55 Gallon Barrel Dry Well





Introduction: 55 Gallon Barrel Dry Well

About: Spending way too much time on 'Ible! Restoring my 180 year old house. Thinking. tinkering with solder, electrons, copper.

I had a section of my backyard that turned into a river during heavy rain. Then the water pooled for a while less than 10 feet from my house and finally made its way along the "path of least resistance" into my basement.
After listening to he advise from several people I decided to create a Dry Well.
The basic concept of a dry well is to collect and redirect rain underground and allow it to filter its way to an area further away from buildings.

Step 1: Material

For this project we used:
  • A roll of "separator" fabric - Home despot, yard center, Lowes...
  • 15 ft of 6 inch pvc
  • Pvc fittings (90s..)
  • 3/4 in gravel. I could have used bigger gravel but I had this on hand.
  • A drill and 1/2inch bit
  • A shovel.
  • Enough time to dig a big hole....
  • A 55 gallon barrel.

Step 2: Diggin' 1

First I dug a 1ft X 1ft trench and covered it with the separator fabric. The fabric was not really necessary but my companion thought it would be neater... I am sure the worms appreciate....
the trench has a slight slope to it (1inch for every 4 ft). Of course the path of the trench is away from the house so the dry well is going to be about 20ft from the nearest wall.

Step 3: The Barrel

I don't have a picture of this but this is an important step:
I drilled 1/2 inch holes every 10 inch on the barrel. T'hat's about 5 rows of 6 holes per row. I did not drill the bottom of the barrel. When it's all done, the barrel will be upside down with the bottom facing up.

Step 4: More Diggin'

Then I dug a big hole 4ft in diameter, about 5ft deep. I lined the whole with separator fabric. This is useful: it prevents too much silt and dirt to mix with the gravel that could later clog up the barrel.

Step 5: Fill It Up

Then I placed 6 inch of 1 inch gravel at the bottom of the hole.
I connected the end of the PVC pipe snug with the big hole near the "bottom" of the barrel.
I placed the barrel upside down and carefully filled the area around it with more gravel (3/4inch).
finaly, I covered the barrel with gravel, covered the whole thing with separator fabric and then added 4 inch of soil and sod

Step 6:

This picture was taken 2 years after the "big dig" and the dry well has been working nicely. My basement is a lot dryer!



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    14 Discussions

    Did anyone do this and find there were smells coming out of the drains?

    I'm thinking of taking on this project, but I'm concerned I won't have basically any access to the inside of the barrels, and if they start getting smelly, that smell will come straight out of the downspouts.

    Did you fill the barrel or did it remain empty before burying it?

    Did you fill the barrel or did it remain empty before burying it?

    :) the mouseover in the first pic says "this is not my beautiful house".

    anybody have any ideas about how to make this type of unit into a 2 or 3 barrel drywell system? stumbled on this site, and LOVE all the ideas I am seeing!!

    1 reply

    yeah u connct them horizontaly together noting they whould be at least 7 feeet a prt

    it has to be at least a 2 inch vent pipe cause the inlet is a 4 inch pipe in breathes better. I made one out of a soap bareel made a lid and vent.

    Because the barrel is inverted is there a problem displacing the air in it fast enough? I would think a half inch PVC pipe to the surface would allow the barrel to fill faster and percolate into the soil better instead of the air getting displaced back up the drain pipe. I'm sure it only matters though in a tsunami though, and I assume you haven't had a problem?

    How quickly does your dry well empty out? I've got a sump pump that drains into my yard, causes flooding. I'm looking for a way to make the drainage more efficient.

    Another technique (from permaculture) would have been to dig a 1 to 2-foot-deep swale along the contour line using just a shovel. As you're digging, deposit the soil along the downslope side of the swale. Plant that side with some edible fruits and vegetables. Spread a little organic mulch matter along the bottom of the swale. As a result you'd be dispersing the water, enriching the soil, irrigating your plants, saving yourself some effort and expense, and getting some good food. You don't have a water-in-the basement problem, you have a garden design problem.

    1 reply

    Bruc33ef, thank you for your insight. The dry well is actually a great source of water for a flower garden that's now flourishing on one side and a linden tree on the other. Unfortunately, this lot is downtown a mid size new england town and the soil is still not suitable for growing food. It is contaminated with lead and some trace of arsenic. I have a basic rain barrel that waters several raised beds in another corner of my small backyard where we grow herbs, tomatoes and other summer goodies.