Rain Barrel and Diverter




After acquiring a couple of food-grade chemical barrels for free, I wanted to create a rain barrel with a diverter. However, all of the diverters, either commercial or made were not exactly what I wanted.  The diverter that I describe here was almost entirely inspired by the instructable posted by the user filton.  The materials used in filton's instructable were parts found in New Zealand so this is my US version of his diverter.

Material List:
- Food grade chemical barrel
- 3" X 1-1/2" PVC Coupling
- 3/4" Conduit locknut
- 3/4" Brass locknut
- 3/4" Drain valve
- 3" X 4" X 4" Downspout adapter (X2)
- 3" X 2" PVC Bushing
- 2" threaded PVC male adapter
- 3" 90 degree PVC street elbow
- 4" X 4" X 3" PVC sanitary tee
- All weather PVC cement
- PVC primer
- Marine Goop sealant
- Aluminum gutter screen
- TFE thread paste

Step 1: Install the Drain Spout

Drill a hole using a 3/4" spade bit a couple of inches from the bottom of the barrel. A bit of planning before drilling is suggested at this point. The distance of the hole from the bottom of the barrel depends on the amount of clearance that will be needed when the barrel is finally installed. Also, take into account the position of the holes at the top of the barrel. The barrel that I use had one course threaded and one fine threaded hole. The threaded PVC male adapter that I used has to be used on the fine threaded hole. The diverter has a limited distance from the downspout so make sure that you consider the distance from the downspout and position of the holes on top. This will give you the final position of your spout. The diverter could be extended away from the downspout with a section of 3" PVC pipe to add a little more flexibility.

Installing the spout took a little ingenuity because I wanted to keep the integrity of the holes in the top of the barrel.  So I had to fit everything through the 2" holes. I tied a small washer to a length of string and inserted it through the drilled hole at the bottom of the barrel. I taped a magnetic retriever to a broom handle and fished the washer out of the hole at the top of the barrel. I then fed the string through the 3/4" brass locknut and tied the end to another washer larger than the locknut.  Place sealant on the barrel-side of the locknut and then feed the washer and locknut into the barrel. The second string tied to the washer in the picture is simply for control. I wanted to keep the setup from falling to the bottom or messing up the bead of sealant. With the locknut in position, keep tension on the string to keep it in place. Screw the 3/4" conduit locknut onto the drain spout and apply sealant to the barrel-side of the locknut and thread paste to the threads. Feed the loose end through the threaded side of the drain spout. You have to open the valve completely to do this. Align the threads and hand tighten. To get the spout completely tight I had to make my own tool that would fit through the 2" hole. The tool was made from a hold-on wrench ( either 1 1/4" or 1 1/2") bolted onto a 3' section of scrape copper pipe. Let the sealant harden for 24-48 hours before applying any tension or water pressure.

Step 2: Assemble the Diverter

The diverter is assembled as a glued section and a dry-fitted section. I made it this way so that the diverter intake won't leak but the barrel can still be easily removed from the downspout if needed.

To begin the glued section, I applied TFE thread paste to the threads of the 2" PVC male adapter and inserted it into the fine threaded hole on the top of the barrel. Then prime and glue small section of 2" PVC pipe into the male adapter. Take the 2" reduction bushing and prime and glue it into the appropriate end of the 90 degree street elbow. Prime and glue the street elbow into the 3" outlet of the sanitary tee. Make sure that the tee is upside down from normal plumbing installation. The curve will allow a better flow into the barrel. Next, use the same marine-grade sealant to glue the 3" X 1-1/2" coupling inside the down-side of the sanitary tee. There is a small gap between these pieces hence the use of sealant over PVC cement. I took a section of gutter screen and formed it into a funnel shape that opens into the 1-1/2" hole of the coupling. This is to keep leaves and debris from the gutters out of the barrel. The final step is to insert the two 3" X 4" X 4" downspout adapters into either end of the sanitary tee.

Step 3: Installing the Barrel

To install the barrel I used two large concrete blocks that were taken out of my basement wall. These blocks work nicely because they are longer than standard concrete block. Tamp and level an area of ground and add a layer of pea gravel. Then position the concrete block and double-check that they are level or maybe even tilted in the direction of the spout. Place the barrel on top of the blocks with the diverter attached and mark the downspout at a point just short of the depth of the adapters. Don't make the mistake of marking at the outside edge of the adapters or you will come up short. Cut the downspout with a hacksaw or tin snips. Attach the diverter to the downspout making sure that it is vertically straight and secure the top and bottom section of downspout with gutter strap.

Post build notes:
I attached a timer to the barrel with a soaker hose that wraps around the porch. The pressure is not that great but it's enough to water all of my plants. I will also either paint this barrel or build an enclosure as it sits in the front of the house.



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    10 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    After having this barrel installed for awhile I have had to seal the lower downspout adapter. During heavy storms this section would leak because it fits inside the sanitary tee. Unfortunately this makes removal a little more complicated because almost all of the PVC is sealed. I am looking into a method to remedy this problem. I will keep you all updated.

    1 reply

    Reply 1 year ago

    Awesome mod for rain barrel. Did you find a cure for the leaking lower downspout adapter other than a glob sealant to remedy the problem?


    4 years ago on Introduction

    If you turn the barrel upside down you can use the 3/4" threaded hole in the bung cap. This will be much easier to seal. Then you would drill a hole near the top of the tank for an inlet hose.
    You also need an air escape tube or connector. As the water fills the air has no place to go and needs to escape. A piece of PVC Pipe will work just put some screen on the end to keep the bugs out.
    By using the barre upside down it is easy to connect multiple barrels with 3/4" standard PVC fittings.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Have you ever calculated a cost total for all the parts used? Apologies if you have but, I didn't see one. Thx in advance!


    5 years ago on Introduction

    To keep debris from entering you might want to consider a large debris filter above the diverter - it will be less work then pulling your rain barrel apart.

    For placing fitting in the barrel for draining consider the threaded seal:


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Looked at a number of rain barrel/diverter options online and this plan is the one I chose to go with. It's simplicity and easy on the wallet parts were quite attractive. Made only a few adjustments to the needs of my site. First big rain going on outside right now. I noticed the same issue the author mentions in his comment - joint at the bottom of the pvc to down spout converter leeks since it's mounted on the outside of the downspout. Plan to remove the diverter this week and find a method to seal. Other than that the system works as advertised. The diverter is an excellent idea and wish I could claim this one!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    great idea, to simplify your life could you replace the PVC after the downturn to a hose allowing flexibility in hookup and disconnect?


    8 years ago on Step 2

    I am fascinated by your diverter. Looks like if there is a light rain, it all goes into the barrell. If you have a gully washer it will go to the barrell and downspout. If the barrell is tightly sealed and full, it would back up and all go down the downspout. Do you just cap off the rain barrell side of the sanitary tee for the winter, or do you remove the whole thing. I guess it would freeze and close off, so you probably remove it. How well does it work? Great idea!

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    cjholly, sorry for the delay. I haven't checked this in a while. You bring up a good point. I will most likely remove the barrel for the winter because I would like to pour a concrete pad for it to sit on. In the future I will work on either a shut off or a quick removal system.