Rain barrel installation guide

(for manufacturer's instructions, click here.)

rain barrel image


Rain barrels are normally used to collect the rain water that comes off the roof through the gutters and downspouts. If this water isn't collected, it either ends up on your lawns and gardens or runs off into the storm sewers. In either case, it could lead to a flooded basement. By collecting the rain water, you can use it later on dryer days.

Rain barrels are usually placed near downspouts to minimize the use of downspout pipes. Most people position their barrels in inconspicuous locations while others decorate their barrels or display them as is to make an environmental statement.

Rain barrels should be on a level surface. Raising them a minimum of 0.3m above the ground allows you to put a bucket or watering can under the spigot for watering gardens or washing your car. Raising them higher will give you better water pressure for an atached hose. Placing the rain barrels higher than 2m above ground will make reaching the spigot difficult. You may have to connect a hose or pipe with a shutoff valve at a more reachable height.

While the base for a rain barrel should always be sturdy, taller bases may require attachment to the wall to prevent tipping.

Wherever you put your rain barrel, it should be in a convenient location.

Establishing a base

You need a level space about 0.5m square. Ideally it should be in an inconspicuous space near one of your downspouts.

You can buy plastic bases from most large hardware stores or online. However, many people make their own. One popular method is to level a 12" to 24" paving stone on the ground where you want the rain barrel. Place 2 to 4 cinder blocks (foundation blocks) on it as a base. You can cap this with another 12" to 24" square paving stone or simply sit the rain barrel on the blocks. As a side benefit, after you drain your barrel for the winter, you can put the top paving stone on top of the barrel to keep water out and stop it from blowing around in the wind.

We sell a base that is made from leftover end cuts from lumber. You simply stack them in alternating directions, two pieces to each level, to create an eco-friendly and stable base.

 rain barrel on concrete block base

You can also build a platform from pressure-treated lumber to any desired height. Note that a full rain barrel weighs over 200kg. Make sure the platform is sturdy. Platforms taller than 18" may require building permits.

Connecting to downspouts

These instructions are meant for the common case. Your particular circumstances may require modifying them.

If you are planning on filling your barrel through the top filter (if it has one), begin by cutting the downspout approximately 0.2m higher than the top of the rain barrel when it is sitting on the base. Downspouts are usually either aluminum or plastic and can be cut with a hacksaw or reciprocating saw. Aluminum downspouts can also be cut with tin snips.

If you are planning on filling your barrels through the overflow adapter, you need to cut the downspout so the hose runs roughly parallel to the ground so that when the barrel is full, the water backs up to the diverter and continues down the downspout.

If your downspouts are currently connected directly to your home's weeping system, you can pull the disconnected section up from the PVC pipe it was cemented into. Cap the open PVC pipe to prevent animals or debris from getting into it.

Note that in the City of Toronto and in many other municipalities, downspouts cannot be connected to the weeping system (storm sewers). The downspout must direct rain water onto your property away from your house.

No diverters (not recommended)

Connect a matching elbow section to the remaining downspout to direct water towards the top of the rain barrel. If the disconnected downspout includes an elbow section, you may be able to reuse it. Otherwise, you can probably find a suitable elbow in any hardware store.

The still-connected section of downspout may need to be crimped (using needle-nosed pliers) a little to fit inside the elbow. The connection must be made so that the downspout is inserted into the elbow and not the other way around. You can secure this connection with one or two self-tapping metal screws.

If required, you may cut a section of the disconnected downspout and attach it to the elbow (elbow is inserted into the pipe this time) to direct the water closer to the centre of the barrel, where the filter is. You may also need another elbow to direct water down directly into the filter. This depends on your barrel.

An alternative is to use flexpipe from the downspout to the rain barrel. This can be stretched and bent to fit directly into the top filter.

If you don't use a diverter, when the barrel is not in use, the water exiting from your downspout will spill onto the ground where the rain barrel normally would be. To prevent this, you need to replace the barrel with another section of downspout and elbows to direct the water away from the house.

 rain barrel using our diverter

It's simpler just to use a diverter.

Diverters (recommended)

The better was it to attach a downspout diverter. The diverter allows water to be directed to either the rain barrel or the regular downspout.

Diverters are useful when you shut down your rain barrel for the winter to prevent it from being cracked when water freezes inside it. After draining and removing the barrel, simply switch the diverter back to the regular downspout. We sell a deluxe diverter kit that includes all the parts you need for most diverter installations.

Most big-box hardware stores also sell diverters but you need to get the correct size for your downspout(s). The big-box store diverters also usually require a hose that is not included. Our dispensing hose is perfect for this.

Installing a diverter is very simple. Insert the diverter into the top section of the downspout then insert the bottom (disconnected) section of the downspout into the diverter. Run a shot length of hose from the diverter to the rain barrel.

winterized rain barrel

In the winter, disconnect the fill hose from the diverter and cap the hole in the diverter.

Overflow hose

Rain barrels typically hold around 200 litres. While this is a lot, depending on your house and the amount of rain you get, the barrel will quickly fill up. Our barrels come equipped with an overflow adapter and hose to allow you to direct excess water away from your house.

Two options for doing this are to direct the overflow into another barrel or direct it back into the downspout below the diverter. The length of overflow hose included with the rain barrel is sufficient for either.

The third option is to direct the overflow hose away from your house and onto your lawn or garden, or into a dry well on your property. In these cases you can either extend the overflow hose or replace it with a longer one (see our order page for longer hose).

Looking for a rain barrel but Scarborough is too far? Visit rainbarrel.ca for rain barrel sale locations in your community.