How to set up a rain barrel system at home: easy step-by-step instructions (2023)


  • Total time:12 hours
  • Yield:1 rain barrel system
  • Estimated costs:$150

Installing a water butt system at home is easy and will help you take advantage of the free water to keep your yard looking healthy. In fact, the water you collect can be used in theIn the same way you would reuse greywater.

You canCalculate the exact amount of rainwaterYou will likely gather, but as a rough guide a 600 square foot roof will gather90 liters of waterfrom 0.25 inches of rain. Most rainwater barrels have a 55 gallon capacity, but you can install multiple barrels to increase your storage.

Below is our step-by-step guide to installing a water butt system at home. These instructions will work for most water butt systems. Many water butt kits come with at least some of the items included in our materials list.

Rainwater harvesting ordinances per state

Each federal state has its own regulations for rainwater use. While some local governments encourage and even encourage the use of rain barrels, others restrict them through health, sanitation, or water-use regulations.

Before you start building your water butt system, be sure to check the regulations for rainwater useyour specific condition.

(Video) How to Set Up a Rain Barrel System | DIY Tutorial

Creating a DIY rain barrel system

How to set up a rain barrel system at home: easy step-by-step instructions (1)

Our guide also works if you want to create your ownDIY rain barrel systeminstead of buying a kit. You can use any clean, dark barrel or trash can with a lid. Lighter colored barrels are not recommended as they do not block the sunlight. This leads to algae growth and a characteristic bad smell. If you're planning on repurposing a keg, make sure it hasn't been used to store toxic chemicals or anything else that could contaminate your water.

In addition to the steps listed below, you will need to drill some holes in your barrel. We recommend one hole at the bottom for your hose outlet and two at the top for overflow outlets. You will also need to cut a hole in the lid as an inlet. Be sure to add a strainer to prevent insects from gaining access to the water.

Insert a drain valve plug into the bottom hole and attach a hose outlet. Use brass overflow adapters for the holes in the top of the barrel so you can add an overflow hose or connect water butts together.

what you will need


  • box cutter
  • needle nose pliers
  • screwdriver
  • Sharpie
  • piece of cardboard
  • tape measure
  • safety goggles
  • saw
  • Eben
  • trowel (optional)
  • rubber mallet (optional)


  • Tons of rain
  • overflow hose
  • Detachable zippers
  • overflow cap
  • Kugelhahn
  • Gummidichtung
  • Siebring
  • 4-8 Pflastersteine
  • gravel and sand
  • downspout elbow and fittings


  1. Choose your location

    You should place your water butt under an existing downspout. You can choose to place the water butt near your vegetable patch or near plants that need a lot of water.

    Make sure there is enough space under the downspout you choose to accommodate a cobblestone foot that is larger than the bottom of your water butt. Four 12" x 12" paving stones will give you a 4 square foot area, but you may need a larger base if your rain barrel is larger than the normal 55 gallons.

  2. Prepare the rain barrel foundation

    The ground for your water butt must be dry and level. Once filled with water, a 55-gallon rain barrel weighs over 400 pounds, so it can tip over if the ground isn't level.

    Dig an area slightly larger than your pavers. Put sand in this area and use a trowel to spread the sand evenly. Next, use a spirit level to ensure the sand is as flat as possible. If you want, you can optionally add a layer of gravel at this point.

    Lay your pavers on the sand or gravel and use your spirit level to check that they are flat. If this is not the case, either remove your cobblestones and add more sand, or use a rubber mallet to gently tap the cobblestones into place.

    You can add another layer of pavers to raise your water butt and make it easier to attach your hose. If you want to be able to fill a watering can straight from your water butt, consider raising the base even further with a stand (just make sure it's rated specifically for the weight of a full water butt).

  3. Assemble your rain barrel

    There should be a threaded connector on the bottom of your water butt. Place the rubber washer in the port and then screw your ball valve into the port. Tighten by hand as using tools can cause over tightening which can damage the threads. If the spigot is not pointing straight up when the valve is finger tight, that's fine.

