Gutters are ugly. There’s nothing else to be said on that topic. You should all remove your gutter downspouts and replace them with rain chains, which are not ugly. They also help the environment. See, when water falls ten feet down a gutter, it’s moving at nearly the speed of sound when it gets to the bottom (trust me, I’m a physics teacher). This causes it to wash away dirt and stuff and can lead to erosion around the foundation of your home. This is bad. Rain chains cause the water to trickle down that 10 foot distance and land gingerly at the bottom, where you’ll either channel it into a rain barrel or some other crafty water channeling device, like a ditch or a pipe. Just make sure it moves away from your foundation.
We use the barrels to water our gardens and sometimes the grass. They’re especially useful during the hot summer months when it doesn’t rain very often. The barrels fill up completely with just a few minutes of rain. It’s surprising the first time you see them fill up.
It took me a good while to figure out how to take down my first downspout. There were no screws or nails, only these little circular thingies attached to the straps holding the downspout to the wall. It took some thinking before I figured out I could use a little drill bit to drill straight through the guts of that fastener and pop the strap off. After the straps are removed, the downspout pops right off the wall and disconnects from the gutter easily.
The next order of business is to build up a base for the rain barrel. When I installed the first rain barrel at our house, I set it on the ground and let it fill up before I realized we couldn’t get a watering can below the spigot. Skip that step if you install one at your house. Go to the hardware store and pick up some landscaping stones, whatever’s cheap. I spent 12 dollars on the 12 stones holding up the barrel in the photo above. They’re just sitting on the level ground (use a shovel). Other than gravity, there’s nothing holding them in place.
When picking out a rain barrel, we look for a few things. We like them to be at least 50 gallons. Anything smaller will get used up too quickly. We also look for metal hardware and a good screen on the top to keep out leaves. We’ve got two like the one above. They came from Whole Foods and cost about a hundred bucks. They’re old olive barrels and still smell like olives when you buy them. There’s precisely nothing fancy about installing it. Just set it on your base below the hole in the gutter.
Above you can see the hole in the gutter. Water will fall out of the hole in all directions if you don’t channel it a little. When you order your rain chains, you’ll probably be offered some type of channeler or condenser. Buy it. It looks like the one below.
The condenser goes over the hole in your gutter and holds the rain chain, making sure that all of the water travels down the chain. It’s really simple, but necessary.
Here it is installed.
I usually let the extra rain chain collect in the lid of the barrel. You can cut it to length if you like. I like the extra length because it helps keep the chain in place during a storm or strong wind.
If your barrel has a run-off spout near the top, hook a hose to it and run it away from your foundation so that the excess water doesn’t overflow onto your foundation. This is extremely important. Do it. Below are some pictures of our other barrels that have been set up for a year or two. Thanks for reading. -Robby