Build Your Own Rain Barrel to Save Water and Money

Project difficulty: Medium

Time to complete: 2-3 hours

Materials needed: A barrel, watertight sealant or Teflon tape, two rubber washers, two metal washers, one hose clamp, one spigot, a drill, landscaping fabric

A rain barrel can collect 300 gallons of water for every inch of rain that falls per 500 square feet of roof.1 That can add up to over a thousand gallons of water every year.

Using less tap water will not only save you a considerable amount of money each year, but rainwater is actually better for your plants and soil.2 Rainwater is highly oxygenated and free of contaminates commonly found in tap water, so your plants will be nourished and strong. Clean rainwater is also great to use for washing vehicles and bathing family pets. Another interesting perspective: a rain barrel will force you to evaluate your family’s daily water usage, which may highlight other areas where you can conserve as well. 

If you don’t already have a barrel, check out online stores, local free-cycle exchange boards or nearby car washes. You can even use a heavy-duty trashcan in place of a barrel. Ready-made rain barrels can be pricey, so if you prefer the DIY method of going green, follow the steps below to make your own rain barrel. You’ll be saving water in no time. 

The steps below use a large trash can as the barrel. However, you can find many other variations.

  1. Select a location for your rain barrel directly under your home’s downspout so the water can easily flow into the barrel. Be sure to place the barrel on a strong, flat surface or platform, as a filled rain barrel can weigh more than 450 pounds. 
  2. Drill a hole for the spigot near the bottom of the barrel. Be sure to leave enough space so you can easily fill your watering can.
  3. Place a metal washer on the threaded end of the spigot and then a rubber washer over top the threads to hold the washer in place and prevent water from leaking. 
  4. Apply sealant to the rubber washer and insert the spigot into the hole. After the sealant dries, place a rubber washer on the inside of the barrel, followed by a metal washer onto the threads of the spigot. Tightly fasten the spigot inside the barrel with the hose clamp to keep it secure.
  5. Cut a hole in the lid of the rain barrel, ensuring the hole sits directly under your home’s downspout. Near the top of the rain barrel, drill a couple holes to allow water to overflow. 
  6. Seal the top of the barrel with a piece of landscaping fabric and put the lid on top to secure it. This barrier will prevent mosquitos or other bugs from contaminating your rain water but allow water to enter the barrel and overflow as needed.3
  7. Enjoy your water and extra savings. 

1Better Homes and Gardens 
3Better Homes and Gardens