Monday, February 24, 2014

Simple DIY Rain Barrel

With Spring approaching rapidly...I hope, we have begun making preparations for our raised bed garden plots (more on those in a future post). Part of any garden in all but the most saturated climates is irrigation. While there are a variety of irrigation methods I decided I would like to have a barrel to catch rain run-off from the roof. Unless we have a very dry growing season I expect that our needs for the garden will be fairly limited so I opted for a cheap 32 gallon trashcan as the rain barrel. I think the cost for the barrel was about $10 and there are all kinds of other options from free to forty or fifty dollars.

The next requirement for the barrel was that I be able to connect a hose directly to it. This meant fashioning a spigot and raising the barrel so there would be some pressure at the garden. Below you will see the parts I used for installing the spigot and, again, the cost was around $10 for all of it.


The parts list is:

1- spigot
1- sheet of gasket rubber
2- washers
2- flat bolts
1- roll of teflon tape
1- flexible downspout coupler

Process

The first thing I did was construct the stand for the barrel. I used some scrap 4x4s, 2x4s and plywood. As you will see in the upcoming pictures I think I overbuilt the stand but when the barrel is full it will weigh around 250 lbs so my idea is that stronger is better. 

The next step was to install the spigot in the barrel. Ideally, you'd want a hole saw that was the right size but I didn't have such a piece of equipment so I used my rotory tool to rout out the hole. Next I traced out the size of the washer on the gasket rubber. I could easily have gotten many more gaskets from the one sheet and it cut very well with a pair of kitchen sheers.


Once the gaskets were cut I placed a washer followed by one gasket on the spigot and installed it in the hole in the trashcan. There was not enough clearance to put both the gasket and washer on the inside so I just used the washer and silicone. I tightened it up as much as possible and the next day the silicone had dried and created a good seal around the spigot. Now for the installation outside the house.

This is where it got kind of tricky. Our garage is separate from the house and has two downspouts on the back. My plan was to simply unhook one of the downspouts and run it into the barrel via a flexible coupling. This would save the downspout so that it could just be replaced when we move. Needless to say, that didn't pan out in Peoria. The stand and barrel were not tall enough to allow me to unhook the downspout and simply connect on to it. Thus, I went to cutting with the hack saw. 

After measuring how much downspout I actually needed to meet up with the barrel I cut off the access and continued with the original plan. This worked well  and I was able to rout another hole in the trashcan lid that would accept the flexible coupling. Now, the barrel is set to receive runoff from the roof.

The final step was to make an allowance for overflow. To accommodate this I bought one of the fittings that you use to connect a downspout to the gutter. Again, I routed out a suitable hole near the top of the trashcan and bolted the fitting on with a liberal amount of silicone. Finally, I put the remainder of the original downspout and one of the elbows on to the fitting so when water reaches the top it will simply spill out as usual. Below you will see the finished product.

Finished product ready to harvest rain. The rope around the barrel was to keep it from blowing away until it fills us.

To be sure, there are prettier rain barrels in the world but this one met several personal requirement, not least of which was budget friendly. I tried to make as much use of existing material as possible and it did not require drilling into the downspout and installing a device that harvests some of the rain. Additionally, when it comes time to move all I have to do is replace one section of downspout and you'll never know it was even there. They are calling for rain later this week so I will update you on how it works!

Christian

UPDATE: After two years the rain barrel is still performing flawlessly. I did end up adding a short piece of rubber hose to the spigot so I can fill up my watering can on the ground instead of having to hold it will it fills. I do empty the barrel before winter and leave the spigot open for the duration of the winter. When the danger of freezing temperatures passes I take it down, hose it out and put it back. Like I said, two years and no problems.