As I’ve mentioned before, harvesting rainwater at home is a great way to save money, save water, and keep your yard or garden looking great.
And although you can buy some pretty nice-looking rain catchers from Gardener’s Supply, you can also make your own—even if you’re not all that handy.
Trust me. If I can do it, you can do it. And I did, thanks to a build your own rain barrel workshop last summer at the Ecology Action Center in Bloomington, IL.
For this week’s Green Around the House Challenge, I’m giving you the scoop on how I built the rain barrel so you can too, after hunting down a food-grade plastic barrel and a few other supplies at your local hardware store.
- One food-grade 55-gallon plastic barrel
- ½-inch female sillcock (spigot)
- Two #15 O-rings (little black rubber rings)
- ¾-inch flat washer (we used grade 8)
- ½-inch brass pipe nipple (this is the threaded pipe that passes through the barrel and connects to the spigot/sillcock)
- ½-inch brass lock nut
- Downspout adaptor
- ¾-inch pan head screws
- Hacksaw or jigsaw or sabresaw or Sawz-All
- 4-inch hole saw
- 7/8-inch hole saw
- 1¾-inch hole saw
1. Use the 4-inch hole saw to cut a hole in the top of the barrel for your downspout.
2. Use a 7/8-inch hole saw to cut a hole 3 inches up from the bottom of the barrel for your spigot/sillcock.
3. Also use the 7/8-inch hole saw to cut a hole about 2 to 3 inches from the top of the barrel. This will be at the narrow part of the barrel and is where you will start to cut off the top of the barrel with your saw.
4. Use the hacksaw or jigsaw or sabresaw to remove the top of the barrel.
5. Wipe any residual oil or liquid from the barrel. (We used newspapers to absorb the liquid. It worked well but it can get incredibly messy.)
6. Use the 1 ¾-inch hole saw to cut a hole about 2 inches below the open top of the barrel. This will be for the overflow.
7. Screw the pipe nipple into the spigot/sillcock.
8. Place an O-ring on the pipe nipple, as close to the sillcock as possible.
9. Push the pipe nipple through the outside of the barrel to the inside. The spigot/sillcock is now outside, with the pipe nipple inside.
10. Have someone hold the spigot outside while you place an O-ring on the pipe nipple inside the barrel.
11. Place the metal washer over the pipe nipple.
12. Thread the brass lock nut (or the steel conduit locknut) over the pipe nipple. Tighten it by hand as far as possible. Tighten another 1.5 turns with a wrench to secure it.
13. Take the 4-inch plastic disc that you cut out of the top of the barrel and use a saw to cut it in fourths, like a piece of pie.
14. Screw the pieces to the sides of the barrel near the top, with at least 1 inch protruding above the barrel.
15. Place the lid of the barrel back on the barrel. The little plastic pieces will keep it centered. The lid usually only fits one way; line that up by referring to the hole you drilled near the top of the barrel when you cut off the top.
After your rain barrel is complete, all you have to do is position it near your downspout. It’s a good idea to stack some bricks beneath the barrel so it’s raised off the ground—this makes it easier to get to the spigot when it's time to hook up the hose or fill up your watering can.
Depending on where you position your rain barrel, overflow may be a concern. If you don’t want all that excess water shooting out the overflow hole you drilled in your barrel, you can place the male connector end of a sump pump hose, pointing outward, into the overflow hole at the top of the barrel. A trap adaptor will secure it to the inside of the barrel. The sump pump hose will connect to the outside of the barrel.
Another option is to purchase a downspout diverter, like this one from Garden Water Saver. That’s what I did, only the gutter wasn’t very cooperative and, to be honest, I’m not sure that it’s a very reliable setup. So I may be going back and drilling that overflow hole, then sticking with the original downspout adaptor after all. We’ll see—the rain we’re expecting this weekend will be the test.
If you’re looking for more step-by-step info on making a rain barrel, watch Sherry & John in action over at This Young House as they build their own. Or search online—there are plenty of other ways creative folks have made their own rain barrels.
The Home Know-It-All