Building a Rain Barrel

July 15th, 2008 by NashVeggie Leave a reply »

If you have a garden or alot of plants then you know that you can use quite a bit of water keeping everything green, especially when there are days or weeks between rain showers. I have noticed rain barrels being sold at Whole Foods for $99 and thought the construction looked simple enough to do on my own and possibly at far less a price. So I undertook the task of doing just that. I picked up an empty barrel at a local farm store that once contained olives. It even had one olive left inside when I got it, I didn’t eat it as tempting as it was. Make sure you find a food grade barrel for this project, you don’t want unknown chemicals spread onto your garden or plants. All of the parts needed I either had lying around or picked up at the local Home Depot.

  • (1) 3/4″ Male Hose Bibb (I used a no kink bibb)
  • (2) 3/4″ PVC Female Adapter
  • (1) 3/4″ tapped Male Hose to Male adapter
  • (2) 1″ Galvanized or Brass Washers
  • (4) #18 O-rings (1″)
  • Teflon Tape
  • 1″ Hole Drill Bit
  • (1) Brass Hose Cap
  • 18″x18″ Square Metal Screen
  • (8) Aluminum Self-starting Screws

Hose Bibb

3/4″ Male No-Kink Hose Bibb

Male Hose Adapter

  3/4″ Tapped Male Hose to Male Adapter

O-Ring

#18 O-Ring (1″)

Teflon Tape

Teflon Tape

3/4″ PVC Female Adapter

3/4″ PVC Female Adapter

1″ Hole Drill Bit

 1″ Hole Drill Bit

First, clean the barrel inside and out. I did not use any detergent, only a few heavy rinses of water for the inside.  Next, drill two holes using the 1″ hole drill bit.  The first of the two should be about 3-4 inches from the bottom of the barrel on a flat surface above the curve of the barrel.  The second will be near the top of the barrel and will be used as an overflow valve.  After drilling both holes wrap the end of the 3/4″ hose bibb in teflon tape, a strip about 4 inches long should suffice, then place, in order, a 1″ washer and one of the o-rings onto the bibb and thread it into the bottom hole on your barrel.  Now, you may need a second person to help.  You will need to reach into the barrel and place a second o-ring onto the bibb and screw the 3/4″ inch PVC female adapter onto the bibb.  You will need someone to hold the bibb from the outside while you tighten the PVC adapter from the inside.   Once the bibb has been installed move to the top of the barrel.  Take the 3/4″ male hose adapter and place a strip of teflon tape around the threads not used for the hose, the ones closer together.  Next, place a 1″ washer and a o-ring onto the adapter and thread it into the top hole.  Place an o-ring and the second 3/4″ PVC female adapter on the hose adapter inside the barrel and tighten.

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Bottom bibb assembly attached

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Bottom bibb assembly showing o-ring behind washer

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Female PVC adapter attached to bottom bibb assembly inside barrel

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Male Hose to Male adapter assembly at top of barrel (overflow)

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 View of overflow assembly showing o ring

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 Female PVC adapter attached to male adapter assembly (overflow)

The lid of your barrel my be different from the one I have. The barrel I used had a two-piece lid with a cover and a ring to tighten the lid on, similar to a canning jar. In order to keep debris and mosquitoes out of the barrel you will need to attach a screen to the lid.  I did this by cutting a 8″ diameter hole in the lid and attaching a piece of metal screen underneath.  I used the plastic circle I cut from the lid and cut that into four 1″ wide strips.   Using a square piece of screen wrap each of the corners around a strip and attach to the lid using aluminum screws.

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Screen attached to lid – bottom view

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Screen attached to lid- Top view

Your rain barrel is now complete.  You will need a place to put your barrel so it can catch run-off from your gutter downspout.   A platform which is level is very important as a full barrel weighs about 400 pounds and would be very dangerous to people or animals who may be around if it were to topple over.   Also, you will need to place the barrel at a height which is higher than to place you want to water using a hose to create sufficient waterflow.

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Platform built using concrete blocks

Once you are ready to setup the rain barrel cut the gutter downspout at a place higher than the top of the barrel and use a plastic downspout hose to redirect the water to the top of your rain barrel.  You may want to cut a section of the downspout out and leave the bottom portion of the downspout in place.  Doing so allows you to fill the gap in the downspout wiht a piece of tubing so when your rain barrel is not being used, such as during the winter, you can once again have use of the downspout.

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Downspout Tubing

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Your rain barrel will fill quickly during a downpour and the top overflow spout will be handy if connected to a hose into a spare bucket or another rain barrel.

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Completed Rain Barrel

The total cost of this project was just under $25,  a considerable savings from the $99.99 Whole Foods charges for a rain barrel which does not include your platform or downspout tubing.   You can decorate the outside however you see fit.  Paint it to match your home exterior or let the kids have fun with the paint, you can even drape plants over the top and sides as I will be doing soon.  Also, this is a very simple project that only takes an hour at most to complete and will save you money.

