Homework    Rain Barrel Project

Motivation: There were several reasons for this project:

  •  I have wanted to have a rainbarrel for a long time.
  •  I am a bit crunchy and by having rainbarrels I can help (in a very small way) reduce the storm surge which causes so many problems in our waterways.
  •  Also along the crunchy line, I can use the water from the barrels to water my plants, wash my car, etc.
  •  This project is part of a holistic approach to eliminate any chance of flooding in my basement.


When my house was built the downspout was directed to the city sewer which, like many older sewer systems, was (maybe still is) a combination sewer that handles sewage and storm water. At some point in the past the downspout was disconnected from the sewer and directed into the backyard. The plastic drain pipe intended to direct the water away from the house was pretty ineffective, butt ugly and a not very elegant solution. Additionally, when we get serious downpours a lot of the water was ending up at the base of the basement stairwell and flooding the basement.

Everything I know about flood control and have researched talks of multi-pronged approaches kind of like the Dutch with their sets of three dikes (watcher, keeper, sleeper). I am using this philosophy on my house. First thing I did was buy about 30 paving bricks and built up the lip to the basement stairwell (no mortar). This alone seems to have solved the problem but why stop there? Placing bricks around a stairwell isn't much fun!.

Not content with merely directing the water away from the foundation I built the rainbarrels to collect the storm surge. Next year I will also excavate around the foundation and reparge/waterproof the wall. The house is close to 70 years old, it's ready for some TLC.

The "science" behind a rain barrel is pretty simple. The water that falls on my roof when it rains is collected in a gutter then to a downspout. The downspout leads to a first flush device and then to the barrels themselves. The barrels have a hole in the top for water to enter, a hole near the top for overflow and a hole at the bottom for a spigot. Because I have the barrels elevated off the ground, there is a small amount of head pressure - enough to water plants, wash the car, etc.

Good project management involves a logical work breakdown. For this project I figured the logical breakdown was four stages - the downspout diversion, the first flush device, the barrel stand and the barrel plumbing. Like most home improvement projects, I spent WAY more money and it took a lot more time than I anticipated but I had loads of fun along the way.


I have developed a manual which is (currently) more in depth than what is on these pages. If you are interested, you can download it. It is a PDF document and is about 341K.

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Rain Barrel Project
1 Index
2 Downspout Diversion
3 First Flush Device
4 Stand
5 Plumbing
6 References