Friday, August 15, 2008

Building a Rain Barrel

A friend asked me about building a rain barrel. I Google-doc'd him some information and I decided to post it up here. No point keeping the best rain barrel recipe a secret!

I researched all of the directions that are out in the world and this is the fastest, cheapest, easiest way to get a rain barrel. If you don't have a drill or a jigsaw, I pity you. Get 'em!

The directions aren't really well-written yet but I'm going on vacation tomorrow so it'll have to do for now.

Rain Barrel Directions

You'll need:
barrel - good luck, try a car wash (check the MSDS of whatever was in the barrel)
3/4 to garden hose brass fitting (two if used for runoff diversion)
two 4" in-sink screens
flexible downspout diverter (optional, kinda)
2 2' long 4x4s (or something to keep the barrel off the ground)
3/4" bore for putting holes in the barrel
jig saw or saws-all
6-8 stainless screws, 1/2" to 1" long
any type of garden hose on/off spigot you want to use, brass, plastic, whatever
make sure it mates up with the 3/4 fitting listed above
plastic paint (Krylon Fusion) to match your decor - use dark color as sunlight will grow algae in your barrel
1/4" or close drill bit to drill drain holes around top lip of barrel
cresent wrench
black sharpie marker

1) about 4 inches from bottom of barrel, drill hole using 3/4" bore into barrel
2) thread brass fitting into barrel with the hose-sized side out
you may have to 'encourage' the brass piece to start threading with a hammer - tap gently
finish threading the brass piece in with the crescent wrench - turn until flush plus 1/2-3/4 turn, don't strip it
3) thread on your spigot - this is a good place for teflon plumber's tape if you have it
4) place the screens over the threaded holes in the top of the barrel and draw a circle to trace the size of the screen onto the barrel (there are usually holes in the barrel already)
using a jigsaw or saws-all SLOWLY cut INSIDE this circle but a blade width or three
be CAREFUL! you need to get ride of that piece sticking off the top of the barrel but you need a sub-4" diameter hole for the screen
5) repeat the cut on the other threaded piece
6) using the punch, put 3-4 starter holes in the outer rim of the drain screens
7) put the screens over the holes and start the screws by hand
self-tapping screws work best
it's hard but just put on it and the barrel will allow the screws in
if you slip and put a hole in the drain screen, it's trash
you can run the screen pointing up or down, it doesn't matter - pointing up is easier to clean
8) drill a few holes from the outside rim of the barrel to the inside rim of the TOP of the barrel
these holes should NOT penetrate the main part of the barrel but will act as drainage if any water should pool on top
9) put some water in the barrel to test it - the goal is no drips
10) put the 4x4s down where you want the barrel to live
cinderblocks work well also, whatever floats your boat
11) install the downspout diverter onto your downspout and aim the end of it at one of the screens
12) wait for rain
13) use water for plants, car washing, squirting neighbor's cat...

if you have a problem with simple barrel overflow, you can install a drain with a hose to drain the overflow to a location of your choice
there will be A LOT of water coming off the roof in a downpour so use something 3-5" in diameter

Here's a calculator to figure out how much water your roof will throw off. Most storms in the Mid-Atlantic are 1" or less. While you are there, figure out how much rain barrels cost (plus shipping) and you'll see the benefit of making your own.

I figure that I spent a few hundred $$ figuring this all out. I wanted to make it more complicated but decided to KISS. The entire budget for your project should be around $25. Of course, that assumes that you can get the barrels from the car wash...

Here's some stuff from Co-Op America about rain barrels. Send me pics if you make one.


At 9:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Faster and easier to just buy the rain barrel from

At 4:12 PM, Blogger Big Daddy Mike said...

Aquabarrel is TOO EXPENSIVE.

I'm more of an upcycler. I think you can use trash to create these types of things.

I think the guy has struck...

At 7:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work.

At 9:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mike, thanks for sharing this with our group -- the Friends of Patapsco Valley & Heritage Greenway. The only thing that would be better would be a photo of your completed rain barrel where you could see all the parts you use.

Do I have your permission to cut and paste your instructions and give credit to you for a future rain barrel talk. Would you be willing to co-teach a future do it yourself rain barrel workshop?


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