If you have gutters on your house, then your flowerbeds, backyard garden, lawn, and potted plants would benefit from a rain barrel!
A rain barrel sits under one of the downspouts connected to your gutters and acts as a diverter into your barrel for rainwater harvesting. Rainwater runs into the barrel and is collected for use instead of the excess water pouring uselessly.
Using the water from your rain barrel is a simple way to water all those flowers and plants in your yard, without running up your water bill. Best of all, rainwater barrels are also good for the planet because you are pumping less water in from other sources! In regions that frequently suffer from periods of drought, collecting and using the water from your rainwater barrel is especially crucial for helping conserve a precious resource. And, you can make your own rain barrel!
I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that a DIY rain barrel is a REALLY easy home project!
It probably took me a half-hour to make this one (and that includes the time it took to take the photos!). And if you already happen to have a barrel or trash can that you can use for this project, you’re halfway done already! :-)
Disclaimer: While there are no federal rules against collecting rainwater, and most states even encourage it, there are some areas that prohibit or regulate rainwater collection. Check with your local authorities and HOA.
The average person might use as much as 90 to 170 liters of water on their yard and garden just to keep it green and healthy in the summer. This can account for as much as 30% of your total water consumption.
Why Make a Rain Barrel?
Rain barrels are not new—they are part of the age-old concept of collecting rainwater. Mismanagement of the water supply makes rainwater collection important. There are several reasons why you will want to start collecting rainwater:
- Rainwater doesn’t contain chlorine or any of the hard minerals city water contains—which makes it much better for your plants.
- You can cut down on water consumption and reduce municipal demand to support water conservation.
- You reduce the energy needed to filtrate and pump water.
- Reduce water that could cause flooding or erosion to your foundation.
- Reduce water added to storm runoff.
Never drink rainwater, but you could use it for a refreshing outdoor shower. It could also be used for washing your car or driveway. You can use rainwater to give the dog a bath or clean your yard tools.
Making a DIY Rain Barrel
Rainwater can be collected in simple barrels or complex systems. I’m a big believer in starting simple and increasing complexity if I feel the need. Why complicate things if you don’t have to?
So, here’s what you’ll need to make an easy rain barrel:
- Garbage can with lid or water barrel
- Spigot with bulkhead fitting
- Power drill, and a drill bit matching the size of hole needed for your spigot
- Thread seal (PTFE) tape (also called PTFE tape)
- Waterproof silicone sealant
- Mesh screen material
- Utility knife
Step 1 – Collect Your Supplies
You could literally put a big barrel under your downspout, but how would you empty it for water use? The first step gathering all the supplies and tools you will need. Next, is creating that controlled spout (like a faucet) for the water access.
Once you have your garbage can or water barrel picked out, you can apply your spigot kit. This step is probably the trickiest, but don’t worry! I found a way to seriously simplify it, so bear with me.
Depending on what kind of spigot you get, you’ll need to drill a certain sized hole on your trash can to accommodate your spigot. Spigots are readily available a home improvement stores and online, but I was worried I wouldn’t be able to find a suitably sized drill bit—especially since I wasn’t looking to spend a lot of money buying a set of drill bits. It wouldn’t make sense to spend much on something I will probably only use once.
But, after a bit of searching, I managed to find this spigot kit on Amazon that included a drill bit that would make the perfect-sized hole! Makes it easy, right? I highly recommend getting this kit (or something like it) because it made the whole process a breeze!
Step 2 – Install The Spigot
To drill the spigot hole, I put the drill bit into my power drill, measured about 4 inches up from the bottom of my barrel, and carefully drilled the hole. You don’t want the hole right at the bottom for two reasons: you will have trouble filling anything with water, and you don’t want it clogging with sediment that will eventually start collecting at the bottom of the barrel.
Once the hole was done, I dropped the bulkhead fitting into the trash can and pushed it through the hole so the washer was up against the inside of the trash can. Then I screwed on the nut part, so it was relatively tight, but not tightened all the way just yet.
I applied the thread seal tape to the threaded end of the spigot, wrapping the tape around the spigot about five times. Then I screwed the spigot into the bulkhead, got the spigot to the correct angle, and tightened the nut piece the rest of the way with the help of some pliers.
Step 3 – Apply Sealant
The last thing I did was apply a waterproof sealant to the spigot, on both the inside and outside of the garbage can, where the metal meets the plastic. The tube of sealant was inexpensive, so I used it for just a bit of extra insurance to make sure the spigot wouldn’t leak. Make sure to let your sealant dry for the recommended time before exposing it to water.
Step 4 – Prepare Your Placement
You aren’t done with the barrel yet, but you need to know exactly where you are going to put it. You will want to elevate your barrel with cinder blocks for easier watering can access to the spout and to improve the water pressure. But set it up before you continue, or your lid won’t be correct.
