DIY Rain BarrelsBy
Not only is rain water better for your garden plants and flowers than chlorinated tap water, but by using rain water you also save money. Plus you reduce the water that leads into the local storm sewers, gathering various chemicals and oils along the way and taking them to the natural streams.
Making a rain barrel is one of the simplest do-it-yourself projects that you can approach. A rain barrel can be filled within a matter of minutes during a good rain, and you will have a good supply for watering your garden during a dry season.
- Jig Saw
- Power Drill
- Pipe Wrench and Pump Pliers
- Screw Driver
- Hack Saw
- Tape Measure and Level
1. – Calculate the capacity of the rain barrel
How quick your barrels fill depends upon how large the collection surface you have.
The equation to calculate the size of the barrel will be something like this: 200 sq ft (rooftop area) x 0.0042 ft (average rainfall) x 0.9(losses to system) x 7.5 gals/ft 3 (conversion factor).
Where, if you have 200 sq ft of rooftop area and the average rainfall is half an inch (0.042 ft.) you will need a 56.7 gallon barrel.
2. – Gather your rain barrels
You need to identify a source of food quality 55 gallon barrels. Many manufacturers of fruit or drinks discard their barrels after the first use. Therefore they will be happy to see you take home as many barrels as you can for free, or at most for a few dollars. (As barrels are made of plastic, manufacturers have to discard of barrels as hazardous waste)
Keep a close eye on Craigslist. People used to post when they have extra barrels that the need to get rid of for a few bucks or even for free.
Consider the barrel should be food grade, it means no prior chemical or petroleum contents.
Plastic barrels are more convenient, as steel barrels are heavy and prone to rusting, very hard to drill, and generally they were used for chemical or petroleum products transportation.
Bring home as many barrels as you can, as long as you have room to storage them. One 55 gallon barrel can be fill up in less than 10 minutes during heavy rain. It’s a good idea have a secondary barrel to fill with the overflow water and you can do a good use of extra barrels as water storage.
3. – Screen the lid
The use of strainers and leaf screens located in the gutters and downspouts are designed to prevent debris, like leaves, from entering the tank.
Cut a square hole in the lid with the jigsaw, and then place the piece of scrap window screen over the hole to keep mosquitoes out of the barrel. You can fasten it with duck tape or nails.
4. – Modify the downspout
Use the small drill bit to drill out existing rivets as you need it. Usually they are put together with sheet metal screws. Redirect the downspout so the water will flow directly on top of the barrel.
5. – Attach the garden hose valve
Drill a 1″ hole near the bottom of the barrel. On the inside of the barrel attach the adapter and the washer. On the outside, install the valve.. If you prefer you can use a 3/4 inch plastic faucet; make a hole slightly smaller than 3/4 inch, close to the bottom. Seal with silicone. Don’t drill the hole too far down inside the barrel where you can’t reach it as you will need to fasten the attachments.
6. – Attach an overflow
Cut a 2 inch hole very close to the top of the barrel and on a side that will allow you to run an overflow pipe away from your house foundation. Instead of a pipe, it could be a hose that end up into the secondary barrel. Seal with silicone.
7. – Raise the rain barrel
Putting your rain barrel on a platform will give you good water pressure, and you won’t have to bend over to get to the water. An elevated stand can easily be built using a few pressure treated wood logs. Elevated barrels allow plants to grow in a shady spot, without taking valued graded space. The area under the barrels can be used to store stuff, like brushes and garden tools. The pressure of the water increases approximately half a pound per foot of elevation. The water pressure at the end of the hose is based upon the level of the water in the rain barrel.
8. – Make it pretty!
Paint the rain barrel with paint prime for plastic material. You can choose a color that blend with the exterior walls of your house, in that way it will stand out less, without altering the façade too much. Or, you can be creative and make it a decorative item of your garden.
Screening is a good alternative to conceal the rain barrels. Use natural materials as straw or wood trellis.
9. – Maintenance
Keep the gutters and system screens clean and free of leaves and other debris. The rain barrel also needs a periodic thorough cleaning, usually in the summer when its water levels tend to be lower.
During the winter, drain the barrel 100% if the temperatures drop under 32 F. Otherwise, it could have serious damage. You should fully drain the whole system, including pipes hoses. Also I recommend you remove the downspout that flows into the barrel to make sure no water enters the system during the frosty months.