Hunting CommunityReader's StoriesHow to Build Your Own DIY Rain Barrel, Step-by-Step

How to Build Your Own DIY Rain Barrel, Step-by-Step

If you’re looking for a simple, cost-effective way to water your plants and garden without connecting the hose to the tap, a rain barrel can help you collect and recycle rainwater.


A quarter-inch of rain falling on an average home yields a little more than 200 gallons of water, filling a rain barrel in a matter of minutes. Rainwater is naturally softened, making it ideal for outdoor and indoor plants. It also won’t leave spots when you wash cars or windows.


Not only does a rain barrel save on your water bill, it helps divert runoff into storm sewers and Iowa’s waters.


Why should I have Rain Barrel?


A quarter-inch of rain falling on the average home yields a little more than 200 gallons of water. A rain barrel can be filled in a matter of minutes and provide a simple, efficient, low-cost method for homeowners to collect and recycle water.


Rainwater is naturally “softened” and is ideal for plants, both indoor and outdoor. Because it is not chemically “softened,” it does not leave lime spots and is great for washing cars and windows. Rain barrels also help divert stormwater – collecting it before it passes over our urban or suburban environments on its way to our lakes and streams.


Materials & Tools Needed

Materials Needed for DYI Rain Barrel
Materials Needed for DIY Rain Barrel


  • Safety glasses
  • 55 gallon plastic food-gradebarrel
  • 4’ atrium grate
  • Flexible downspout hose or diverter
  • Window screen mesh
  • Spigot (3/4”) (hose bib, silcock, or other valve)
  • Teflon tape
  • PVC for overflow (1 ½”)
  • 90°Elbow (female threaded)
  • Pipe adapter (male threaded)
  • X’ length of PVC pipe
  • Hose Clamps?
  • Y-Hose Adaptor
  • Jig saw and blade
  • Drill with 1 and 1 ½ inch bits

[box type=”info”] When working with power tools, follow proper safety procedures. Always wear safety glasses and keep fingers clear of all blades and bits.[/box]


  • Cut hole in top for 4” atrium grate. DYI Water Barrel
  1. Use the atrium grate and trace around the outside of the grate to create an outline
  2. Drill starter hole big enough to accept the blade
  3. will being used to cut the opening. Cut out the
  4. hole for the atrium grate using a jig saw or other instrument.
  5. Insert grate to check size.


Outlet/ Spigot


Spigot should be placed as close to bottom of barrel as possible with enough room to hook up a hose or fill a watering can.

DYI Water Barrel Outlet/ Spigot
DIY Water Barrel Outlet/ Spigot
  1. Drill a hole at desired location near the bottom of the barrel using a 1-inch drill bit or trace around the spigot and cut a hole with a jig saw.
  2. Thread a ¾ inch spigot into hole and unscrew. (will cut threads into the hole)
  3. Wrap spigot with Teflon tape and screw into outlet hole.
  • Optional- apply silicone chalk on the outside of the barrel
    where the spigot is screwed in.



An overflow is necessary to give the water an escape route when barrel is full and doesn’t back up into downspout or flow over top of barrel. Direct away from building foundations.

  • Cut a 1½ inch hole near the top of the barrel.


DYI Water Barrel Overflow
DIY Water Barrel Overflow
  1. Trace an outline near the top of the barrel along the inside edge of the non-threaded end on the pipe adapter
  2. Drill hole with a 1½ inch bit or drill a starter hole inside the outline and cut hole using a jig saw
  3. Using the hole cut for the inlet insert the threaded end of the pipe adapter through the over flow hole.
  4. Place a bead of silicone caulk along the edge of the overflow hole on the outside of barrel.
  5. Thread the 90° Elbow onto the pipe adapter. (PVC cement optional)
  6. Measure and cut PVC pipe to the desired length for the overflow. (size of barrel plus height of stand)


  • Optional – attach a 90°Elbow to the bottom of the overflow pipe and additional length of pipe to direct water away from foundation.



Installing Your Rain Barrel

Barrel Placement

  • Area of roof watershed (bigger the area, more barrels needed to capture water, if desired)
  • Distance from garden




Determine desired height for clearance from the ground

  • Height also creates pressure to drain barrel
  • Needs to be able to support 450 lbs

*Use pre-made stands or build one out of wood, cinder blocks, retaining wall blocks, pavers, etc.

  • Needs to be level to ensure barrel does not fall over when full


Downspout Modification

DYI Water Barrel Downspout Modification
DIY Water Barrel Downspout Modification


  • Place barrel on stand at desired location and mark existing downspout where you wish to cut depending
    on method you are using to direct water to rainbarrel (flexible downspout hose in the example)

*Use tin snips to cut to desired length

  • Connect downspout hose to the downspout

*Optional- apply a thin bead of silicone caulk along the
edge of the inlet opening to seal around the flange of
the atrium grate
*Optional – cut a 1’ x 1’ square of window screen to
place inside the atrium grate and fold excess over the
edge of the atrium grate
Screen will need cleaned regularly to keep out smaller
debris out and mosquitoes

  • Attach the flexible downspout hose to the atrium grate
    DYI Water Barrel Downspout Modification
    DIY Water Barrel Downspout Modification

    with a 4” hose clamp

  • Trim screen (if necessary)


Photo Credits – Iowa DNR


[author] [author_image timthumb=’off’]/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Iowa_DNR_Logo_Blog.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Article Courtesy of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.[/author_info] [/author]


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