DIY Rain Barrel

Last time we discussed why You Want a Rain Barrel.  I even went on a little rant there at the end.  Yeah, you’re welcome.

Now that we’re all hot and bothered and ready to roll, I’m here to provide a step-by-step for installing your own rain barrel using the EarthMinded Rain Barrel Kit. I purchased this kit while participating in a workshop hosted by our local Parks Department, but you can find it at several retailers.

Simple DIY Rain Barrel

Step-by-step walk through for installing your own rain barrel from a kit.

This project was completed in less than two hours during toddler nap time, while the Wife was out shopping for yoga pants.  Not just any yoga pants.  A fancier type of yoga pants she wouldn’t feel weird wearing out of the house.  It is the official SAHM uniform after all and it’s time she dressed appropriately.

At least that’s how everything was explained to me…  Such is our exciting lives.

So two hours is your time commitment.  You can significantly shorten that if you don’t want to paint your barrel and stand around watching it dry.

But enough talk.  Let’s get to building so you can end up with one of these!


Materials & Tools Needed


It’s very important you begin with a Food Grade Barrel.  Sometimes you’ll get lucky and can scrounge these from grocery stores, restaurants, or even car washes for free.  The latter gets their soap delivered that way and if you think about it, well rinsed soap barrels are about as clean as you can get.  If shelling out a few Washingtons, Craigslist always seems to have a few in our area.

There are many styles of barrel, but I prefer the closed lid variety as it basically eliminates any chance for mosquitoes.  If you have an open lid type, some fine mesh, like used in window screens, will easily prevent that potential problem.  Another option is to fork out a few dimes at your local pet store and bring home the cheapest goldfish they offer.

Here’s my old Food Grade gal that is rinsed and  needs a little prettying up.


I began with a dousing of brown spray paint since that would:

  1. Block sunlight coming into this white translucent barrel, discouraging algae growth.
  2. Help it blend into our house’s trim a little more, making the Wife happy.



There.  That’s better.

While waiting for the paint to dry, I prepared my barrel’s future home next to a downspout.  Use your shovel and level to excavate a flat, stable surface.  If the movie Jerry Maguire taught us anything in the mid-90′s, it’s that a human head is apparently similar in weight to a gallon of water – about eight pounds.  Fifty-five times that eight pounds is a lot.  You don’t want this thing tipping over and rolling away.

Unless you have Donkey Kongs to contend with.  Then maybe.

(Quick aside: Is it Donkey Kongs?  Or Donkeys Kong?  Like Attorneys General? …… I digress……)

I dug a little bit to rearrange some dirt in my spot and checked with a level.

I then stacked a few cinder blocks to give the barrel some height.  This does two things:

  1. The spigot can now be installed at the bottom of the barrel, so there’s room to fit a watering can or five gallon bucket underneath.
  2. It increases water pressure in case I want to hook up a hose.


It’s finally time to break open the rain barrel kit.  Use the (included!) hole saw bit to drill for the spigot.  You want this up a couple of inches from the bottom so any debris will collect there and not clog up the works.


Hopefully you see something like this.


Insert the threaded rubber grommet.


Carefully screw in the spigot.


Next, we connect it to the downspout.

Select a spot on the barrel a couple inches lower than the lid, drill (with the included medium sized saw bit), and insert the non-threaded rubber grommet… making sure the kit’s flexible hose will reach from the front of the downspout.


Drill the downspout hole (with the included largest saw bit).  The edges will likely be very sharp, so gloves and eye protection are good ideas.

It’s also really important to plan, then measure twice and cut once here.  You need your downspout hole to be at lid-height of your barrel.  If you have a closed lid type, like I do, then a little higher is better since it’s impossible for the barrel to overflow.  If you have your downspout hole too low, water won’t flow up the connector hose into your barrel.  I guess gravity doesn’t work that way.



Now here is the EarthMinded Kit’s claim to fame.  This is the part you insert into the downspout.

It is designed so large debris like leaves and other stuff passes through the middle hole, continues on down the downspout, and exits.  The clean rain water hugs the sides of the downspout, especially in lighter rains, gets collected by the tray around the hole, and diverted into the connecter (the part I’m holding), into the hose, and into your barrel.


Another look?  Here it is oriented as it would sit in the downspout.


Pretty nifty.  This was the only reason I purchased this kit, as I wanted to see for myself if the design would function as intended.

Stick that baby in the downspout.  Attach with two self-tapping screws (also included in the kit), and connect the flexible hose.  Obviously the hose feeds rain water into the barrel.  When the barrel is full, the hose fills up, meaning no more water can get in and rainfall continues on merrily down the downspout.


Then sit back and declare this nap time project complete.

Here’s our barrel waiting patiently for Mother Nature to unleash her wrath so we can later water the large perennial bed in front of our house, and my fledgling food forest I’m planting in the acre of grass on this side of the house.

