Sunday, May 5, 2013

Rain Barrels in the Making

Saturday morning my beloved and I went to a rain barrel making class.

It was a matter of mathematics.
Rain barrels at the local hardware store = $100
Rain barrel class, all supplies included, at the local community college = $49

I'll take learning over buying any day, especially as my dear one has plans for an elaborate linked system of rain barrels.

The upside--they are much easier to make than I thought.  You don't even need special tools.
The downside--the barrels themselves are getting harder to find.  But we will not be defeated!  (And we'll keep you posted.)

So, here's how we made our rain barrels.  (We'll post more detailed instructions if/when we make our next batch.)

You need an opening for input:
 The Magician is screwing down the grating over some mosquito wire. The plastic of the barrel is such that you just use a screw and screwdriver.  The grading already had holes in in, and the screw goes directly into the blue plastic without even the need to pre-drill holes.

You also need an opening for output, in this case, a spigot to which one can attach a hose:
Finally, you need an over-flow valve:
This overflow opening is covered with mosquito netting, secured by a zip-tie, as you see above.
Finally, one secures the lid with this nifty metal loop:
And we are done!
We are excited about the water barrels because our water bill went up $40 last summer (and that was during drought water restrictions).  Normally we probably spend quite a bit more on that watering the garden.  It will take a few years to recoup our costs, especially after paying for the paint, as I, of course, intend to decorate ours.

We are going to see if we can possibly make a few to sell, also, if we can get the supplies and still make them cheaper than the hardware store.  If they sell, that will reduce our costs, and if they don't, we'll use them ourselves.  (Post in the comments if you want one!)

If we are able to get the barrels and to make them, we'll post a supplies list.

We learned quite a lot about why the city is promoting rain barrels.  Two interesting tidbits:
1. 70% of water pollution is non-industrial, general urban pollution, mostly from rain sweeping excess fertilizer, dog waste, litter, leaked oil, etc off of our concrete-smothered landscape and into gutters, almost all of which lead to streams and lakes.
2. One pound, that is, one extra handful, of phosphorus fertilizer can lead to 300 pounds of algae in lakes and ponds.  When it dies, the decaying process takes oxygen out of the water and we end up with dead fish.  Basically, the fertilizer unbalances the mini-ecosystem of the lake or stream.

Part of the point of the rain barrels is to put the rain water into the ground (in this case, via the lawn and garden), rather than have it rushing off into the drainage system, carrying nasty stuff with it.

Supposedly half an inch of rain on a 160 square foot roof is enough to fill one of these 55 gallon barrels.  We'll keep you posted!


  1. Looks cool, Jen! Always nice when something that helps the environment, also saves you money! Rachel

    1. Hi Rachel,
      Robert found out that you folks in Omaha apparently can get the barrels for free. If you want to, Robert and I can show you how to convert a barrel into a rain barrel---assuming we get ours to come out right....
      Thanks for the comment. It's always good to hear from readers :)

  2. Jen,
    I'm interested in seeing the finished, PAINTED project. And I think I would be interested in one, especially painted by an expert. Keep me posted as how the project develops, and if you get to the selling to others stage. I would imagine, however, that you will be spending some time getting dirt under your fingers for a while.

    1. Hi Monica,
      I'm interested in the painted stage, too! I'm thinking "colorful, cheerful, whimsical." He's thinking: "blends in with the house." We'll see who wins.... :)

      If we sell them, though, any painting will probably be custom. These first two we are keeping. After that, we'll see if any buyers want particular colors.