How to make your own rain barrel
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Close-up of conduit adapters
Use a 2-in. male threaded electrical (gray
PVC) conduit adapter and a 2-in. female threaded conduit adapter to make a watertight hole from which the rainwater can flow.
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Install a large valve to quickly fill watering
cans and a smaller valve for a garden hose.
Secure the valves to the cross brace with
It's pretty easy to build
your own rain barrels from plastic
drums or trash cans. Search online for “bottles” or “containers”
to find an “open head” plastic 55-gallon
drum with a cover (about $60). Or
find a used barrel by talking to car
wash managers (they buy soap and wax
by the barrel). If you can't find a container
you like, buy a large, heavy-duty
garbage can (about $35) at a home center.
All the other plumbing parts will
add up to about $40.
Place the drum near a downspout,
drill a hole in the side near the bottom
and screw in a drain valve. That's an
OK installation if you plan to run a
soaker hose to your garden. But if you
want to use a wand or a spray nozzle,
you'll need to elevate the barrel on a
stand for more water pressure. Water is
heavy (55 gallons weighs 440 lbs.), so
use 4x4 treated lumber for the legs and
secure everything with construction
screws or stainless steel lags. But don't
place the stand on soft ground. You
could kill somebody if the rig toppled
over. If you have large gardens and
want to store more water, double-size
the stand and add a second barrel.
Cut holes in the bottoms of the barrels
with a 2-1/4-in. hole saw. Then screw in
a 2-in. male threaded electrical (gray
PVC) conduit adapter (electrical
adapters aren't tapered like plumbing
adapters, so you can tighten them down
all the way). Squirt a thin bead of silicone
caulk around the opening and
screw on a threaded electrical PVC coupler to cinch the barrel between the
two fittings (see Figure A). Next, glue
together sections of 2-in. PVC pipe,
unions (to make winter disassembly
easier), reducers and valves. As long as
you're at it, install an overflow pipe so
you can direct the excess where you
Finally, cut a hole in one of the covers
and mount a screen to filter out leaves
and debris. Then just wait for the next big rain.
Figure A: Trash Can Rain Barrels
You can make cheap, functional rain
barrels with trash cans and simple PVC
plumbing and electrical conduit fittings.
Line up as many as you need to meet
your watering needs.