Serial-Style Rain Barrels




About: I filled out my census card and listed my race as "giant." I'm still waiting for the census worker to come to my house and challenge me. I plan to throw boulders at him/her.

Here in Texas, we don't tend to get a whole lot of rain. I can't help but think that it's always so much of a waste to see rain flow away and not be able to capture it for the dryer months. The problem is, the commercial rain-barrels I found were always so pricey! The home improvement stores try to sell rain collection systems for upward to a hundred dollars! Why did I need to spend so much when I could just build my own out of $15 trash cans? I could string them together and keep SO much more water. The great thing about this is that You can just keep adding more barrels until you have all the water retention you want. I started out with two, and then added another one this summer. Here I'll be showing you how to make some Serial Rain Barrels on the cheap!

Step 1: Finding Your Spot

Find a spot in your yard. You'll need to find a generally flat place under a downspout. When we moved in, our rain downspout stopped halfway down the wall like this. Why not take advantage of it? I used some deck foundation blocks I had left over from an old deck, and some unused fence posts. You CAN choose to just put your barrels directly on the ground, just make sure you choose some flat earth. Once full of water, these barrels get HEAVY.

Step 2: Gather Your Materials

You'll need the following Tools

A phillips head screwdriver.

An adjustable wrench


A drill with a step-up drill bit (you can use other drilling methods, I just like using a step-up for most everything)


No matter how many barrels you are making, you'll need the following:

Glue (e6000 works great)

One garden-hose grade shut-off valve

One old garden hose with the male end. About a foot is great, but you can work with less.

Hose Mender (I used a 5/8th to 3/4rd inch and it worked great

Braided Vinyl Tubing with a 1 inch outer diameter and 3/5th inch inner diameter. (about a foot per barrel)

An inflated inner tube. (I could not find gaskets big enough for my projects, so I just cut my own out of a cheap inner tube.

Now you'll need to decide how many barrels you want to connect together. You'll need to two connector setups per barrel with the exception of the first. for the first barrel, you'll only need ONE connector setup. Each connector setup consists of the following

Nylon Hose Barb 3/4 in inner diameter and 3/4 in outer diameter.

a 1 inch washer

a hose cap

a gasket. (See my earlier comment about the inner tube)

You'll also need Barrels obviously. I used 32 Gallon Heavy Duty Outdoor Trashcans. $15 at Lowe's.

Step 3: Making the Drain

This is the little pig-tail that sticks out of the end of the whole jig that you can drain water out of. Making the parts with standard garden-hose size bits will allow you to attach this to most anything in the home-and-garden section of your local Home Depot. They allow pets in the Home Depot. Do not attach this to pets.

1) Open up your hose mender. You'll notice there are two separate sizes inside.

2) Attach the side with the larger barb to your garden hose bit.

3) Attach the side with the smaller barb to a chunk of vinyl tubing.

4) Here's the tricky part - Screw the mender on properly for the garden-hose end, but REVERSE the fitting for the tubing end. This will allow the larger tube to settle in rather snugly. Look to the picture above if you get confused. I know I did.

Step 4: Making the Connectors

1) Take your hose caps and drill a hole in the end. You'll want this hole to be no bigger than the rubber stopper on the inside of the cap.

2) Cut out some gaskets. This takes a little trial and error, but it's not too hard. When in doubt, cut the inner ring a little smaller than your nylon barbs, and the outer ring bigger than your washer.

3) Put the washer on the small-end of your barb, the part with the small spiral threads.

4) Squeeze the gasket on after those with rubbery end facing away from the washer.

4a) You can screw the hose cap on and set all of these aside, you'll need them soon.

Step 5: Drilling Your Holes!

This is a pretty simple step. You'll want to pick a spot away from any handles on the barrel. You'll want to stay at least a half inch or so off of the bottom of the barrel here. You want your connectors to go into these holes without having to actually press up against the ground when the barrel is full of water.

You might have to boar out the hole a little after you've drilled. They need to be the right size to where the spiral threads of your connectors will go in TIGHTLY, but will actually go in.

Step 6: Add the Connectors.

Now you'll want to actually add glue to the connectors. Make sure to add ample glue to BOTH sides of the gasket. There will be a lot of pressure on these bad boys when the barrel is full, and a little extra water-proofing never hurt anyone.

After you get them all gooped up, you'll want to screw them into the holes you've made. This is another one of those "trial and error" sort of things. You are putting a threaded device into an unthreaded hole. It'll take some elbow grease and likely some cursing to get it to work. I won't lie, I threw the hole thing across the yard at least once in a torrent of salty language. You, being the handy type, will likely do better than me.

Once you DO get them snugly into the holes, it might not hurt to add a bit more glue. After adding what you likely think is too much glue to the areas around the gasket, screw the hose connectors on to the inside of the barrel. I hope your arms are long enough to do this. My wife often tells me I take things like this for granted. However, seeing as how extend-o-matic arms don't yet exist, my best advice would be to get a long wrench or vice-grips to screw them in. You'll want to make sure this is very tight, but not SO tight that all the glue is squished out of the gasket.

Step 7: Optional Step: Overflow Drain.

I added another connector to the top of my primary barrel so that, when you get more rain than the barrels can hold (you'd be shocked how quick 200 gallons of water can fill up) you have somewhere for it to drain out of other than just having it ooze out the sides of the containers.

Step 8: Connect Everything!

First off, you'll want to let everything dry overnight. While you are waiting, you can use some heavy-duty scissors to cut the lid to one of your barrels so the downspout can fit inside all snugly.

After you've let it dry for a full day or so, connect everything together and get your drain attached.

Now you can marvel over your own ingenious and frugal nature by making something your neighbors likely spent hundreds of dollars on. Aren't you clever and practical? Hook this bad boy up to a soaker hose and start a victory garden!



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    11 Discussions


    3 years ago on Step 8

    I've wondered on these setups if the clearance from the ground would improve the flow and/or the ease of use. If your barrels were, say, 4 feet off the ground, would you get a stronger flow when the barrels are less than full. (One article I just read--to make sure I wasn't completely off the mark--suggested, "Elevating the storage container increases pressure and helps maintain it when the barrel is less than full.") Wondered if you had any thoughts.

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago on Step 8

    I would think that it WOULD improve the flow, I mean, that is the whole principal behind a water tower, right? I don't know if four feet would make a huge difference though. It would be an interesting experiment.


    3 years ago on Introduction

    Very useful: Way to go! Good luck on getting more steady rain!


    3 years ago on Introduction

    Forgive my "pedantry" I think I'd call it a Parallel system. :)

    Still a good plan. You might look into stock-tanks as another option.


    3 years ago on Introduction

    Great idea. they will be a lot easier to clean out than the standard "blue barrel" I like your home brew bulkhead fitting, but I think I would spring for a sheet of EPDM rubber for the gasket. Around here, inner tube rubber starts to rot from ozone and UV very quickly. Thanks!

    1 reply

    That's a pretty great idea actually. Two of those cans have been around for a year now and they aren't leaking. The beautey of the setup is that it's so cheap, you COULD throw the whole thing out and start over again if you wanted. Still though, the EPDM rubber is likely a better idea from the get-go.


    3 years ago on Introduction

    I'd suggest using "bulkhead fittings" for the hose connections between the barrels rather than your "home brewed" solution. You can pick them up at Lowe's in the plumbing department (item #438374 for the 3/4" version, item #438373 for the 1/2" version).