I purchased a rain barrel from the city. It is the usual recycled food barrel painted and fitted to be a rain barrel from Great American Rain Barrel Co. The spigot is a small flimsy device that looks like the spigot from a 40 cup coffee maker fitted with a garden hose thread. It does not flow well, and can be tricky to operate.
So I started researching alternatives, and found it at Aquabarrel, another rain barrel vendor. They sell a bulkhead fitting with the valve and thread converter for $22 plus shipping. I ordered one and received a rugged part in the mail several days later.
Start out by disassembling the top cap, screen and tray. Put the barrel on its side.
Step 1: The Old Spigot
Here is the old spigot. It threads into the barrel directly, so if you move it from top to bottom (as I had to) you are very worried about stripping the threads.
It is very flimsy too. Hence this Instructable.
Step 2: The New Bulkhead Fitting and Valve Assembly
Here is the new assembly from Aquabarrel. Honkin' thick plastic and a sensible ball valve. Nice.
Step 3: The Bulkhead Fitting Up Close
Here is the new bulkhead fitting. The left part goes into the barrel, with the threaded part poking out. Then the rubber washer fits over, then the nut seals everything together. Aquabarrel notes this is a part for boats, and you can tell. Nice.
Step 4: Ream Out the Hole
Here is the leap of faith - once you start, no going back!
Remove the old spigot. Make sure you get the nut and washers out of the barrel.
We need to make the hole big enough to accept the bulkhead fitting. I had a drill bit big enough, but no drill with a big enough chuck. So I grabbed Uncle Rudy's old reamer and thick leather gloves and slowly made the hole bigger.
WARNING - you cannot make it smaller! Go slow and try to put the fitting in every few turns. You want the fitting to just barely slide into the hole.
Periodically use a big drill bit to shave the plastic from the inside of the hole that the reamer pushes out. This allows the fitting to slide in easier.
Step 5: Finish Out the Hole
My reamer was very dull right around the place I needed to finish the hole, so I grabbed Uncle Rudy's big old coarse circular file and made the hole bigger. I had to be real careful to move around the edge of the hole to avoid notching.
The combination of the file, a little reaming and trimming the inside with the drill bit resulted in a nice round clean hole, just big enough for the fitting.
Tip over the barrel to remove the plastic shavings from inside.
Step 6: Fish the Fitting Into the Hole.
Now we have to maneuver the fitting into the hole from the inside. As my wife was unavailable to crawl inside (seriously, we did that to move the original spigot), and the fitting has a hole, I decided to use my electrician's fish tape to drag the fitting in. You could use stiff wire; a fish tape is perfect.
First put the tape into the hole from the outside...
Step 7: Duct-tape the Fitting Onto the Fish Tape End
Stick the fish tape end thru the thread end of the fitting, and duct-tape the end to the flat part, outside of the fitting. That way you can pull the fish tape into the barrel, and the fitting won't fall off.
Step 8: Pull the Fitting Into the Barrel
Pull on the fish tape, being careful not to knock off the fitting. You should be able to pull it up through the hole. Hang onto it by the threads.
Make sure you have the nut and rubber washer handy!
Now wiggle the fish tape to loosen the duct tape and pull the fish tape out of the fitting.
Step 9: Install the Rubber Washer and Nut.
While holding onto the fitting, put on the rubber washer, then thread the nut onto the fitting. Spin it down and then tighten it with a wrench.
REMEMBER: this is tough nylon, but can be stripped. Use reasonable force. You just want the rubber washer to seat fully around the curved barrel surface. Any more pressure than that is asking for trouble.
NOTE: Barry at Aquabarrel notes that the washer should be inside the barrel, not outside. He will be updating the instructions at their website, and I will update the pictures when I take down the barrel for the winter.
THIS MEANS YOU NEED TO PUT ON THE WASHER IN STEP 7!
Step 10: Install the Adapter and Ball Valve.
Now the easy part. Thread the adapter and valve assembly into the internal thread on the bulkhead fitting. Ideally the valve lever will face toward the top of the barrel so you can see its position.
Step 11: Reassemble the Rain Barrel
Now install the tray, the screen and the screw-on lid you removed before.
Step 12: Set Up the Completed Rain Barrel
I build a stand out of two 16x16 concrete patio blocks with cinder blocks between.
My barrels are on gravel, so having a firm footing is important, and the bottom block supplies that and makes it easy to level. The cinder blocks add height, and the top block keeps the cinder blocks from shifting and gives a smooth surface for the barrel to sit upon.
REMEMBER: A full barrel can weigh 600 lbs. Your mounting better be stable and safe, especially if you have kids that like to run around.