Everyone knows there are a lot of different rain barrel designs on this site. To be honest, most of them are much better thought out and effective than the design I'm about to talk to you about. However, my design has two small yet powerful advantages: It's stupidly simply, and exceptionally cheap.
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Step 1: First Things First
In order to do this properly, you're going to need a rain barrel. If you don't have a rain barrel then you'll just have a tube running from your gutter onto the ground spewing water everywhere and then your neighbors will say, "What a strange person. Why did they replace their gutter spouts with that length of tubing?" I got mine for free from a nearby plant that was closing down (I know, I know, I know, you're supposed to use food grade. Relax, it held soap, nothing caustic or overly harmful. I rinsed it out very thoroughly). Of course, many of you don't live near old soap manufacturing plants so I've provided a link for you that has three popular vendors for this particular item. It's really just the search query for 'How to make a rain barrel' again, but every time you click on one of those links an angel gets his wings, and Instructables gets a dime.
Step 2: If You Build It, Water Will Flow Part 1
Your barrel is going to need to be off the ground a little bit to function properly. To do this as easily and cheaply as possible you'll need one 12' 2"X6" board (3.6 meters long 5.08X15.24 CM, I have no idea what the international board lengths are, sorry). This one board should provide you with enough wood to make a 2'X2' box that is 6 inches in height and more than sturdy enough to hold all the weight of the water (keeping in mind that water is pretty heavy. 1 gallon weighs about 8.3 pounds and 1 liter weighs 1 kilogram and yes, I know that the kilogram is actually a unit of mass, not weight so my last statement was technically incorrect. Thank you for pointing it out anyway). Below is a picture of everything you'll need to get the box put together, and the barrel ready to dispense water.
Step 3: If You Build It, Water Will Flow Part 2
The 12' board is perfect for making a 2'X2' box with two center slats for supporting the brunt of the water's weight. Measure out 2' on the board and, using the straight edge and your pencil, draw a guideline across the width of the board to help when cutting. Now cut your first 2' section of board. Repeat this step until you are left with 6 2' pieces of board.
Step 4: If You Build It, Water Will Flow Part 3
Now that you've got your board cut into six 2' pieces, it's time to put them together into a simple box that can hold your barrel and all it's aquatic bounty.
To do this you should first pre-drill some holes for your wood screws to go into. Once again, use your straight edge to draw a line across the board (you can see in the picture that I did several boards at once) to mark where the holes should go. The screws should, optimally, go into the center of the board they're connecting to so measure up around one inch (a 2" board is never a full two inches for some inexplicable reason) and draw your line. Then draw three, evenly spaced dots across the line and use these dots as guides to drill your holes. Now you're ready to put everything together.
Step 5: If You Build It, Water Will Flow Part 4
My good friend (and assistant on this project), dlewisa, insisted on countersinking the holes for the screws. Personally, I don't see the need for it but it was his garage and we were using his tools so...
After your holes are drilled and you've made up your mind about whether or not to countersink the holes, you're ready to screw the boards together and move on to the next phase of the project. I screwed four of the boards together first to make a frame before adding the two inner pieces for the supports, but it would probably be a bit faster to just attach them to one of your boards and then use the sixth board to close off the box. Your call. You can see by the pics below that there was a little added manual labor in doing it this way.
Your box is finished! Now it's time hack the barrel to allow it to dispense all that free watery goodness!
Step 6: Looking Down the Barrel...
Okay, you made the crucial countersink decision and have completed your box. Now it's time to make your barrel useful.
First, turn your barrel upside down.
Second, attach your forstner bit to your drill and near the bottom drill a hole into the side. If you have a graduated barrel I would suggest putting the hole a bit below the 5 gallon mark. This will still allow for enough clearance for the barrel to sit on the box without the spigot being difficult to reach while still allowing the vast majority of the water in the barrel to drain out. With the spigot I bought, a 1/2 inch forstner bit was an almost perfect fit, though I still had to expand it with a rotary tool just a little bit in order to make it fit perfectly.
