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Green smArts and Crafts: Build Your Own Rain Barrel!

2011 June 30

treyrainbarrelBy Trey Cody

Looking for a “rainy day” project?  Get your tools ready – we’re making a rain barrel.  Not to worry.  It involves little cost and little labor and the benefits are huge.

A rain barrel is a system that collects and stores rainwater directly from your roof via your gutter.  It’s also a great green craft that protects the environment and saves you money!

A rain barrel can save most homeowners on average 1,300 gallons of water during the summer months because you can store and use the water from the rain barrel instead of water from the tap to water your garden or lawn or wash your car.  So sav­ing water with a rain barrel not only helps to protect the environment, it saves you money and energy because of decreased use of treated tap water.

Some other benefits of having a rain barrel are that water from storm drains is diverted into the barrel instead of adding to runoff to streams.  Also, your garden can stay healthy with water that is free of chlorine, lime or calcium.  So whether you want to show off your creative side and build your very own rain barrel or want to buy a ready-made one, a rain barrel is the right step towards your newer, healthier and greener garden!

To create your own rain barrel all you need are these basic materials:

  • 55 gallon polyethylene plastic barrel
  • 2 inch male threaded by 2 inch pipe adapter
  • Tube silicone sealer/cement
  • Outdoor faucet valve
  • 1/2 inch threaded bushing
  • 1/2 inch female threaded socket
  • Teflon tape
  • Screen fabric
  • Cinder blocks
  • Optional – paint to match your house color

And these basic tools:

  • Jig Saw
  • Power Drill with 3/4 inch Spade Bit
  • Scissors
  • Pipe Wrench and Pliers
  • Screw Driver
  • Hack Saw

This green craft is simple to construct.   Just click here to get the simple assembly instructions to make your rain barrel.

Making a rain barrel at my house was easier than I imagined and I had fun while doing it. So much fun that I actually constructed three! What I find most enjoyable is watching how quickly it fills up on a rainy day. Also, once it’s filled, using it and knowing that I created this rain barrel myself gives me great pleasure. I would recommend it to all who are looking for a fun and easy project that will help protect our environment and save them money.

There are other EPA employees in our Philadelphia office that have also been showing their handy sides and installing rain barrels at their homes and in their communities.  They all talk about how great their barrels work and how they either want to get or already have gotten a second barrel to store more water.

One of my co-workers cut up an old hose to use as a device to convey the water from the barrel to her garden.  She told me, “When I want to water the garden, I open the valve & let gravity do the rest.”  Other colleagues are such expert rain barrel craftsmen that they have set up rain barrel programs in their communities.  Fred told us that his Township Environmental Advisory Committee assembles homemade rain barrels using local volunteers and sells them to residents at $35 a piece (also check out Fred’s blog about rain barrels from last summer).

Want to take your garden to an even higher level, with an even greater environmental impact?  Having a rain barrel that drains right into a rain garden is the best combination for managing stormwater on your property.  Check out our blog on rain gardens to see how you can join the Rain Gardens for the Bays Campaign to green our neighborhoods and protect our streams and bays by creating thousands of rain gardens in local watersheds!

Do you have a rain barrel at your house?  What other green projects have you done or can you think of?  Share your ideas in the comments section!

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

9 Responses leave one →
  1. June 30, 2011

    For maximum usefulness, consider making more than one barrel and then “daisy chain” them together. Even if you have limited space for water storage, daisy chained rain barrels can be staked or lined along the side of your home or business. More storage capacity will increase the amount of rainwater you can use on your garden (which is much better for plants health than city water), or to slowly infiltrate the rainwater into the soil to reduce polluted stormwater runoff, even if you don’t have a garden that needs watering. Rainwater harvesting addresses both conservation and stormwater pollution prevention. Here’s a demonstration project that describes daisy chaining rainbarrels in San Francisco, CA:

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  2. Edward permalink*
    July 5, 2011

    Thank you for the wonderful advice Elizabeth. Yes, utilizing two rain barrels is the way to obtain optimum usage of your rain storage system. Thanks again for the wonderful demonstration!

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  3. July 6, 2011

    How long will one barrel last if it is for gardening purpose? Daisy chain is a good idea. If we can somehow bury the barrel without too much work would be great. Having barrels all over the places doesn’t look too great for landscaping.

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  4. July 6, 2011

    The humble rain barrel is one of those things which is incredibly simple, within almost everyone’s reach to make, and so useful. We always had one at home when I was growing up but I am very ashamed to say that I have never had one myself. This will be my summer resolution – get a rain barrel, or maybe two. I might be able to set off a trend in my street!

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  5. Edward permalink*
    July 7, 2011

    Thank for your comment. I personally have an average size garden, about 15 x 4. With one full barrel, I can water it about four times before depleting my water source. By then usually a shower has come and refilled my water supply. Also an idea to think about is installing your rain barrel in a way in which it automatically waters your garden, creating what is called a rain garden. I did this by simply burying my over flow tube (with pre drilled holes) into the bed of my garden, so that it would water itself. Another idea, with landscaping in mind is “rain barrel art”. This allows you to create a more appealing barrel, to match your landscaping. Check out this web site to learn how. Thanks again for the comment.

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  6. July 14, 2011

    Thanks for the info I was going to do this a few years ago and completely forgot about it until now.

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  7. Edward permalink*
    July 18, 2011

    Thanks for the comment. I am glad this post acted as a reminder to making your own rain barrel. I wish you the best of luck in the creation and use of your rain barrel.

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  8. January 6, 2012

    Useful post. Your idea is really a great help in saving water. I have been using rain barrels and it helps a lot especially during summer. Thank you for sharing this useful article.

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  9. ecody permalink
    January 6, 2012

    Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you like the post. I’m glad you agree that advice on how to save water and prevent stormwater runoff is always useful! Keep up the good work!

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