If you have gutters on your house, and you also have flowerbeds, a backyard garden, or even just some potted plants, you really should have a rain barrel too! A rain barrel sits under one of the downspouts connected to your gutters, so the rain water that falls onto your roof is diverted into the barrel. 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. And aside from being good for your wallet, rain barrels are also good for the planet! Especially in regions that are currently suffering from periods of drought, collecting and using the water from your rain barrel can be a great way to conserve a precious resource.
I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that making your own rain barrel is actually REALLY easy! 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! :-)
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Disclaimer: Rainwater collection is prohibited in some areas. Check with your local authorities.
So here’s what you’ll need to make your own rain barrel…
- Garbage can with a lid, or a water barrel
- Spigot kit with bulkhead fitting
- Power drill, and a drill bit matching the size of hole needed for your spigot
- Thread seal tape (also called PTFE tape)
- Waterproof silicone sealant
- Mesh screening material
- Utility knife
Once you have your garbage can or water barrel picked out, the next step is probably the trickiest (but 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 size of 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, just to have one that I was going to use once.)
So 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. I highly recommend getting this kit (or something like it) because it made the whole process a breeze!
To drill the hole for my spigot, I put the drill bit into my power drill, measured about 4 inches up from the bottom of my trash can, and carefully drilled the hole.
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 5 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 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.
Now that my rain barrel had a functioning spigot, it also needed a lid. Having an uncovered container of standing water in your yard is basically an open invitation for all kinds of creepy crawlies and pests to breed there, so we really want to keep that from happening! Luckily, you can keep out most pests with just a couple of easy preventative measures.
First, you’ll want to cut a small hole 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 hole into your lid.
The final piece of the puzzle is the screen. Most bugs will be deterred by a simple piece of mesh screening, like the kind you’d find on a screen door. Rolls of this material can be found at most hardware stores, and online too. Cut a piece that hangs a few inches over the edges of your barrel or garbage can, then put the lid in place over the screen to keep it in place.
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! :-)
(Note: To make it easier to fit your watering can underneath your spigot, you can raise your barrel up a few extra inches by making a platform using bricks or cinderblocks.)