After I finished my picnic table, I felt like there was just something missing. After some casual conversation with the family, my dad thought it'd be nice to have some kind of rain barrel to collect all the rain water from our new back patio. So I took to my favorite online DIY instruction manual and saw some good ideas that would make a good starting point. I decided to go with a 59 gallon wine cask from a local winery here in Dallas. There are other barrels at the stores, but they all run about the same price, if not higher than this project. You can also use the blue or white chemical drums, but I didn't want that kind of eyesore in my backyard. I wanted to keep it as simple as possible, and I think I achieved that. I didn't want to have to cut the lid off completely to access inside the barrel, and this design allows just that. The gutter system you put this under will go right into the barrel from the top.
Step 1: Gather Materials and Tools
- 59 gallon wine cask $150
- patio screen material $7
- metal grate, like on a grill, or 8 small 9" rods (optional)
- 3ft. 1x1 oak (shortest I could find was 6ft.) $5
- 8 panel nails $1
- 3/4 brass spigot $8
- 8ft. 2x6 cedar $10
- 8 tan deck screws $4
- rocks of your choosing $10
- circular saw
- belt sander (optional)
-1" drill bit
- tape measure
- small level
- jigsaw, hand saw, or jamb saw
- pipe wrench
Step 2: Assemble Spigot Section
Simply take your drill bit into the oak barrel at the lowest point you can. The lower the better...more water pressure and access to all the water. I ended up not even needing any kind of gasket or pipe fittings. The spigot will be a very tight fit in the oak barrel, so you'll just screw it right in there with your wrench creating it's own watertight seal. No extras needed, I promise. Easy.
Step 3: OPTIONAL: Overflow
On my design, I decided to use the existing plug as an overflow port. In Texas, we don't get a shit ton of rain like most other places, especially this year. It has rained only once, for an hour or two, this whole summer. I will probably leave the overflow as is, but my thought is to just drill another hole at the very top and it can just pour out right onto my rocks. No ugly pipes or anything are needed. One thing that did cross my mind is possibly another spigot that remains permanently open. If you decide to do an open-air hole, put some of the extra patio screen material on the inside of the barrel where the hole is so that bugs can't get in that way. You should do this, perhaps with a staple gun, before Step 4 so you still have "easy" access to the inside.
Step 4: Cut Hole in Lid
While this section is fairly straightforward, just keep in mind that the barrel lid is not completely flat. Mine dips in slightly. Try to line up your lines with the slats of oak on top. Use your circular saw to make the main cuts. My hole is 8"x8" Drill in one of your screws into the center of the square before you make the final cuts so you don't drop the wood in the bottom. Or you can just let it fall. Use the hand saw or whatever to make the final cuts.
Step 5: Install Bug/Trash Filter
The screen netting will go directly on top of the barrel. The oak 1x1s will go on top of that to hold it down and give it a nice finish. I used my belt sander to round of the inside edges. It's a rustic oudoor piece, so use whatever look you want. Nail down the oak slats over the netting with the panel nails and you're set.
OPTIONAL: After I finished this project, I thought that it would probably be better to have a wider metal grate, like you see on an outdoor grill, to put underneath the netting. It would add a great deal of rigidity, while the netting will keep the bugs out.
Step 6: Build Rock Bed
We also built a rock bed so that the ground wouldn't get muddy if/when it overflows and excess water collects. I simply cut the 2x6 into four 2ft. sections and stacked each side. Miter cuts weren't necessary. The was the look I was going for. Just put two screws into each side and you're good to go. Level it out and you have your oasis.
Step 7: Put on Pedestal and Under Gutter
I don't know what to tell you for a pedestal. I got really lucky to find this iron pedestal at a local garden decoration market down the street from me. It actually is supposed to hold a fireplace that looks like a bowl, but they sold it to me separately. I was originally looking for a large planter to turn upside down. You can always build one or just find what works best for you. Put it under your gutter and you're good to go. Enjoy the free water!!
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Green Living & Technology Challenge