How to Make a Rain Barrel

Before Building Your Barrel

Determine the best location for your water recycling system by considering the following:

  • How will you be using your harvested rain water for plants, washing vehicles?
    • Will you require individual barrels at different locations around your home?
    • Will you transport your water with water can or soaker hose?
  • Look at your downspouts and evaluate your environment
    • Is the ground level near your downspout?
    • Can you build a platform for your barrel with cinder blocks?
    • Is there enough space for multiple barrels?
    • Will you require flexible downspout attachments?
  • How many barrels will you need?
    • Obtain 55-gallon drums from your local car wash, dairy farmer, or food producer.
    • Refurbish the containers to eliminate any toxicity by rinsing your barrel out thoroughly, avoid using bleach, as it is environmentally harmful. For an environmentally safe soap solution use 2 teaspoons of castile soap and 2 teaspoons of vinegar or lemon juice for every gallon of water used to clean your barrel.

Gather Your Supplies
We used the following tools/supplies:

  • Electric jig-saw - used to cut the top off our barrel
  • Electric drill - to drill holes for spigot and runoff
  • 1 inch drill bit
  • 1 + inch hole saw
  • Screen Retainer Spline

And purchased the following parts:

  • 1 + Discharge Hose
  • Faucet/Spigot - + inch hose bibb
  • 1 inch Flat washer (2)
  • + inch Conduit Nuts
  • Flexible window screen (fiberglass) 30ft x 84ft
  • 1 + threaded elbow to barb
  • Silicone Caulk

Constructing Your Barrel

  1. Taking the Top - Off Wear eye protection! Start cutting with your jig-saw about an inch or so in from the barrel edge. Since the material gets pretty thick near the edges, try not to rest the side of the foot on the barrel surface, making the blade slant toward the outside and into that thicker material. We chose a topless design to make it possible to get at the inside for cleaning, to allow flexibility of the placement of your downspout and to allow rain to flow without blockage. Smaller openings are more likely to get covered with leaves and debris, causing spillover. Use a blade or a file to clean up the plastic burrs from the edges of this hole.
  2. Installing the Faucet - Measure about 2 inches above the bottom of the barrel where the curvature along the bottom rim ends and the barrel side begins to rise toward the top. *Before drilling your hole you may want to practice on the lid. Drill a hole using your 1 inch spade bit. Thread the hole by carefully screwing the faucet into the hole you drilled. The metal will cut threads into the soft plastic of the barrel. Carefully unscrew the faucet. Apply the big washer on the faucet you will have a washer on the inside and outside of the barrel. Circle each washer with a thin bead of caulk. Carefully thread the faucet/washer into the hole. Secure with the + inch conduit nut. The washer and nut together strengthen the barrel around the faucet area and keep the faucet from moving relative to the plastic. Get a hand with tightening the nut. While one person holds the faucet in place on the outside of the barrel, another can use pliers to tighten the nut on the inside.
  3. Prepare the Overflow - Before drilling your overflow hole, consider itÆs placement relative to your existing downspout. They should be aligned. Toward the top of the barrel, drill a hole using your 1 + inch hole saw - you may need to file the hole for the elbow to thread properly. Thread the elbow barb into the hole and hold it in position with one hand on the outside of the barrel while you attach the 1 + inch conduit nut to the inside of the barrel. Apply the hose to the barb.
  4. Finish the top - Cut screen with two inches of excess around the opening. Secure the screen to the barrel with rope.

    Multiple Barrel Connection - Some designs have just a hose connection on the barrel using a barb connectors to chain barrels. If you're going to hook up a second (or third) barrel to the first one, make another threaded hole for the connection to another barrel, if you wish, and insert the hose barb there. Since the connections between barrels aren't stressed as much as the faucet, washers are unnecessary here.

    Elevating the rain barrel
    The rain barrel is designed to take advantage of gravity. Therefore, place the barrel on cinder blocks or a sturdy wooden crate at least 15 inches from the ground.
    55 gallons of water weighs over 450 pounds; make sure your support is strong.