DIY Rain Barrel - Sized for an Apartment




About: Instagram @_colurer_, or on my design-y blog at Freelance designer working on my hobbies-- recording an album, repurposing antiques, lighting design, and some general woodworking ...

A simple step by step guide by @chriselsasser.

** Before starting you can check your local rain-water collection regulations at

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Step 1: Materials & Tools List

All of the items you will need for the project. I’ll always recommend supporting your local hardware store, I bought what I could for supplies locally but did go to Home Depot for the 2 most important pieces here (the Rubbermade ‘Roughneck’ 10 Gallon bin & the Bulkhead Union Washer). This entire setup can be completed for approximately $30-35 depending on what supplies you may already have.

*Bulkhead Union washer (this one is made by WATTS item no. HPL-1871) = $12

*Threaded PVC male end with plug stop = $4 (found in the same plumbing aisle as the Bulkhead Union washer

*Plumbers tape = $1.50

*RubberMade roughneck bin w/top = $8 (10gallon, they also have an 18 gallon option, located in the gardening section)

*Window Screen/Mesh ~ $6 (any fine mesh will do, this is to keep bugs and debris out)

*Gorilla tape / Duct tape ~$5, to secure the screen to the underside

*1 3/4" hole saw bit. You’ll need a drill, ½” drill bit and a 1 ¼” circular drill bit (if you choose this exact Bulkhead Union). NOTE: there are kits on amazon that come with the parts necessary for a rain bin, many of them are threaded to a size unique to that company - meaning you then need to order a whole new drill bit size which is not available in most stores. The items I’m using are in standard sized threading / bit sizes.

Step 2: Drill the Main Hole for the Spout, and Prep PVC

Drill out the 1 ¼ hole (or whatever sized Bulkhead Union you have purchased), be sure to make this as clean as possible

Next coat the threading well in Plumbers tape, this is not an adhesive tape but it will stick with a little tension, you’ll want a minimum of 3 layers leading up to where the washer meets the body of the pipe.

Step 3: Attach Your Bulkhead Union Pieces

Be sure the rubber washer (that black piece) is attached before threading into the bin, then slowly screw the PVC into the drilled hole, as tightly as you can make it.

Once the outer piece is secured, add the interior rubber washer, and the larger threaded washer. Tighten against the bin as tightly as you can.

Step 4: Add Your Spout & Stop-plug

Here I added a small ¾ inch threaded male PVC pipe, with a very simple stop-plug.

Step 5: Drill Your Drainage Holes in the Bin Top

Next drill out your rain holes in the bin top, I made two 3/4 inch holes on each diagonal, and one ½ in the center - no specific science behind that, I just wanted a few areas to intake rain in case one got plugged by debris.

Step 6: Cut Out Your Screen, and Attach It to the Under Side of the Bin Top

On the under side of the Bin top, cut out a small piece of your screen (large enough that it extends past the holes you drilled) and begin to tape the mesh into place. I used Gorilla tape because it was the strongest I could find, put two inverted roll pieces between the plastic bin and the mesh, and then just simply tape the mesh into place taking care to seal all sides. I cut out a few sections of the mesh so the tape would be holding it tightly and prevent any dipping of the mesh screen.

Step 7: Close It Up, and Test It Out!

finished product with mesh in place (it’s under there, i promise)

Step 8: Place Your Bin on a Raised Surface, and Let Gravity Do the Rest

Some final images of the bin in use. It holds 10 gallons, but depending on the size of your space you could go with their 18-gallon option and follow these same exact steps.

Thanks for looking!

Step 9:



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    16 Discussions


    4 years ago on Step 9

    I decide to make a vegetable home garden. For coincidence, after a moth of starting it, here in Puerto Rico start a drought. I have prepared something like these, but the sprout and stop plug is a great idea!


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I built something similar to this a few years ago. I added a water timer and a drip irrigation system onto the tap and then all I had to do was make sure the tank stayed topped up. This was in a tropical area, so I also put a layer of flyscreen mesh between the lid and the body to keep the mosquitoes out of the water.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Oh, this would work for a vertical garden, sort of like the one in the pictures.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Oh, this is genius! I have an apartment patio that gets drenched with every rain. At last I can make that flaw work in my favor! I even have the old bin, the screen, and some shelves I can use. I just need to get the fixtures a long hose, because at the rate it's been raining around here, that rain barrel will fill up faster than I can use it on my poor over-watered plants (though putting them under that rain barrel ought to give them a little break!).

    I made something similar from a large fiberglass flower pot, with the valve coming off the drain hole in the base, and covered with mesh. The whole thing sits on a thick board, with a pass-through hole for the valve.

    I've been wanting to build an improved top (e.g., more like a funnel, to reduce evaporation), but it works well enough. The benefit of using a flower pot is that it blends in with the other pots on our terrace.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    GREAT!!... I am a big fan of rainwater harvesting and love articles like this... What is sick is that some locals/states attempt to prohibit it... Would not stop me... Just have to learn to be more discrete...


    4 years ago on Introduction

    what may work as well, cut circular pieces of screening maybe 1/2" or so larger than each hole, squeeze some silicone around the outside of the hole, then press the screening down so the silicone seeps through the screen. That should keep it in place when the silicone dries.

    BTW - Love those hanging stackable pots - do they have a brand name / where did you pick them up?

    1 reply

    Yes actually I was also considering silicone during this, just ended up going with the duct tape because I already had the roll - and didn't have silicone. I think that would work quite well.

    Also these hanging pots are great! You can choose whether you want just one, or several to connect. They're by the company Fiskars, called the "3-piece hanging gardening system planter". This is the first season we're using them, they look to have a great drainage system in them so hopefully they work out well.


    4 years ago

    I think I will work this into my gardening! Thanks for the ible! Simple yet effective!

    1 reply

    4 years ago

    I also reported the other one, just FYI. Hope it is resolved quickly and appropriately.

    1 reply

    Thanks! Yes this is a really easy project, I'd never done it before and it only took me about 45 mins. Should be no problem at all!