Updated/Fact-Chacked on June 26, 2023 by Gareth James
Even in a country with a mild and rainy climate, there’s a recent shift towards conserving rainwater and being as environmentally friendly as possible.
Rain butts are a reliable method for storing and collecting rainwater, and they can also reduce your water bill if you are on a meter. All you need to do is connect your rain butt to your downpipe and you’re all set.
Not only do rain butts offer an environmentally-sustainable method of watering your plants, but your plants will also thank you for sparing them the chlorine and all the other treating agents in tap water. Rainwater also lowers the PH of your soil, whereas tap water raises the PH if you are in an area that has hard water as we have in the North East.
How to Choose the Best Water Butt – Size Matters
Selecting the best water butt is dependent on three primary factors: size, material, and budget. The size of your garden heavily influences the size and water capacity of the water butt needed. For compact spaces, a smaller water butt under 200 litres, potentially wall-mounted, could be an ideal space-saving solution. Alternatively, larger gardens can accommodate water butts with a capacity of 200 litres or more. Remember to factor in additional accessories such as a stand for easy watering can access, a hose, and a diverter kit for downpipe connectivity.
Types of Water Butts
Water butts come in a variety of types, designed to suit different garden styles, sizes, and homeowner needs.
- Standard Water Butts: These are the most common type and often resemble large barrels. They come in various sizes, typically ranging from 100 to 200 litres, and are usually made from durable plastic. Standard water butts need to be placed on a stand to allow easy access to the tap.
- Wall-Mounted Water Butts: Ideal for small gardens or patios, these water butts are designed to be attached to a wall, saving valuable floor space. They can be slim and compact while still providing substantial water storage.
- Decorative Water Butts: These water butts are designed with aesthetics in mind, blending seamlessly into your garden design. They can mimic various materials, such as terracotta, wood, or stone, and can also resemble features like planters or urns.
- Collapsible Water Butts: For those with minimal storage or who only need a water butt seasonally, collapsible water butts are a great option. They can be folded up and stored away when not in use.
- Rainwater Tanks: On the larger end of the scale, rainwater tanks can store up to thousands of litres of water. They’re ideal for large gardens, smallholdings, or for those looking to go off-grid or be more water self-sufficient.
- Recycled Material Water Butts: For those conscious of their environmental impact, water butts made from recycled materials offer a sustainable option. They’re typically made from plastic but come in a range of designs and sizes.
In this article, we compare a selection of the best water butts in the UK market.
Rain Butt Comparison Table:
|227 litres||60 x 60 x 99 cm (H x W x L)|
Green or Grey
|100 litres||38 x 38 x 124 cm (H x W x L)|
|350 litres||78 x 78 x 120 cm (H x W x L)|
|150 litres||77 x 60 x 60 cm (H x W x L)|
Best Rain Butts in 2022
1. Harcostar Water Butt – Best Overall
This Harcostar model is a great choice for anyone looking for a reliable rain butt that’s both stable and easy to use.
Firstly, it offers excellent water capacity with its 227-litre tank. If you require more capacity, you can also connect multiple rain butts. However, you will need to purchase a connection kit separately.
Secondly, the three-part stand helps make it stronger and more stable than the usual one-piece stand. Additionally, it’s fitted with a spring-operated child-safe lid
Thirdly, the water holes have been pre-cut so that you won’t have to worry about drilling them yourself. Conveniently, there are pre-set tap holes in two different places, so you can have some choice when it comes to which side to install the tap.
- High water capacity
- 5-year guarantee
- Made from at least 75% recycled plastic
- Easy set-up
- Choice of two colours: grey or green
- The lid mechanism needs some improvement
2. Be Green Mini Rainsaver Water Butt – Budget Pick
This affordable water butt with a capacity of 100 litres offers everything someone with a small garden could ask for. It’s an inexpensive option that does not sacrifice quality for cost.
It has a sleek, dark green body that’s not only pleasing to the eyes but also made from 100% recycled plastic. At only 38cm by 38cm, it’s also incredibly compact, making it a perfect fit for confined spaces.
The kit has everything you’ll need to set it up, and the instructions are clear and won’t leave you scratching your head. However, unlike the first butt, you’ll have to drill the holes yourself as they aren’t pre-drilled.
In addition to the butt, the kit also includes a stand, a hose fit tap, and a rain diverter that can fit either a 68mm round or a 65mm square downpipe. The three-piece stand features stiffeners to increase stability and further eliminate buckling when it’s full.
- Great value for money
- Compact design
- Great build with recycled plastic
- Low carbon footprint
- Limited water capacity
- Set-up can be time-consuming as the hole doesn’t come pre-drilled
3. Harcostar Water Butt and Raintrap Diverter – Largest Capacity
If you’re a gardener, landscaper, or homeowner with relatively high water usage, look no further than the Harcostar Magnum Water Butt.
The increase in capacity unfortunately means an increase in price. However, it’s still a great long-term investment. At an impressive capacity of 350 litres, it can store so much rainwater you’ll soon see a drastic cut in your water bill.
While it’s certainly not the smallest, the dark green matt finish gives it an unobtrusive look that’s far from being garish. It has a very solid and sturdy build that’s further reinforced around connectors.
