March 14, 2011

How to Make a Rain Barrel

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One flower bed next to our deck gets zero-zilch-nada water from our sprinkler system.  It’s also a very hot area in the summer, where the sun bounces off the side of the house.

But luckily, there IS a downspout that drains right into this bed, so to put this downspout to better use, I decided I needed a rain barrel.

Like this one for $175:
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Or this one for $150:
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Yeeeeeeah….NO.  They’re too rich for my blood.  So I set out to make my own.

 Here’s how I did it:

I found a valve at Lowe’s that allowed for a nut to screw onto each side of the portion which will be installed into the barrel.  I won’t go into the details of all the ideas we tossed around before we settled on this, but suffice it to say that if we could’ve found rubber washers with a large enough center opening, it would’ve been a much faster trip to the store!

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Little tip:  make sure the valve you get has a notch on each side for screws – otherwise the entire valve could turn when you turn the handle.

Next, I bought a plastic trash can with a lid:

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I also bought a flexible downspout attachment.

To keep leaves and debris out of the barrel, I cut a hole in the lid of the trash can and used silicone to glue a piece of hardware cloth (fencing type material) to the underside of the hole.

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I find my d├ęcor (pillar candles, here) to be quite functional when trying to glue things.

Winking smile

But then….believe it or not, the silicone didn’t stick.  I still don’t really “get” silicone.  I’ve never once seen it advertised as an “adhesive” but yet everybody and their brother at Home Depot point to it as some kind of miracle glue.

I tried it.  It totally failed.  I moved on to using Gorilla Glue.  It worked a little better….but I suspect it will eventually peel right off the plastic as well and I’ll have to resort to some kind of mechanical way to attach the screen.

So then I thought I was done with the lid.

But I wasn’t.  I totally spaced the mosquito issue…..so I grabbed some old screen fabric and hot glued that behind the hardware cloth.  We’ll see how it holds up.  (I was too impatient to do Gorilla Glue again.)

Next, I cut a hole (using a razor blade) as close to the bottom of the can as possible.  I inserted the valve, applied silicone to both sides of the threaded area and tightened the nuts on each side.  (You can see an “X” on the can where I took it outside and determined the minimum height the valve would need to be to clear the top of the landscape edging – I can always tip it to drain the water level below that point.)

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The only problem is because there are no screws to hold the valve in place, as soon as I tried to turn the handle, the whole valve turned in the hole and (stupid silicone) pulled the silicone seal away from the plastic.  Grr! Silicone!  Why can’t you be the miracle adhesive/caulk you’re supposed to be!!!

At this point, I thought the seal was shot and I’d have to start over.  But when I took it outside and filled the barrel with water, there were no leaks.  The jury is still out, but I’ll keep an eye on it and redo the seal later if I need to.

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Now my rain barrel is done!  To install it, I used a hack saw to cut off our downspout high enough that the barrel would stand under it with space to spare.  Then I attached the flexible downspout thingamajig and pointed it at the mesh opening.

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I still need to move the downspout brackets up higher on the siding:

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I was afraid the downspout wouldn’t stay in place, so I used some wire to attach it to the hardware cloth.

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Finally, I leveled an area next to the house and put it in place.

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DUNZO. BOOM.  A rain barrel.  For $8 (valve)+$20 (trash can)+$10 (flex downspout) + random bits I already had like hardware cloth and glue = $38!

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(P.S. I also plan to zip-tie one of the handles of the barrel to an eye-hook in the siding to keep it from blowing over…but until I get around to putting the eye-hook in, I did fill the barrel with 8 inches of water or so to keep it in place.)

There’s an irrigation element to this project as well, but since the garden isn’t quite ready for that yet, I’ll just let the water accumulate, and I’ll make the irrigation project a little closer to spring.

But in the meantime, our spring moisture will be put to great use in the dry, dog days of summer.

And my garden will love me!

I hope…


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3 comments:

  1. Wow...you are a hard-core gardener! I can't wait to see what your gardens look like this summer!

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  2. I really need to make a rain barrel! Could it really be that easy? Thanks for the tute :D

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  3. Thank you... Thank You... Thank You... I have been wanting some rain barrels in my yard but as you said they are sooooo expensive. This is great and I will be making these soon, as I live in Oregon and I have a huge garden in the spring I can use all the rain water I can get. I will be hooking 3-4 together so I can water all sunmmer long. And can save the tap water for filling my grandkids pool. :o)

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