Rain Barrel Buying Guide

A wooden rain barrel in a garden with a metal spout from a downspout pouring water into it

Collecting rainwater for your garden and landscaping is a smart money saving idea. Rain barrels are a great tool for gardeners and their plants, as rainwater is free of chemicals and chlorine. Knowing how big of a rain barrel to get and different features to look for can be tricky. This guide will help you choose a rain barrel that’s right for you!

What is a rain barrel?

A variety of rain barrels that range in size and shape that can be purchased at your local hardware store

A rain barrel is a container that collects rainwater from your home’s gutter system. It is connected to the downspout­ with a rain diverter or is fitted with a modified downspout. Rain barrels have a spigot or hose connector at the bottom to allow you to use the water around your landscaping.

How can rain barrels save you money?

A pink piggy bank with coins under it and going into the top slot on a white isolated background

Before installing a rain barrel, check with local authorities for restriction on collecting rainwater. It is illegal in some places and others may require a permit. Using a rain barrel can help you save money, by not using municipal water for irrigation. Other benefits of rain barrels include water that is free of chemicals and minerals, they help limit the amount of water entering storm sewers, and also keeps pesticides and fertilizers from entering lakes and rivers.

How much water are you collecting?

Green rain gauge set in outside garden

Before going out and buying the first rain barrel you see, think about how much water you will be collecting. 60 gallons, 50 gallons, 100 gallons? Collecting rainwater is based on how much square footage of roof you have. If you have a 1,000-sq.-ft. roof you can generate about 600 gallons of water during a 1” rainfall. Multiply the square footage of the roof by 0.6 gallons per square foot per inch of rainwater, to find out how much can be collected. To find out how much rain your area gets, pick up a rain gauge or check local weather authorities for annual average rainfall

There are some precautions you should take before collecting rainwater, first look at your gutters, if they are made of copper don’t use the water on edible plants. Also, if you have applied any chemicals to your roof for algae or moss control, do not use the water for edibles.

What rain barrel do I need?

A descriptive image of a rain barrel with all the essential parts labeled

There are many different shapes and sizes of rain barrels. Some decorative and others can be made out of garbage cans. Whatever kind of barrel you decide to go with consider the following features:

Gutters and Downspouts

How does it connect to the downspout? Does it use a diverter or does it directly flow into the top of the barrel? A diverter makes it easy to install a rain barrel without cutting the downspout itself.  

Debris Screen and Lid

What kind of debris filter does the barrel have? You’ll want to keep leaves, pine needles, and other debris out of your water so it doesn’t clog the spigot or overflow valves. Having a well-fitted lid is also important. It helps prevent mosquitos from breeding and other small animals from getting into the barrel.


Do you go with a spigot or a hose connection? Most outlets are located at the bottom of the barrel, which makes sense considering how gravity works. Though some barrels will have two spigots, one higher up for filling up watering cans.

You have selected the rain barrel that is right for you. Now it is time to install it. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and use safety precautions when working with tools. Rainwater is best used within the week to keep odors and mosquito growth down. Head over to your local Do it Best and start harvesting water today!

While do-it-yourself projects can be fun and fulfilling, there is always a potential for personal injury or property damage. We strongly suggest that any project beyond your abilities be left to licensed professionals such as electricians, plumbers, and carpenters. Any action you take upon the information on this website is strictly at your own risk, and we assume no responsibility or liability for the contents of this article.

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