Although rain barrels can be purchased complete and ready to use, many homeowners choose to make their own as a cost-saving measure. The most common choice for the container is a food-grade plastic barrel, the kind used by wholesalers to ship bulk items such as olives in brine. However, these can be difficult for the average consumer to find. Garbage cans, on the other hand, are inexpensive and readily available. A sturdy garbage can is easily converted into a rain barrel.
Drill a 1-inch hole in the side of the garbage can with a paddle bit, approximately two inches from the bottom.
Place a large washer over the threaded “back” end of the faucet, and wrap the threads with Teflon tape. Insert the threaded end through the hole in the garbage can.
Squeeze a bead of silicon caulking onto the inner wall of the garbage can, around the threads. Slide a second large washer over the threaded section on the inside of the garbage can.
Finger-tighten a nut over the Teflon-wrapped threads, all the way up to the washer. Wrap the threads with a protective cloth, then tighten the nut completely with a wrench.
Repeat these steps to insert a second faucet near the top of the garbage can as an overflow. Position the hole 90 degrees from the lower drain and approximately two inches from the top of the garbage can.
Finishing the Rain Barrel
Mark out a circle or oblong on the lid, roughly twice as large as your drain spout. Cut it from the lid with a box cutter, utility knife or jigsaw.
Cut a section of mesh window screening large enough to cover the opening. Secure it in place with a bead of silicon caulking, and replace the lid on the garbage can.
Position the barrel beneath the drain spout where it will stand when installed. Mark the barrel’s height on your drain spout.
Move the barrel away, and mark a line 12 to 18 inches above the barrel’s height. Cut the drain spout at that spot with a hacksaw.
Place a gutter elbow at the cut. Attach a length of drain spout long enough to deliver water to the opening in the garbage can’s lid.
Place the barrel beneath the drain spout, with the opening in the lid positioned directly beneath the end of the drain.
A metal garbage can is prepared the same way, but you will need a drill bit capable of cutting through the aluminum or galvanized steel.
Choose a garbage can made of rigid plastic, if possible. A 55-gallon garbage can will hold nearly 500 pounds of water, and some garbage cans might not hold their shape under that heavy a load.
The window screening prevents mosquitoes from entering the water barrel to lay eggs. If yours becomes torn or comes loose from the garbage can’s lid, replace it immediately.