The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

How much does it cost to build a rain barrel?

How to make a rain barrel

I'd like to make this post all about how to make a rain barrel.  But the truth is that the Upper Tennessee River Roundtable had done so much prep work, each rain barrel took the participants only about fifteen minutes to put together.  The sponsors had cut round holes in the top of each barrel for a colander to fit into, and they'd added smaller holes in the sides for overflow and outlet pipes.  The outlet pipe simply consisted of a brass faucet screwed into the barrel, while the overflow area was two PVC pipe fittings screwed together, sandwiching the barrel, then a length of hose slipped over the exterior fitting and hooked on with a hose clamp.  Total supply cost was $27 per barrel --- $10 for the barrel, $1 for delivery of the barrels from North Carolina, and $16 for the hardware.

Mark and I are pretty sure we want to use our rain barrel to make an easy hand-washing station out at the composting toilet.  Installing the rain barrel will be a bigger project than making the water collector since we'll have to add gutters to the roof and to support the barrel at a height above the ground.  I suspect rain-barrel installation will be one of those projects that I deem unnecessary during our busy season but that Mark sneaks onto the list when I'm not looking.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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To anyone building a rain barrel and gathering the parts themselves I'd recommend a ball valve since it's an easy quarter turn to full on and full off. This will save some time in filling jugs but also allow for debris to flow out and not clog your valve. The price is the same as a T handle style (at least at our local big box store.)

Another option is to use the barrel upside down so the threaded bungs can be utilized and a cheaper PVC ball valve could be used at an even lower price. This also adds the advantage of being able to completely empty them in the winter.

Comment by Brian Thu Jun 5 12:36:48 2014
Where are you guys finding barrels for $10? Around here they are $65 each.
Comment by Ken Fri Jun 6 07:50:44 2014

Brian --- Great tips!!

Ken --- The group ordered their's all the way from a company in North Carolina. That said, you can often find used white barrels of this size at feed stores for around $10, I believe. (Not sure about the price, but I am definite about the availability.) They've usually carried food products and are safe to use once rinsed out.

Comment by anna Fri Jun 6 09:01:02 2014

One of my projects as soon as I get some time (heh...) is to hook up a rain barrel system. I've been watching craigslist, and I think the cheapest I found is 15 bucks. So, to the person who can only find them for 65, it might take some patience, but you might be able to find them online or asking around. A homebrewing store just down the road from me sells their 55 gal malt barrels for 20 bucks (plus a discount for multiple barrels), so I might just do that to save the drive to the other place.

Anna (or anyone else), are there any tips on how to plumb a few barrels together? Without even having our one current barrel hooked up to the gutters, and having a few 5 gal buckets under the heavy drips on some of the non-guttered eaves, we were able to fill the barrel up nearly halfway with one heavy rain. I can only imagine that with the one barrel, it'll over flow with one heavy rain, and really it only can hold a couple days worth of water for even our small garden.

Comment by Stephen Sat Jun 7 15:00:57 2014

Hi Anna, Dani's friend here. Here is the link to an old blogger page I started but did nothing with except links and one picture. I'll try to add some more soon so you can see the simple PVC wqter pipe and valve. Also, here is a movie I made probably in'09

and another at This one is even more details and would watch it first. Great getting to know you.

Comment by Richard (Dani's Friend) Mon Jun 9 06:54:52 2014

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