DIY Rain Barrel

Part of our mission at Natural Alternative is to work with nature, not against it. This means, we do our best to reuse and repurpose all that Mother Nature gives us—and we want to help you do the same. That’s why, when it comes to watering a garden a rain barrel is a great idea. It collects and stores rain so you can use it when the drier weather arrives.

Rain Barrel


  • Large plastic drum or trash can
  • 2 Hose bibbs
  • 2 Washers fitting the hose bibbs
  • Garden hose
  • Flexible downspout elbow
  • Pool skimmer basket
  • Window or insect screen
  • Outdoor waterproof silicone sealant


  1. Decide on the type of container you prefer. These instructions will work for most any type of container resembling a large heavy-duty trash can with a lid. We repurposed a clean 55-gallon plastic drum (pictured) to save on costs. Make sure your container is strong enough to prevent bowing from the weight of the water, and be certain it is not contaminated with chemicals from a previous use.
  2. Decide where to place the rain barrel. Obviously, you need it to be next to an existing downspout. Maybe you prefer it to be in a subtle spot yet close enough to the plants to save steps.
  3. Level the ground where you plan to place the rain barrel. It is best to position the barrel on a platform 18 inches off the ground. This height makes it easy to use a garden hose and watering pail.
  4. Rain Barrel SkimmerCut a hole in the container lid allowing the skimmer basket to rest on the edges without falling into the barrel. Most baskets have a lip to make this an easy step. Cut the hole near the edge of the lid to easily fit the flexible downspout elbow into it. The skimmer basket filters debris to prevent clogging or having to fish out leaves and sticks later. To help keep mosquitoes out, line the pool skimmer with any leftover insect screen after making the breathe-holes.
  5. Permanently attach the skimmer basket to the rain barrel with silicone around the skimmer "lip" and place it into the hole.
  6. Drill three or four breathing holes with a 1¼ inch drill bit into the container lid. Line the underside edges of the holes with silicone sealant (the side inside the container). Press the screens into the sealant from the underside of the lid to seal the breathing holes. Dry for a few hours.
  7. Attach a water spout 1 1/2 inches from the bottom of the barrel. Any lower than this will affect the structural integrity of the barrel. Drill a hole the size of the hose bibb purchased. Apply silicone around the edge of the hole on both sides, place the washers and then attach the hose bibb.
  8. Rain barrel by houseCreate the overflow hole on the side of the barrel. Attach another hose bibb to the side of the rain barrel following the instructions in Step 7 for the bottom bibb. Attach the small garden hose to this hose bibb and turn the handle of the hose bibb to the on position.
  9. Allow the barrel to sit in a dry space for a day or two to air out and let the silicone set. After two days, the barrel will be ready to be attached to the downspout.
  10. Place the barrel next to the downspout. Cut or break apart the downspout at the appropriate height for your flexible downspout elbow. Attach the adjustable downspout, following the manufacturer’s directions. The downspout bends and allows water to flow directly into the skimmer filter on the top of your rain barrel.

Congratulations, your rain barrel is finished! After your first big rain storm you can start enjoying the fruits of your labor and a lower water bill. Let us know if you have any questions during the creation of your rain barrel on our Facebook page; we’re happy to help!

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