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Property Management Blog

How to Convert Gutter Downspout into Rain Barrel

Did you know that 30% of water used by households goes toward irrigation and washing vehicles? Learning how to reduce the use of local water utilities can help minimize pollution and save money on the bill. And we all know that saving money on utilities can be significant when you live in regions like Baltimore, Maryland, or New York City. 

One of the best ways to get off the water supply grid is to install a rain barrel. It’s economical, easy, and doesn’t take more than a couple of hours to do. There are a few different ways you can go about this, but today we’re going to discuss how to convert the gutter downspout into a rain barrel. 

What Is A Rain Barrel?

A rain barrel is a convenient container that collects water from your home’s gutters. Essentially, you connect the downspout to barrels using a rain diverter or fitting installed under the downspout. 

Harvesting rainwater is an excellent alternative for using well or municipal water for gardening. A hose or spigot connector allows you to drain the water from the barrel and use it around your home. Not to mention, plants benefit from rainwater because it doesn’t contain chemicals or minerals like tap water. 

Rain barrels also help to reduce the runoff that enters storm sewers, which helps keep fertilizer, pesticides, and other harmful chemicals from local bodies of water. And finally, collecting this valuable water prevents it from ever entering your crawlspace, foundation, or basement. Some municipalities even offer incentives for supplementing municipal water with rainwater for irrigation. 

Where To Install Your Rain Barrel

Before you begin setting up your rain barrel, you’ll need to determine where it should be placed. To help figure out the perfect spot, you should examine each downspout on your home, garage, and shed. Once you have what seems like a good area, consider the following things: 

  • The area should be easy to access and closest to the site where the water will be used. 
  • Ensure the ground is level; if not, the barrel may fall over when full. 
  • To avoid overflow from pooling around your home’s foundation, add a downspout attachment that turns off the flow when full. This option allows water to flow naturally through the gutters as usual. 
  • Elevate the barrel using landscaping bricks to help the system work better. It also provides you with easier access to the fixture.

Materials You’ll Need

Here’s a list of everything you need to build a rain barrel system: 

  • 55-gallon plastic drums with closed tops (3)
  • Drill
  • Jigsaw
  • Rain barrel stand
  • Plumber’s Tape
  • 2.5 ounces clear silicone
  • 2” flex elbow
  • ¾” brass hose bib
  • 2.5” hole saw
  • ¾” spigot insert schedule 40
  • 2.5” socket w/ PVC female adapter schedule 40
  • 2.5” PVC tees (2)
  • 2.5” male threaded plumbing connector (4)
  • 2.5” PVC elbow (4)
  • 2.5” x 5” PVC pipe (2)
  • 8 ounces PVC cement
  • 8 ounces PVC cleaner

Steps to Convert Gutter Downspout into Rain Barrel

 Now for the fun part! Here are the steps you need to follow to build your own rain barrel:

Step #1 - Prep the Barrels

The first step is all about prepping your barrels. So, thoroughly wash them and turn the barrels upside down to dry. 

As they are drying, choose a barrel and trace an opening where the downspout flex-elbow connector will enter and cut with your jigsaw. This hole is how water will flow into the barrel from the roof. 

Then, you’ll grab the hole saw and cut an overflow hole at the top of your barrel on the left-hand side. 

Step #2 - Attach the PVC

Now, for the second step, you’ll gather the pieces of PVC pipe and measure to create a “w.” Here are the steps:

  • You’ll need four different lengths, so cut - one 10-inch piece, one 20-inch piece, two 8-inch pieces, and three 3.5-inch pieces. 
  • Gently place the barrels on their sides and begin to make a rough outline of how the PVC parts will connect to the barrel. This system allows the water to flow between the three barrels. 
  • Secure the threads with plumbers tape and then screw the connectors onto the threaded openings on each barrel.
  • Prep every PVC part with PVC cleaner and then glue each into place with the PVC cement. 

Step #3 - Install the Barrel Stand

Use eco-friendly wood such as cedar and build a sturdy stand for your barrels. Many people use 2x4s to make the top and the frame, 4x4 posts for legs, and 1x6 boards to give it a clean edge. Each piece is then attached together using 3-inch wood screws. The last step is to cut holes in the stand to accommodate the PVC. 

If you have no time or skill to build your own barrel stand, feel free to buy a ready-made one online or at your local hardware store. 

Step #4 - Install Plumbing to the Barrels

Now, flip the barrels upside down and line up the PVC connectors with the hole stands you created. Secure each connector to the stand using PVC cement. 

Step #5 - Secure Gutter Pipes and the Overflow

Take the overflow valve you made from PVC pipe and two elbows and glue it to the hole you created in step #1. Then, affix the flex elbow from the top of your first barrel to the gutter downspout. Next, lock it in place using silicone to ensure the system is watertight. 

Step #6 - Attach the Water Hose and Enjoy

Great job; you did it! Now, all that’s left is attaching the water hose and trying it out. If you wish to conceal your barrels, you can now place some large potted trees in front and water away!