A blog by W. Brian Murphy

Ramblings from a mind in overdrive

Greener Living with a Rain Barrel

I‘ve wanted a rain barrel for quite some time now.  I’ve always been into conservation and recycling and thought this would be an easy addition to my recycling efforts.  Don’t get me wrong; I’m not some “live green or die” nutcase.  But if there’s a way to harness a resource cheaply and easily, I like to give it a go!

There are a few additional reasons I wanted to incorporate rain barrels into our landscaping.  My property is graded poorly and doesn’t drain as it should.  It’s a common problem in our neighborhood where the soil is very clay-heavy.  So we frequently have to deal with very wet, muddy yard conditions.  I am also tired of watching my lawn turn brown in the summer.  A rain barrel allows me to divert the water from ponding in my yard, and even better, it lets me save it and use it at a later time to water the lawn, plants, etc.  It’s very important to note that water from a rain barrel is not safe for consumption, so don’t drink it!

Another plus to using a rain barrelto collect water is that attaching a hose to the spigot at the bottom of the barrel lets you basically extend your gutter system to drain wherever you want.  During a storm, I can run a hose from the barrel’s spigot and drain the water right to the curb.  Leaving the spigot open when a bad storm is coming helps a ton with keeping the flooding on my property to a minimum.  Just remember to close the spigot later so you can collect water again in the barrel! 

So how to get a rain barrel, you ask?  Well, I’d been to the local big box stores and their websites and found several which are unfortunately out of my price range.  I thought it a little ridiculous to charge $100-$250.00 for what basically amounts to a hose and a pail.  So when I’m faced with a situation of wanting something and not being able to afford it, I did what I usually do; go to Amazon.com and Craigslist!  I was able to find several 55 gallon drums on Craigslist for less than 20 bucks each!  So I got 2 of them.  I turned my sights to Amazon for a way to get the water from my downspout into my barrel.  Turns out they have a great kit for just this purpose.  And it cost me less than 30 bucks apiece.  Again I got 2 of them.

It took me about an hour to install my 1st rain barrel.  It was a very simple process.  I took a bunch of pictures with my cell phone while I was going along so you could see how easy the process is.  The 2nd barrel was installed in less than half an hour.

Here are the pictures and a running dialogue of the process…


A couple things not covered in the pictures…  I placed the rain barrel on top of some cinder blocks to give it some gravity-assisted water pressure to flow better.  I painted them with the same spray paint to make them blend in a little.  I don’t know how well the paint will adhere to the cinder blocks, though.  Time will tell, I guess!   I wanted to test the success of my rain barrel and luckily a big old storm was heading our way.  It worked like a charm and filled completely.  I did notice a trickle of water from the top hole in the barrel.  I decided to raise the barrel by the height of a patio paver I had around.  I think it will work better at that height.  I also decided to turn the barrel so the spigot is more on the side to avoid injuring the plant when I put a hose on or take it off.  I had the rest of the flex tubing left from the install day and used that.  It was perfect the length, luckily.

I hope you found this interesting.  It was a fun project to do and fairly easy (which is good as I only have one good leg, currently!).  You can follow the links in this post to find the parts you need to make your own rain barrel.  Water your lawn and plants with free water!  If you are near Virginia Beach and want help with something like this, send me a message on Facebook or email me and we can work something out!