Step 2: Where To Find A Barrel?

For this Instructable, I will be using one blue HDPE 55 gallon barrel that has two screw plugs in the end/top. This is the most common type of barrel that I have seen and usually the cheapest to buy. Finding a barrel can be the hardest part of making a rain barrel, so I will list a few ideas, and successes that I have had:

1. Craigslist: This is often the easiest way to find a barrel. Where I live, people commonly sell them for $10. I would not pay more than $15. If you just search for "barrel" you should find something. Check what was stored in them before you buy them. I have found some with liquid smoke in them that have been a real pain to deal with and they never really stop smelling. They should also not have had any toxic chemicals stored in them that could harm your plants. I would encourage you to ask if the seller is willing to trade anything for an empty barrel. Many people on Craigslist are purveyors of multiple goods or are familiar with trading for goods. It can be worth the effort to ask. You may get a free barrel or two for trading some junk that you don't need. 

2. Local Food Distributors/Bottlers: This could be your best bet and was my method of choice. You will have to do some research and call around your city to find out if any food distributors use 55 gallon drums and if they would be able to give them to you for free or sell them at a low cost. Common uses for the drums include soda syrups, juice, soy sauce (my most common variety), grain alcohol, hops for beer, marinades, liquid smoke, etc. I googled bottling companies in my area and made many phone calls. If you are polite and present clear questions to the people who answer the phone, you may get exactly what you need. I was able to arrange to pick them up locally for free if I did not disturb the area around the facility. This arrangement worked great for me for a long time, but each scenario is different. I have head that some Pepsi/Coke bottling plants give them away, while others do not. If you are looking to make multiple rain barrels, this could be your regular supplier. Don't give up after one or two calls, I think I made about one hundred calls before setting up my particular arrangement. Seek and ye shall find.

3. Pickles/Olives: I have met multiple rain barrel makers who get their barrels exclusively from olive or pickle distributors. . Go to your local grocery store and see if any of the pickles or olives are distributed locally and make a few phone calls to see if they have barrels. The barrels that contain olives and pickles are commonly larger and have a large screw lid, but they can be easily used to make the same type of rain barrels that I have designed. 

4. Car wash: Many local car wash places get their soaps in 55 gallon barrels and they will sometimes give them away. I have found this approach to be more work than its worth because you will have to rinse the barrels many times to get the soap out, which can defeat the purpose of rain water harvesting. In reality, you will most likely have to rinse any barrel you find, so I guess my point is moot. This is often a viable option. I would also steer clear of the white or clear barrels common at car washes because they let sunlight in and can encourage algae growth.

