Making and Installing Your Rain Barrel

Rain barrels are an old idea that is coming back into fashion because they just make so much sense. A rain barrel can help reduce the amount of water running into the ground around your foundation, reduce your family’s demands on your water and sewer systems, save you money on your water usage, help your lawn and gardens grow green and healthy and help the environment by preserving ground water. Plus setting up a rain barrel is a relatively easy project for a homeowner to take on. Here’s some ideas on how you can go about making and installing your own rain barrel.

Making your own rain barrel

You can buy a pre made rain barrel from a garden or home store for something between $250 and $300 and that’s undoubtedly the easiest way to go. However, actually making your own rain barrel is fairly straightforward, doesn’t require any special tools and it’s a good weekend project. Here’s how

  • Start with a 50-gallon food grade drum that was previously used for something like juice or pickles (not chemicals). Be sure to get a heavy grade plastic drum that won’t allow light to penetrate. (Translucent and clear barrels that allow light in will encourage the growth of algae in the water). You should be able to find a second handle barrel for $10 to $20 from a drum or barrel supplier or maybe even from a high volume restaurant in your area.
  • Once you’ve got your barrel, wash it out with a mixture of water and bleach to get rid of any food residue.
  • Install a hose spigot near the bottom of the barrel by drilling a hole slightly smaller than the diameter of the spigot then pushing the spigot tightly into the hole. (For example drill an 11/16” hole to install ¾” spigot). After you’ve installed the spigot, caulk around the spigot on the inside of the barrel.
  • Be sure to install the spigot a few inches up from the bottom of the barrel so you can attach a hose or fill a watering can under the spigot

Installing your Rain barrel

  • Figure out where you want to install your rain barrel. The logical place is under a downspout, but if you don’t have gutters, you can place a rain barrel under a valley in your roof where water flows off. Also try to locate the barrel so it will be convenient to your flowerbeds and gardens.
  • You’ll should install your rain barrel on a level piece of ground and it’s best to elevate it on a platform so your can easily get a watering can in under the spigot. Having the barrel raised up also means you can use gravity to feed water out to your garden through hoses.
  • Your stand will need to be sturdy, since a barrel filled with water can easily weigh 500 pounds or more. Cement blocks make an inexpensive and strong platform and if your want to build it higher it’s easy to just install a second course of blocks.
  • Once your platform in built all that’s left to do is put your rain barrel in place and cut the downspout to size. If your barrel has a solid top, you’ll need to cut a hole for the downspout. A jig saw or saber saw will work well.

Some consideration with your rain barrel

  • If your barrel doesn’t have a top on it, cover the top of the barrel with a piece of window screen to stop leaves and dirt (as well as animals) from getting in.
  • You can collect more rainwater by installing series of barrels connected with overflow tubes (pieces of hose) located a few inches for the top lip. As one barrels fills the overflow will pour into the next one.
  • It’s not likely to be a problem, but it would be a good idea to check your local building codes (as well home owners and community association) before you install your rain barrel.
  • Don’t forget to drain your rain barrel in the winter.

Once you’ve got your rain barrel installed and working, your lawn and garden will enjoy drinking soft, natural water, you’ll save some money and the environment will be just a little freer of chemicals. Rain barrels really are a great old idea.