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Garden Water Butt Top Tips - Making The Most Of Free Water

Garden Water Butt Top Tips - Making The Most Of Free Water

17 minute read

Learn everything you need to know about a garden Water Butt with our A-to-Z guide  . . . 

There are a number of dictionary definitions used to describe a water butt:
‘a large barrel used for catching and storing rainwater’
‘a large container for collecting rain that can be used to water plants’
‘a large barrel for collecting rain as it flows off a roof’
‘a large container for collecting or storing a liquid (such as rainwater)’

From all the definitions we have found (more than we’ve listed above) every water butt seems to have common features:

  • A Water Butt is large
  • A Water Butt is used for collecting water
  • A Water Butt is used to store water.

However, you’ll find thousands of different types, styles and sizes of water butt available to choose from. To help you make the right choice here is our A to Z guide to a garden Water Butt, including why you should collect rainwater, what to think about when installing a water butt, how to care for your water butt throughout the year . . . basically loads of information all in one place!

water butt water butt water butts 

Attractive Designs
Depending on your budget, you might want to choose a water butt which is not only practical, it’s also attractive. You’ll find traditional designs that have been moulded to look like barrels, beehives, columns, terracotta urns or even tree stumps! If you’re looking for a more contemporary design to compliment a modern garden or courtyard, then you will find a selection of chic shapes in neutral colours as well as statement pieces in rainbow shades. 

Linus 220 Litre Water Tank

With an exquisite design and unique surface structure, this zinc grey coloured water butt can be fitted with either a chrome or brass tap.

The water butt features an integrated plant cup at the top enabling you to create an attractive display of flowers or a practical grouping of herbs.

Click here to see full details.  

Linus 220 Litre Water Tank

Better For Your Plants
The rainwater which you collect and store in your water butt is better to use to water your plants as it has a lower pH than mains water. In hard water areas the minerals that are in your mains water can raise the pH levels in the soil surrounding the roots of your plants which can affect nutrient availability.

Top Tip
Rainwater is the best choice when it comes to watering azaleas and other ericaceous plants in your garden or greenhouse. It’s also been found that blueberries will not grow successfully if they are always watered with mains water.

Collect Rainwater Where You Can
It doesn’t matter where you collect your rainwater from, as long as there is a gutter and downpipe to direct the water into a water butt. So collect it from the roof of a house, garage, greenhouse etc etc.

Did You Know ?
In just one year, if you collected the rainwater that fell onto your house roof you would have sufficient to fill 150 water butts!! That’s approximately 24,000 litres or 5280 gallons of free water.

Diverters For Downpipes
You can make it neat and efficient when collecting your rainwater from a house roof by fitting a diverter into the downpipe. Divertors are designed to ‘divert’ the water into your water butt until the butt is full – then it will direct the water back down the downpipe so that your water butt does not overflow.

Downpipe connected to water butt

Guttermate Rain Diverter

This award-winning rain diverter filters the rainwater before it goes into your water butt so your stored water won’t contain any leaves or other debris.

The rain diverter is also easy to fit to round or square downpipes and comes with everything you need to fit it in place and connect it to your water butt.

Click here to see full details.  

Environmentally Friendly . . . Reducing Your Carbon Footprint
By collecting rainwater you’ll be reducing your carbon footprint as a significant amount of energy and treatment are used to clean the water before it arrives at your tap.

Coupled with this is the fact that due to climate change, with summers becoming hotter and drier it is becoming more important to be aware of water usage – less water means the increased chance of shortages and the increased chance of hosepipe bans. So to help your garden to continue to flourish even when there is a ban in place, collecting rainwater with a water butt during the wetter months of the year will allow you to water your plants during the drier months.

Freezing Temperatures
When water freezes it expands, so if the water freezes in your water butt, as it has nowhere to go, it can cause the butt to break. Therefore many water butt manufacturers advise draining your water butt before frost weather sets in.

Although it’s rare that water butts will be damaged in this way – but if you live in an area which has high rainfall and low temperatures it is a good idea to drain your water butt, leaving the water butt tap open during the frosty months of the year.

If you don’t want to drain your water butt, or it is impractical to do this, then you need to insulate the water butt so that no ice can form. You can do this using bubble wrap or your heatsheet insulation which has been used in your greenhouse. Having the water butt off the ground, on a stand, will also help to prevent the water from freezing inside it. You could also put a sponge or rubber ball into the water in the butt so that if the water freezes it pushes against this rather than the wall of the water butt. Just be aware, that if the manufacturer has advised the water butt should be drained and you don’t – and subsequently go back to them as it has cracked due to frost – then the guarantee is likely to be invalid.



Invest In A Water Butt
Although installing a Water Butt will have an initial cost, if you have a water meter to calculate how much you pay for your water, then using collected rainwater to water your garden plants should help to lower your water bills.

