I have just finished building and installing my very first homemade DIY rain barrel. I’m super excited to have finished this project, which will provide for collection, storage, and supply of free water for my plants. Here are the details:
The Materials –
1 – roll of plumber’s tape ($1)
1 – 3 inch piece of 3/4 inch galvanized pipe, threaded ($1)
1 – 6 inch piece of 3/4 inch galvanized pipe, threaded ($2)
2 – 3/4 inch threaded galvanized elbows ($2)
1 – 3/4 inch faucet ($3)
1 – plastic roof flashing w/ 3 inch hole ($5)
1 – small plastic container (free)
1 – small piece of screen (free)
The Build –
First, here’s a picture of the finished project, installed and working:
Step 1 – I needed to find a location for the rain barrel. Most folks place their barrels at the end of a rain gutter spout, but I just placed mine under a valley in our roof. It’s on concrete blocks, which will eventually be covered up by bricks.
Step 2 – Get a barrel and clean it out. I got mine from a friend. Here’s a pic of the barrel, before I cleaned it out.
Step 3 – Drill a hole in one of the caps (not shown) of the barrel, and create a spigot from the galvanized pieces. Use plumber’s tape and silicon to seal the caps. The “top” of the barrel, as show above, is actually the bottom of the barrel, once the spigot is attached. Perhaps a picture will help to explain –
The caps are already threaded, so all you have to do is drill out the material in the middle, put some plumber’s tape on the pipe, add a bit of silicon, and attach. Don’t thread it too tight, or it will go in to far, strip the threading, and you’ll have leaks. Here’s a close up of the spigot –
Step 4 – I purchased one of those plastic pieces of roof flashing, turned it upside down, and I’m using it to catch the rain water. I have a cup that fits down into the bottom of the flashing, with a small piece of attached screen, to keep out bugs and debris. More pics –
Step 5 – I cut a whole in the top of the barrel and inserted the plastic flashing / plastic container / piece of screen thing-a-ma-jig. Here’s how that looks –
The barrel works really, really well. I’ve seen other designs where folks cut an over-flow hole into the barrel, near the top. That’s a great idea, because it’s important to have somewhere for the water to go, once the barrel is full. As for me, I’m cool with it just filling up and over-flowing at the top.
I purchased a piece of 75 feet long, 1/2 inch wide soaker hose, attached it to spigot, and this setup works great for watering the plants in our flower bed.
One note, the soaker hose comes with a small little piece of plastic, intended to slow the flow of water. That’s good if you hook the hose to a normal spigot, with normal pressure, but is too restrictive for the low-flow of the rain barrel. I removed the piece of plastic and replaced it with a normal rubber washer from an old water hose. Even 75 feet from the barrel, the soaker hose works. Notice the small drops of water in this picture, taken just 30 seconds after I turned the barrel’s spigot to “open” –
This was my first attempt to build a DIY rain barrel. As I mentioned, I may need to drill an overflow hole, and it will be interesting to see if the system supplies enough water for the entire bed, or if I’ll have to supplement. Either way, this was a fun project, it didn’t take very long at all, and it cost me less then $20 (excluding the cost of the soaker hose).
Edit: I had an email from a reader, asking how long it took to complete this project and where I got the barrel from. It took me, oh, two hours, with most of that time spent waiting for the silicon to harden and leveling out the barrel. I got the barrel from a friend who works at an auto-repair shop, where the barrel once held soap, for washing cars. Check around and you should find barrels like these all over the place, at the local car wash, auto-repair shop, or even automobile dealer.