    Put the lid on your rain barrel. Most water inlets on the lid have a mesh screen to filter out debris and prevent insects from gaining access to your water. Make sure this is present on the lid. Some water butts come with zip ties to secure the lid as well, so secure those now as well.

  4. Measure where the downspout will be cut

    Place your water butt on the base that you installed under your chosen downspout. Hold up the new downspout elbow and place it on top of the existing downspout, about 2 inches above the top of the water butt inlet. Use a sharpie to make a mark on your downspout, about 2 inches below the top of your elbow. Move the rain barrel away from the foundation when you are ready to cut the downspout.

  5. Cut your downspout and attach the elbow

    Place a piece of cardboard behind the downspout to protect the wall of your home. Wearing your work gloves and safety goggles, use the hacksaw to cut the downspout along the sharp mark made in the previous step.

    Use needle nose pliers to gently crimp the four corners of the downpipe so you can attach the elbow. Slide the elbow onto the downpipe and secure with the screws using a screwdriver.

    NOTE:If your home has heated downspouts (to keep them from freezing in the winter), contact a professional to help you with this step.

    (Video) Rain Barrel System | How To Setup Easy Water Collection For Garden Hose Spigot Drip Irrigation DIY

  6. Position your rain barrel

    Now you can set up your rain barrel. Position it on the paving foundation under the new arch.

  7. Install the overflow pipe

    Most water butts come complete with two overflow outlets, an overflow hose and an overflow cap. Decide which outlet you want to connect the overflow hose to and place the hose over that outlet. Make sure the hose goes away from your house. If your water butt is near a drain, you can insert the hose into it. Use the overflow cap to seal the remaining outlet on your water butt.

  8. How to use your water butt system

    The next time it rains, check that the water from your downspout is flowing properly into the rain barrel. When you need to water your garden, connect a hose to the faucet at the bottom of the barrel and use all the collected rainwater! You can also place a watering can under the faucet if your barrel is high enough off the ground.

additional options

If you want to collect more water, you can place more rain barrels on other downspouts around your home. You can also connect several rain barrels together. Simply extend the base and connect the kegs with a small piece of tubing between the outlet tubes on each keg.

If you live in an earthquake-prone area, it's a good idea to mount your water butt on the wall of your home.


Periodically check the inlet screen and remove any debris. Always leave the strainer in place, otherwise insects will gain access to your water and it can quickly become a breeding ground.

If you live in a region with high pollen levels, you will need to clean your keg after the pollen season or the water may start to smell. Empty the keg and use a soft brush to clean the inside before replacing.

All rain barrels must be cleaned once a year to remove any organic matter or algae build-up on the sides. Clean and inspect the strainer ring over the inlet at the same time. Replace the screen if damaged.

Over the winter you may choose to separate your water butt and store it in a dry place until spring.

frequently asked Questions

  • Is a DIY rain barrel system cheaper than buying a kit?

    (Video) Introduction to DIY Rain Barrel System Home Setup | Done-In-A-Weekend Projects: Waste Not Want Not

    Using standard household tools and a simple drum, DIY rain barrel systems can cost as little as $20-$50. A kit, on the other hand, can cost $150 to $300.

  • Should you build your water butt system yourself or use a kit?

    If you are an experienced DIYer with lots of tools and maybe even some PVC pipe lying around the house, then by all means build your own water butt system. If you feel you need more guidance, purchasing a kit might be worth the extra expense.

  • Is rain barrel water drinkable?

    Unfortunately, rainwater is not drinkable because the barrels, even without filter systems, can harbor bacteria and algae. However, as long as the kegs are cleaned annually, the water should be clean enough to water a vegetable garden.

  • How much does it have to rain to fill a rain barrel?

    (Video) Rain Barrel Build - DIY step-by-step How To Set Up / How to Build / How to Install

    The rule of thumb is that in a storm that's pouring an inch of rain per hour on a 500-square-foot roof (standard for a moderate storm), your 50-gallon rain barrel will be full in about an hour.

(Video) The BEST DIY RAIN BARREL Install [Complete Guide]


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