Research has found that on average 7% of your household water is used outdoors – obviously during the summer this can be higher! Once you have fitted a water butt in your garden you can then collect rainwater for free so reducing your use of mains water. And your water butt can be used year after year after year is you look after it.

Did you know?
Even though watering your garden constitutes only a small proportion of total household consumption, during the summer. If there is a draught then water companies may enact a hosepipe ban to reduce some peak week consumption whilst preserving water for other essential uses such as drinking, flushing toilets and personal washing. However, if you have been collecting rainwater in your water butt then your plants don’t have to suffer as you can use this to water your garden!


Keep It Clean 
We recommend cleaning your water butt once a year so that you avoid the water becoming smelly or containing any disease.

You will want to clean both the outside of your water butt and the inside of the water butt when it’s empty. If you use a natural product such as Citrox which won’t contaminate water, then it means it’s not necessary to rinse the water butt after it’s been cleaned.

Citrox Natural Disinfectant

Citrox is a cleaner based on extracts of citrus fruits and can be used to clean lots of things which you use as a gardener, including your water butt.

As it will not harm plant material, it can be added to the water in your water butt - the manufacturers recommend using 24ml (one dosage) of Citrox per 100 litres of water – it’s easy to add as the bottle has a built in dosage cap. 

Click here to see full details.   

Citrox Natural Cleaner Disinfectant

If you don’t want to purchase a cleaner, you could use vinegar to clean the outside of the water butt and wipe the inside of the water tank with a mixture of lemon and vinegar.

If you are using a rain diverter which includes a filter, we recommend checking it once a week to make sure that the filter is cleared of any debris it has caught and is clean so it can work efficiently.

Lift Off The Ground With A Stand

With most water butts having a tap fixed close to their base, if you want to make it easy to fill a watering can or bucket from your water butt, it’s best to place it on a stand.

Another reason for lifting your water butt off the ground is that you don’t want it to contract and freeze or get stuck in ice on the floor during the winter months because of being in contact with the cold floor. Contracting and sticking to the ground could cause your water butt to form cracks and break. It’s a lot cheaper and easier to purchase or make a stand in the first place than having to replace a water butt if it cracks.

Water Butt Complete With Stand

Harcostar Water Barrel with Stand

When you purchase this practical 168 litre water butt it comes complete with a sturdy 12iinch / 30cm high stand.

This three-part stand is easy to assemble and provides maximum stability to the water butt when full. It also means that the tap on the water butt will be high enough off the ground that you can stand a watering can below it for easy filling.

Click here to see full details. 

Some water butts are supplied complete with factory made, matching stands which will be the perfect fit. Or these matching bases are available as on optional extra. If a base isn’t available, you could make a stable, firm base using a pile of bricks to stand the water butt on – just make sure they are level before siting and letting the water butt fill with rainwater.

Multiple Water Butts
When you’re storing rainwater in more than one water butt it’s recommended that you rotate the use of each one to ensure the water is always kept fresh.

Water Butt Link Kit

Water Butt Link Kit

Join one water butt to another with this easy to fit Link Kit. This universal kit should fit to most types of water butt and can be fitted either near the top or bottom of the water butt when you drill the holes.

The black, flexible tube means your butts don’t have to be in a straight line to be joined together.

Click here to see full details. 

No Mains Water 
If you have an allotment, then it’s unlikely you’ll have access to mains water, so collecting rainwater or having somewhere to store water becomes vital if you want your allotment plants to flourish.

Although you could sit your water butt in an open area on your allotment plot, it will work best it you can attach or to your shed or greenhouse so that water can be directed from the roof into the butt. On average, if you left a water butt open to collect rainwater it might only collect about 18 inches of rainwater over the autumn and winter months as a water butt only has a small opening at the top. If you have guttering on your greenhouse or shed, then the water you can direct into your water butt will be much greater – for example you could collect up to 600 litres of water every year by directing water from a shed roof into a water butt.

You will need some way to connect the guttering from the structure to your water butt – although this may need to be some ‘Heath Robinson’ device, to make it easier some greenhouse manufacturers do provide downpipes which clip directly into the gutters on their greenhouse, such as Elite or Halls. Or you could use something like the Rainwater Harvesting Kit if the guttering on your greenhouse or shed is square and approx. 3.5cm wide.

Rainwater Harvesting Kit

This rainwater harvesting kit simply slots into the end of any square gutter (3.5cm wide) and will then direct water into your water butt.

The 2.5cm diameter downpipe is approx. 64cm long and can be used to direct the rainwater from the gutter into a water butt. You’ll need to drill a hole into the lid of side of your water butt depending on it’s style and size.  

Click here to see full details.   