 

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16 comments

  1. You built that in less than an hour? If so you are the winner.
    Even if it takes more time than that, I will be doing it soon. My water bill was over a hundred dollars. And my garden is still growing in many ways.

  2. Greg W says:

    Nice job. Thanks for the illustrated steps. You posted this about one month ago, so hopefully you have received rain to test it. I’m a bit concerned that the aluminum screws would not stand up against the force of water from the down spout. Have you had any problem with the screen coming loose and falling into the barrel?

  3. Glynes says:

    Thanks for the very detailed instructions and graphics … this looks like something I could accomplish, and living in the PNW rainforest, is practically a necessity!

  4. Nashveggie says:

    Terry,
    Yes, less than an hour. Once you get started you’ll see how fast it goes. It really is a simple project and very rewarding with what you get in return.

    Greg,
    We have had two rains in the past three weeks of about 2 inches in a little over an hour. A barrel will fill in little time with that kind of rain. The construction has held up perfectly and the aluminum screws work just fine.

    Glynes,
    Hope the article helps you build your own.

    If any of you venture into making your own rain barrel please send me pictures of your job!

  5. Bill Canaday says:

    Greg … an excellent post and project. I will be linking to this from my own blog. The only thing I would change is to use Irrigo weep tape (tyvek) instead of a hose. That completely automates the process. If there is no rain for a while, you would refill the barrels rather than water the garden directly. With the Tyvek tape, there is next to no evaporation loss and no time when the soil is too dry. (Note: I’m not a salesman for the stuff, but definitely a satisfied user.)

    Bill
    http://nmwoodworks.com/garden

  6. Nashveggie says:

    Bill…

    Who is Greg?

    Second, how can a piece of tape automate a process? Thirdly, using tap water to fill your barrel negates the point of building and implementing the rain barrel to start with. Not only are you adding cost to the front but you are not conserving rain water as it is meant for. I don’t think you’re getting the point of the project.

  7. Jeremy says:

    While I agree that refilling it with tap water would negate the point of building a rain barrel, I think Bill’s point with the tyvek tape is that it would wick water from the rain barrel, into the garden, helping keep the soil moist at all times. The confusion, I think, stems from Bill’s contention that you should replace the down spout with tyvek tape. It isn’t the downspout that you would replace to keep your garden “evermoist”, but the hose attached to the bottom bib. That way instead of watering in the same spray hose style you normally do (albeit with better, chlorine free, cost-free water), the tyvek tape would slowly distribute water from the hose outlet onto the surface of the garden. Of course, if you are going to go this route, you are going to have to have a hose/tyvek tape contraption spread across the lawn, from the collection point to the garden, at all times. A nice option if you don’t have to mow the lawn often, or are otherwise too busy to keep track of your garden’s water needs. Not so appealing for those of us who enjoy “piddling about” in our gardens and who take the time spent watering to check on the general health and well being of our plants.
    Thanks for the article. Me and my girlfriend are going to try our hand at building one of these real soon to help keep our water bills down and our garden green in this dry, Austin, TX climate!

  8. NashVeggie says:

    Jeremy…

    I think my post was alittle misleading on my part. I understand what Tyvek tape is and you are correct that having that strung over your lawn would be a little inconvenient, not to mention unsightly.

    Thanks for the comment!

  9. Bird says:

    This is incredibly clear and helpful. With all the extra autumn rain we are getting it’s a great idea to save some for leaner times.

  10. Steve says:

    Great Idea, but check local regs. It is illegal in many places to capture rain water.

  11. Nashveggie says:

    Steve,

    If your local laws are telling you what you can or can’t do with water that falls onto your property some serious lawmaker changes need to be made. I know of none of those places. Doesn’t apply here or anywhere nearby.

    Update: upon checking, Colorado is the only state with laws governing what you can do with water falling onto your property. Ignorant law and hardly many.

  12. Cathy says:

    Thank you for this detailed set of instructions.
    I think I will upgrade all our rain barrels. We use them for the garden and to water chickens. You can prevent the barrels from overflowing if you join a few together with a bridging pipe near the top. This effectively increases the size of your reservoir.

  13. John P says:

    Great blog post! I love learning about this online as gardening/landscaping are not only hobbies of mine but I actually do a little bit of work like that during the summer months as a second job. I appreciate your content in your blog and wish that you would keep up the good work 🙂

  14. Garden guy says:

    At my place We have water restictions so I could do with one of these…. the only problem is we haven’t had any rain to fill the thing up with either :s

  15. Cullen says:

    Exactly where did you get that 2 piece lid food barrel? Thanks.

  16. Rob Z. says:

    Thanks for the clear, illustrated directions. Followed them and now my rain barrel is ready to be filled. Bring on the rain!

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