Like the first Harcostar model, the butt has 5 pre-drilled holes for easy fitting to your downpipe. You have a choice of two tap ports: the first is 30cm from ground level and the second is right at the bottom should you choose to use a stand.
The lid is child-safe, so parents don’t need to worry about their children opening the lid and getting trapped inside. You also get a rain diverter and one tap in your kit.
- Massive capacity
- 5-year guarantee
- Child-safe lid
- Made from at least 75% recycled plastic
- Larger dimensions make it stand out
- Higher initial price
4. Sankey Beehive Water Butt – For An Aesthetic Statement
If you think standard water butts look like an eyesore, the Sankey 1229 Water Butt is the ideal choice for you.
Shaped like a ceramic beehive, this terracotta-coloured rain butt from Sankey features a unique design that will appeal to gardeners and homeowners who value elegance and who are looking for something a little bit different.
It looks more like an elegant decorative element that complements your garden. Yet, this deceptively compact design has a capacity of 150 litres that’ll provide you with plenty of rainwater.
Moreover, it comes with a lid and tap. However, it doesn’t have a matching stand, and you’ll need to buy the water diverter separately.
- Unique decorative body
- Compact shape despite its huge capacity
- Made from 100% recycled plastic
- UV and shatter-proof
- Diverter must be bought separately
- Matching stand has been discontinued
- You will have to drill the holes yourself
How to install a Rain Butt on a Gutter
How to Keep a Water Butt Clean
Maintaining the cleanliness of your water butt is crucial to ensure the collected rainwater remains usable and doesn’t develop unpleasant odours or become a breeding ground for insects. Here are some steps to keep your water butt clean:
- Use a Rain Diverter: This device not only helps direct rainwater from the downpipe into your water butt, but also prevents the first flush of water, which may carry roof debris, from entering the butt, thus keeping it cleaner.
- Cover It: Make sure your water butt has a secure lid. This will prevent debris, such as leaves or bird droppings, from entering the water, and it also deters mosquitoes and other insects from breeding.
- Regular Cleaning: At least once a year, ideally before the rainy season begins, empty and clean your water butt. Rinse it with a mixture of water and a mild, non-toxic disinfectant or a specific water butt cleaner, scrubbing off any algae or deposits. Rinse thoroughly afterwards to ensure no cleaning residues remain.
- Gutter Maintenance: Regularly clean your gutters to prevent debris from being washed into your water butt.
- Use a Filter: Some water butts come with or can be fitted with filters to remove debris from the water.
- Empty Regularly: Even with preventive measures, some debris may still get into your water butt. Emptying it regularly, especially before a heavy rainfall, can help keep it clean.
By taking these steps, you can maintain a clean water butt and enjoy the benefits of having a sustainable water source for your garden.
Rain butts are an excellent addition to any garden. By installing a rain butt, you can catch and store rainwater as it falls. This allows you to have a convenient source of water for your garden during dry spells, spare your plants chemically treated water, and even reduce your carbon footprint!
We have reviewed rain butts of different sizes and price ranges and highlighted their key features to help you choose the one that best works for you and your garden.
Rain butt FAQs
Is collecting rainwater illegal in the UK?
No, collecting rainwater is not illegal in the UK. In fact, it’s encouraged as it’s an excellent way to conserve water and reduce dependency on mains water.
What happens when a Water Butt is full?
Once a water butt is full, any additional rainwater will overflow. Most water butts have an overflow system that will direct excess water away from the butt, usually back into the downpipe or onto the ground.
How much rainwater can I collect from my roof in the UK?
The amount of rainwater you can collect from your roof depends on its size and the local rainfall. As a rough guide, for every 1 square metre of roof, you can collect about 0.85 litres of water for every 1mm of rainfall.
How long can you keep water in a Water Butt?
Water can be stored in a water butt for several weeks to a few months, although it’s best to use it sooner to prevent it from becoming stagnant. If you notice an unpleasant smell or insects in the water, it’s time to clean your water butt and replace the water.
Can you drink water from a Water Butt?
Rainwater from a water butt is not safe to drink without proper treatment because it can contain bacteria, parasites, viruses, and chemicals that could make you sick. However, it’s perfect for watering plants, washing cars, and other outdoor uses.
How do you keep rain water from stagnating?
Regularly using the collected water, cleaning the water butt, and keeping it covered to prevent debris and insects from getting in can all help prevent rainwater from stagnating. If you don’t plan to use the water for a while, consider adding a biological rainwater treatment or a drop of bleach to keep the water fresh.
Do you need planning permission for a rainwater tank?
In the UK, you generally do not need planning permission for a water butt. However, if you’re installing a large rainwater tank, you should check with your local council, as rules can vary.
What can I do with an old Water Butt?
Old water butts can be repurposed in many ways. They can be turned into compost bins, planters, or even wildlife habitats. Alternatively, if the water butt is still in good condition but no longer needed, consider donating it to a local community garden.
How do you collect rainwater without gutters in the UK?
Even without gutters, it’s still possible to collect rainwater by placing a large open-top container, like a rain barrel or water butt, in an area where water naturally falls off your roof. However, this method will not be as efficient as a gutter and downpipe system.
Mary shares a passion for gardening with her husband John, though she is more focused on growing veg on their allotment at St. Margaret’s Allotments, Durham. Mary also works in the lawn care industry and manages the lawns for the Durham University campus.