Make a Rain Barrel
This configuration works for folks with or without gutters. Place it under
the eaves, a roof valley or under your downspout. A flexible downspout
adapter can direct your gutter downspout directly into the open top.
Before you start:
Rinse your barrel and let it dry.
Where will you locate the barrel? Where will you use the water?
Where are your downspouts/roof valleys/greatest flow off the eaves?
How high does the spigot need to be in order to access with hose or watering
How can you best use gravity?
Where you will utilize the overflow?
Powercord, if needed
Drill & drill bits
A 1” drill bit for the spigot (a 15/16th will work too)
The biggest drill bit, or hole-saw that you have, for rainwater entrance
Channel-lock pliers, pliers or adjustable wrench
Scissors for the screen
Hole saw for the sump hose. The size depends on the brand of sump hose.
13/8” hole saw for Water Ace Brand (Lowes)
1 ½” hole saw for H2O Brand (Home Depot)
Bungee cord, 48” is easiest, 36” will work
¾” hose bib
1” INSIDE diameter washer.. You can do without this part,
but it is recommended. If you can’t find this washer, use some silicone
caulk. If you use epoxy, be sure that it can be used underwater, and is
safe for potable water.
Teflon plumbers tape.
Sump hose, long enough to send water where you need it, and away from the
foundation of your home
You will have overflow. Think about how you will use that overflow, don’t
let it go to waste.
If you don’t have gutters and will place the barrel under the dripline/eaves
of your roof. The size of your catchment area (how big is your roof) will
determine how much overflow that you will have to deal with. For smaller
catchment areas this works fine:
¾” x ¾” Hose Adapter, Watts # A-665 or # A-680
A Piece of garden hose for overflow. You might have an old, kinky hose
to reuse, or find one in the roadside trash. A hose repair fitting can
be used to make a custom garden hose. The plastic repair fittings work
just as well as the metal ones. Garden shears make it easy to make a clean,
even cut. You can also use a connector for a hose reel…it’s
a short piece of hose with male and female ends.
Use a 1” or 15/16” drill bit
Building the Rain Barrel
Drill a series of holes in the top of your barrel. Use your biggest drill
bit or hole saw. You could remove the entire barrel top, but that might
give access to kids, cats, possums and raccoons. They could drown, so we
need to keep the opening small enough to keep our friends safe.
Do leave the rim intact, as this provides more structural integrity for
It will be helpful to have a helper that will steady the barrel as you
Cut a piece of screen to cover the top of your barrel, with enough overlap
for bungee cord. Put screen aside.
Instead of a bungee cord, you can use screws to affix the screen. This
means a little more trouble to access the inside, but it looks neater.
Instead of holes, use might use a colander, aquatic plant basket or hanging
basket in the top of the barrel. Line it with screen and gravel. This opening
will need a jigsaw to cut the hole.
Lay the barrel on its side
Think about where you want the spigot
Drill a hole for the spigot (hose bib), using a 1” or 15/16th bit.
The spigot should be close to the bottom, just above the curve of the barrel.
Leave enough room for some sediment accumulation, and access for watering
can or hose.
Building the Rain Barrel, continued
Screw in the 3/4” hose bibb. This threads the hole. You may need
to use pliers.
Back out the hose bibb, then wrap the threads with silicone tape. Once
around is enough. Always wrap the tape away from the direction of the turn,
or it will bunch up when you screw it in. If this happens, clean off the
tape, and try again.
Insert the hose bibb through your metal washer.
Screw the hose bibb into the 1” hole. The washer will end up on the
outside of your barrel. It will give some stability to the hose bibb. Be
careful to keep the fit flush.
Think about which side you will want to utilize the overflow.
Use this overflow. Direct it to a rain garden, thirsty plants, or other
needy area. Don’t send this to you neighbor’s yard, impervious
areas, or the storm drain.
The overflow will be the maximum level at which your barrel will hold water.
Allow room for the bungee cord and screen that will cover the top of your
Under a gutter downspout or roof valley:
Drill a hole for the sump hose. The size depends on the brand of sump
Crimp the hose and insert into the barrel. No fitting required. It’s
inexpensive and simple.
Using the screen that you cut earlier, cover the top of you rain barrel.
Secure the screen with a bungee cord. Trim as needed.
Congratulations! You have completed your rain barrel.
Your barrel should be located on a sturdy, level surface. Elevating on
blocks allows for better flow and easier access to the spigot. The area
that you will water must be lower than the rain barrel, or you can use
A full barrel weighs over 400lbs., be sure that it cannot tip over. Also
be sure that the base is very strong and stable. Most decks are not designed
for such a load in a small space. If you place the rain barrel on your
deck, the deck will need to be reinforced.
The screen should exclude mosquitoes and debris. If mosquitoes gain access,
drain the water and find their access. Mosquito dunks may also be used.
Mosquito dunks are a disease selected to kill only mosquitoes. Be sure
that your dunks are made with Bacillus thuringiensis, not chemical insecticides.
Do not use other insecticides.
Water from your rain barrel is not for human consumption. Using harvested
rainwater for potable water requires a more sophisticated system. Animal
droppings on your roof can contaminate rainwater.
Your new Rain Barrel will need some sunscreen. Barrels must not admit
any light, to prevent the growth of algae. While the algae are not harmful,
they can smell bad. Also, the plastic barrel will break down more quickly
when exposed to sunlight. There are several types of paints and primers
formulated to adhere to plastic.
You may connect barrels in series to expand capacity. If connected at
the top, they will fill one by one, and require a spigot per barrel. If
connected at the bottom they will fill at the same time, at the same level,
and will only need one spigot. If connected at the bottom, they should
all be at the same level, or all will fill to the same level as the lowest
Once a year, clean the inside of your barrel. Hose it out and rinse with
vinegar. Consider gutter guards. The cleaner your gutters, the cleaner
the water in your barrel.