Make Your Own Rain Barrel

Collecting and using rain water for your garden is good for the environment and can save you money. This is a guide about harvesting rain.

Green Rain Barrel
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White Rain BarrelMake your own rain barrels with what you have, practically free. My husband asked around at local companies and came up with white plastic barrels. The rest he already had in his shop. He then connected them to our gutters and added a spigot at the bottom, to let gravity feed the water out. He even put screen where the gutter goes into barrel to keep out trash. He connects the water hose to spigot and waters the flowers. We waste less water and always have extra water for the flowers. They don't look bad either, you could paint them if you like. It's been dry in NC and every drop of water saved is an advantage and we don't have to water from our well.

By Wanda from Climax, NC

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Homemade Rain BarrelIf you have a downspout on the side of your house or garage that directs water away from your house, you're potentially letting a big part of your water bill wash down the rain gutter. Just 1 inch of rain on a 1000 sq ft roof yields a whopping 62.3 gallons of water! While this water might not be fit for human consumption, reclaiming it for use on the yard and garden make good financial and environmental sense.

Materials Needed:

  • one 55-gallong or larger barrel
  • window screen
  • bungee cords
  • parts for an outdoor faucet
  • two o-rings
  • electrical nut
  • silicon caulking (optional)
  • plastic downspout (optional)
  • electric drill and an Exacto knife
  • small piece of garden hose
  • two concrete blocks

The total cost for this project is about $50 for materials (assuming you have the drill). This cost can be reduced considerably if you scour re-use centers or junkyards for used parts.


  1. Start by finding yourself a 55-gallon or larger plastic barrel. Try to locate a food-grade barrel or one that has never been used. There are several companies that use plastic barrels and sell them or give them away when they are finished. Check with recycling centers, re-use or industrial material exchange centers or try calling companies direct. There are several companies on the web that sell them (including online auctions), but you can usually find them cheaper locally. Select one without a cover. You're going to make your own.
  2. Once you have your barrel you need to fashion a cover for it. This is essential for keeping out mosquitoes, keeping wildlife safe and filtering out plant debris that washes off your roof when it rains. Make the cover by cutting a piece of window screen large enough to fit across the opening. Cut the screen so that it's at least 1 1/2 times bigger than the mouth of the barrel. Secure the screen to the top of the barrel with the bungee cords. Fit the cords tightly around the lip of the barrel so they hold the screen in place. If you want to, trim off any excess screen with a scissors. Caution: This cover is not designed to keep children out. Never let children play around the rain barrel unattended!
  3. For dispensing water, drill a hole near the bottom of the barrel with an electric drill. This is where you will attach the faucet spigot. Drill a small hole and use an Exacto knife to gradually increase the size in order to fit the faucet. Widen it just to the point where the threaded end of the faucet can be twisted into the hole. Tip: If your faucet is too low to fit a bucket underneath, attach a small piece of garden hose on the end to dispense water more easily.
  4. To seal the area with O-rings, place one on the outside, insert the spigot and place the other one on the inside. Use the electrical nut to secure the O-ring use for the interior. If desired, apply silicon caulking around the area to ensure a tight seal.
  5. Place the concrete blocks side by side and use them to elevate the rain barrel off the ground. Or if you prefer, place the barrel on top of two circular stepping stones. This will not give you as great of water pressure, but it will make the barrel more inconspicuous.
  6. Adjust your downspout to direct water into your rain barrel. If cutting it is not possible or it is hard to work with, purchase a plastic downspout instead.
  7. If you want to try some variations on this design, consider adding a second hole near the top of the barrel for attaching an overflow hose (like the barrel pictured above). You can also add a second hole to the bottom and use a hose to attach a second barrel if you find you need to expand your collection system.

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With all the talk of saving water, I have not seen a suggestion to save rain water. Why let it run into the street? You can buy special rain water savers but why not make your own. Direct your drain spout into a large garbage bin and siphon the water out with a hose to where ever you want to water.

By Ann

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Looking for creative ways to harvest rain. Rain barrels used to be a dime a dozen, but now that environmentalism is all the rage, it has driven the price way up on previously discarded industrial barrels. I'm looking for truly innovative ideas, not just using ready made products like trash cans.

By yoshhash from Windsor, ON

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Any trash can ideas for small pond?

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Read More Answers...

Here is a video that shows you to make you own rain barrel system for harvesting rain water.

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Homemade Rain Barrel

This is the rain barrel we installed last summer. We live in the southwest high desert where it is arid, but we receive summer monsoon rains. By using our rain barrel, we used almost no fresh water on our vegetable garden last year. We bought the 55 gallon barrel from the local flea market for $20. It had held Dr Pepper syrup and smelled good! :-) We bought the faucet parts for a little over $10.

First, cut out the hole in the top, then drill out a hole near the bottom and reach in and attach the faucet parts. There will be a nut on the inside and the faucet on the outside. Run a bead of silicone caulk to make sure nothing leaks. We had the hardware cloth on hand and used small zip ties to attach it. It doesn't keep mosquitoes out, but with three preschoolers in our family, we were more concerned about keeping them out than keeping mosquitoes out. If that isn't a concern for you, you can use window screen for the top.

Our downspout was loose, so we removed the bottom section of pipe, pulled it out from the wall a little, and put the barrel up under it and rested it on some stacked bricks for a gravity flow. I've also seen barrels in my neighborhood with the downspout pipe shortened and directed to flow through the mesh into the barrel.

After the winter thaw and things warmed up, there was a lot of algae growing in the barrel's standing water. The garden plants don't care!

By Katie from Gallup, New Mexico



Homemade Rain Barrel

What a wonderful idea! (06/06/2007)

By imaqt1962

Homemade Rain Barrel

It is a good idea. I wanted to do this but my down spout i just can't get loose without wreaking it. (06/07/2007)

By Joyce wis

Homemade Rain Barrel

I am totally, unequivocably in favor of saving water! Our house is under construction, so no gutters yet, but I do have a little bit of info...

We have purchased barrels for $5 from a car wash supply. Bear in mind that some of the chemicals that were in them are toxic. If possible, go for the ones that just held soap, and then triple rinse (at least!)

With West Nile being the problem that it is, could you add window screen over the hardware cloth? Also, if you never drain it completely, adding a couple of inexpensive goldfish to eat the mosquito larvae and algae can be very beneficial.

Speaking of algae, I have learned the hard way that some kinds can cause serious damage to animals, so be careful if you've got an accumulation, that animals (and kids) can't get into the water for a drink.

We used to live on a farm where the older couple who homesteaded it were the very definition of "thrifty". They had gutters set up on a small barn, and by moving one piece to different tanks, we could fill up three horse water tanks with a total capacity of about 900 gallons. Considering that the well water was no good and all water had to be hauled from town, that made a HUGE difference. Most people don't realize that the amount of water that comes off a normal roof in a normal rain is incredible! (06/07/2007)

Homemade Rain Barrel

The mosquito issue is easily resolved by putting a couple of 29 cent feeder goldfish in the barrel to live. They'll take care of any bugs. (06/07/2007)

By Marna

Homemade Rain Barrel

We're just getting ready to do this at our house. Thank you so much for the instructions and the pictures. (06/08/2007)

By susanmajp

Homemade Rain Barrel

What happens when the barrel is full? Do you just let the water over flow? (09/03/2008)

By Tim

Homemade Rain Barrel

We've built over a dozen rain barrels and put together a website to help people through the process. Please feel free take a look at where you will find thorough construction information and tips, rainfall calculator, water safety discussion, and more. Happy watering! (10/07/2008)

By Becca

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Home and Garden Gardening IrrigationApril 4, 2012
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