Along with that many homeowner’s are looking for ways to live more green due to an ongoing concern about the environment.
One relatively easy task to undertake that can make your water bill lower and your home more earth friendly is the use of a rain barrel.
To buy a pre-made, assembled and ready to go model however could cost you hundreds of dollars so a lot of use has to come from it before the cost could be recouped.
An alternative to the high cost is to simply make your own and install it yourself. It is a do it yourself project that can be accomplished in a day for considerably lower costs, probably under $50 or less.
By following these easy steps on how to make a rain barrel, you should have yours up and running quickly and you will be the envy of your neighbors.
Otherwise wasted water can now be used for a variety of reasons from watering a garden to washing a car and can cut down significantly on one major utility cost each month, the water bill.
Look around your house for the location you will put the barrel before you begin.
Make sure you have a spot that is camouflaged by shrubbery or perhaps in the rear of your home unless you want to get creative and make your barrel into a work of art by painting it something fun!
It doesn’t have to be hidden away… with a little imagination and an attractive rain barrel you might even get the neighbors ordering one for themselves from you!
A normal rain barrel around the 55+ gallon size will need a diameter of earth around 35” to sit on and will stand around 25” in height. Keep those guidelines in mind as you scope out where you will put it.
Check your downspouts and make sure there is a nice level area below it. If it is not level, this would be a great time to get out a shovel and rake and make sure the area is prepped for your barrel once it is complete.
Don’t use an area where the barrel could tip over. If some prep work needs to be done to level out the ground, either do it now or at least get an idea of what you can use to support the barrel. Concrete pavers work great for this.
Some people make the barrel first, but when telling folks how to make a rain barrel, I always think it is nice to have the spot prepared first. Once you have your completed barrel, you are going to be so proud of it you will want to immediately place it and watch it work!
Also check your gutters and downspout for debris. You want fresh, clean water flowing into your tank, so leaves and junk need to be taken care of now, not after you have a barrel full of dirty water because you forgot to do this step.
A bit of prior planning and cleaning will make for a quick installation once the barrel is finished. Trust me, it will feel good to have this prep work done so you can concentrate on assembling your barrel.
One part of placement that will be discussed later is the cutting of the downspout to the specific height of the barrel when ready for installation.
The next step to beginning your project is to decide where and how to acquire the most essential item, the barrel. This will probably be your most costly part of the project, so be creative!
Depending on where you live, you may not have local access to buying a barrel. A quick search on the internet can show you literally more sites to buy a barrel than you could probably get through.
Google “recycled X gallons barrel” or “recycled barrel for rain barrel” and the choices are there. Try typing in your zip code with the search as well to see local options, such as restaurant suppliers.
If you need to have a barrel shipped, check sites that sometimes offer free shipping over a certain dollar amount. Many of the recycled barrels you will find are around $15.00 for a 55+ gallon barrel.
Once you secure your barrel, you’re on your way! Go to the hardware store and purchase the remaining pieces you will need to get your barrel functional. They will include:
- A simple outside style faucet, your choice of brass, metal, etc.
- Some caulking material, a squeeze tube of inexpensive caulk will work fine
- Two reducing washers (one for inside the barrel, one for outside the barrel) that will fit the faucet. Make sure the washer has a raised lip on the inside of the rim. The raised portion will be flush with the barrel.
- A flashlight will be needed, but hopefully you have one of these on hand already at your house. If not, this is the perfect opportunity to buy one!
- A large locknut that fits the washer
- Some adjustable pliers to tighten things along the way
- A buddy, wife, son, nephew, anyone willing to sit on the barrel because you have to keep it stable while you are working on it. Not really any way to do that on your own!
- Safety glasses and gloves are always a nice touch but you aren’t going to be doing anything that should cause any accidents so you can forgo them on this project if you don’t own any already.
- A drill with a one inch hole drilling attachment. If you don’t own a drill or a hole attachment, ask your homeowner friends if they have one you could use for about 5 minutes. That is seriously all it will take. Or if worse comes to worse you could rent one from a local store that rents tools or buy one as you will find many, many uses for the drill and attachment throughout your years.
- A small swatch of mosquito screen that you will screw on the top of the barrel under the lid to keep bugs such as mosquitos etc. out of your water. You don’t want them laying their eggs in your standing water and creating a breeding ground for mosquitos. The net will also keep out trash and debris if some does get in your gutters after you clean them out.
- A box cutter or if you have them tin snips
Now to get busy cutting and assembling. First gather all your tools and the person you’ve enlisted for help!
You’ll need to drill a hole towards the bottom of the barrel for the faucet placement. Pick a spot relatively close to the bottom so you can utilize as much water in the barrel as possible, but keep in mind you need some area to maneuver around the faucet, attach a hose for flow, etc.
Around 6 to 9 inches from the base of the barrel to probably no more than 12 inches from the base are good guidelines.
Lay the barrel on the side and ask your helper to sit on it with their legs on either side, feet on the ground so the barrel doesn’t move while you cut the hole.
Using the one inch drilling attachment on our drill, simply cut out a hole quickly and easily. Once the hole is cut, you will want to do a procedure called “threading the hole” which basically just means you will take the faucet and screw it into the hole then unscrew it from the hole and it will automatically create threads or grooves in the plastic for the faucet to go in and out of.
You will screw it in then out as you have more pieces to assemble before the faucet is seated in place permanently.
Now we will work on applying the proper pieces to the outside of the barrel to make sure the faucet is secure and doesn’t leak. We will work on the inside of the barrel in a similar fashion momentarily.
With the same aid of your helper, have them once again straddle the barrel to hold it in place. Put a fair amount of caulk around the outside of the hole to place the washer into and create a seal.
Take one of your reducing washers and make sure the raised lip is towards the barrel. The lip should touch the barrel and caulk and the caulk will act as an adhesive. Push the washer securely into the hole and some of the caulk will ooze out around it.
This is fine, it can be cleaned up later. Many people like to allow the caulk to set for a bit, but if you are so inclined, you may go ahead and re-screw the faucet into the barrel.
Just screw it threw the washer and threads in the plastic portion of the barrel that you created earlier. It should not hurt anything to do it right away and the faucet will actually help to hold everything in place as it dries.
The choice is up to you however if you want to allow the washer portion to cure a bit and then re-screw the faucet.
Now to repeat the process for the inside of the barrel. Before going into the barrel, be sure to assemble all you will need to eliminate having to crawl in or out. Flashlight, adjustable pliers, lock nut, washer, caulk and, if you wish, safety glasses.
Station your assistant one more time on top of the barrel as even though you will be inside, your weight may not be enough to secure the barrel from movement.
Place the flashlight where you can see the hole properly (or if you or your child has one of those cool strap on type of flashlights that go around your forehead, all the better!). Put a nice amount of caulk material around the inside of the hole, secure the washer with the lip towards the barrel again, adhering to the caulk.
And then as an extra step to the inside, use the lock nut to screw on to the threads of the faucet that is sticking through the hole and now additionally through the washer. This locks and holds everything in place while again it dries and to secure the mechanism and guarantee no leaks.
This completes the inside of the barrel assembly, and you can come out and admire your work by turning the barrel up on it’s bottom. It should be looking like a rain barrel at this point!
If you were lucky enough to buy a barrel with holes in the top already as many food storage barrels will have, you will not need to drill holes to allow water to run in or overflow to run out.
If there are no holes, simply take the same hole attachment used to drill the first hole for the faucet and drill a few holes in the top of the barrel. If you feel the need to make an overflow hole, you can do so close to the top of the barrel on the side of it as well, but keep in mind that this could allow bugs in from the side area that may not be screened as you will be doing for the top.
Once you have the holes ready, take your screen and cut it slightly bigger than you screw on top the barrel should have come with. Lay the screen under the lid, take a utility knife and cut the screen, then simply screw it onto the barrel and screen simultaneously. Remember this step is very important to keep your rain free of debris and pesky bugs, so don’t eliminate it!
Place the barrel by the area it is to live permanently while you use your utility knife, or tin snips if you have a pair, to cut your downspout to slightly above the height of the barrel. Be sure to leave room to reattach the bottom L shaped part of the spout to your downspout so the water can be directed easily into the barrel.
Cut off the downspout, reattach the L, slide the barrel under the L onto the pre-prepared area of leveled dirt or concrete pavers and you are finished!
Do check the stability of the barrel on the prepared area as rain barrels, when full, can weigh hundreds of pounds and the worse time to find out it wasn’t stable is when it tips over!
If you have a hose handy, you could even fill the barrel partly full to check that there will be no tipping. And of course, no need to dump that water, just let it be the beginning of the water you will use for your watering, car washing, or any number of uses your saved rain water will provide.
Let the rains and the fun watching your DIY project begin! And don’t forget to treat yourself to a nice dinner with all the money you saved! And share with your friends the information on how to make a rain barrel so that they also can reap the benefits of your knowledge!