How to make a rain barrel

rain barrelI’m sure you noticed how dry our weather has been this year.

On top of the unusually mild winter with no real measurable amount of precipitation, we have had very little rain this summer. Yes, I dread the thought of my basement flooding again but I also worry about the climate change and how it’s been affecting our weather. Colorado Springs, CO. wildfire – along with many other Western states – due to the dry weather was very scary. What’s worse, this New York Times article describes how drought will most likely worsen, making our food prices higher. And yes, I’ve noticed lately how expensive food prices are too.

I save water in the usual ways: turn off faucet when not in use, check for leaks everywhere, use washer and dishwasher only when they are full, and take quick 5 minute showers. Heck, I wash my hair every other day and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I also wear clothes more than once before washing them. My family designates which glass is theirs so they can reuse it throughout the day, without putting them in the dishwasher. Hot dry days mean many glasses of water!

As far as my garden goes, I have an automatic sprinkler system that was already installed when I bought the house. I check the direction of the water like hawk so no water is wasted. And it’s scheduled to be turned on at night so no water will be evaporated as soon as my garden is watered. But even though I have a sprinkler, there are areas in my garden that sprinklers don’t reach and need my occasional watering. But, in order to save water, I always wanted to install a rain barrel to reuse rain water.

I vaguely remember, growing up in Korea, all the houses I lived in had built in concrete tubs in the yards. I asked my mom recently about them and she confirmed my suspicion. She said, they were “water collectors”. Ha! That is so clever! It was covered with a wooden lid (to prevent things from dropping in), had a built-in faucet at the bottom, and had a hose coming out from the top leading to the sewer drain. Ingenious, eh?

I’m not building something as permeant as a concrete “water collector” but I looked up some resources on making simple rain barrels. I learned though, as crazy as it might sounds, some states have restrictions on using rain water – CO (believe it or not), UT, and even WA. It has something to do with some old law – like from the 1800′s – and water rights. Crazy.

Anyway, if you Google, you can find numerous tutorials on making rain barrels but essentially, it’s rerouting your rain gutter’s down spout away from your house and into a barrel for you to store for later use. There are a gazillion ways to do this but I found these tutorials real easy peasy.

How to make a rain barrel

1. Here is a detailed explanation (pdf. file) about rain barrels from Portland OR – “a rainy city”; why you need it, where to put it, and how to construct it.

2. Here is another detailed information about rain barrel from another rainy state, Washington. Ironically enough, WA has some restrictions on using rain water but reading this information, it doesn’t seem that bad.

3. HGTV video on how to make one type of rain barrel.

4. Here is one cheap method, using a garbage can.

5. Eco Etsy shares ten great ways to save water in your garden.

It doesn’t matter what style of rain barrel you choose to make; the important thing is that you reuse rain water, regardless whether there is a drought or not.

You need a permit?

Some states frown upon collecting rain water. They call it hoarding public property. I could see how this may cause some issues, if collected improperly. You can potentially hoard all the rainwater, not allowing water basin to get rain water for public use. Then, there are health reasons why using rain water is not safe. Check here and see if you can collect rain water in your state. 

Do you have a rain barrel? How easy was it to make it? How much water do you use from it?

UPDATE 2014:

Here is a look at how serious the drought is in CA this year. And Lake Mead by Hoover Dam in Las Vegas is also at its lowest water level in history!

Check out these images I took while visiting the area in August, 2014.

Hoover Dam and Lake Mead Lake Mead

The cool rain barrel image is by Italian Voice via Flickr


  1. says

    The rain barrel in the photo is the prettiest rain barrel I’ve ever seen! We bought a rain barrel when we bought our current house. I’ve been especially grateful for it this summer – we have had quite a bit of rain, but also super hot days, so the gardens have needed extra watering.

    • says

      This summer has been awfully dry up here in NY and out in the West. My dehumidifier in my basement is not getting full either. I used to dump that water out in the garden. :(

    • says

      Hi DeDe,

      You are welcome. They seem easy to make. I always worried that I’d buy the wrong fitting and the pipe and all. Now, finding the downspout in my backyard could be tricky. I think most of them are on the side or the front of my house. My HOA might not appreciate a rain barrel in front of my house. :(

  2. Robin says

    We have a total of 6 rain barrels currently (2 at the house and 4 at the tractor shed) and will install 4 more in the near future (at our new barn). We use our rainwater to water the garden but mostly for drinking water for our animals – 3 cats, 2 dogs, and 30 chickens. It is so convenient to have water near the animals and not have to tote water from the house every day! My barrels look nothing like that gorgeous one in the picture! I wish I was artistic and could make mine look like that!

    • says

      Hi Robin,

      That is a great way to use rain water from rain barrels!

      It must be convenient to have water right there to feed all those animals! Lucky for you to have such a menagerie!

  3. says

    It’s crazy that there’s a law against collecting water. The whole issue of water rights needs to be rethought.