How to make a rain barrel


Stormwater runoff is a leading cause of water pollution. It picks up bacteria from pet waste, motor oil from parking lots and fertilizer from lawns … and washes them into streams and lakes.

You can cut this pollution and your water bill by using a rain barrel. Nearly half of most home water usage is for lawns and gardens. With a rain barrel you can collect free water and protect the environment.

You can buy a rain barrel from a hardware store or an environmental conservation group. Or, you can follow the steps we’ll show you and save money by building your own. That’ll put some green in your wallet … and in the environment.

Let’s get started!

We’ll start with a clean used pickle barrel with a screw-on lid that we bought at a feed store.
The only power tool you’ll need is an electric drill. Here are some other tools you’ll need.

Use the one-inch hole-boring bit to drill a hole at the bottom of the barrel for the spigot. Put it low to reduce the amount of stagnant water left in the barrel.

Use the one-and-a-half-inch hole-boring bit to drill a hole for the overflow. Make sure you drill the hole on the side where you want the excess water to flow out.

Tape the spigot grooves with Teflon tape.  Caulk the back of the washer and attach it to the outside of the barrel.  Make sure the spigot fits tightly. Then, apply silicone to the flat side of the bushing and use channel lock pliers to secure it behind the spigot. You’ll need someone to hold the spigot in place … and you might get a little dirty.

Rasp the upper hole for the overflow. Again, you’ll want a watertight fit.

Cover the hose adapter with a small piece of screen to keep out mosquitoes. Then, attach the hose with the hose clamp. Use the flathead screwdriver to tighten the clamp. Use the channel-lock pliers to firmly attach the bushing behind the adapter.  Again, the bushing should have a layer of silicone applied on the flat edge next to the barrel.

Cover the top of the barrel with a screen to keep out mosquitoes and reduce algae growth and cleaning. Use the lid that came with the barrel to hold the screen in place. Then trim off the excess screen.

Wait 24 hours for the silicone to dry. Then, place your completed barrel under a gutter downspout or 2 corners of a roof. You can identify the best location when it’s raining.  

For more details, download the “How to Build a Rain Barrel” manual from Carolina Clear’s online toolbox. Remember … we all live downstream.