Frugality, Resources

Building My DIY Homemade Rain Barrel

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 – 55 gallon plastic barrel (free)

1 – tube of silicon ($3)

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.

11 thoughts on “Building My DIY Homemade Rain Barrel

  1. It looks like a good easy project. My only suggestion would be to hook your rain barrel up to a downspout from your gutter system. That way you you can tap into all of the collected water from your roof. If you have a 75 foot hose, you should still be able to reach most areas of your yard from a downspout.

  2. DJ,
    When it rains, as long as the rain is good and steady, the barrel will fill up in a very short amount of time. Eventually, I’m going to build 3 more barrels, attach them all, and be able to collect over 200 gallons. Right now, just catching the water as it falls of the roof is sufficient, due to the fact that the barrel is right below a “valley” in the roof. Water funnels there pretty efficiently.

  3. I got the barrel from a guy who works for an auto-repair shop. It originally held soap for washing cars. You can find them at car washes, and I think that some restaurants use them to hold various liquids. Check with a local auto-repair shop or car wash. Be sure to wash it out before using it!

  4. You don’t own any credit cards? I thought you need credit cards to get approved for a mortgage?

  5. I thought they get closed if they are not being used? Do you use it to make a very small purchase on occasion and they just pay it off asap? I have a credit card that I want to close because of the annual fee, but it’s my only credit card and my credit is not good enough to get a new one. But I don’t use my credit card anymore.

  6. This is coming in late, but in case people read it:

    We just bought a house and had no problem getting a mortgage without credit cards. We canceled all our cards about a year ago. Not just cut them up and stopped using them, but called the card companies and canceled. Once you have a mortgage and good credit, that stays with you.

  7. In reply to the credit card question: I often watch the Today Show and they have a segment on finances. People call in with their questions and they are answered by people who know what they are talking about! I am young and I am new to the whole thing so I try to pay attention and soak it all in. One of the ladies on there explained that it is better for your credit to pay off those cards and just stop using them, rather than closing the card. Closing the card is what hurts your credit. I am currently in the process of building my own rain barrel. I’m on my last step and then came across your site. I have a barrel exactly like the one you used. I drilled holes all over the top (mine didn’t come with caps for the holes) and stapled my screen over the top with a staple gun, but now I’m worried mosquitos might still get in between the staples. I might use the rest of my caulking to go around the entire ring where I stapled. I figured that might give it a seal, that way any small bugs will not be able to get it. My spout will be drilled on the side at the bottom. I wish I would have came across your site before!! Then I would have realized I could flip it upside down and have my spout come from the bottom (that probably gives you a better flow anyways)! I will definitely use your method for my next one!

  8. In making my rain barrels, I found that using a ball valve, rather than a turning spigot, increases the water pressure at least 3 fold. They cost a little more, but it’ll make watering a lot easier, particularly with longer hoses.

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