Even though rain barrels are pretty much all the same concept, each one tends to be put together in its own way. This is my DIY rain barrel. There are many others like it, but this one is mine.
It’s made from a food-grade barrel. There’s a dude off the highway, just outside town–I don’t know what he does for a living, but his driveway is filled with neatly-organized stacks of barrels, from 5-gallon all the way up to 275-gallon. You drive up, check out the prices written in grease pencil on each barrel, load up what you want, put the payment for it in his mailbox, and drive away with your treasure.
This particular barrel is 55 gallons with two bung caps (remember those bung caps. They’re important!).
It sits on cinderblocks. Honestly, this is the first thing that you want to do: set your rain barrel up on cinderblocks. Cinderblocks are crucial to the water’s gravity feed, and the height will affect where you cut your downspout. You’ll see that my rain barrel sits on two sets of cinderblocks, because I’ve put my spigot at the bottom of the barrel, not the side.
It’s upside-down. Remember those bung holes at the top of the barrel? Well, my partner brilliantly decided that a bung hole would make the perfect pre-cut hole to fit in a PVC spout with a spigot attached. The spout’s placement at the bottom of the barrel means that we can drain out every last drop of rainwater for our garden!
Drill through the bung cap (or use your screwdriver to hack a hole–whatever works), then attach, in the following order, a 3/4″x1/4″ PVC reducer, straight pipe cut to the length that you desire, a 3/4″ 45-degree elbow, another section of straight pipe, and a 3/4″ ball valve at the end.
NOTE: These were purchased at our local hardware store, but check out the links to see what you’re looking for.
It’s got a window screen to keep out the mosquitoes. My biggest fear about my rain barrel was that it would be a mosquito incubator; this window screening seems to keep them out (and you can use the excess to make paper!):
Cut the downspout with a handsaw, then slide on the flexible downspout extension (put a couple of screws in it so that it won’t slide off).
For the barrel, start with a cleanout that’s larger than the downspout (about 2.5″ diameter), then play around with the placement of the flexible downspout extension until you know where you want it to flow into the barrel. Trace around the cleanout with a Sharpie at that spot, then cut out that circle with whatever the heck you’ve got that can cut it–it’s hard! My partner alternated a drill with a Dremel, and it was. Not. Fun.
Place window screening over the hole in the barrel, then push the cleanout in the hole, wedging the window screening in place in the process. You can then trim away any excess screening.
You can see the cleanout’s cap in the photo above, sitting next to the cleanout. In dry times, we can put the cap on to reduce evaporation from the barrel. If the window screen ever gets clogged, we can also simply lift out the cleanout, brush the litter off of the screen, and replace it.
It does not have an overflow (oh, no!): I know that an overflow is a biggie, but so far, I haven’t had a problem with too much water in the barrel, so I’ve got some time to figure out how I want to engineer the overflow, and where I want the excess to go… drip irrigation for my lavender plants and my fruit tree, perhaps?
It WILL be decorated! Even though this made my partner groan out loud and rub his eyes wearily when I declared this, I fully plan to paint a diagram of the water cycle onto the front of my rain barrel.
I’ll show it to you when it’s done, so that you can admire it along with me.