rain barrel DIY

With all the planting and gardening I am always working on, I've been going through a LOT of water lately. With 5 baby hemlocks, 2 baby blue spruce, transplanted hostas, daylillies and liriope, plus tons of growing bulbs and seeds, I was not amused with our water bill. I thought that now might be a good time to invest in a rain barrel!

The first place I looked was....a rain barrel store. Yes, they exist and there is randomly one within 2 miles of my house. Go figure! They had plenty of rain barrels to choose from, but even the typical  barrels (sans hose bibs or anything special) cost upwards of $45. Although I know a barrel isn't something you have to replace often, I knew I could do better than that.

I looked around and found used rain barrels of various size and color at a local fleatique. (L&L Fleatique in Adamsburg, if you're local!) $14 for a 55 gallon barrel? That's better. Now to make it into a functional rain barrel with a spout that won't serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Hmmm....

It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be and it was certainly well worth my time and a few simple materials. Here's what I bought besides the rain barrel:
11/16 Drill Bit

- 1/2" hose bib
- Two 1/2" washers (one for the inside and one for the outside)
- One 1/2" lock nut (for the inside)
- One 11/16" hole cutting drill bit (be sure you get one that's just for wood since you only need to cut through plastic...otherwise, they're like $20)
- Screen for the top (this came in a large roll, but was only about $7)
- Adhesive caulking (I already had this)

Once you have all this stuff around, it's a quick project! Here's what to do:

 - Clean it: If you have a used barrel, I would definitely recommend cleaning it out. (Ours actually came with a few olives floating in their nasty olive juice from it's previous life. It was lovely.) I just used dish soap and a hose. Be sure to rinse it really well if you're planning to use the water for plants. Soapy water is harmful for plants.
- Mark a spot for the hose bib: Stand the barrel up and make a mark for how high you want the faucet to be. Keep in mind that you might want to be able to fit a large bucket or watering can underneath, but you'll want it as low as possible for optimal water pressure. Also, maybe estimate a few inches higher if you plan to dig out an area for the barrel to sit in.
- Drill hole for the hose bib: Lay the barrel on it's side. Using your new hole cutting bit, drill a hole.
- Establish threads in the barrel: Next, take your hose bib and thread it through the plastic. It will be a tight fit, but you don't want it to leak later. Be sure to keep it as straight as possible as you thread so that you don't make crooked threads. Once you get it in, go ahead and back it out.
- Add washer and attach hose bib: Now that you have the threads started, it will be easier to secure the bib. Apply caulking to one of the washers and place it over the hole, threading the bib back into place. You may want to add more caulk around the lip of the washer, just incase.
- The fun part: Crawl inside the barrel. :) Bring a flashlight, the other washer, caulk, a wrench and the nut. Apply caulk to the washer the same way, thread the nut on and secure it as tightly as you can. Add some extra caulk as needed, and then get the heck out of the barrel before your husband rolls you down the hill!
- Add screen to the top: Lay the screen over the lid and cut a square about 4" wider than the edge. Placing it over the top of the barrel, use the outer edge of the barrel lid to thread it in place. Then you can trim the excess screen.
- Put your barrel where you want it: You may need to dig a bit to level the ground, but just be sure that wherever you put it is stable. You're not going to want to try to move it when it's full and certainly don't want to worry about it tipping over.
- Cut your down spout: Cut your downspout so that it will end just above the screen of the barrel. This part can be challenging, if you don't have a good saw. I have a Sawsall that did the job, but I tried part of it with an Xacto knife, just out of curiosity. It was difficult, so if you need a saw, you can borrow mine. :)

For about $20 and 20 minutes, we're proud of this little DIY project...and you can guarantee our faces will be pressed up against that sunroom window watching the water pour in as soon as it rains.

UPDATE: We liked our first rain barrel so much that we decided to add 2 more! Getting 3 rain barrels to link and drain properly wasn't necessarily smooth-sailing since I had no idea what I was doing, but you can check out the process here and avoid making the same mistakes I did. :)