Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, February 26, 2016

Rain Barrels

Napkin Sketch Series

- (Image provided)

In my last article, I discussed rain chains. So now let’s talk about how to store the water for later use. The easiest way is to install rain barrels.

They come in a variety of styles ranging from the inexpensive black or blue PVC 50 gallon barrel to sculpted options that fit against your home. I’ve even seen Jack Daniel’s whiskey barrels used for the rustic look.

For those that want to store a sizable amount of water, it’s possible to install large bladders that can be situated in the crawl space or under a raised deck. These bladders come with integral piping systems that control capture, overflow, and dispensing.

For the purposes of this article, I’ve attached a sketch of a typical barrel installation. Located at the corner of the house, the downspout has been directed to the top of the barrel, where a cap with three equal size openings and mesh cover the top. The mesh serves to filter out detritus, such as leaf litter and asphalt particles, from the gutters. It also helps to prevent the mosquito population from reproducing in the standing water.

The goal here is to capture enough rain to sustain your garden or landscaping during a dry spell. The amount of water you want to capture is up to you, and linking multiple barrels is possible with additional hoses. Also, most barrels that can be purchased have an overflow spout to direct water away from the area during times of heavy rainfall.

One caution here: unusually heavy rainfall events will exceed the capacity of both the barrel and the overflow spout, so be prepared for water to splash everything nearby.

Using the captured water is simple. Attach your hose to the bottom bib, twist the lever, and dispense the water where needed, or use a drip hose and just walk away until the next rain, when you have to remember to close the bib valve. Make certain the barrel is above the area to be watered for gravity feed to work, or you can install a hand pump for your teenager to operate. In the fall, I typically empty mine and leave the valve open during the winter so the barrel doesn’t freeze solid.

Whether your goal is to be more sustainable or just to save a little money on water, the rain barrel makes sense. It can add a nice feature to your landscaping as well as provide a softer water source for plants. Keep in mind, rain barrel water is not potable. Since it’s coming off your roof, it will carry with it some of the chemicals shed from the asphalt shingles. While safe for plants, I wouldn’t recommended it for drinking.

Ed Garbee can be found at Garbee Architecture, 633 Chestnut Street, Suite 600, Chattanooga, TN 37450. Phone: (423) 364-2830. Email: ed@garbeearchitecture.com.