Rain Barrel Installation and Care Instructions
Congrats! You’re now a proud rain barrel owner.
Your barrel is ready to be hooked up.
- Place your barrel near the downspout you have selected, and plan out how you will direct the downspout.
- Disconnect your downspout from the line leading to the storm drain or curb drain by sawing the downspout above where the top of the rain barrel will be, leaving room for the elbow to be attached.
- Attach a downspout elbow to the end of your downspout so that water from your downspout is directed into the rain barrel through the plastic screen vent on top.
- If you have an aluminum downspout, secure it to the elbow with screws.
- If you have a PVC downspout, secure it to the elbow with PVC cement.
- Place your rain barrel under the downspout elbow.
- Attach a hose to the spigot, and/or to the overflow hole on the top-side of the barrel.
First Flush: Do not use the water from the first rainfall of the season, because it is loaded with a summer of bird droppings and other sediment from your roof. Let this water flush freely through your barrel by opening the valve at the bottom. Practice flushing after other events like chemical moss treatments on your roof, to ensure a clean supply.
Proper Overflow: Rain barrels fill very fast. You will need to have a plan for your overflow connection (top rim of the barrel), such as a soaker or irrigation hose directed to a planting bed. Move the hose periodically to other parts of your garden, and check to make sure over-watering does not occur.
Connecting Multiple Barrels
If you choose to connect more than one barrel, it is most efficient to connect them at the bottom so that they drain simultaneously, as a system. If you connect them at the top, you'll need a spigot on each barrel to get the water out of all of them.
2 barrels: Fittings similar to those used for the overflow can be inserted into the sides of each barrel and then connected with a short, flexible hose or tubing secured with hose clamps. A hot water heater hose could also be used to connect two barrels. The inlet should be on one barrel and the overflow on the 2nd.
3 or more barrels: To simplify and reduce the number of holes drilled, the connections should be on the front of each barrel. The barrel on the end will have a 90° elbow with a hose barb, the other barrel(s) will have a "tee" fitting with hose barbs to connect short, flexible hoses between each barrel. The inlet should be on one end of the line, and the overflow should be on the other end of the line.
Note: Hose clamps will help hold the hose ends tight to the fittings to prevent leaks.
Maintaining your Rain Barrel or Cistern
- Rinse your barrel at the end of each season. During the rainy season, small debris and sediment will slip through the holes in the screen or mesh and settle to the bottom of your barrel. Give it a good rinse and scrub off any algae growth at the end of each summer.
- Monitor the system regularly to ensure intakes and overflows are not blocked with leaves and other debris from the roof.
- Check your roof and gutters often. Remove any leaves, branches, dirt, or other litter.
- Trim or remove any plant materials that overhang your house - animals often use these to access your roof and gutters. This will also reduce the leaves and litter clogging your gutters.
- Prevent ice damage. If a long, cold spell (below 32° for several consecutive days) is predicted, it is recommended you drain your barrels and disconnect them from the downspout to avoid any damage from freezing. Once the cold snap is over, reconnect your barrels and they'll be refilled in no time!
How to Paint your Rain Barrel
- Wash it- Thoroughly clean the exterior surface of the barrel by wiping away excess dirt and grime with a clean rag.
- Rough it up- Using a fine to medium grade sandpaper, “rough up” the surface of the barrel. Dust off any remaining plastic shavings.
- Prime it- Apply one coat of outdoor primer. Allow the primer to dry, according to the directions on the container.
- Paint it- Now the barrel can be painted any way you like - by stencil, a pattern, freehand, etc. You can even use some leftover exterior paint to make it match the walls of your house! If using a spray paint, we've found it much more effective to splurge for a higher-end art type spray paint. While it may appear to cost more, it takes less coats (often times just one) to get the job done.
- Apply clear coat- Allow the paint to dry completely before applying 1 to 2 coats of a clearcoat or clear top coat for plastics. Allow the clearcoat to dry in between coats.
Want to show us your installed and/or painted rain barrel?
Send pictures and comments to kailyn(at)snohomishcd.org.
Call us at 425-335-5634 or fill out the form below.