Thursday, June 16, 2011

Rain Barrel Building 101

As most of my followers know, I work in a "home improvment store". During the spring and summer months it's not unusual to get a phone call from the plumbing dept. Almost always it's a question about building rainbarrels. Most people are looking for what's called a bulkhead fitting, because they got barrel building instructions off the internet. Our store doesn't carry bulkhead fittings, so, plumbing sends the person to me and I try to give the person instructions to build a barrel my way. This usually pisses the person off, because they got instructions off the internet and it's got to be the only right way to do it.

So I'm going to put my way on the internet, so it can be acknowledged as being a correct way too. By the way I've sold these barrels to people that don't want to build thier own. I've never had a complaint about my design.

So, lets get started.

First of all. You do not ever want a bulkhead fitting! Not Ever! Why you ask?
1) They are expensive
2) They usually leak or start leaking soon after being installed.
3) To use them you have to cut the top of the barrel open. Which is a bad idea because it causes an evaporation problem. It's also a bad idea because it turns your barrel into a mosquito farm.

Materials for this project are:
1) Food grade plastic barrel. $5-$10
2) 1/2" Hose bib $5.30
3) 2-3" of 2" pvc pipe $2.90 for 2 feet
4) 2" pvc male adapter $1.14
5) 3"x2" pvc coupling $2.98
6) 1/2" nylon male x barbed adapter $.60
7) 4" square of fiberglass window screen material free from my scrap pile
8) A length of 1/2" garden hose, again from my scrap pile.
9) A tube of Rectorseal pipe sealant. Not sure of the cost, less than three bucks and it has built at least six barrels.

Tools needed are:
1) Electric drill
2) 3/4" spade bit
3) Hammer
4) Punch or metal rod

First make sure your barrel didn't have something nasty in it. Just because it's a food grade barrel, doesn't mean it didn't have some industrial detergent of something similar in it. This barrel came from a cannery and had 10% strength white vinegar in it.
Next use your hammer and punch to remove the bungs from the barrel. One of the bungs will have a 2" pipe thread and the other will have a thread that I have only seen on barrel bungs. I should add here that you should be sure to have the bung with the special threads when you select your barrel. Throw away the bung with the 2" pipe thread on it and screw in the 2" pvc male adapter. Now place your piece of screen on the 2" side of the 2x3 coupling. Use your hammer to gently tap the short piece of 2" pvc pipe into the 2" side of the coupling. Trim the excess screen away. You can also now put the bung with the special threads back in place. I try not to overtighten the bung in case I want to get it off again.

Now place the other end of the short pvc pipe into the 2" male adapter. You've now created a funnel to place you downspout into. The screen will keep out mosquitos and also prevent debris from your roof from getting in.

Stand your barrel in front of you with the funnel farthest away. I keep the funnel side to the rear for reference. Decide which side you want your overflow on. In the case of this barrel I put it on the right side. Drill a 3/4" diameter hole about 2" from the top of the barrel. Here I am using the metal threads of the hose bib as a tap to make threads for the nylon hose adapter. Be careful on this step. Pipe threads are tapered, if you screw the hose bib in too far, you will make the threads aversize and they won't seal well. Screw it in about 1/3 of the way in.

Coat the threads of your nylon barbed adapter with rectorseal and screw it into the threaded hole you just made. Rectorseal is the only thread sealant I've found that works well. The plastic these barrels are made of will not take glue. All your seals must be mechanical in nature.

Lay your barrel on it's back and drill another 3/4" hole about 8" from the bottom. Coat the threads of your hose bib with rectorseal and thread it into this hole. The location of this hole can closer to the barrels bottom. Locating the hole here leaves about 10 gallons in the bottom of your barrel. At this height you can still get a bucket under the hose bib, when the barrel is on a 4" concrete block. Also by leaving some water in the bottom, the barrel is less likely to be knocked over when it's empty. If you locate the spigot closer to the bottom, you will have to raise the barrel up higher to get a bucket under it.

Here is your finished rain barrel. Ready to put in place under your downspout. After you have installed it, put a length of hose on the barbed adapter. Use a hose long enough to get the overflow away from your house. If you need alot of water, you can use a straight adapter and connect a second barrel.  Now you have free water for the garden. Also when the municipal water has problems, or when the power goes out and the well pump won't run, you have water. The perfect companion to the water purifier we built last week.

Be Prepared


Jax said...

Wow ! what an nice blog.Thanks for sharing this information.Your information is really informative for us.
get a Nice blog on Rain barrels

Keep sharing more & more.....

woodsrunner said...

Thanks for your comment. You have some pretty barrels on your site. I would like to point out that for the cost of your cheapest rain barrel a person could build 5 or six of mine. Maybe more because I have actually managed to get free empty barrels at times. Mine can be made prettier too. Your local hardware store sell paint for plastic that costs less that $4 a spray can. Or a person could do what my wife does with our 5 barrels. We hide one behind plastic lattice. Others we have lattice behind and we grow peas and other vining plants over them.


pelenaka said...

Thank you my husband I love my little plant stand that triples as a water collection & food producing unit.

Lol @ Jax u do have pretty barrels but well were poor so ...

J said...

Great job on the rain barrel Woodsrunner. I am going to reference this and link to you on my blog. I think this is a great idea. Cottagers and folks with camps can always use extra water and your instructions will certainly help.
The Cottage Chronicles

Lamb said...

Terrific tutorial! Great info and awesome pictures...even someone as mechanically inept as I am can understand it!

Lamb said... need to enter the contest going on at
Non-fiction entries only...I am thinking one of your tutorials with pics could take one of the bigger prizes!

riki jorden said...

Hey !!! Thanks for sharing very important information on this blog, i have visited your blog really you give us great information....!!!!

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