Rain barrels can be an efficient way to save water. Just as the name suggests, this invention can literally store rainwater inside a barrel, which can later on be used to water your garden, your yard, or even wash your car. It is basically like a supply of free water that doesn’t contain any chlorine, being perfect for plant care. There are plenty of rain barrels that you can buy, but if you’re interested in saving money, a DIY project is just what you need.
Why Make a Rain Barrel?
That sounds like an unnecessary way to occupy the weekend, doesn’t it? Rain barrels are highly underestimated until you realize how much water you could be saving, particularly if you live in an area with plenty of rain. What do people do with a rain barrel, you ask?
- They water their plants, because water, sun, and healthy soil are the three most important elements in making a garden look its best. Rainwater doesn’t contain any chlorine, and it’s basically the type of water than nature intended plants to benefit from.
- The water that people use to water their yards or garden amount for about 30 percent of the household’s consumption. With a rain barrel, you can decrease outdoor water consumption.
- While you should never drink rainwater, you can use it to take a refreshing shower. Consider this: during hot summers, the water inside the barrel will most likely warm up to a temperature you’d be comfortable with them showering. If you attach a hose to your shower, you have natural warm water, to at least soak up those dirty feet (we know you’ve been walking barefoot in the yard again!).
- You can also use the water inside the rain barrel for cleaning other stuff: like your garden tools, your driveway, or your car.
What You’ll Need
In order to make your own inexpensive rain barrel, you will need the following:
- One plastic garbage can with lid (feel free to use the cheapest one you can find)
- Hose bib/spigot (you should opt for one that doesn’t contain any lead).
- Utility knife
- One 1/2-inch washer
- Drill with 1/2″ spade bit
- Two flat washers for ½ inch opening
- One pack of locknuts
- One rubber O-ring for ½ inch diameter
- Four zip ties
- Clear silicone caulk
- Six cinder blocks
- Caulk gun
- 3/8 inch drill bit
Now that we have a list of everything you’ll need for this project, it’s time to set aside one free Saturday afternoon and work on your new rain barrel. In the steps listed below, we tried to simplify the process so that everyone could understand how easy this DIY project is. We’ve also included some ideas of potential upgrades, one that could make your barrel look like something installed by a pro.
Step One: The Cinder Blocks
- The first step implies elevating the barrel up to a point where the bottom side of the downspout can reach the hole you cut in the lid at the previous step.
- You will first need to level out the area where the cinder blocks will be placed, to give the barrel a flat surface to stand on.
- Depending on how high the barrel needs to be placed, put cinder blocks on the ground to make sure that the barrel is at the appropriate height. Two stacks of cinderblocks should typically suffice, but again, this is something that depends from one case to another.
Step Two: The Spigot
- First thing’s first: you have to determine where to place the spigot. Generally speaking, it can go a few inches above the base, to make sure that no sediments from the bottom of the barrel will clog it. About two or three inches from the bottom should do the trick.
- Use the spade bit to drill a hole exactly where you want to place the spigot.
Step Three: Making the seal
- Use a caulk bead under the washer for a tight seal. Load the caulking gun with white or clear silicone and then gently make a circle of caulk around the opening you’ve drilled.
- Grab the O-ring and the washer, place them at the end of the spigot, and screw them all in the barrel hole.
Step Four: Secure inside
- Using a locknut and another thing bead of silicone, secure the spigot on the inside of the barrel. This ensures the spigot isn’t going to pop out from the pressure, but also seals the opening from leaks.
Step Five: The lid
- Take the lid and flip it upside down on the barrel. Set it in place.
- Using your 3/8 drill bit, drill a good number of holes in the center. This will help filter the rainwater from leaves and small animals falling in and contaminating the water.
Step Six: Secure the lid
- Using the same 3/8-inch drill bit, drill a couple of holes through the rim of the lid into the rim of the barrel.
- Then take your zip ties and secure the lid in place. Some people might only do one side so they can easily lift the lid to clean inside, but I live in a super windy area so I’m securing both sides. Zip ties are fairly cheap, so I’ll just cut one side if I ever need to access inside the barrel.
And there you have it! Your very own DIY rainwater barrel to use in your garden or backyard. Pretty easy, right? At first, I thought this would be far more difficult than it was, but once I had all my tools and supplies in place, it really only took about half an hour from start to finish.
Tip: let the silicone dry for a few days before letting the barrel fill up with water. If you’re expecting rain, then move it inside the garage or under shelter for the time being.
Creating your own DIY rain barrel is a great way to save money and take pride in one more project you’ve made with your own two hands. The steps are fairly easy to follow, and all the pieces that you need to put the final product together are extremely affordable.
Even if you move really slow, it should only take a few hours to finish this, which includes time to go shopping for all your supplies. If you’re convinced that a rain barrel is useful, but you feel it would ruin the whole aspect of your year, feel free to paint it however you want or cover the cinder blocks with a wooden enclosure. And be sure to share pictures of your project below!