What’s a great way to conserve on water this summer? Collect water in a rain barrel and use it for watering your potted plants, flowers, vegetable garden, or even your lawn. Not only are rain barrels friendly to the environment, they’re easy and economical to make on your own. Using one can also help to reduce utility bills. Experts calculate that you can collect up to 300 gallons of water for every inch of rain that falls on 500 square feet of roof, which can add up to more than 1,000 gallons of water a year. Thank those rain clouds for that big gulp!
How to Build a Rain Barrel
Rain barrels come in all shapes and sizes and can be made easily from plastic drums or trashcans. Some even include a garden pot on the top for planting flowers, which makes for an attractive water feature. Here’s what you’ll need to make a rain barrel:
- Large 55-gallon plastic garbage can or barrel with lid
- Tube of watertight sealant, roll of Teflon tape or Silicone caulk
- 2 rubber washers and 2 metal washers
- 2” male and 2” female threaded electrical PVC conduit adapter with a threaded coupler
- Sections of 2” PVC pipe
- Hose clamp
- Unions, reducers and valves
- Landscaping fabric or screen
- Cordless drill
- Hole saw
- 4×4 treated lumber and construction screws or stainless steel lags or stepping stones to stack for rain barrel stand
Step 1: Drill Hole
Drill a hole near the bottom of the barrel for a spigot. Leave enough space under the hole to place a watering can underneath it.
Step 2: Insert Spigot
Place a metal washer onto the threaded end of spigot, then put a rubber washer over the threads to help hold the washer in place. A bead of waterproof sealant or watertight Teflon tape applied over the rubber washer will prevent leakage. Insert the spigot into the hole. If using sealant, let it dry and put a rubber washer, then a metal washer onto the spigot threads inside the barrel, securing it in place with the hose clamp. This helps to keep the spigot from coming loose.
Step 3: Make Entry and Exit Holes
Your rain barrel will sit under the gutter downspout. With a saw, cut a hole in the lid, large enough to accommodate the largest water flow, so it runs right into the barrel. Next, drill a couple of holes near the very top of the rain barrel, for any overflow to run onto the ground. To conserve even more water, connect two rain barrels by placing a short length of hose or PVC pipe from the overflow hole to the other rain barrel, so any excess water will run into it, reducing loss of overflow water.
This step can also be accomplished using PVC pipe. Cut holes in the barrel bottom with a hole saw. Then screw in a 2” male threaded electrical PVC conduit adapter. Bead silicone caulk around the opening and screw on a threaded electrical PVC coupler. Next, glue together sections of 2” PVC pipe, unions, reducers and valves. As long as you’re at it, install an overflow pipe so you can direct the excess where you want it.
Step 4: Seal Top
To create a debris and insect barrier, cut a piece of landscaping fabric or tight screen and mount it to the inside of the lid, then put the lid over the top of the rain barrel to secure.
Step 5: Position Rain Barrel
- To use a watering can,place your new rain barrel directly underneath the downspout in a way that’s easy for you to fill the watering cans.
- To use a hose, wand or spray nozzle, elevate the barrel on a stand for more water pressure. Build a platform out of wood or stack stepping-stones and place the platform underneath the downspout and put the rain barrel on top of it.
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