You know from reading our article How to Harvest Rainwater for Your Garden that rain barrels are inexpensive, good for the environment, and can save you money on your water bill. Because washing your car and watering your lawn and plants during the summer can increase water demands by as much as 100 percent, now is the perfect time to make your own rain barrel. But what if you're not sure where to begin? Don't worry: we've provided detailed instructions and a material list so you can become more efficient with your outdoor water use as simply and as soon as possible.
RAIN BARREL MATERIALS
- 6-inch Hole Saw, Saber Saw, or Drywall Saw
- 1 1/4-inch Paddle Bit, Hole Saw Bit, etc...
- 29/32-Drill Bit
- 3/4-inch Pipe Tap
- Louvered Screen
- Bulkhead Union Rain Barrel Connector Kit 1/2-inch
- 1/2-inch Brass Faucet
- Teflon Tape or All-Purpose Caulk
- 3/4-inch Hose Adapter [Optional, but a good idea.]
RAIN BARREL INSTRUCTIONS
- Get a food-grade barrel from a Pepsi Plant, or a used cider or olive oil barrel from a garden market store. Rinse the barrel out thoroughly. [We used an extra Rubbermaid trash can for ours.]
- Use a saw to make a 6-inch hole through the top of the barrel or lid of your trash can.
- Drill two holes: one with the 1 1/4-inch drill bit for the valve connector 4-6 inches from the bottom for the faucet, and one with a 29/32-inch drill bit at the the top for overflow.
- Use a pipe tap to thread for the top hole you just drilled. Do this by placing the tap on the edge of the hole, twisting inward, and then twisting back out. [This is a good idea, but it is optional. If you don't create an overflow you will have to watch the water level more carefully or excess water will spill out of the top of your barrel.]
- Twist the hose adapter into the top overflow hole to direct water away from your home. [Again, this is optional but a good idea.]
- Install the rain barrel valve connector into the 1 1/4-inch hole you drilled near the bottom for the faucet. [We picked ours up at Home Depot for around 5 dollars. The "screw" part of the connector and the black washer are pushed from the outside through to the inside of the barrel. It's a tight fit and you will probably want to widen the 1 1/4-inch hole slightly by twisting the drill up, down, and to both sides while drilling. The "nut" part of the connector and the white washer should be twisted on from the inside and secured to prevent leaks. Then wrap the faucet's threads with Teflon tape, or cover with caulk, and twist it into the center hole. We chose a "quarter turn faucet" so we didn't have to make a number of turns to fully open or close the faucet. We picked it up at Home Depot as well for about 7 dollars.]
- If you have an atrium grate or louvered screen, insert it into the 6-inch hole at the top of the barrel. You can also use an old mesh kitchen strainer attached to the top with zip ties. This will help prevent leaves and debris from getting into your barrel.
- Raise and level the rain barrel by placing it beneath your selected downspout and on top of two cinderblocks or some other kind of elevated platform. This will make access to the spigot easier.
- Position the downspout so rain can easily flow into the top of your rain barrel. You will likely need to cut the current downspout and possibly add an elbow joint so the spout matches up with the 6-inch hole you cut in the lid/barrel top.
- Attach a hose onto the 1/2-inch hose adapter, or keep it available to fill watering cans.
RAIN BARREL TIPS AND PRECAUTIONS
- The barrel you use for collecting rain may be food-safe, but that doesn't mean you should use rain water for drinking, cooking, or bathing.
- Make sure your rain barrel has a lid AND make sure it's secure: you can't water your lawn with small children or animals that might decide to climb inside.
- Sometimes a rain barrel can provide you with more water than you know what to do with. For this reason, you may need to disconnect the barrel during the rainiest months and reattach it for use in early spring.
- In addition to preventing unwanted debris from contaminating your rainwater and making your plants sick, the louvered screen prevents mosquitoes from breeding in your barrel.