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How to fit a water butt

Martyn Cox

Save and recycle rain water by installing a water butt in your garden– you could even save money if you are hooked up to a water meter.

Green water butt with tap in garden
Water butts come in all shapes and sizes, from tiny storage devices that hold 36 litres to tanks that can store up to 2000 litres

What water butt to choose?

Water butts come in all shapes and sizes, from tiny storage devices that hold 36 litres to tanks that can store up to 2000 litres. There are many different styles. Most are plastic, but if looks are important, choose models made from metal, slats of wooden cladding or for an attractive feature, try an ex-distillery oak barrel that has been converted to store water.

Where can I install a water butt?

You can install a water butt next to the down pipe of your house or any garden building that has a system of gutters, such as a shed, greenhouse, conservatory or outdoor office. If the structure does not have the necessary pipe work, it might be worth adding them to help you save water.

How to install a water butt

Follow the instructions supplied with the butt to ensure your model is installed in the correct way. Generally, there are two main ways of fitting a water butt in your garden. You can remove the lower part of a down pipe, so the upper part runs directly into a butt placed beneath it, adding an overflow pipe to take excess water away to the drain.

Alternatively, stand the butt to one side of the downpipe and saw out a section of the down pipe with a hacksaw. Fit a rain diverter over the cut area to channel water into the butt. Once it is full, any excess water will go directly into the downpipe.

When installing a butt, make sure the tap is facing forward and there’s enough room underneath it to fill a watering can comfortably – a height of 38cm from the ground should be ideal. To ensure it remains stable, site the butt on level ground, placing it on a paving slab if necessary. Large, upright water butts may need securing to brackets drilled into the wall.

If you have the space you could consider connecting several butts together with a linking kit to increase the amount you can store. When one butt is full the water will automatically flow into the next.

Keeping the water fresh

If your water butt remains covered you should have no problems at all, but if it smells or you have a floating layer of algae, scum or slime on top, add a few drops of Biotal Refresh (available from garden centres) to keep the water clean.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.