Introduction: How to Build a Rain Barrel

I love my rain barrels. I have 4 barrels setup around the house. After many changes, I settled on this rain barrel design. It is well designed and very useful. There are many questionable designs out there. Learn from my mistakes and build your own rain barrel.

Step 1: Parts and Tools

Here are the parts I use in my rain barrels. I get my barrels from a local barrel recycler. Other good places to find barrels are car washes, soda bottling plants and online classified websites. Make sure they are food grade barrels.

Step 2: Cut a Hole for the Downspout

I use a 9" screened basket in my barrels. It keeps the mosquitoes and debris out of the barrel. Open top rain barrels encourage mosquitoes to breed. Make sure you seal off their pathway to the inside of the barrel.

Measure and cut a 7 3/4" hole in the top of the barrel. A jigsaw or a spiral-cut saw (Rotozip) work best for cutting this hole.

Note: The 7-3/4" hole is for the 9" basket. Baskets of all shapes and sizes can be found wherever pond supplies are sold. Adjust your hole accordingly.

Step 3: Cutting the Overflow Hole

A good rain barrel has a good sized overflow. Don't use anything smaller than 1-1/2".

A 2-3/8 circle will be used for your overflow hole. Determine what side of the barrel you want your overflow hole to be on. Measure down from the top of the barrel approximately 4 inches. The bottom of the 2-3/8 circle should be slightly below this mark.

Again, using an appropriate saw, cut out the circle you just traced.

Note: The 2-3/8" hole is appropriate for the 2" PVC male adapter. It will be too big if you use 1-1/2" fittings.

Step 4: Cutting the Hole for the Spigot

Locate a 1-1/2 hole near the bottom of the barrel. This will be the hole for your spigot. Make sure the hole is oriented properly in relation to your overflow hole. (If you want the spigot in front and the overflow to the right, check the alignment before you cut this hole.)

Cut the 1-1/2 hole using a hole saw or a spade bit.

Note: You have some wiggle room here. The bulkhead fitting can be used for a range of hole sizes.

Step 5: Cleaning the Holes

Using a utility or pocket knife, clean the plastic shavings from the holes you just cut. The 1-1/2" spigot hole, in particular, needs to be smooth so that the bulkhead fitting will seat properly.

Step 6: Install the Overflow Connection

Thread a 2" PVC male adapter through the barrel and onto a lock nut to secure the connection for your overflow pipe.

Step 7: Install the Bulkhead Fitting

The best way to make sure you have a leak proof connection for your spigot is to use a bulkhead fitting.

Insert the threaded end of the bulkhead fitting through the outside of the barrel. (The thick rubber washer should be on the outside of the barrel.)

Using a pair of long handle pliers and an assistant, place the thin, hard plastic washer onto the bulkhead fitting followed by the large nut. Tighten securely. (Note: The word tighten on the large nut faces the inside of the barrel.) These are reverse-threaded bulkhead fittings. Turn counter-clockwise to tighten.

Step 8: Install a Threaded Adapter and Hose Connection

A bulkhead fitting has pipe threads and my hose connection has garden hose threads. A threaded adapter fixes this problem.

The threaded adapter has one end with closely spaced threads and one end with wide threads. Wrap several layers of Teflon tape around the narrowly spaced threads.

Insert the threaded adapter into the bulkhead fitting. (The teflon taped, narrow threads go into the bulkhead fitting.) You can tighten this with an open end wrench or a pair of pliers, if necessary.

Thread the garden hose spigot onto the adapter with just enough pressure so that the washer seats on the adapter. Do not over-tighten as this will cause damage to the rubber washer.

This hose connection has a much larger hole than most and will give the highest water pressure possible from a rain barrel.

Step 9: Make an Overflow Pipe

It is necessary to have a good overflow for your rain barrel. I use a 2" PVC pipe.

Mark and cut the 2" pipe into 3 pieces:
2", 18" & 26".

Using PVC cement (or similar), glue the 18" and 2" sections to a 90 degree elbow as shown.

Next, cement the 26" section of pipe to a 45 degree elbow.

The 2 sections of pipe do not need to be glued together. They will stay together using friction.

Step 10: Insert the Basket and Install Your Barrel

Place the round basket into the top hole.

Locate your barrel on a secure base under a downspout and attach the overflow pipe (no cement). A full barrel weighs over 400 pounds. Make sure you have a good base.

Your barrel is now ready for rain!

Step 11: Other Options

I have installed more than one spigot on barrels and also installed more than one barrel in a single location.

If you need any help you can contact me through my website: Atlanta Rain Barrels

I also have parts available and free instructions available for download.