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Project: Make your own rain barrel

March 26th, 2010

By Laura Gorecki
Frisco Green Living

One of my personal goals is to always look for more ways to “Be Green.” I plan to expand my home gardening this year and I had been considering buying a rain barrel for my yard. I was surprised to find out commercial models can cost as much as $150 or more for a one-barrel system.

The finished rain barrel. (Photo: Laura Gorecki)

After reading an instruction sheet on the Internet on how to make a rain barrel at home, I decided to give it a shot. I had a large garbage can in the garage that we were not using, and I thought it would do the trick.

I took my instruction sheet to Home Depot to get the supplies. A worker helped me find everything I needed. I got the parts to make a 2-barrel system, and planned to add the second barrel later. I opted for a $7 splitter attachment that allows for 2 hoses to be connected to one faucet. The cost for all of the materials was about $40.

I got home and learned that my garbage can had a small hole in the bottom so it would not hold water. Back to Home Depot I went. I found 32-gallon heavy-duty trash cans, with lids, for $14.95 each so I bought two of them. That brought my cost up to $70 for two barrels.

I took all of the parts and pieces to the back yard to get started. Selecting a location for the barrels was an important step. I wanted the barrel close to the plants I plan to water, but wanted it somewhat out of sight as well. The location has to be level, so that was another consideration. Also, I wanted to connect it directly to a down spout. There just so happened to be a downspout half-way down the side of the house, where there also happened to be plenty of space, so I selected that location.

A $7 splitter attachment that allows for 2 hoses to be connected to one faucet. (Photo: Laura Gorecki)

The directions said to use a drywall saw to cut the holes in the barrel, and I already had one, so I didn’t have to purchase any tools. I used a drill bit to start the hole and used the saw to enlarge it to the right size for the faucet to fit. I enlisted help in holding the barrel still, and we took turns cutting the hole. Liquid epoxy is used to seal the hole around the faucet to prevent it from leaking. This stuff is quite noxious – I had to be very careful not to breathe the fumes or get any on my hands.

At first test there was a small drip from around the faucet, but another layer of epoxy sealed it up. I put the barrel on cinder blocks for extra height, which increases water pressure. I cut a hole in the lid for the down spout to fit in and put the mosquito netting on, and all I had left to do was connect it to the down spout.

The spout was connected to the side of the house with screws, so I used a drill to disconnect the downspout rather than cutting it. If I ever decide to move the barrels I can simply reconnect the spout. I had a flexible down-spout extender, so I connected it to the end of the gutter spout and ran it directly into the lid of the can. My rain barrel was ready to go!

The actual time it took to make it was less than an hour.

It rained all night, and is still raining as I am writing this. I am sure my barrel is full and overflowing, and I regret that I didn’t connect the second barrel yesterday. I’m excited to go home to see how well it worked, and I’m looking forward to using the harvested water instead of the sprinkler or garden hose to water this season.

I’m glad I decided to make the rain barrel myself instead of purchasing one. I always feel a sense of accomplishment and empowerment when I can build something myself. Now every time I use the water from the barrel I will know that I did something good for the environment, and I’m saving money in the process.

Laura Gorecki is an intern in Water Education in the Public Works Department for the City of Frisco, Texas .


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