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How to Build a Rain Barrel – Urban Life (DIY)

A Rain Barrel is a great way to save a little cash, help the environment and even class up your house.

Imagine how much water you could collect when for every 500 square feet of roof equals around 300 gallons of water for every inch of rain. That is a great deal of water that usually goes right down your downspout to one area of your yard, or worse your driveway, street or sidewalk. By using a rain barrel you can collect water to use on your plants, garden and lawn that would otherwise go to waste. Be sure to check with your local ordinances though, as states like Colorado and Nevada the use of rain barrels is illegal for one crazy reason or another.

I will show you in a few easy steps how to build a rain barrel inexpensively and creatively.

First you will need a few supplies, most of which you can find at your local hardware store. I purchased mine at Lowes and have provided the item numbers to make your shopping list easier.

  • PVC 3/4″ x 1″ SCH 40 Slip and Thread Adapter – Lowe’s part #22695 made by Lasco (2 per barrel)
  • PVC 3/4″ Elbow [Threaded] –  Lowe’s part #126822 made by Lasco (1 per barrel)
  • 3/4″ quarter-turn brass Sillcock – Lowe’s part #248909 made by American Valve (1 per barrel)
  • 1″ zinc flat washers -Lowe’s part #15012 made by Hillman (2 per barrel)

You can purchase a food grade 55 gallon drum at many local retailers. I bought a couple of Mt. Olive 55 Gallon Barrels from Duval Container Company for around $25.

 One tube of silicone caulk
 One 20” x 20” piece of fiberglass screen
 Roll of paper towels & trash bag
 One 6’ or 15’ section of garden hose for overflow
 One flexible downspout extension
 Two concrete blocks and a 16” x 16” concrete stepping stone for base

 Electric drill
 1” spade bit
 Arc joint (slip joint) pliers – jaws must open to at least 1 ¾”
 Caulking gun unless using squeezable caulk.
 Measuring tape
 Sharpie marker
 Scissors (to trim the screen)
 Hacksaw (if you have gutters and downspouts)

Ten Easy Steps on How to Build a Rain Barrel 

Step One:  purchase a food grade 55 gallon drum

Rain Barrel Drum

55 Gallon Olive Barrel

Step Two : Paint the barrel (I used Valspar Premium Finish Paint and Primer)

Step Three: Drill a 1″ hole about 6″ from the top of the barrel and another about 7″ from the bottom.


Holes drilled in rain barrel

Step Four: Attach PVC 3/4″ x 1″ SCH 40 Slip and Thread Adapter, PVC 3/4″ Elbow and 1″ zinc flat washer. Use silicone caulk to seal the attachment. This will create an overflow.

Rain Barrel Overflow

Step Five: Attach PVC 3/4″ x 1″ SCH 40 Slip and Thread Adapter, 3/4″ quarter-turn brass Sillcock and the other  1″ zinc flat washer in the bottom hole. This will be your hose drain access point.

Rain barrel drains

Step Six: Drill several 1″ holes in the lid of the barrel, this will allow for water to flow into the barrel while keeping out large debris.

rain barrel Drill 1" holes in the top

Step Seven: Cut a 20″ x 20″ piece of fiberglass screen and lay across the top of the barrel.

rain barrel 20 x 20 Screen

Step Eight: re-attach the lid, keeping the screen in place. This will prevent more debris and pesky critters from going in for a swim.

rain barrel Screw Barrel Lid back on

Step Nine: Use two (or four) concrete blocks and the stepping stone to create an elevated stand where you want your barrel placed.

painted rain barrel installed

Barrel on concrete blocks, Gutter attached

Step 10: Cut the gutter with a hacksaw and attach the flexible downspout extension as needed to redirect the water flow to the barrel.

Painted rain barrel with foliage

Painted rain barrel with foliage

By installing a rain barrel (or in my case two) that is plenty of water gathered during each rain fall, which in Florida is almost daily, to water a lot of plants. We use ours to water our garden as well as our decorative landscape. By attaching a hose to the sillcock and draining the barrel regularly you can save on your water bill, meanwhile helping the environment.

There are a great deal of areas around the country that suffer from drought and water restrictions. For less than 50 bucks at your local hardware store you can make a difference. If you do not feel so compelled to DIY, there are plenty of pre-made rain barrel solutions available as well.

About Charles Johnston

Charles is a Christian, husband and father of fur-kids who shares his walk with others in hopes to help other's along the way.

4 Replies

  1. My husband and I would like to install a rain barrel system on our house (once we have one ;). Your directions are clear and concise–I’ll have to bookmark this for later. Thanks!

    1. It’s a relatively easy project, the second one was a lot easier than the first. Be as creative as you like. I used local foliage and a can of spray paint on the first one and it looks better than I imagined.

  2. Candace Crosby

    Loved this – printed the entire message up and took home to the hubby. Thanks for publishing!

    1. Adding to the “honey to do list” .. have fun.. easy project to do that makes a difference.