How to build an inexpensive rain barrel...rain collection

I have been wanting a rain barrel for a very long time.  In fact it was on my wish list for my birthday.  Although I have desperatly wanted one, the cost always outweighs the want.  The suckers are expensive!  I find it difficult to spend $100-$300 for a plastic barrel with a hole in the top and a valve at the bottom. 

Maybe there are extra special features that would justify the cost, I simply haven't found them yet.

So I decided to make my own.  Total cost under $25. 

Here are the tools that I used:

  • A drill 
  • 8 stainless steel washers  
  • A screen (I used screen taken from an old window) 
  • A tape measure or ruler would work just fine
  • A sharpee 
  • Carpenters knife 
  • 4 stainless steel bolts (always use stainless steel to prevent rusting) 
  • 4 stainless steel nuts 
  • A brass faucet and some sort of bulk head fitting or connector to attach the faucet
  • All weather sealant or plumbers putty.
  • Gaskets to fit around the connector 
  • Optional items, large washer to offer stability to the faucet and screens for the connector.

***Side note.  The connector that I used is located directly under the washers in this picture.  The hardware store where I purchased these items did not have the exact connector I needed in the plumbing section.  They did have a plastic connector in the electric section what would work just fine.  I love improvising. 

Most importantly, a garbage can with lid.  This one cost $13.

The idea is to have the down spout rest on top of the lid of the garbage can.  Where the downspout will rest, an opening will be needed for the water to enter the barrel.  Begin by marking and cutting the area that you would like to place the opening.  This is where the ruler or straight edge will come in handy. 

The design of my lid limited the areas that I could effectivly place the screen.  I decided to place it diretly in the middle.  

Ok, I know it isn't pretty but it is all about function here not aesthetics.  Anyway, I left the center cross to help support the screen that I would be placing over the opening.  The screen will help eliminate debris and bugs from entering the water.

Next pre-drill the holes for the bolts. I drilled 4 holes for each corner of the screen.  For ease in assembly, drill or cut a hole in the screen in the exact bolt hole locations.

Place the screen over the opening and line up the drill hole locations.  Next place a washer on the bolt and push or screw into the hole location.  Secure on the other side with a washer and nut.  I suppose you can place the screen on the inside as well.  I was just worried that a piece of unnoticed debris may weigh it down and cause the screen to gap and leave exposed holes.  Again, it is all about function and not aesthetics.  

At this point, the top is complete.

Moving on to the barrel.  You will want to cut a hole towards the bottom of the barrel.  Use the portion of the connector that will go through the barrel as a guide.  I used a utility knife to cut the hole as the drill didn't want to cooperate.  The hole looks crude but works just fine.

Now place the connector through the hole.  At this point you may want to use some sort of plumbers putty or all weather sealant to seal around the hole.  Otherwise, once the barrel becomes full, the pressure from the water may cause a small drip around the opening. 

Screw the faucet on and what do you know, You have a rain barrel.

Now all I need to do is finish the green house and install a gutter to utilize my new rain barrel.  We have had a very wet summer so I'm not in a hurry to have it installed. 

If you create your rain barrel, I would love to see your creation or improvements on what I have shown.

***Update 1 year later- My husband added some additional plumbing tape around the thread and gaskets to help seal  around the connector.  We have the garbage can about 3/4 full of rain water and we haven't seen a drip around the opening.  I can't tell you how incredibly wonderful it has been to have this.  Also, I have noticed no increase bug activity around it.  I believe the wire mesh on top has helped to prevent any insect gathering or breeding.  Also, we placed bricks in the bottom of the barrel to help weigh it down when the water level is low.  We placed the barrel in a high wind area and we haven't had any trouble with it blowing away.
2 Responses
  1. Jester Says:

    What a great idea! I've been wanting one as well, and didn't for the same reasons. Unfortunately its been very dry here & it would be really nice to have a rain barrel to get any extra water I can!
    Thanks for such a cool & affordable idea!

  2. @Jester We have had a very wet season here. I haven't had to water my garden once and July is almost over! I wish you all the luck if you decide to build one and if you have any improvements on what I did above please feel free to share. Have a great day!

I would love to hear from you!