rain barrel

How To Build a Rain Barrel

You know that rain event that we had over the weekend that really took everyone by surprise….well, surprise!  If you’ve lived in North Texas for any length of time, you know that the dog days of summer are just beginning.  From now until August/September, we will be doing our rain dances and praying to the rain gods that they will look favorably upon us.  You may also offer your dog, Fluffy, to the water department as an exchange for your water bill.  Yep, summer in Texas is here.  As we wait for our next rain event, there is something you can do to prepare for it and conserve water after the next rain event.  You can build a rain barrel!  Using a rain barrel can help you save a good amount of money in a season, and it’s also a great way to conserve water!  For every inch on rain that falls on a 500 square foot roof, you can collect up to 300 gallons of water – that’s a lot of water!  You can use this water in your watering containers for use when you water your houseplants, yard plants, garden, or even your lawn.  Before we begin, I do need to tell you that rain barrels are illegal in some areas.  We have not heard of any areas in North Texas where rain barrels are illegal, but it’s always a good idea to check with your city’s code enforcement department to make sure you are allowed to have a rain barrel.  It’s also a good idea to check with your water department as some cities may offer rebates on your water bill for use of a rain barrel. 

Step One:  Gather Your Materials

Before you start to wonder if this project is bigger than you can manage, don’t worry – it’s a lot easier than you think!  Here’s what you’ll need: 

  • 1 large plastic garbage can (don’t be afraid to go with the biggest you can find – the bigger your garbage can is, the more water you’ll collect!)

  • 1 tube of watertight sealant or roll of Teflon tape for plumbing

  • 2 rubber washers

  • 2 metal washers

  • 1 hose clamp

  • A drill (kids, ask your parents for permission first!)

  • Landscaping fabric

Step Two:  Drill a Hole

As you’re gathering your supplies at Home Depot, you may see a rain barrel kit and be inclined to buy it.  Keep walking, save the money, and continue with the DIY steps.  First, you’ll want to drill a hole near the bottom of your barrel (trash can).  This is where you’ll insert your spigot.  Tip: Use a drill bit that’s smaller than or is the same size as your spigot.  Also, don’t create a hole that’s too low as you’ll want to leave space underneath the barrel to fill your watering can.

Step Three:  Insert the Spigot

Place one of the metal washers onto the threaded end of the spigot.  From there, put a snugly fitting rubber washer over the threads to help hold the washer in place.  This will help to prevent leaks from occurring.  

Step Four:  Seal it Up

After you’ve built your spigot, you’ll want to place a bead of waterproof sealant over the rubber washer and insert the spigot into the hole on your barrel.  Wait for the sealant to dry and then run a rubber washer followed by a metal washer onto the threads of the spigot inside the barrel.  Be sure to secure the spigot in place inside your barrel using the hose clamp.  This will keep the spigot from coming loose from your barrel.  Tip:  You can also use watertight Teflon tape to seal the hole for the spigot.

Step Five:  Create Entry and Exit Holes

Carefully create a hole in the lid of the rain barrel (garbage can).  This hole should sit under your home’s downspout so the water runs right into the barrel.  Be sure to cut the hole so that it’s large enough to accommodate the water flow coming from the downspout. You will also want to drill a second or third hole near the very top of the actual barrel to ensure that water will be able to overflow, if necessary.  Tip:  You can use a short length of hose or PVC pipe to run from the overflow hole to another rain barrel to connect them so that you don’t lose water.

Step Six:  Seal the Top

Cut a piece of landscaping fabric to sit over the top of the barrel and then put the lid on to secure it.  This will create a barrier that keeps mosquitos and other pests from getting into your rain barrel water.

Step Seven:  Where to Place Your Rain Barrel

Now that you’ve completed construction on your barrel, your next task is to figure out where to put it.  Be sure to position it in a spot that is directly underneath your downspout that is convenient for you to access.  Now, sit back and wait for the rain to come so that you can enjoy the water and money savings!  As mentioned earlier, be sure to do your rain dance!  

We hope that you’ve found this project to be fun and useful in help you conserve water and money.  Initially, I was going to begin posting water rebate information next week, but I found a cool idea for gardens – rain gardens – that I will share with you next week that will help you conserve water during the summer.  Be sure to look out for that post as it’s another fun and creative way to become Water Smart!  As always, we love to hear from you, so be sure to post your pictures of your rain barrels to our Facebook or Twitter pages.  Have a safe Memorial Day weekend!

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