5. Vineyard: For a fancier rain barrel, you can also try calling local vineyards to find out of they have any used oak barrels for sale. With a little more effort and more upfront cost, you can have a great looking rain barrel at a fraction of the cost of a store bought oak barrel. I bought mine for $80 each, which I found to be a common price. With a little shellac the barrels can last forever. 
<p>Using uniseal joints makes things much easier to install a faucet</p>
<p>We bought a 114 year old house last year and it has an old cistern in the driveway. I wonder what it would take to get it up and going again.</p>
<p>If you want more capacity, normally easier to get a 200+ gallon square plastic tank with metal cage (I picked up a number for free). They tend to have 6 inch opening at top, 2 inch on bottom with a 2 inch facet already attached. You just have to rig up an overflow system.</p><p>The simplest &quot;rain barrel&quot; is to stick it on its side (make a quick stand) and use existing holes on barrel. Game of 90 degree elbows, size adapters, etc to get water in and overflow out on top, and on bottom you just thread in a facet or size reducer and facet. Easy as well to do more complicated chaining of multiple barrels.</p>
Oh, and skip the garden faucet, get a 1/4 turn 3/4&quot; ball valve. <br> <br>Compare water flow with regular garden faucet and 1/4 turn ball valve <br>(both screw into same size hole and fit a garden hose): <br> <br>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEpybHgKqQk
Not bad, but I think this is better, as you only have to put one hole in the barrel. Watch this video: <br>You tube video <br>5 Dollar RAIN BARRELS 55 gallons to 1000 gallons <br>Connecting multiple barrels with part numbers for the pvc parts <br> <br>And for the bottom, avoid silicone as it leaches chemicals into water with <br>prolonged contact: <br> <br>For installing a faucet on the barrel without silicone (and they have a video <br>on how to install the fitting and there are other companies that sell it, <br>don't buy it at Home Depot though, their plastic fitting contains lead): <br> <br>http://www.bayteccontainers.com/bulfit34.html <br> <br>(I used a hole saw instead of a spade bit, because I already had a hole saw. )
Highly suggest you match in the incoming water volume with the overflow in areas where heavy rains occur http://www.aquabarrel.com/product_overflow_port.php<br> <br> If you keep this barrel in the upright position then you are less likely to have a leak out the bottom bung plug - even if it is sealed with silicone it might leak.<br> <br> For those folks in places that get below freezing you might want to take the rain barrel off-line for the winter with a diverter http://www.aquabarrel.com/product_downspout_diverter_rectangular_aluminum.php<br> <br> or just spend a few more dollars and get a diy kit designed the right way:-) http://www.aquabarrel.com/product_rain_barrel_parts_kit_earthminded.php
I use open top plastic containers for my rain barrelsl. The top is solid without bung holes. The top can them be cut for your fitting. The faucet at the bottom is now easy to attach. The open top design them makes it easier to clean the barrel and dip out water for things like washing, hand watering gardens or for toilets. <br> <br>Ken
Ken, <br> <br>I agree, the open top barrels are clearly a better option. I have found that the open topped barrels are rarely free and for my use I was looking for the cheapest option. The open topped barrels have a slightly smaller footprint, however, they tend to be taller. I use them to make compost bins because they are so easily adaptable.
This part is largely unnecessary. I gave up after about a half hour of trying in vain to screw the parts together. The force of the hose bib threaded through the plastic and set silicone are enough to hold everything in place.
What holds the flexible down spout adapter in place?
Why do you use an iron elbow instead of a brass one? That would avoid any dissimilar metals corrosion.
I just finished making four of these. The only comment I have is that I could not get the elbow to the hose bibb; my hands are too large! So, after a few tries, I discovered if I turned the bib all the way in, I could hold the elbow on the bibb thread with a pair of needle-nose pliers. One or two turns of the bibb was all it took for the threads to catch and then I could switch to the screwdriver to hold it in place.<br><br>All in all - a very good instructable!!
I have the wrong barrels, these are white and had blue coral wax inside them. Since they have sat outside they have collected water from the hole in the barrel plug. When you make yours with the barrel turned unside down does water leak from the small hole in the plug, now that is it facing down?
I had a question regarding the overflow adapter. The one in this Instructable seems very small. Every other rain barrel I've seen uses fairly large PVC pipe, and I've seen recommendations that the overflow be no smaller than 1.5&quot; wide. Have you had any issues with this smaller overflow adapter?<br><br>Otherwise, this is a great instructable. Thanks for sharing!
Everyone has their preferences for the overflow size. I have not had too many complaints with the smaller opening, but some people have more water flowing through their barrels than others. I have seen PVC fittings used as well as other types of flexible tubing. Either way the conversion is pretty simple. Best of luck and thanks for the comment.
which was is the 90degree fitting faced? i'm guessing that the opening is down, but it never does say.
Down is correct. Any other way can work, but down is likely the most effective.
For myself, I want <a href="http://tylertork.com/diyrainbarrels/basicparts.html">a large opening on top</a>--sometimes it's more convenient to dip in a watering can. Good, solid design and nice explanations--thanks for sharing your expertise!
I suppose everyone has their own preferences based on what they need. I think that having the larger opening lets in bugs and algae, but this is not always a problem for some folks.
This is one of the simplest plans for a rain barrel I've seen so far, and looks to be one of the more effective. Well done!<br><br>I'd like to add to your list of places to get barrels, as well. I used to have dozens in my shed a while back from the chemical plant I worked at. Before anyone screams &quot;pollution&quot;, I should mention that the barrels were never used! They would label more barrels then they would need for a particular batch we were filling, and because federal law prohibits re-using a labeled chemical barrel, the majority of them went to the crusher, unused and uncontaminated (not to mention five-gallon buckets, steel barrels, and cardboard drums). I used to bring home as many as I could fit in my vehicle each night for free. I'm pretty sure most plants would happily give away their excess containers rather then pay for extra trash pickups... just a thought.
Wow, good suggestion. I never would have guessed that unused containers could get trashed. I will look into it. Thanks

About This Instructable


320 favorites


More by stylnpzzalvr: The best RAIN BARREL for less than $15, and where to find a barrel
Add instructable to: