Displaced Geek

Just a city geek and father coming to terms with being replanted in farm country

Our Rain Barrel (part 1)

Sad little rainbarrel that wasn't

While much of the country is experiencing “exceptional” drought conditions, we’ve moved from a drought watch issued on the 5th, to the wettest August, and possibly the wettest month ever on record. Throughout all of this, our proto-rainbarrel has been sitting outside figuratively gathering dust.

Well not any more!

That’s right, the ridiculous amount of rain we’ve been getting, and the fact that we weren’t using any of it finally got to me enough to do something about it.

Tool Price # of jobs
0 – 10 1
11-20 2
21-25 3
25-30 4
31+ Lifetime

The design I had in my head is surprisingly close to what I ended up with, which I’m glad about. As is par for most projects we undertake around here, there were a few tool purchases required, which increased the total price of our new baby, but they’ve already been earmarked for at least two other projects, which means they were worth it. You see, I’ve got a system. there’s a scale in my head that’s something like the table on the left – if the price lines up, we’re good, otherwise.. well that’s when the scale tends to slide in proportion to how much I want the tool, but that’s neither here nor there.

When I knew this was going to be a real project and not just a dreamy “someday I’ll get around to it” project, I started looking at both other people’s designs, and commercial offerings, to basically do what it is I do, which is to combine the parts I like and discard the rest without getting too crazy.

From my research, I determined that the basic parts are the diverter to get the water into the barrel, a filter to keep leaves and debris out, a spigot of some sort to get the water out, and an overflow pipe to allow the barrel to drain, should it fill up. I liked the idea of having a garden hose bib for the spigot, because that meant I’d be able to simply attach a hose directly to the barrel. Unfortunately, our barrel is sealed, which means I couldn’t reach inside to tighten a nut to hold it on. Some research led me to a kit for sale which I will not link to, because some further research led to a lot of complaints about said kit. I decided to go with Chris’s plan to tap threads into the barrel. This is where the first tool expense came in.

Sidebar – I’ll post about Harbor Freight in general another time, but right now I’ve just got to say this: despite the issues we ran into using their products for this project (and we did run into issues), it would’ve been a much more expensive project without them.

I planned on getting a 3/4″ NPT pipe tap, but we ended up going with the 1/2″, because they were in no way “lifetime” quality tools, and as I said earlier, I’ve got a system. I figured that despite the internet’s claim that they won’t cut steel, the taps from HF must surely be good enough to tap plastic. I was right. +$15

We also needed a good hole-cutting bit. The internet tends to favor the spade style bit, but I was vacillating between lip-n-spur and forstner style bits. When I realized that the forstner bit would be perfect for the train table project we have planned, well I was sold. The Ryobi multipack was < $20, and had the bits I needed, so I snatched it up. +$19

It's scarier than it looks, I'm just not a great photogropher.


Almost as many threads as a sewing circle!


Thanks to the threading, I could go with a standard one-piece no-kink garden hose bib for the spigot +$4, and a CPVC coupling +$0.32 to use with the excess CPVC in the garage for the overflow spout. The diverter was a 55″(extended) length of flexible rainspout +$9 because the 8″ length was too short. I also grabbed some pipe thread sealant +$5 in place of teflon tape cause that’s just how I roll.

One concern was that the barrel wall wouldn’t be thick enough to hold more than a single thread rotation. With this in mind, I started by drilling the overflow hole as close to the top of the barrel as seemed most likely to effect its safety and happiness. Then I used a box wrench to drive the tap through the hole, ultimately getting 3 full rotations of thread which proved to be more than enough. I repeated the process in the even thicker plastic two inches from the bottom which made for an even better fit for the spigot. I was pretty pleased with the result.

Not pretty yet, but functional

All in all the time it took to write this post is longer than it’d take to repeat the process having done it once already. Which is good because I fully intend to repeat the process. Also, for those of you paying attention, we have a total of 15+19+4+0.32+9+5 which if my math is correct is $52.32. We add the $10 for the barrel itself and get $62.32, not all that far off the $65 you can buy them for from the BVA. But subtract the materials/tools that will be used again… (the taps, bits, and thread goo) and you get 62.32-15-19-5, or $23.32. Now that’s a much better value.

Fabulous, no?

Of course I wouldn’t be here without the little people that helped make it all possible, so I’d like to give a shout out to my os so stylish helper, ‘lilG.

Stay tuned for Our Rain Barrel part two, where we address the items still left to be done, and the changes I’ve already decided to make based the barrel’s performance during its on the first rainstorm (which took place before I had a chance to post this).

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Written by Peter

August 19, 2011 at 2005

Posted in DIY

Tagged with ,

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