About three years ago, I built myself a rain barrel from a 55-gallon plastic pickle container. I set it up on concrete blocks about 2 ft. off the ground and placed it directly underneath a sawed-off downspout on my garage so the water flows directly into the barrel.
It works OK, but I’m a little under-whelmed with my rain barrel for two reasons:
1. Even though I set it up on blocks, there’s not enough water pressure to send the water through the spigot at anything more than a trickle.
2. The overflow port on the barrel is inadequate. During rainstorms, the barrel fills so fast that the water spills out of the narrow overflow opening as well as the top of the barrel and runs down the sides. Since the barrel sits against our old, decrepit, soon-to-be-replaced detached garage, I’m not that worried. But if this were happening near our house foundation, it could be a real problem.
A 1,000-sq.-ft. roof will shed about 620 gallons of water during a 1-in. rainfall. That’s about 155 gallons per downspout if you’ve got four of them. If you’ve got a rain barrel hooked up to one of your downspouts and it works (or doesn’t) like mine, once the barrel fills there’s a lot of water being dumped next to your basement.
Here’s a simple solution—a downspout diverter. The diverter attaches to your downspout and channels water into the barrel until it's full. At that point, the diverter automatically sends the water through the downspout and away from your foundation. Fiskars’ new DiverterPro water diverter kit ($40) is nifty because it attaches to almost any rain barrel system and it works with the two different size downspouts (3 x 4-in. and 2 x 3-in). It also includes a removable filter to keep debris out of your rain barrel. (Click here to purchase the Fiskars DiverterPro water diverter from our affiliate Amazon.com.)
I have one last piece of advice and this applies whether you have a rain barrel or not. Make sure your gutter downspouts discharge water at least 10 ft. from your home to prevent water damage to your basement and foundation. If yours don’t, consider adding extensions.
— Elisa Bernick, Associate Editor
Want to build your own rain barrel? Check out this great article with step-by-step instructions: How to Build a Rain Barrel
See more green home projects from The Family Handyman.