DIY: How to Build a Rain Barrel

Someday, when my garden grows up, it’s going to be a cottage garden. I’ve been working on making it into one for years now, and that’s taken a whole lot of trial and error in regards to what works and what doesn’t. It’s an ongoing process.

cottage garden - See Jamie blog

Our house isn’t at all cottage style, but surrounding it with hand-me-down plants and flowers like this iris from Ken’s grandma help it have that cottage character. I love them!

cottage garden iris

With all those flowers, many of them on the opposite side of the house from our one outdoor water spigot, even occasional watering is a pain. For ease and eco-friendliness, I wanted a rain water barrel. Pre-made rain barrels are expensive, so we made one ourselves! Ken made one in a FREE class through our local water system. We’ll soon be making another one for the other side of the house, too. It’s not complicated to make and supplies are relatively easy to find.

Once a few things are growing, you hardly even notice that barrel!

diy water barrel - See Jamie blog

Make your own DIY rain water barrel.

Supplies should be easy to find at your local hardware or home improvement store. For the barrel, you’ll have to check around. We got one at a place called Advanced Drum for about $18; my dad gave us another one.

What you’ll need:

  • A 55-gallon food-grade drum (barrel). Be sure it’s “food-grade” is so that it doesn’t put chemicals back into the ground. Our first one smelled like Mellow Yellow because it held the syrup to make it!
  • 6-inch round grate plastic drain cover
  • Nylon mesh screen (it comes in a roll)
  • 24-inch zip ties (the kind used for HVAC)
  • 1/2-inch plastic faucet
  • 3/4-inch flat steel washer
  • #12 O-ring
  • PVC schedule 40 – 90 elbow
  • plastic extension for gutter downspout

What to do:

  1. Cut opening in top of barrel the size of the drain cover.
  2. Cut piece of mesh slightly larger than drain cover.
  3. Secure mesh screen to drain cover with zip tie.
  4. Insert drain cover into opening on top of barrel.
  5. Drill hole for faucet about 6-inches above the bottom of barrel.
  6. Put steel washer over faucet threads and slide o-ring over faucet threads (to make sure it doesn’t leak).
  7. Place faucet in hole and screw the plastic elbow into assembly from inside of the barrel (that’s the hard part unless you have really long arms!). Once you’ve done that, you’re done with the actual rain barrel. All that’s left is to hook it up!
  8. Cut gutter downspout to just above the rain barrel.
  9. Attach downspout flex elbow to gutter
  10. Slide barrel under spout, making sure to line up mesh screen opening with the opening of the spout.

Congratulations! You are now ready to conserve water and save money with your homemade rain barrel! We usually just fill up our watering can with it, but you can also hook up a hose, especially if your rain barrel is uphill from where you’ll be watering.

You can even paint your rain barrel with Krylon plastic paint if you’d like to change color to better match your house.

Please note:

It’s best NOT to water plants you will eat with this water because rain that comes off of your roof picks up chemicals from the shingles. You can water all non-edible plants this way, though! Someday I might try making one that’s completely open on top to collect rain water out by our veggie garden; if you do this, remember to cover it with mesh so you don’t create a mosquito factory!

–> Find more garden inspiration at An Oregon Cottage.