Here at The Green Reaper, we’re big fans of being water-conscious, so we’ve put this guide together to help you figure out how to install and make best use of a water butt in your garden. These handy barrels can collect some of the thousands of litres of water that lands on your roof each and every year, which is perfect for watering the garden. They’re great when used in conjunction with our range of water trailers. This is especially useful in the run-up to summer where water might be a little scarce, and in certain parts of the UK, where a hosepipe ban is a very real prospect.

Choosing a Butt and Tap

Choosing a butt is a fairly straightforward job, but there are options for you to consider. As a general rule, the bigger the better, as a larger capacity will mean more water when it comes to you needing it. While water butts do a decent job of preserving water, it will naturally evaporate, which means that you need a good reserve built up, particularly if you have a lot of watering to do. There are different materials that you can choose from too, though most people will opt for plastic, are these are the cheapest, most readily available, and the easiest to maintain. Other options include wood or even terracotta, which are designed for those who want an aesthetically pleasing water butt. Finally, you also have a few different tap options. It’s generally best to go with something robust, and if you have a large water trailer, a fast-flowing tap is very useful indeed. Many water butts will come complete with a tap, but they do often come without one, and you’ll need to drill a hole for it. If this is the case, then the tap will usually come with instructions that tell you specifically what you need to do for that particular part.

Installing the Water Butt

Installing a water butt isn’t too difficult, but will require some basic DIY considerations. Make sure you read any instructions that your equipment comes with, take basic safety precautions, and gather everything you need together before you start. Usually, you’ll need the following:

Linking Water Butts

Those who have enough space and want to maximise their water-stocking capabilities can also look into linking multiple water butts together. This isn’t too difficult, and involves drilling or cutting into the bottom section of two barrels, and linking them with a pipe. There are plenty of kits out there designed for just this purpose. The downside to linking butts at the bottom is that debris can sometimes sink down and block the pipe, so you’ll need to check them periodically. The alternative is to have them linked at the top - in this case, one butt fills up first, and then the water overflows through a pipe into the other one. Remember that you need gravity to do its work here; the connecting pipe needs to be lower than the pipe that connects the first butt to the water drainage system from your roofing.

Maintenance

For the most part, water butts can be left to do their job without any particular attention at all. If you discover that you have a particular algae or smell problem, then there are additives that you can buy to resolve this that won’t cause harm to anything you choose to water. Aside from this, a periodic clean of the bottom of the barrel can help ensure that there are no blockages in the pipes. Non-plastic water butts might have their own maintenance requirements; wooden ones for instance might need re-treating periodically, so always check if there’s any advice when you purchase one.

  • Small hacksaw

  • Electric drill

  • Suitable drill bit (determined by diverter/pipe/tap kits that you choose)

  • Rain diverter kit or overflow piping

Firstly, you’ll need to pick a good location for the water butt and set it into place. You’ll need to place it beside a suitable downpipe from your guttering, and have it set on something stable that also raises it up enough to be used with a watering can, or a water trailer. Many watering butts come with stands, but you can also use blocks of wood.

Next, decide how to set up your butt so that excess water is drained away without simply overflowing from the top of the butt onto the ground. You can either use a rain diverter, which is one single unit that attaches to the side of the butt, diverting rain in, but allowing excess out, or you can have the downpipe go straight down into the butt, with a secondary overflow pipe to allow water to funnel into the drain. The choice is entirely yours, and will likely depend on where you choose to position the butt; placing it directly under the downpipe can sometimes save space.

Cutting into your chosen downpipe can be done with a hacksaw, and as these are almost always made of plastic, the job is generally a very easy one indeed. Either cut the downpipe high enough to allow it to feed directly into the water butt, or cut a section out that allows you to insert the rain diverter. Different rain diverting kits are likely to have differing methods of attachment, so follow the instructions that come with them. If you’ve chosen not to use a diverter, you will need to drill into the side of the butt at the top to install a pipe that allows the overflow to go down into the gutter.