Step 5 – Cut The Lid
If your container isn’t sealed, it’s crucial to have tight-fitting lid to protect tYou want a lid that will protect your barrel from invaders. Children and pets could get hurt if they fell into the barrel, and mosquitos would love to create a new breeding ground on your collected water. Having an open container of standing water in your yard is an open invitation for all kinds of creepy crawlies and pests, and we want to keep that from happening! You can keep out most pests with just a couple of easy preventative measures.
Your lid needs to be custom fit for your rain barrel. First, you’ll want to cut a small hole in the lid for the water to flow into from your downspout. Once you know where you’re going to place your rain barrel, you’ll be able to see where the downspout is going to meet the barrel. Mark that area off with a sharpie, then use your utility knife to cut the correctly shaped hole into your lid.
Step 6 – Add a Filter
The final piece of the DIY rain barrel is the screen. Most bugs will be deterred by a simple piece of mesh screening that stops them from accessing the water surface. Your screen filter will also stop leaves and larger debris from getting into the water when it comes through the downspout. Use the kind of window screen material you can purchase at a hardware store to re-screen a patio door. Rolls of this durable mesh material for rescreening can be found online too.
Cut a piece that extends several inches past the edges of your barrel or garbage can on every side. Then put the lid on over the screen to keep it in place.
Step 7 – Collect Rainwater!
Now place your rain barrel underneath your downspout and wait for rain! Oh, and pat yourself on the back for doing your part to help conserve water! :-)
Optional Rain Barrel Upgrades
Like I said, your rain barrel can be as complex as you’d like it to be! If you wLike I said, your rain barrel can be more complicated if you want it to be. You can make these upgrades to improve your DIY rain barrel.
Secure The Lid
Use a small drill bit to create holes that go through both the rim of your barrel and lid edge when closed. Use zip ties or light wire to secure your lid to the barrel. Some people only do this on one side to create a kind of swinging lid, but this can be irritating when strong winds crop up.
Zip ties are cheap enough you can cut and reapply if you need to get into the barrel from the top for some reason. Wire is easy to untwist and re-twist, though it may rust over time.
Make an Overflow Valve for Rainwater
With a male adapter and a leader hose, you can make an overflow valve in case your barrel gets too full. Just point the leader hose towards the side of the bucket where a stream of downpouring water won’t hurt anything.
Make sure this valve stays above your protective bug netting by cutting out a section from the top of the barrel and adding the netting before attaching the adapter and hose.
Improve Its Curb Appeal of Your Rain Barrel
Make your barrel less of an “eyesore” by incorporating it into your yard design. You can use shrubs and plants to blend it into the landscaping around the house. You can also paint the barrel and even the cinderblocks to match your house color with exterior paint. If you are feeling especially creative, you could paint a mural or design.
The Benefits of a Rain Barrel
You did it! Now you can sit back and reap the benefits of your DIY home improvement project. This eco-friendly build will help you save on your water bills and reduce the harmful mark we make on the Earth. You can catch 1,300 gallons of water during the summer seasons when plants need watering. Irrigating with collected rainwater can reduce your water bill by as much as 30%.
This is just one more project you can be proud of making with your own two hands and a little know-how. The easy steps will let you build a cheap rain barrel quickly. Are you ready to help the environment through rain collection?
And while we are on the topic of easy projects you can do for green living, make sure you check out my post on how to make a compost bin. Your food waste can be used to refuel your yard instead of causing toxic gas buildups in the landfill. So, after you build your rain barrel, learn how to start an easy compost bin.
Do you collect rainwater at home?
How To Make A DIY Rain Barrel
- Garbage Can with Lid
- Power Drill
- Drill Bit
- Utility Knife
- 1 unit Spigot with Bulkhead Fitting
- 4 inches Thread Seal (PTFE) Tape
- 0.25 ounces Waterproof Silicon Sealent
- 3 sq ft Mesh Screen
- The first step gathering all the supplies and tools you will need.
- To drill the spigot hole, I put the drill bit into my power drill, measured about 4 inches up from the bottom of my barrel, and carefully drilled the hole.
- Drop the bulkhead fitting into the trash can and pushed it through the hole so the washer was up against the inside of the trash can. I applied the thread seal tape to the threaded end of the spigot, wrapping the tape around the spigot about five times. Then I screwed the spigot into the bulkhead, got the spigot to the correct angle, and tightened the nut piece the rest of the way with the help of some pliers.
- The last thing I did was apply a waterproof sealant to the spigot, on both the inside and outside of the garbage can, where the metal meets the plastic.
- You will want to elevate your barrel with cinder blocks for easier watering can access to the spout and to improve the water pressure.
- Once you know where you’re going to place your rain barrel, you’ll be able to see where the downspout is going to meet the barrel. Mark that area off with a sharpie, then use your utility knife to cut the correctly shaped hole into your lid.
- Cut a piece that extends several inches past the edges of your barrel or garbage can on every side. Then put the lid on over the screen to keep it in place.
- Now place your rain barrel underneath your downspout and wait for rain!