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Rain barrels are a great eco-friendly way to water gardens, flowerbeds, and even wash cars or bikes, especially if you live in a dry area prone to droughts. Building one yourself isn’t difficult or expensive. All you need is an afternoon, a plastic barrel, and some basic tools and supplies.
TOOLS & MATERIALS
- Cordless Drill/Driver
- 1 in. Spade Bit
- Tongue & Groove Pliers
- 2 3/8” Hole Saw
- Quick Square Tool
- Permanent Marker
- Jig Saw & Blade w/ 14 Teeth Per Inch
- 66-gallon Barrel w/ Removable Lid
- 16” x 8” x 6” Cinder Blocks (8)
- ½” Spigot
- ½” Steel Pipe Coupler
- Washers w/ 1” Hole (2)
- Plumber’s Tape
- 6 ft. 2 in. PVC Pipe
- 2 in. PVC Adapter
- Gutter Screws
- Silicone Sealant
- 2 in. PVC 45-degree Street Ell
- 2 in. PVC 90-degree Street Ell
- 3 in. Downspout Connector
- 12” x 12” Piece of Nylon Window Screen
- PVC Pipe Cement (optional)
When taking on this DIY task, be sure to equip yourself with the proper safety gear.
- Ear Protection
- Eye Protection
Install spigot. With your spade bit in place and using your spigot as a template, start by drilling a hole about three inches from the bottom of your rain barrel. Quickly smooth out the hole with sandpaper, wrap plumber’s tape around each end of the closed nipple, and twist firmly into the hose bib. Slip on the neoprene washer, remove the lid from the barrel, and push the spigot into the hole. From the inside, slip on another washer onto the nipple and then twist onto the steel coupling. Tighten firmly, using your hand or tongue and groove pliers.
Install overflow well. Your barrel will need an overflow pipe, also called an overflow well, for heavy rain. To install one, using the pipe as a template, drill a hole just below the top edge of the barrel with a 2-3/8” hole saw, then clean the hole with sandpaper. Friction fit a 2” PVC 90-degree street elbow to a 2” PVC adapter. Remove the screw-on ring from the adapter and add a bead of silicone sealant to the base of the threads, and push the adapter into the hole. Remove the washer from the ring. Then, from the inside of the barrel, screw the ring into the adapter.
Build base. You’ll want to position the barrel high enough to provide ample water flow through the garden hose. To do this, you’ll build a two-course base with concrete blocks. Start by leveling the ground near the downspout. Then add a 2- to 3-inch layer of sand. Stack two courses of four 16” x 8” x 6” block, stopping to make sure that they’re plumb and level as you work.
Mark downspout. Your downspout will need about 24” of clearance. The height of the barrel should be about 34”, and you’ll need to add 18” for the base you’re going to install, so you’ll need to cut a downspout approximately 76” from the ground. Measure and mark the cut lines on the downspout with a marker.
Cut downspout. Release the downspout from the support bands and pull away from the house slightly. Hold it firmly in place, and using a hacksaw make your cut. You may need to move the downspout bands or two to ensure the shortening downspout is securely attached to the wall.
Attach a flexible downspout extension. Push the large end of the downspout extension into the downspout, then secure it with self-tapping gutter screws on front and sides.
Cut downspout opening. Place the downspout connector on the barrel and trace around its small end with a marker. Drill an access hole with your spade bit and cut the opening with a jig saw equipped with a 14 TPI blade.
Attach connector. Glue the downspout connector into the opening with silicone sealant. When dry, place an 8” x 8” piece of window screen on the connector, and then push into the end of the flexible extension. Be sure not to permanently attach the extension as you will need to clean out leaf debris every few weeks.
Complete overflow. Add enough 2” PVC pipe to come within about two feet of the ground, then use a hacksaw to cut the pipe to size. Add a 2” PVC 45-degree street elbow and run more pipe to the splash guard on the ground.
Your rain barrel is done! All you need now is a few good downpours and you’re in business.