Probably most important… Sadie approves.  I know because she only ran off with my work gloves twice and a rubber grommet once.

What a good girl.


Summary & My Review

If you can’t tell, this thing was very simple to install.  I appreciate that the good folks at EarthMinded thought to include everything you’d need, including the hole saw bits.  Other barrels I’ve constructed from scratch with PVC piping and parts bought from the local Big Box store.  That’s far from difficult and you might save a couple bucks going that route… but by comparison, this installation was a snap.

This barrel has been installed for about a year and a half and has worked out wonderfully.  I was a little worried about the plastic spigot, but it’s held up with no issues so far.

I wholeheartedly endorse this kit for most uses. 

However, there are a few things I like to do differently depending on the intended usage.  Specifically, I think it’s important to have a First Flush Diverter as part of the system if you are using this to irrigate a vegetable garden.  This kit’s design makes adding that feature problematic.

A diverter keeps the first few gallons from the roof out of your barrel since that’s where most of the contaminants are.  This is especially true if you have an asphalt shingled roof.  Those lucky enough to have metal roofing need not worry as much about contaminants.  I’ll show you a diverter I built out of PVC pipe when I discuss another of our barrels.  Until then, Google can be your friend and there are many designs available, although some are way more intricate than they need be.   Since this particular barrel will only irrigate flowers in our front “pretty” perennial bed that also contains a few edible gooseberries and currants, and trees I just planted that are too young to produce, the lack of a First Flush Diverter is not a huge deal to me.

I also try to keep in mind that while I have an ideal, idyllic vision in my head for our Homestead… sometimes reality has to butt into the picture a little.  Anything coming off the roof would be in very trace amounts, and likely not that detrimental to a veggie garden.  We need to remember there are a whole lot of people in this country who build raised bed gardens, in the wrong spot, using treated lumber (gasp!), and regularly douse their future food with a Monsanto chemical buffet.  Not saying I am going to garden that way.  I’m just saying using roof runoff to irrigate your vegetables is not the end of the world in my personal opinion.

However I’ll always use a first flush diverter off a shingled roof for my vegetables’ irrigation.  It’s not something I need to worry about, as my veggies will be watered from barrels connected to my chicken coop‘s metal roof.

To wrap it up, other than that one criticism, and for about $30, I’m pretty impressed with this kit’s design and don’t think you can go wrong.  Especially if you want something quick, easy, and ready to go straight out of the bag.

Question of the Day: Seriously, is it Donkeys Kong?


Posted in Garden, Homestead, Permaculture, Resilience Tagged with: , , ,
19 comments on “DIY Rain Barrel
  1. Seriously, I have NO idea. But I love that you asked! 🙂

    Anyway, thanks for the great tutorial! A rain barrel is on my list… sadly, replacing the gutters on the house is also on the list and, obviously, needs to be done first! And will take a *bit* more than two hours, I expect!
    Christine @ Once Upon a Time in a Bed of Wildflowers recently posted…Food Rules from a Fourth GraderMy Profile

    • Mike says:

      I can understand and support that order of priorities. Sometimes my Wife says wacky things regarding priorities like, “Maybe you should patch the hole in the kitchen when you ripped out those cabinets a couple months ago… instead of working on a gutter for the chicken coop.” 😉

  2. Christina says:

    I would be concerned about water sitting in plastic, especially when warmed by the sun. Do you have any concerns about more plastic (xenoextrogens) entering into your foodshed in that manner? If so, what are you doing to ameliorate that?

    • Mike says:

      It’s something I’ve thought of in the back of my mind, but not something I really worry about since I only use Food Grade, HDPE plastic barrels. I have not seen any studies detailing how a slow release would or would not build up in irrigated soil over a very long time. Last, we don’t drink from these barrels, however I would if there was some dire situation where the alternative was literally dying of thirst.

      Nothing is perfect and I personally feel the ecological benefits of irrigating with super oxygenated, sustainably harvested rain water outweighs any drawbacks.

      Your mileage may vary.

  3. Christina says:

    You are irrigating food plants with the water, no? That would be my concern, that plants would take up the xenoestrogens from the plastic, rather than direct exposure from using that water as drinking water, although, I do agree it would serve nicely in a pinch. I have not yet done any research on water barrels, so I am curious, did you find any metal barrels during your own research?

    • Mike says:

      Yes, I irrigate our veggie garden and fruit trees with these barrels. I hear what you’re saying and will now try to dig deeper than I have. I did some cursory googling sporadically in the last couple years each time I installed one and really couldn’t find anything. Especially anything with scientific measurements rather than anecdotal theoretical info. I went through my archives and saw I bookmarked this URL discussing the possibility, but again with not much substance:

      It’s still not something I worry enough about compared to all of the benefits of rain water harvesting, and all the negatives associated with other methods (e.g. hard metals in well water, BPA in drip hoses, etc).

