SimGar

Easy DIY Rain Barrel

14 Jun 2010




By Sara Elliott

Save water, save time, and save money by making your own rain barrel this year.

Even though the practice of harvesting rainwater has been going on for well over 4,000 years at last count, adding a rain barrel may be a novel idea in your neighborhood.  Water shortages, aging water treatment facilities and the growing cost of water across the U.S. are making the humble rain barrel an old idea that's an enlightened solution for today’s resourceful gardeners.

No need to shell out hundreds for a rain barrel---you can buy all the materials from the hardware store to make one  on the cheap.  Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 55 plastic gallon barrel with an opening and stable base
  • Downspout extender
  • ¾” faucet
  • Roll of teflon tape
  • Caulk
  • Garden hose

To construct your barrel:

Prep your downspout. Once you’ve decided which downspout you’d like to place your rain barrel near, cut the downspout and add the extender. This will then go directly into your barrel.

Cut a hole in the top of the barrel that is large enough for the downspout extender to fit inside.

Drill a 1" hole towards the bottom of your barrel with a hole saw or drill bit where you want your spigot, just off the bottom of the container.

Add your spigot. To attach your ¾” faucet, wrap the threads in tape, caulk the taped thread and insert into the drilled hole. Once it’s where you want it, caulk the area inside and outside the spigot well to reduce leakage and let set. If you want to skip this caulking step, get a spigot like this one, that just fits right in the 1" hole.

Place your new rain barrel under your downspout extender and wait for rain!

That's really all there is to it.  If you're an old hand at DIY projects, you can probably make your rain barrel in an afternoon.  Check with your local utility company to see if there are rebates or other incentives that could defray the cost of installing a rain barrel on your property.

The Advantages of Rain Water

Rain barrel are a great way to harvest some impressive amounts of clean, neutral water with almost no effort.  After that, the way you use it is up to you.

Collecting rainwater is good for the environment too. Rainwater washing into storm drains is often routed directly into rivers and lakes together with any oil and chemicals it picks up along the way.  Before suburban sprawl took over, rainwater reached aquifers and rivers by moving through the soil, a natural filtering system.  When you divert some of that water into your rain barrel, you help reduce the overflow and keep surrounding ecosystems cleaner.

How Much Water Can You Collect?

Most rain barrel systems capture the water that washes off your roof by redirecting it from your downspout.  In order to do this effectively, the spout is usually shortened and an extension is added to divert the flow into an opening in the barrel.

Let's do the math.  To harvest about 300 gallons of rainwater (1,135 liters), all you'd need would be a half-inch of rain falling on a typical 1,000 square foot roof (93 square meters).  Even if you have a weighted diverter on the system to bypass the first few minutes of rainfall and allow kinetic energy to scrub particulates out of the air and off your roof before you start collecting, you could easily harvest a 50 gallon barrel full of water in less than fifteen minutes.  With the cost of water rising, and drought conditions in many areas imposing limits on when and how water can be used outdoors, this is very good news.

Types of Rain Barrels

From a functional standpoint, size and convenience are big factors when it comes to rain barrels.  Beyond the diverter mechanism we mentioned above, rain barrel systems are available with elaborate filters, anti-bacterial lights and even pumps to make distributing the water from your catchment system easier.  Any rain barrel you decide to use should be constructed from food grade and rust resistant material, like plastic, especially if you'll be using the water on edible flowers, vegetables or herbs.  For a long, reliable life it should also be UV protected, especially if it will be situated in direct sunlight for part of the day.