A year ago I decided I was going to build a rain barrel. So I watched a few YouTube videos and thought heck this doesn’t look hard. Of course I really wasn’t listening to any of them just watching for what the barrels looked like. Then I went and priced out pre-made barrels and thought holy cow water is cheap compared to buying this kind of set up, so I knew just going to Menards or Home Depot , and Amazon was out.
This left me to build my own out of plastic 55 gallon drums. So, I started watching Craigslist. When I finally found them for sale for $15 I jumped on it and bought 2. I really wanted an IBC tote for $50 but I can’t get it in my back yard and no way was I going to have a 250 gallon tote in my front yard, I live in town in a decent neighborhood and try to keep my house looking nice. Plus I figured 55 gallons in my front yard and 55 gallons in my back yard should be more than enough. This was my first mistake.
Not Calculating how much water I need.
I found out the hard way that 55 gallons of water will drain out of a hose in any where from 30-120 minutes. That lead to the wonder if I’d been over watering my plants for a long time but since they are all living that couldn’t be it. What it really told me is I need more capacity for storage. So I figured I’d just add another barrel to my system. This is where a whole bunch of problems where found.
How much rain does it take to fill a barrel?
Now I could have done a bunch of math to figure out many inches of rain it would take to fill a 55 gallon barrel but I hate math so I didn’t. What I can say if for the size of my roof it takes about a 1/4″ of rain to fill both of my barrels. This knowledge is good to have. Although it’s my policy that you can never have too much rain storage but if you live in a place that only rains 1″ or less once a month, you want to be able to hold as much of that rain as possible.
The higher the barrel the better the water pressure.
This statement let me to a few problems. I knew that raising the barrel off the ground meant I would get better water pressure. So I built a nice wooden platform to raise me barrels off the ground. As you can see I made it sturdy enough to hold the weight of the water and then some. I was lucky this didn’t cost me any thing since it was all scrap wood I ham around the garage. However the problem arose once I had a second full rain barrel on top of this platform. Originally I just had this sitting on level on the dirt. This was a huge mistake on my part. Although the platform could handle the weight of 110 gallons of water and the barrels. The wet dirt on the other hand could not. So after nearly ruining my AC unit and having to empty 2 mostly full barrels just to move them I decided to place the platform on cider blocks buried in the dirt so that where level. This all being said I highly suggest you take into consideration the foundation under where ever you place your rain barrels they do get heavy and the last thing you want is to have one tip over during a huge storm.
Air needs to be go somewhere
When I added the second barrel I figured I could just add a second barrel on top of the first barrel attach them with a hose and call it good. Wow, was I wrong. So I started with just putting 2 bungs in the bottom barrel and called it good. Which seemed to work, the barrels filled. That’s when I started learning a lot from my mistakes. The first problem I found was that the one of the bungs on the top of the barrel wasn’t completely sealed so the water from the top barrel just ran out the top of the bottom barrel very slowly. So I sealed it up. Problem solved I thought. This is where I learned that air has to go somewhere when you try to replace it with water. Now I should have known better but hey we all make mistakes. So now I was trying to fill the bottom barrel and release the air through the same small hose. It took me a while to figure it out but I finaly figured it out and put a second hose going from the bottom of the barrel and running to the top of the top barrel. Problem mostly solved. I really should have used a much bigger hose, during a hard rain the top barrel fills a lot faster than the hose can allow the bottom barrel to fill up. During quick hard rains it’s possible for the top barrel to overflow before the bottom barrel if full.
Current rain barrel setup
This is my current finished rain barrel set up. I know it looks funny but I have spent less then the cost of one store bought rain barrel. The other bonus is that it doesn’t take up much area in my yard. I do still need to figure a better way of unhooking it for the winter but since it’s currently the beginning of spring I have a few months to figure a quicker way of taking care of it for the winter.
If any one has any questions, has any advice or can see any mistakes I haven’t figured out yet, please comment below. You can also subscribe to my blog since I have plans for another rain barrel project for the side of my garage soon and will post about it as soon as it’s done.