event that the barrel is filled to capacity. A popular way to redirect water is to combine an overflow hose with a splash block. Overflow valves situated at the top of the barrel can be used to link other water barrels to the gutters.

More Tips for Choosing Rain Barrels

Even though you will never be drinking the rainwater, the runoff should still be safe to use. Don’t collect and store rainwater if it comes into contact with lead paint (sometimes used in gutters), certain types of roofing shingles, tar, and some kinds of gravel.

When creating a water harvesting system on your property, it is recommended that you link a number of rain barrels together rather than installing a rain barrel beneath each downspout.

You might want to start with only one rain barrel to see how that goes. Ensure that the barrel you select can be linked to other barrels of the same brand or to different brands with a compatible connection kit.

If your gutter system has more several downspouts, choose the downspout in the most convenient location. The placement of the barrels should be as close to the wall as possible and not interfere with foot traffic.

Even though Vancouver winters are relatively mild in comparison to the rest of the country, be prepared to drain the rain barrel when temperatures dip below 0° C (32° F). Follow the manufacturer’s instructions – some brands need to be stored rather than emptied and left outside.