A rain barrel collects and stores stormwater runoff from rooftops. By detaining (temporarily holding) the stormwater runoff during a rain event, you can help add capacity to the Borough’s sewer system and reduce sewer overflows to our creeks and rivers, our drinking water source. Also, the collected rain water can be reused for irrigation to water lawns, gardens, window boxes or street trees.
Building a Rain Barrel
- Rain barrels help lower water costs when the stored water is recycled for lawn irrigation, for example.
- Rain barrels help reduce water pollution by reducing stormwater runoff, which oftentimes picks up pollutants in its path, such as oil, grease and animal waste, and transports these pollutants to the nearest creek, river or storm drain.
- Storing rainwater for garden and lawn use helps recharge groundwater naturally.
Materials Needed for Building a Rain Barrel
- One 55 gallon drum
- One 5 foot section vinyl garden hose
- One 4 foot diameter atrium grate (basket used in garden ponds and pool skimmers)
- One 1/2 inch PVC male adapter
- One 3/4 inch x 1/2 inch PVC male adapter
- One vinyl gutter elbow
- Drill (or a hole saw)
- One 5 foot section of drain hose, drain line or sump pump line (1 1/4 inch)
- One 1 1/4 inch female barbed fitting
- One 1 1/4 inch male threaded coupling
- Router, jig saw or coping saw
- Measuring tape
- Waterproof sealant (silicone caulk, PVC glue)
- Teflon tape
- Fiberglass window screen material or mosquito netting
- Cinder blocks or wooden crate
Instructions for Building a Rain Barrel
Step 1: Cut Holes in Rain Barrel:
- Cut lower drain hole: Measure about 1 inch above the bottom of the barrel (55 gallon drum) where the barrel side begins to rise toward the top, using a 3/4 inch bit (or hole saw), drill a hole through the barrel.
- Cut upper drain hole: Mark the upper drain hole according to where you want the overflow to be in the upper region of the barrel and in relationship to the lower drain. Use a 1 5/8 inch hole saw to cut out the overflow hole.
- Cut top hole for atrium grate (filter): Using the atrium grate as a template for size, mark a circle at the center of the top of the drum (locating the rainwater inlet in the center of the barrel lets you pivot the barrel without moving the downspout). Drill a 1/2 inch hole inside of the marked circle. Use a router, jigsaw or coping saw to cut until the hole is large enough to accommodate the atrium grate, which filters out large debris. Don’t make the hole too big—you want the rim of the atrium grate to fit securely on the top of the barrel without falling in.
- Cut notch to hold hose: Using 1/2 inch bit or hole saw, cut out a notch at the top if the barrel rim (aligned so that it is above the lower drain hole). The notch should be large enough so that the end of the hose with the adapter will firmly snap into place.
Step 2: Set Up Barrel and Modify Downspout:
- Set up barrel: Since water will only flow from the garden hose when the hose is below the barrel, place the barrel on high ground or up on cinder blocks or a sturdy wooden crate underneath your downspout, making sure the barrel is level.
- Modify your downspout: Cut your existing downspout using a saw so that the downspout’s end can be placed over the top of your rain barrel. Use a vinyl downspout (usually 3 or 4 inch) to aim the stormwater into the rain barrel or just simply place the barrel right under the downspout.
Step 3: Assemble Parts:
- Attach garden hose to lower drain hole: Screw in the 1/2 inch PVC male adapter to the lower drain hole. The hard PVC threads cut matching grooves into the soft plastic of the barrel. Unscrew the 1/2 inch PVC male adapter from the hole. Wrap threads tightly with Teflon tape (optional). Coat the threads of the coupler with waterproof sealant (optional). Screw the coated adapter back into the hole and let it sit and dry for 24 hours (optional). Attach 5 foot garden hose to the PVC male adapter. Attach the 3/4 inch x 1/2 inch PVC male adapter to the other end of the hose (this) can be readily adapted to fit a standard garden hose).
- Attach drain hose (overflow hose) to upper drain hole: Put the 1/4 inch male threaded coupling inside the barrel with the threads through the hole. From the outside, screw the 1 1/4 inch female barbed fitting onto the threaded coupling. Use silicone on the threads (optional). Attach 5 foot section of drain hose to upper fitting.
The overflow must be conveyed safely away from your property and your neighbor’s property. Place a splash pad on the ground under the overflow hose to direct the flow away from the foundation of your home.
- Place atrium grate and screen in top hole: Using PVC glue, secure a piece of fine mesh window screen inside or outside of the atrium grate to filter out debris and control mosquitoes. Place the atrium grate into the hole (basket down).
- Position the downspout: Position the end of your downspout so it drains onto the atrium grate on the rain barrel.
DON’T FORGET TO EMPTY YOUR RAIN BARREL AFTER A STORM!