Rainwater Harvesting Kit fitted to greenhouse gutter


Planters Or Water Butt . . . It Can Be Both 
Water butts don’t just have to be a practical addition to your garden, they can also be a decorative feature as well. This is why you’ll find a range of water butts which now incorporate planters into their design – whether around the sides or in the top – which enable you to add a touch of colour to what otherwise could be a large, plain coloured container for water.

One of our favourite water butts which includes planters are the award-winning Rainwater Terrace water butts. Available in a range of colours and sizes this company was established in 2014 to provide gardeners with a functional water butt which also looked good, was easy to assemble and use.  

Rainwater Terrace Water Butt

Two Tier Rainwater Terrace

The unique, modular design incorporates an integrated plant growing system enabling you to raise plants, flowers or herbs alongside the stored rainwater.

Available in four different colourways, these water butts some with everything you need to connect the Rainwater Terrace to a household downpipe and store up to 134 litres of rainwater. 

Click here to see full details.

water butt with planter water butt with planters water butt with planter

Quick And Easy To Install
Installing a water butt in your garden or at your allotment is quick and easy and will last for years.

There are very few parts to a water butt, depending on the model you purchase:

  • Main body of the butt
  • Lid
  • Tap
  • Stand

Once all the parts of the water butt are in your chosen location, it’s just a case of connecting it to the supply of rainwater.

If you are collecting the rainwater from the roof of your house, then you will need to fit a diverter to the downpipe to ‘divert’ the water into the butt. This will involve cutting through the downpipe but it is usually very straightforward – you could take a look at the Guttermate Rain Diverter to see how simple this is.

If you are collecting the rainwater from a greenhouse roof then you’ll need a piece of pipe which diverts the water from the gutter to the water butt – such as the Elite Rainwater Collection Kit. You will then need to drill a hole into either the lid or side of the water butt to fit the pipe into it – we wouldn’t recommend simply removing the lid from the water butt and leaving it open as this would allow debris and insects into the water which you don’t want.    


Slimline Models
If you have limited space but would still like the ability to collect and store rainwater then a ‘slimmer’ water butt model could be the answer. These water butts are designed especially for narrow spaces in your garden. 

slimline water butt

Space Saver Water Butt

Combining a small footprint with a large height this slimline water butt design has a large 250 litre capacity.

Made from 100% recycled plastic, the water butt comes as standard with a lockable lid and tap. Or it can be purchased complete with a standard and diverter making it perfect when it’s attached to a downpipe.

Click here to see full details.  

If you haven’t got any space on the ground for a water butt you could consider installing one which can be fitted to a wall, such as the Terracottage Water Butt.  

Terracottage 160 Litre Water Butt

The ultimate space saving water butt this one has been designed to be fixed securely against a wall.

Its compact 12 inch depth has been combined with a height of 48 inches and almost 18 inch width to enable it to hold up to 160 litres of water.  

Combine the water butt with a rainwater diverter to connect it directly to a household downpipe for maximum efficiency. 

Click here to see full details.  

terracottage wall mounted water butt

Tap At The Base
Most models of water butt are designed to have their tap fitted near the base of the water butt.



Water Bourne Pests And Diseases Are Easily Avoided
During the warmer summer months you’re likely to be using your collected rainwater often, helping to keep it fresh as it’s being continuously used and refreshed. However, during the colder months there is the risk of the stored water stagnating slightly. To keep your harvested water fresh the easiest option is to use a FreshaTank Antimicrobial Disc. 

FreshaTank Antimicrobial Disc

Keep your water butt clean and fresh by destroying fungal, viral, bacterial micro-organisms and parasites using this FreshaTank water purifier disc!

Made from natural materials, this disc is 100% reliable and everlasting, so never needs to be replaced. Each disc treats 90 litres of water and will take just 3-4 weeks to work.

Click here to see full details.   

attractive bokashi bin for use in your kitchen

Your stored rainwater does not have to be used only for watering your garden. To help keep the water fresh over the winter months you can keep it fresh by using it to fill birdbaths, clean fruit or veg fresh from your garden, watering house plants etc etc. You could also drain off some of the water every 7-10 days so keeping your water moving and stopping the water tank from overflowing.

Xtra Large Water Butts

800 Litre Capacity Wall Tank 

Combining a small footprint with a height of over 70 inches makes this premium wall tank efficient at storing up to 800 litres of rainwater.

If you need even more capacity link multiple wall tanks together via the built in connection point at the base and adding a tank to tank connector kit. 

Click here to see full details.  


Years Of Use

Water Butt Tap

Replacement Water Butt Tap  

Suitable for most makes of water butt, you receive the tap, washer and nut to create a watertight fitting.

The shape of the tap means it can not only be used to fill your watering can, it can also be used with snap on hose connectors, such the the Gardena Hose Connector.  

Click here to see full details.  


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