How to Build a Rain Barrel


Article by Kate Baxendale

Photography by Stock Images + Provided

Rain barrels are a brilliant way to conserve water, a precious resource that is often wasted, contaminated or (at times) scarce. Harvesting rainfall from your roof and into a barrel allows you to water your lawn and garden without feeling guilty about running the sprinkling all spring and summer. In the article How to Build a Rain Barrel, Family Handyman shows you how to create your own water-saving system.


  • 2-in. female threaded electrical (gray PVC) conduit adapter
  • 2-in. male threaded electrical (gray PVC) conduit adapter
  • 4x4 treated lumber and construction screws or stainless steel lags
  • 55-gal. barrel with lid
  • Glue
  • if you build a stand to elevate the rain barrel(s)
  • Screen
  • Sections of 2-in. PVC pipe
  • Silicone caulk
  • Threaded electrical PVC coupler
  • Unions reducers and valves


  • 2-1/4 in Hole saw
  • Cordless drill

Search the internet for an "open-head" 55-gallon plastic drum with a cover. You can also call your local car wash and ask if they have any extra drums since they buy soap and wax by the barrel. A heavy duty trashcan from the hardware store also works. Buy as many barrels or trashcans as you need to water your lawn and garden.

Step 1: Drill a Hole Near the Bottom of the Drum

Step 2: Screw in a Drain Valve

This will work if you plan to use a soaker hose for your garden. If you plan to use a wand or a spray nozzle, you'll need to elevate the barrels on a stand for more water pressure. Water is heavy (55 gallons weighs 440 pounds), so use 4x4 treated lumber for the legs and secure everything with construction screws or stainless steel lags. But don't place the stand on soft ground. You could kill somebody if the rig toppled over. If you have large gardens and want to store more water, double-size the stand and add a second barrel.

Step 3: Add Conduit Adapters

Cut holes in the bottoms of the barrels with a 2-1/4-in. hole saw. Then screw in a 2-in. male threaded electrical (gray PVC) conduit adapter (electrical adapters aren't tapered like plumbing adapters, so you can tighten them down all the way) and a 2-in. female threaded conduit adapter to make a watertight hole from which the rainwater can flow. Squirt a thin bead of silicone caulk around the opening and screw on a threaded electrical PVC coupler to cinch the DIY rain barrel between the two fittings (see Figure A). Next, glue together sections of 2-in. PVC pipe, unions (to make winter disassembly easier), reducers and valves. As long as you're at it, install an overflow pipe so you can direct the excess where you want it.

Step 4: Install Valves

Install a large valve to quickly fill watering cans and a smaller valve for a garden hose. Secure the valves to the cross brace with J-brackets. Finally, cut a hole in one of the covers and mount a screen to filter out leaves and debris. Then just wait for the next big rain.

RELATED: Pretty Rain Barrels: 3 Cheap DIY Rain Barrels That Actually Look Nice

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