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Past Articles Library | Gardening Design | Learn How to Build Your Own Rain Barrel

Learn How to Build Your Own Rain Barrel

A rain barrel is a great addition to any garden space.  It can aid you in water conservation by reducing the amount of drinkable water used for watering and can divert water that would normally flood your yard or street from your household drainage system.

Rain Barrel Construction

A rain barrel is a container that has a hole in the lid where the down spigot of one’s home is placed.  As the water runs down this pipe, the water enters the barrel through this hole.  From here, the water can be harvested from a spigot on the bottom of the barrel.  Now that we know how it works, let begin the building process. 

While there are several different styles of rain barrels, one of the easiest designs is one made from a simple, plastic garbage can.  Below are the supplies needed for this design.


55 gallon plastic trash can with lid



Landscape fabric

Permanent marker

1 spigot

1 tube of waterproof sealant

Utility knife

2 rubber washers

2 metal washers

1 hose clamp

2 cinder blocks


  1. Lay out cinder blocks underneath the down spout you want to use.  Using a level, make sure the cinder blocks are positioned even and balanced.  Place the trash can with lid underneath.  Once that is done, place your watering can underneath and mark the can with a permanent marker where you would like your watering spigot to be located.
  2. Once that is done, remove from the cinder blocks and place in your work area. 
  3. Drill the hole that you marked.  The drill bit size needs to be a little smaller or the same size as the spigot you are going to use.                                                             
  4. Take the spigot and add one metal washer.  Follow this washer with a rubber one.
  5. Run a bead of waterproof sealant over the rubber washer and insert into the hole drilled in step 3.
  6. Let the waterproof sealant dry.
  7. After it has dried, add a rubber washer followed by a metal on to the spigot from the inside of the can.
  8. Add metal hose clamp to spigot.
  9. Cut a hole in the lid large enough to allow the water from your downspout to flow freely into the barrel.
  10. Drill a hole near the top of the barrel.  This will be for overflow.
  11. Rinse out the barrel to remove any plastic pieces created by the drilling.
  12. Place a piece of PVC pipe or hose through the hole and run it to another barrel.
  13. Cut a piece of landscape cloth large enough to cover the entire lid.  Once that is done, place it over the barrel and top with the lid.  This will prevent leaves from falling into the barrel.  It will also prevent mosquitoes from laying their eggs.
  14. Place the rain barrel on the two cinder blocks noted in step 2.

To use your rain barrel, simply hook up a watering hose to the spigot and away you go.  If you are going to use the water for a garden space, measure out the amount of hose you will need to reach that space.  This will allow you to water your garden without having to carry the water.  If you do not have enough hose, consider setting up the rain barrel closer to the garden space.  Many gardeners actually make the rain barrel part of the garden chore area that includes not only a rain barrel but also a potting bench.

Now that you have your rain barrel made, what is the next step?  While at this point, you can go ahead and set it up but why not fancy it up a bit.  Rain barrels can be painted to camouflage their mundane appearance.  Below are some basic steps to help you change your rain barrel from ordinary to extraordinary.

Decorating your Rain Barrel


Dish soap

Fine-grain sandpaper

Flat latex paint base color

Drawing pad and pencil

Latex paint, colors needed for planned design

Paint brushes

Several cans of polyurethane


  1. Clean the outside of the rain barrel with soapy water, rinse, and let dry.
  2. Once dry paint on the first layer of primer.  Let it dry and then repeat 3 more times.
  3. Sketch out your design on a pad.  Use colored pencils to color in your design so that you can see what it will actually look like.  If you are not an artist, consider using stencils for your design.
  4. After you have finalized your design, take your drawing to a home improvement store and purchase latex paint in the colors needed.
  5. Let the design dry completely before sealing it up.
  6. Once completely dry, spray on several layers of polyurethane to protect your work.  Make sure that each layer is dry before adding the next layer.
  7. After the last polyurethane layer has dried, place in the desired location.

Tips to using a rain barrel

Rain barrels are a great addition to any landscape and can even be created for apartment dwellers but as wonderful as they are there are a few things one needs to keep in mind.  One is that a rain barrel is not functional year-round if you live in an environment that has cold winters.  In fact, if you let water freeze in your rain barrel you are running the risk of busting up the barrel.  Having said that, a rain barrel will need to be drained at the end of each gardening season and stored away. 

Also, when one is draining their rain barrel either as an overflow or as an end of the season chore, make sure to drain it away from your home.  Many gardeners have released water from their water barrel along the foundation of their home.  To their surprise, the water entered their home.

Lastly, remember that this water is not for human consumption even though it falls from the sky.  If you have children around, do not forget to remind them that this is not drinking water and as a precaution one may consider labeling the barrel as such.


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Fungi Problems?

Mushrooms usually appear during the rainy months, but they can appear throughout the year.

If you have lots of mushrooms growing after regular watering, it could mean compacted soil is not allowing water to drain properly.

Allow the area to dry out, aerate it, and apply some gypsite to help make the soil more porous.

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