I’ve made no secret on this site of my love for rain barrels. They’re great to hook up to your downspout for your gutter, trapping water you can later use for all sorts of things. You can water your lawn and garden, wash your car, or even provide water for your vegetable garden. In addition, it can collect water that could otherwise collect near your foundation. In fact, too much water around your foundation can compromise the foundation and start leaking into your basement. This means that your rain barrel helps keep your home safe! But none of that can happen if your rain barrel can’t hold water. So buckle up and I’ll let you know the best way to fix a leaking rain barrel.
We wrote an entire rain barrel buying guide for 2020. If you’re in the market, consider giving it a read!
Causes of a Leaky Rain Barrel
To fix your leaking rain barrel, you’re going to have to figure out what caused the leak to begin with.
One of the primary reasons why a rain barrel will leak is that is has a crack somewhere in the material. This could manifest in a couple of ways, but usually means your wood has split (uncommon) or the plastic on your cheaper rain barrel cracked due to freezing. You must winterize your rain barrel because the water inside will expand if it freezes. When it expands, it can cause (sometimes un-repairable) damage to your barrel.
Another way that your rain barrel can crack is by damage from falling or having some external force cause it to fall and crack. This usually happens when moving the rain barrel, either during winterization or installation. It’s less common, but usually more severe. No matter the cause, the steps are the same to repair your leaking rain barrel.
How to Repair a Leaking Rain Barrel
There are a number of steps that you will take to repair a leaky rain barrel. Most of the time, they need repairs for hairline cracks. Look at the following steps to make the repair.
- Empty and Dry the Rain Barrel: The first step is to empty and dry your rain barrel. You can open the spigot to let the water out slowly. I’d avoid trying to tip the rain barrel over, as this will increase the likelihood of additional damage. Once it is empty, put it in the sun to dry. You can also use a towel to get any lingering moisture out.
- Start with Sanding: Next, you will sand the entire cracked area until it is completely smooth and even. You actually need to sand both the inside and the outside of the barrel. If you’re looking for a good sandpaper recommendation, you can find what I use here.
- Drill a Hole at Each End of the Crack: Next, you need to take a drill and drill a hole at each end of the crack. Afterwards, wipe the area so that it is clean and free of the sanding materials. You also need to make sure that it is dry.
- Cut a Piece of Fabric: Now you will need to cut a piece of fabric that is bigger than the crack. The fabric should be clean and dry.
- Apply Caulk: The next step is to take silicone, waterproof caulk (this is what I use) and apply a thick bead along the crack.
- Place Fabric Over Caulk: Next, you need to place the fabric over the caulk and press it until it is flush with the plastic. Make sure that it is completely flat and flush.
- Caulk the Inside: Finally, you should caulk along the inside of the barrel crack as well.
If you follow these steps, you should be able to repair the hairline crack and stop the leaking.
Repairing Other Types of Leaks
If you do not have a crack but instead you find a small hole or a leak near the hose connections, you can use plain silicone caulk to repair the leak. You will still need to clean the rain barrel and then completely dry it but you can repair these smaller leaks with the silicone caulk alone. Just make sure that you caulk on both sides of any leak and give it plenty of time to dry.
The best way to fix a leaking rain barrel is simply not to have one in the first place! One thing to remember is that plastic is broken down by sunlight. This means that if your rain barrel is protected from the sun’s rays, it will have a longer useful life. This can also help prevent any cracking that may occur from exposure. In short, you should try to make sure that your rain barrel is in the shade or has a covering to protect it.
Another way that you can protect your rain barrel is by building a screen around it. You can build a trellis around it with flowers, which will protect the rain barrel and make it pretty at the same time. If you find that your rain barrel overflows regularly, you should consider emptying it more frequently or adding a second rain barrel. Constant overflowing creates wear and tear and it will shorten the lifespan of your rain barrel.
When you have a leak in your rain barrel, it can be a terrible inconvenience. The rainwater is so useful for watering your lawn and garden or even washing your car. It will help you to save as much as 40 percent on your water and utility bills in the summer. If you find that there is a crack in your rain barrel, the good news is that you will likely be able to fix it. If you follow the steps above, you should have it back up and running in no time.