      If you find something, please report back and maybe I’ll change my mind.

      When I looked for metal containers, I could never find anything local that wasn’t used for holding something really toxic and horrendous. And I wasn’t going to pay hundreds of dollars for something new to be delivered just to catch a little rain water. Plus they rust.

      So that’s where I’m at. Again, please send any info you have my way.

  4. Christina says:

    I will indeed keep this issue in mind and let you know if any info relevant to this discussion crosses my path. I agree and understand your interest in harvesting and using rain water. And I also agree that every single decision we make is a compromise between the possible and the perfect.

    Today I cannot point you to any particular scientific studies to back up my concern, but as an alternative medicine practitioner (Chinese medicine, herbs, homeopathy, traditional nutrition) I can tell you that I would most likely not use a plastic (even food-grade) rain barrel (esp painted a dark color) for water that would sit in the sun and then be used to water food plants. Water is the “Universal Solvent” after all, so anything that could leach out, I would have to presume, would.

    I would be especially concerned about the females in my household due to the xenoestrogens (because of hormonally-driven cancers), but then of course xenoestrogens would be a concern for the proper maturation and development of young males too. As I write this it occurs to me, the place where I think look studies about this issue is in the studies of the amphibians who are developing cancers, maturing improperly, and dying in great numbers due to pollution in general but most particularly xenoestrogens from plastics and also from pesticides.

    Please do not take my concern as criticism, I am impressed with your efforts. And I repeat my belief that all decisions are compromise. It’s just that my education tells me this is a concern that *I* would choose to make a higher priority than you have up to this point. I would be remiss in my life’s goal to benefit all people surrounding me, were I not to bring it to your attention.

    • Mike says:

      I share your concern and sincerely hope you’ll keep me in mind and shoot me an email or a comment if you find more info on this topic. There’s not much out there I could find unfortunately and would like to learn more.

      Don’t worry how I take or don’t take your concerns. 🙂 In all honesty I get excited when I see your name pop up in my inbox because I know you’re about to share something insightful that will make me think. Not necessarily something I’ll agree with, but it will make me think. I hope you’ll visit early and often to keep me honest in regards to my ultimate goal – providing a healthier, more natural life for my family.

      And you somehow find a way to share your concerns without lobbing F-bombs my way. You must not have found me through Reddit. 🙂

  5. Monty West says:

    One thing you haven’t mentioned and you need to aware of is that collecting rainwater on your property is prohibited in many US states, I have read.

    • Mike says:

      Yes Sir, you are right and if you click on the link at the very beginning of the post, you’ll see I made that exact disclaimer during that intro, with some specific details in the comments. You’ll also see that truth really pissed some people off.

    • Dottie C says:

      Why is it illegal? Seriously? The govt would rather that you use city water to water your garden than to use rain water? Wow!! This is the first time I’ve ever heard that. Is it because of the possibility of standing water breeding mosquitoes?

  6. Stoney Acres says:

    Thanks again for another great post. The discussion above about the plastics and chemicals leaching was also very interesting. I tend to fall on your side and think that the amounts leached would be minimal and not worth worrying about. But I guess it’s worth some more research! I’ve really enjoyed what I have seen on your blog and I’m adding it to my feed reader and will be back often!!
    Stoney Acres recently posted…Growing Guide – Early PotatoesMy Profile

    • Mike says:

      Thanks very much and I’m glad to have you aboard. 🙂

      • Dottie C says:

        I have a couple of big plastic barrels and I am going to join them together. I will use them just to water flowers and shrubbery when things get dry in the middle of summer. And maybe to wash the car. It seems such a waste of free water not to utilize it. Gonna make me a composter too. I may be 74 yo but I’m a DIYer and I can’t see paying $300.00 for a composter from Mantis. Just ran up on composters on Pinterest this pm. Haven’t known about Pinterest very long, but I’m sure addicted already.

  7. Green Bean says:

    Thank you for this. I am sharing with my husband. 😉 We added three rain barrels this year but the set up doesn’t look as spiffy as yours. Still, I was so grateful to have those barrels and have been diligently using the collected water.
    Green Bean recently posted…Spot the Pollinator #2My Profile

    • Mike says:

      It is a good feeling having 165 gallons just sitting there waiting to be used, right?

  8. Another great one, Mike! Thanks for sharing at Green Thumb Thursday – come on back this week!
    tessa Homestead Lady recently posted…Homemade Citrus Laundry Wash and Vinegar CleanerMy Profile

    • Will says:

      If you’re still wondering about the Donkey Kong question, it’s his name so you would say Donkey Kongs. Though I don’t believe there is more than one DK 🙂 I am building a rain barrel just like this one! I’m excited to start the project.

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