the rain barrel saga continues...

If you read my previous rain barrel post, you might not yet realize that this DIY now qualifies as a "saga." When we left off, I was touting the ease and affordability of this little weekend project. Well, 2 weeks and 3 rain storms later, things are now a bit more complicated.

Call me naive, but I never had a rain barrel before, so I thought I had time before I would need to add an overflow valve. Boy, was I wrong! I did not realize that a 50 gallon barrel would fill up and overflow in a 5 minute storm, but it certainly did. We cringed at all the wasted water that immediately flooded our basement.

Maybe a normal person would have just said, "Okay, well I'll add the overflow valve first thing tomorrow and be done with it." But not us...we decided we would go ahead and get 2 more rain barrels and THEN we could worry about the overflow valve.

I bumbled around the plumbing department until I came across this 1/2" thick flexible tubing. I've seen this work for other rain barrel links on the interwebs, so I figured it would be fine for me. I dug up the first rain barrel and added some concrete slabs underneath so that it could sit higher than the other 2. (I do NOT recommend this arduous task...even 1/4 barrel of water is much heavier than it looks) But, once that was done, I just added a few little 1/2" holes, some caulking and a metal dingus on the inside of each barrel, and I was good to go...or so I thought.

Mother Nature laughed at our efforts. Again, according to the weather forecast, we were fooled into thinking we had time to add the overflow valve another day. Lesson learned: you can't just keep indefinitely linking rain barrels to avoid making an overflow valve. :)

At 2:00am, I woke up to torrential downpour, 3 overflowing barrels and a freshly flooded basement. I clearly had no idea what I was doing, but I was not yet discouraged. I am working hard renovating our garden and I was determined to harness this over-abundant natural resource! So, back to the hardware store I went. After some more scratching my head and bumbling around, I ended up with this junk:

3" male and female seals, elbow pipe and long drain pipe named "Charlotte," apparently.
I was worried about making a hole that large in the barrel, but I needed the water to drain quickly from the 3rd barrel to allow the other 2 to drain and not overflow.
Traced outline with chalk, drilled hole in center and sawed out to the edges to make a 3" large hole
Hypothetically, it worked. This is how the drain looks on the third barrel, heading down into the original flexpipe, behind a bush and underground out to the road.
Round 3 of drainage adventures...
We've thoroughly enjoyed the free water we've been using for the past week. Temperatures have been over 95º, so we've been watering most of our new trees, shrubs and baby grass twice a day and we still have almost 2 full barrels!

UPDATE: I'd like to say we lived happily ever after, but not quite yet. (Don't be afraid of this project because I'm making all the mistakes for you.) The first barrel (the one receiving the brunt of the water flow from a huge roof) still overflowed in the last storm. I added a 3" connection (like the overflow pipes) between the 1st and 2nd barrels as well as the 2nd and 3rd to allow it to drain faster. It was not easy to do since the barrels could not be moved (note the impeccable caulk job) but it should do the trick. Fourth time's a charm, right? ;)

The mistake(s) I made were mainly in relation to water pressure. If/when the downspout is ever at full capacity in a storm, then the connection valves need to be at least as wide as the downspout, all the way through. The rain barrel ideas and designs I looked at must have had no trouble using small tubing; for a smaller home or roof, it would have been sufficient, but we have a very large roof, heavy storms rolling through and a basement that has a propensity for flooding. Although the process was stressful, I'm still definitely glad that we did it. We will have tons of free garden water for years to come!

FINAL UPDATE! Almost a year later now and we are SO thankful for our barrels! We've planted tons of things since then and have used them weekly. In the winter, we syphoned the water out and reconnected the downspout to the drain. Our basement has also since been waterproofed and the flooding had very little to do with my barrel adventures.

I'd say the only downfall is the actual lugging of water if you have a large or steep yard. We have about an acre incline with some new trees up the hill, so we are planning to add some gutters and a barrel or two behind the shed. We won't get as much water from such a small roof, but it would be nice to have some up there as well. Love them!