Next, break out the two part epoxy and apply one part to half of the threaded spigot base, and apply the other part to the other half of the threaded spigot base. As you screw the spigot into your hole the epoxy will mix itself and do the work for you! If you want, it may not be a bad idea to spread a little extra epoxy on the outside, just to give it a little more support. I used an adjustable wrench to tighten the spigot down extra tight. Wait five minutes for the epoxy to set up firm (you are using the quick stuff aren't you?) and you're done!
Now it's time to connect the barrel to the gutter...
Step 7: Get Your Mind Out of the Gutter! Part 1
Okay, you've got the box built, you've got the rain barrel ready to dispense water, and you've got plenty of time to gather your materials until it starts raining... unless you're me. I got the box done, the barrel done, and had everything set up in the yard just waiting to be connected to the gutter of my 18'X15' shed and was waiting for a nice sunny day to come along where I could spend the whole day outside working on this project and doing other lawn maintenance chores. Then came the day that the weatherman predicted that we'd get 1/2 inch of rain that night and the showers were likely to start some time in the early afternoon. I had no choice. I had to finish this project right away or risk losing all that water. Unfortunately it started raining as I was completing this final step, and I had no one to help or take pictures so the next two steps will be a little more spartan than the others. I still think you can get the idea though...
The first thing you'll need is an easy way to get the water from your downspout to your rain barrel. If you've got some old gutter pieces laying around you may be able to fashion something from these, but if you need to buy something new I would suggest going with a piece of SOLID Flex-Drain pipe. I got mine at my local Lowe's for a little less than $10 (USD). The kind I bought is only 3 feet long when compressed, but can stretch out to it's full length of 12 feet very easily. I couldn't find anything that would easily work as a reducer so that meant I would need to cut the existing hole in the barrel to fit the flex tubing.
I used a battery powered reciprocating saw to cut the hole but, if I had not been pressed for time and inclement weather, a coping saw would have worked out a lot better. Sure it would have taken more time, but I would have had better control and it wouldn't have wound up looking as awful as it did. Trust me, take your time, use a coping saw, and don't try to work while it's raining.
Step 8: Get Your Mind Out of the Gutter! Part 2
With your barrel modified to accept the tubing, the last step is to attach the tubing to your downspout and start collecting free water from the sky!
Using two small screws I found in a junk drawer of my workbench organizer (hint: they're mostly ALL junk drawers), I attached one end of the tubing to the downspout. I then stretched out the tubing to a length of about 6.5 feet and placed the other end into my newly cut hole.
After one night of solid rain where 1/2 inch of water fell on my tiny town, I was able to collect 55 gallons of water!
Step 9: Final Thoughts
After completing this project I have been able to water all of my plants with nothing but free water that came to me courtesy of Mother Nature. Some modifications I plan on making in the future are:
1. An overflow valve. The first night of operation I gathered 55 gallons of water and the rest just flowed over the top of the barrel. I would have preferred the water to have gone out the side through a piece of PVC pipe and back to where the downspout originally drained (onto the root system of a beautiful mimosa tree).
2. Screens. To avoid any mosquito problems I have put in some of the anti-mosquito granules you can buy at Lowe's but this isn't an optimal solution. What I would like to do is fasten a piece of screen over the hole to prevent them from getting to the water in the first place.
3. Quick Connector. Screwing the hose on and off of the barrel is kind of a pain in the tookus. I'm building a square foot garden about 2 feet away so I don't need much hose to begin with, but I think it would spare me lots of frustration if I could just walk up to it, slap on the hose, do my watering, and disconnect it just as easily.
Like I said in the beginning of this Instructable, this is not the best rain barrel design out there. Many of the other projects were raised higher off the ground to encourage more pressure coming from the spigot, many were angled to increase pressure and water drainage, and some were even designed to supply water for more than just watering plants (car cleaning, toilet flushing, etc.). This Instructable, however, was meant to show a fast, easy way to collect and utilize water from the sky. I tried to stay in line with the K.I.S.S. philosophy as much as possible. The total cost for this project was $22.37 (including tax) but that will vary from user to user as some supplies you may already have on hand, and some you will have to pay for. I urge you to try something like this if your situation allows for it (even apartment dwellers could do a small scale version of this with old gallon sized milk jugs), and by all means please let me know how things turn out for you.
Thanks for listening Chiiiiiildren!