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Rain Barrel FAQs

Readers' Questions           Testimonials & Additional Information from Readers

What are the benefits to using rain barrels?

  • Rain barrel-gathered water is not subject to community watering restrictions.
  • Naturally soft water with no additives to irritate your plants.
  • Save money on your water bill.
  • Reduce water pollution in our rivers and lakes by reducing stormwater runoff.
  • Save money on your sewage treatment bill by decreasing the amount of water going into the sewer system.
  • Decrease energy consumption used to treat waste water and delay building/expanding waste-water treatment plants.

Do you sell rain barrels?

Sorry, no. This is strictly an informational site for DIYers. (do-it-yourselfers). Not one of those folks? Maybe a friend or family member is. We leave it you to determine the best positive leverage to deploy in such a situation.

Do you make house calls?

We have done several presentations in the Twin Cities area:

  • Wild Ones Native Plant Expo - Rain Barrel Demonstration - Feb. 6, 2005
  • Fulton Neighhood - Rain Barrel Building Class - Aug. 31, 2005
  • Cable 12 - Filmed Rain Barrel Demonstration - Apr. 28, 2006
  • Fulton Neighhood - Rain Barrel Building Workshop (2nd one!) - Jun. 12, 2006
  • Yard and Garden News (U of MN Extension Service) - Article on Rain Barrels, May 1, 2008
  • Plant Conservation Weekend (Como Park & Conservatory) - Rain Barrel Demonstration, May 17, 2008
  • Fine Gardening Magazine - Article on Rain Barrels - Nov/Dev 2008
  • Minneapolis Home & Garden Show - Rain Barrel Presentation & Demonstration - (March 7, 2009)
  • and others

Sorry, we are no longer doing public presentations or demonstrations.

Have any watering tips?

In the early years, I hooked up a hose to the faucet and laid it next to the plants I wanted to water. This method is s-l-o-w. And difficult for plants further from the barrels, or if the ground slopes up much. I also found that I wandered away, pulling weeds or whatnot and lost track of time. So I ended up over-watering. At each downspout that I have barrels, one has a fully removable cover (the one not directly under the downspout--see a photo here). These days I tend to take the cover off and dip in a watering can. Much faster and I can better judge the amount of water going to each plant. When the water level gets too low in the barrel for me to comfortably reach, I attach a small hose to the faucet and fill one watering can while I am watering with another one.

How about during winter?

We move our barrels from under the downspouts in very late fall and re-attach the lower portion of the downspout. Then we reverse the process in the spring. We live in Minnesota, where any standing water freezes in the wintertime. We're concerned that water left in the barrels would freeze and expand, deforming the barrel and putting additional wear-and-tear on the attached pieces. Feel free to experiment with your own setup, and let us know about your experience. I have a friend who keeps her barrel in place, opens the faucet, and attaches a hose so any water drains away from her foundation.

How much water will I save?

We can only respond with what is possibly the most unsatisfying answer in existence: “It depends.” If you have one 55-gallon barrel, then every time it gets filled up with rain water you are saving 55 gallons of city water. You're on your own with the math, one free calculator is all you're getting from us.

Of course, we're sure you realize that once the barrel is full (which will probably take less than one inch of rain, depending on the square footage of your roof), any overflow rain that goes into your city's sewer system either ends up costing money to treat or washes pollutants into your area's rivers and lakes.

How safe is the water in my rain barrel?

See this discussion and compilation of comments from various experts.

I don't like the color of my barrel--what can I do?

You can disguise them with a small fencing or lattice structure, you can put plants in front of them, you can paint them. On our construction page we describe a spray paint for plastics. If you want to be really creative and give rein (--rain, get it? ;-) to your inner artist, you can try something along these lines: Painted Barrels 1, Painted Barrels 2. With properly applied spray paint for outdoor plastics, you probably don't have to further treat the finish, though yearly touch-ups to scrapes may be needed. If you create something more elaborate, I've been told that treating the barrels as if they were a plastic car part will give the best protection against the elements. At the Kentucky website above, they used an adhesive, like Bull Dog, and a primer before painting. Once finished, the barrels were coated with a clear car finish. These folks worked with their local Sherwin Williams auto paint store to figure everything out.

The water in my barrel has an odor and/or algae growing in it!

This is natural if the water sits in your barrel for a while. It's the same thing that happens with some lakes, especially when the weather has been very warm. You can ignore it, use the water faster, or check pond or gardening stores for additives that are safe for your plants.

I read the instructions page but still have questions...

You can send us email using the link at the bottom of this page.

Your plans are so clear, easy, and inexpensive...but I still want to buy a rain barrel--know where I can?

Rain barrels are a seasonal product here in Minnesota. Their use has been increasing recently so the stores that carry them and when they are available varies from year to year. So you'll probably want to call around or make a point of checking for them when you're out shopping for something else. Try garden centers and nurseries as well as DIY, home improvement, and hardware stores. There are also online ordering options, but the shipping/handling can add a fair bit to the cost.

Hmm, what alternatives to rain barrels are there?

Even a modest-sized, well-constructed rain garden can handle much more water than a rain barrel or two, in general. Plus you get lovely foliage and flowers, and provide habitat to the other creatures that share the planet with us. These pages are about rain barrels, so we encourage you to browse around the Internet and contact local organizations for more information on rain gardens. Consider adding one to your yard. You'll create beauty, support biodiversity, and increase your property's value. You might get some sore muscles creating the garden, but think of the good karma you'll be building up. Can't have too much of that, eh?


Readers' Questions           Testimonials & Additional Information from Readers


My Rain Barrel Project Make Your Own:
How to Construct a Rain Barrel
FAQ Calculate
Your "Harvest"
But Is It Safe? About


Your PayPal donation helps keep this site available. Thank you! And, as a bonus, when you donate at least $5, we'll email you a pdf document that has the parts list from below, plus additional useful information: assembly directions fully illustrated with pictures.

Happy Watering!


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