Rain barrel in winter: empty in case of frost? How to make frostproof?

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Rain barrel in winter: empty in case of frost? How to make frostproof?: empty

Whether and how to prepare your rain barrel for the winter depends first and foremost on what material it is made of. Also the material and the processing quality and the location plays a big role. So that your rain barrel comes through the winter well and undamaged, you should take the right measures in time.

Risk of frost for rain barrels

Due to the combination of water and UV sunlight, plastic rain barrels are evenly removed from the plasticizers. The material becomes brittle. If water remains in the rain barrel in winter, it will take on more volume in the frozen state. That is, it spreads and pushes against the walls. The more brittle the walls are or the less valuable the material is, the sooner cracks will form on the barrel walls. The rain barrel will leak and in the worst case can burst even over a large area.

Plastic drums

Not all rain barrels made of plastic are robust in frost. As a rule, frost-proof rain barrels are made of flexible polyethylene. This is not only environmentally friendly, but mostly also weather-resistant and frost-proof. But beware, because in many cases the frost resistance is limited to certain minus temperatures. Partial frost immunity is given up to minus ten degrees Celsius. But often the frost resistance requires emptying or at least lowering the water level. If temperatures fall significantly below this, only the fewest plastic rain barrels will keep out the cold.
Particularly prone to cracking and bursting are rain barrels that have welds. In conjunction with an inferior quality they usually do not survive the first winter days. The manufacturer will tell you if your plastic rain barrel is cold-resistant.
Winter Location
If you have a frost-proof rain barrel, this cold season can usually be left in its usual place, as long as the temperatures do not fall below the temperatures specified by the manufacturer. Basically, it is recommended to offer each plastic rain barrel a sheltered place in winter. Frosty winds can additionally strain the material and even damage frost-proof rain barrels.

rain barrel

If an extremely cold winter is to be expected, you should play it safe and place your rain barrel in a warmer location, as well as non-frost resistant specimens.
If your plastic rain barrel is buried in the ground, you do not have to worry about frost-resistant models. Ground frost usually only refers to the first centimeter of the earth's surface. He will make the buried rainwater storage no problems. In addition, the earth around the barrel keeps the walls stable and can not expect an expansion of the water content due to freezing when the tank is completely embedded in the ground.
Drain / water level
For frost-resistant plastic rain barrels that will overwinter outdoors, the water level should not exceed 75 percent. Optimal is an even lower water level. In this way, the freezing water can expand in height. This relieves the barrel walls and significantly reduces the risk of damage.
However, it usually comes through the residual water to an additional layer of ice. If it blocks the expansion upwards, this has the same effect as if the bin was completely filled with water. For this reason, it is imperative that you check your bucket regularly on ice sheets in winter and push open / remove them.
Frost-sensitive models
If your rainwater storage tank is not a frost-resistant model, it should be completely emptied. While flexible polyethylene can withstand small expansions, with rigid materials as little as a few millimeters of expansion pressure can cause cracks.


Wooden barrels are very popular as rain barrels, but require special care especially for the wet winter season. This should be applied in the form of an impregnating layer already in the summer on the outer walls. We recommend a combination of moisturizing and weather-protecting properties. If metal casings or casings encase the wooden barrel, ensure that there is sufficient protection against rust, so that the stability is maintained and longevity is supported.
Winter Location
The wooden barrel can be hibernated outside as well as in a frost-free place. Of course, it is exposed to cold weather outdoors. Since wood is robust and in principle extremely winter-proof, it is not necessary to position it in a warmer place.
Drain / water level
As a rule, three-quarters of tons can be filled with water in winter. This is also recommended because the water pressure keeps the wood "in shape". If you completely empty the wooden barrel, the wood will contract.That means the barrel will probably be leaking in some places at the next filling in the following year. But this remedies itself again automatically after a few days, because the moisture of the water then provides again for an expansion of the wood and thus for the desired tightness.

Metal rain barrels

rain barrel

A rain barrel made of metal offers no flexibility of the walls. If it comes to an expansion of frozen water, there is a high risk that leaking welds and solder joints or even the material completely ruptures. Some people let a little water in the barrel over the winter, so that a heaviness arises and the rain barrel does not fly away in the wind. However, additional ice surfaces can also form here due to the residual water, which prevent an upward expansion. In the case of metal rain barrels, this can very quickly lead to damage, especially at the wall and floor transitions, if you do not immediately break up the ice. Since you probably do not want to look every day, it is advisable to skip the water from the metal rain barrel.

Rain barrels with foils

A special feature of rain catcher, the inside are lined with a film. These are usually rain barrels whose outer walls are used only for guiding / holding the film. Most of these are without ground. This is represented by the foil. As a rule, the films are frost-resistant and can overwinter outdoors. The border is predominantly wood or flexible winter-proof polyethylene. In winter, however, there is a risk of film damage caused by stones or similar Sharp-edged. If frost freezes the water and, as a result, the film loses its freedom of movement and stones are not pushed into the frozen ground by the water weight, they can cause small holes in the ground.

Empty properly

With drain opening
In general, any type of rain barrel from the trade is provided with a drain opening or screw that serves for emptying. This is usually located on the barrel wall just above the bottom plate. Depending on the type of closure, the opening can easily be done by hand or must be opened with a screwdriver, for example.
Depending on how far you want to empty your rain barrel, allow enough water to run out of the drain hole.
The water level can only be lowered to the level of the drain opening without your intervention. By tilting the rain barrel in the opening direction further water flows out. The remaining water can only be obtained by falling from the rain barrel. In many cases, the opening of a lid or another inlet / outlet opening in the lid is required.
Without drain hole
Most are wooden barrels or misused barrels, which are used as rain barrels, if there is no drain hole. But there are also rain storage, which have only a lid opening and have no bottom drain pipe.

rain barrel

In this case, emptying can only be done by overturning the bin. Especially when a rainy autumn provides a high level of water, emptying can become a difficult task that not everyone can handle. Here it is advisable to prevent the water supply at an early stage, so that the weight of the rain barrel for the impending tipping is lower.
Closed pillar or underground tank
For designs that have neither a drain nor an inlet opening or underground tanks that are completely or partially embedded in the earth, emptying designed differently. For underground tanks, a water pump with a hose is necessary, with which the water can be pulled out of the tanks. For closed column tanks, hose sets are available which subsequently create an outlet option.
Tip: If rain barrels are completely emptied, this is the perfect moment to do a thorough cleaning. In this way, you can use a high-pressure cleaner or water hose and brush to rid the interior of, for example, algae and dirt.

Antifreeze preparations

Do not winter rain barrels in a frost-free place, regardless of material, frost resistance and emptying / filling, further preparations for the winter should be made. These include:
  • Prevent further water intake after emptying
  • Cover with a lid or cover the upper area with something similar
  • Wrap rain barrel all around with a foil (extends the life of the material)
  • Completely dump rainwater barrels and complain about avoiding flying away
  • Frost-sensitive, emptied rain barrels on Styrofoam, cardboard or wood provide (insulating against ground frost)
  • In partially-emptied barrels, straw or reed in the water prevent complete freezing

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