Fix-It Chick: Save money on watering garden by installing rain barrel

Keeping a garden watered can be expensive. Assuming it will rain at some point in time, installing a rain barrel is a great way to save money. For every inch of rainfall, a roof collects approximately .56 inches of rain per square foot of surface area. That means a 1,000-square-foot roof can collect more than 200 gallons of water with just half an inch of rain.

Step 1: Choose a downspout near a garden or flower bed to install a rain barrel beneath.

Step 2: Level the ground beneath the downspout to assure the rain barrel will not tip over when full. A full rain barrel can weigh more than 400 pounds, so leveling the ground beneath it is a necessity.

Step 3: Use the hacksaw to remove the lower portion of the existing downspout. Determine the appropriate spot to cut the spout by placing the empty rain barrel on top of two cinder blocks near the spout. Leave enough room between the downspout and the barrel top to allow for the installation of a guttering elbow. Ideally the elbow should rest on top of the rain barrel lid.

Step 4: Place the cinder blocks side by side on the level ground below the downspout. Leave enough room between the blocks and the house for the barrel to rest securely on the blocks without leaning up against the house.

Step 5: Place the barrel on the cinder blocks. Make sure the barrel is centered and secure on the blocks. For proper water flow out of the barrel, the bottom of the barrel should be at least 12 inches above ground level.

Step 6: Install the guttering elbow above the barrel lid. If possible, cover the opening of the lid with fiberglass screen to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in the stored rain water. Placing a few drops of olive oil in the water will also discourage breeding.

Step 7: Install a 15-foot piece of garden hose on the rain barrel’s overflow outlet to direct excess rainwater away from the home’s foundation.

Step 8: Partially fill the barrel with water and test the barrel spigot. Close the spigot to begin collecting rainwater.

Step 9: At the end of the growing season, empty the rain barrel and leave the barrel spigot open to prevent damage throughout the winter months.

— Have a home improvement question for Fix-It Chick? Email it to Linda Cottin at


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