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.
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
- EarthMinded Rain Barrel Kit
- Food Grade Barrel
- Krylon Spray Paint for Plastics (optional)
- Cinder Blocks (optional)
- Safety gloves and goggles
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:
- Block sunlight coming into this white translucent barrel, discouraging algae growth.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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?