So you’ve got your vegetable garden planted, flowers growing, and your compost pile started and now you need to water all those plants! By using a rain barrel you can use rainwater to water your garden and lawn for free! What’s better than that? While free water is great, be ready to invest some time and effort. Making a rain barrel can be tricky and involves some tools. Still, pre-made rain barrels can cost $100 or more, so it’s worth it.
Make a rain barrel for cheap
What you’ll need
- 1 Barrel
- 1 tube of watertight sealant or roll of Teflon tape for plumbing
- 2 rubber washers
- 2 metal washers
- 1 hose clamp
- 1 spigot
- 1 hose connector with two threaded sides
- A drill
- Landscaping fabric
- Cinder blocks (optional)
Step 1: Find a Barrel
When looking for a barrel, a 55 gallon or larger is best. According to different sites the HDPE barrel with two screws in the top of the barrel is very cheap to buy and works great. You can usually find them for cheap on craigslist and sometimes can get them for free at restaurants, car washes, or recycling centers. If you’re not sure where to look googling “food grade barrels” in your area would be a good place to start. If you can’t find one any barrel with a cover or even a trash can will work. You’ll want to make sure the barrel wasn’t previously hold something toxic, but otherwise use any barrel you can find for cheap.
Step 2: Clean Your Barrel
Depending on what your barrel used to hold, the container could have leftover residue that would make it smell or harm your plants. For new barrels, you can simply house it down or if you’d like, you can clean the barrel using dish soap and water.
Step 3: Drill a Hole for Spigot
Roll the barrel on it’s side and use your drill to create a hole near the bottom of your barrel. This is where you’ll insert your spigot.You’ll want to use a drill size a little smaller than the head of your spigot. Also, make sure the hole isn’t too low because you’ll need to have room to fill your watering can.
Step 4: Place and Seal Spigot
Take one of the metal washers and place it onto the threaded end of spigot. Next, take a rubber washer and place it over the threads to help hold the washer in place. This will also help to prevent leakage. Next, apply a bead of waterproof sealant over the washer and insert the spigot into your drilled hole. Once the sealant is dry, run rubber clamp and a metal washer onto the threads of the spigot inside the barrel. Make sure the spigot is secure by using a hose clamp inside the barrel. The hose clamp will keep your spigot from coming loose.
Step 5: Entry Hole
Next, drill an entry hole into the top of your barrel. This is where the water will enter the barrel and should be placed directly under your downspout. You’ll want to make sure this hole is large enough to fit the water flow from the downspout.
Step 6: Overflow Hole/Valve
After drilling the entry hole you’ll also have to drill to allow for overflow. This hole should be near the very top of your barrel. If you’d like you can also insert an overflow valve, but it’s not necessary. You can create an overflow valve by taking a house connector with two threaded sides and inserting it into the whole. Once the rain barrel is in place you can screw a hose onto the overflow valve to direct overflow wherever you’d like it to go. Some people like to have to rain barrels with overflow going into the additional barrel. Do what works for you!
Step 7: Keep Out Pests
Place a piece of landscaping fabric over the top of the barrel before placing the lid. This will prevent mosquitos, leaves, and other debris from coming into contact with your rain water. If you’d prefer you can also use a window screen for the same results.
Step 8: Place Cinderblocks/Barrel
In order to get the most out of your rain barrel you’ll want to place it on a platform of some kind. This helps to give you more water pressure if you decide to connect your barrel to a house. Use 2-6 cinderblocks to create a platform for you rain barrel. You may have to rearrange your barrel/downspout to get the appropriate set up. And you’re done!
This may seem like a lot of work, but you should be able to get it done in an hour or even 30 minutes or less. Making your rain barrel will be well worth the investment in the future.