Creating a DIY Rain Barrel from Scratch

Rain barrels are an excellent addition to any yard or garden, giving you a way to save up water from natural rainfall while also avoiding flooding or the over-watering of anything below your drains. Even outside of water shortages, it can be a valuable tool to have installed.

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However, it is often cheaper to create your own rain barrel than to buy one, especially if you have most of the materials in your home already. It does not take as long as you might think, and the end result can be a personal, handcrafted rain barrel unique to your own home.

What you Will Need

There are no specific steps that you have to follow when creating a rain barrel, and each one is likely to be different. However, certain tools are required to make this kind of DIY work even possible.

  • A barrel, trash can, or another suitable container
  • A roll of screen (such as a window screen)
  • A water nozzle
  • At least one faucet
  • Cinder blocks, planks, or something else to hold the barrel
  • Scissors
  • A Screwdriver
  • A staple gun
  • A utility knife
  • A rotary cutting tool
  • A shovel
  • A level
  • A set of pliers

If you can work without any of these, or want to use alternative tools, then they can work as well. Just remember that your tools will change the end result of your DIY work, so using the right equipment can make your finished barrel much better.

Locating a Spot

It is important to know where your barrel is going to be placed before you try to create it. This can help you avoid problems like creating a barrel that will not fit under the drain or making one that can’t get close enough to the wall. It also lets you pre-cut the drainage pipes yourself.

Try to choose a drain that receives a lot of rainwater, such as a single drain that is dedicated to one whole half of your home’s roof. This increases your water yield and ensures that the water is not going to flood your yard easily.

There are two ways to prepare a drainpipe – either install a diverter or cut the pipe yourself. How you do this depends on the pipe and barrel you want to use, so take some time to plan it out.

Prepare the Barrel

The barrel (or trash can or whatever container you are planning to use) needs to be properly prepared before you can actually use it. 

The Faucet

First, cut a hole on the side, a few inches from the bottom – this is going to be the place where you install the faucet. Make sure that you have a faucet piece ready, and cut the hole so that it can fit snugly without leaving any gaps. 

You will need to install a metal washer onto the faucet itself, then thread on a rubber washer after that. Insert it into the hole and thread a second rubber washer on the end, then screw a locknut into place so that it stays there. This will seal all of the water inside the can.

Also, consider installing a second faucet higher up the barrel. This can be a good way to quickly release some water in a controlled way if the barrel is overflowing, rather than letting the water pour over the top in every direction.

The Hole

Now, you need a hole actually to get the water into the barrel. You can either cut the entire top off and use a screen (which is often easier but runs the risk of leaves getting through or other debris landing in the water) or cut a hole specifically for the drain.

If you are cutting a hole, then you will want to make sure that it is just big enough for the drain. This can be tricky depending on the design of the barrel, so do not hesitate to mark it out with a pen and cut it open yourself. If you can remove the barrel lid, this becomes even easier.

The Screen

Installing a screen over the top of the barrel ensures that no dirt or debris can get into it, along with anything that might taint the water too much to use it on plants. 

This is not too hard – simply roll your chosen screen (many people use a window screen) across the top, then staple it down with a staple gun and cut off any leftover materials. If you want, you can keep the material scraps to do repairs to the screen later if it tears. 

Installing the Barrel

It is not hard to install a rain barrel once you have created one. Simply fit it underneath the drain downspout, ideally on top of some planks or cinder blocks so that it can be lifted as needed.

Always make sure that the downspout is lined up properly with the hole if you are using a hole rather than just cutting the top off. If it is misaligned, then some of the water might flow out and bounce off the top of the barrel anyway, meaning that you are not collecting nearly as much water.

There is a lot you can do with one of these barrels to personalize them. Some people include a second hole for a stick, which they can plunge into the water to check the current water level, while others might connect a garden hose to one of the faucets permanently.

If you have any materials leftover or have multiple failed rain barrel projects that you need to scrap, then consider one of our dumpster rental options. These can be an incredibly convenient way of removing waste from your home, especially after major DIY work like this.

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