Looking for a way to reuse rainwater without using gutters? This easy DIY will show you how to upcycle a trash can into a rain barrel for under $35! Be sure to also check out our post on how to DIY your own backyard greenhouse. We also just finished a 275 gallon IBC tote rainwater harvesting project!
With summer approaching, Eileen was working hard on her flower garden.
She has a DIY planter box close to the house, but she also has a flower garden out in the perimeter of the yard. As I saw her walking all the way up to the house and out to the yard to fill up her watering can several times in a row, inspiration struck.
Why not set up a type of water reservoir by her garden?!
Not only would this eliminate her water laps to the house, but it would avoid the hassle of rolling and unrolling a hose.
Furthermore, I could use a rain barrel system which would fall right in line with our new organic way of life. We’ve made a lifestyle change this year, opting for organic, non-processed foods, and re-using rainwater was a perfect addendum.
Planning the DIY Rain Barrel
I did some research on how making DIY rain barrel reservoirs and settled on a design pattern I liked.
A rain barrel reservoir is a very simple way to collect and store rainwater for future use. You first need a large container to store the water.
A typical container used is the blue 55-gallon water drums with bung hole caps on the top. In my research, I actually found out that a lot of cities offer water conservation programs and give out these drums for free.
Also, you can probably even check with businesses or food processing factories to see if they are throwing any away.
I opted for a different route though, as I did not need a large 55-gallon container. I shopped around at Home Depot and found a 20-gallon plastic garbage can for $13 that was perfect.
The lid appealed to me because when I flipped it over, it was deep and round. This meant it would serve as a nice water collection basin for the falling rain (as opposed to a flat surface that I would get with a water drum), allowing the water to pool in the center.
Here’s a picture of the garbage can I purchased at Home Depot with the deep upside-down lid:
Constructing the DIY Rain Barrel
Making the DIY rain barrel was super simple. Here are the steps that I used:
Drilling Holes In The Lid
The first step of construction was drilling five large drainage holes in the center of the lid. I used a hole saw bit for my drill to make these cuts.
Attaching A Screen Cover
Then I placed some mosquito screen for a cover on the part of the lid that would be facing the water, and secured it in place with some waterproof duct tape.
It was important to cover the drainage holes with insect screen to keep bugs out of the water. If the screen wasn’t fine enough, mosquitoes especially would get in and lay larvae in the water.
Drilling An Overflow Hole
I also had to drill an overflow hole in the top part of the garbage can. This was to allow water to drain out when the container was full to capacity. This hole also had to be protected with insect screen.
Here’s a picture of the 5 drainage holes in the lid, as well as the overflow hole in the garbage can:
Below is a picture of what the lid looked like once the insect screen cover was applied with waterproof duct tape (the screen is a little hard to see, but its covering the holes).
This part of the lid would be facing downwards so would not be visible.
Attaching A Valve Spigot
I needed a valve inserted at the bottom of the can to let water out when needed. I did some shopping online and found a really nice valve spigot with a bulkhead fitting that was perfect for my rain barrel design.
The bulkhead fitting was the piece that let me attach it to the wall of the garbage can without leaking.
To install it, I first drilled a hole at the bottom of the can. Then I inserted the inside part of the bulkhead fitting. This piece came with a rubber ring that would form a tight seal when pressed against the can wall.
Next, I attached the outside part of the fitting. It just screwed onto the inside piece from the outside, and then I used a wrench to make a tight connection.
Finally, I screwed on the actual spigot into the outside bulkhead fitting. I used some Teflon tape on the spigot grooves to ensure a watertight seal.
With the spigot tightly installed, I partially filled the can with water (just high enough to cover the spigot) and checked for leaks. No water came out, so it was good to go.
Here’s a picture of the spigot (left) and bulkhead fitting (right), straight out of the box:
Here’s a picture of the installed spigot from the outside (notice the white Teflon tape around the spigot groove to make a waterproof seal with the bulkhead fitting):
Below is what the bulkhead fitting looked like from the inside:
Securing The Lid
Next, I had to secure the upside-down lid to the garbage can so that a gust of wind wouldn’t send it soaring through the air. I came up with a simple technique of drilling 16 small holes around the perimeter of the lid penetrating the can below.
Then I inserted 6-inch U-shaped strands of electrical wire into the holes, twist tying the bottoms. The wires held the lid tightly to the garbage can.
Here’s a picture showing the wire strands holding down the lid on the DIY rain barrel:
Building A DIY Rain Barrel Stand
The DIY rain barrel was now finished.
However, the project would not be complete without a proper rain barrel stand. The barrel needed to be elevated about a foot off the ground to allow buckets and watering cans to be placed under the spigot.
I came up with a simple but very sturdy design for a stand using wood leftover from my shed project.
It was important to use pressure-treated wood for the stand as it would be in direct contact with the ground and be exposed to bugs. I constructed the stand as outlined in the pictures below.
Cutting The Wood
I cut 2’ lengths of 2 x 4s, 2 x 6s (pictured below) and 1’ length of 4 x 4s (not pictured):
Then, I attached 4 of the 2 x 6s to 4 vertical 4 x 4s:
Next, I attached 2 of the 2 x 4s to the top of the 4 x 4s. These were to serve as the supports for the stand’s platform:
Finally, I attached 4 of the 2 x 6s to the top, completing the rain barrel stand:
Securing The The Rain Barrel To The Stand
With the stand and rain barrel now complete, I found a good location near to Eileen’s garden and set it up.
I also made sure there were no tree branches above to block the rainfall. At this point, I realized I forgot to properly secure the rain barrel to the stand.
Here is a picture of the final setup of our DIY rain barrel:
Here’s a close up of the hook for the bungee cord, securing the rain barrel to the stand:
Testing Our New DIY Rain Barrel
I was excited for Eileen to start using the rain barrel. Now I just had to wait for rain.
Luckily it rained the next day, and I ran out after the skies cleared up to check out the rain barrel.
My simple design worked pretty well. I opened the spigot and water came pouring out. Though, it wasn’t that much water for the amount of rain that fell.
The garbage can lid only has so much surface area to collect water and yielded a small amount of water. So, it would take several large rain falls to collect a usable amount of water. However, it still saved Eileen trips up to the house and back.
So although the basic design for the rain barrel was complete, I was already envisioning upgrades to improve the water collection efficiency.
Updates to come in future blog posts!
As for time and cost, the materials for the DIY rainwater barrel cost $35, and it took about an hour to make.
Be sure to also check out our post about DIY self-watering beds!
3 Year Rain Barrel Update
Our DIY rain barrel has been working out great. It has saved us so many trips from the house all the way out to the garden hauling watering cans.
Depending upon how much it has rained, sometimes we need to fill up the rain barrel with the hose, but then the rainwater will continue to maintain it again.
It’s much easier taking the hose all the way down the yard a once a year or so – than every watering.
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