by Todd Walker
The resilient front yard transformation has begun in earnest at our home. Growing food – not lawns requires a certain amount of stealth. Hiding a rain barrel in plain sight was my next project on Dirt Road Girl’s honey-boo list.
I bought two food grade 55 gallon barrels months ago. One was for the DRG Compost Tumbler. I finally turned the other one into a rain barrel. The problem is that this white barrel against a red brick wall stuck out like a red fox in a chicken coop.
Camouflage was needed. Keep in mind this for our front yard not a war zone. We’ll cover that later.
Tools and material needed
- One 3 x 4 inch PVC reducer
- One 3/4 inch PVC male thread to glue adapter
- One 3/4 inch PVC tee with glue ends
- One 3/4 inch PVC 90 degree bends with glue ends
- One 3/4 inch PVC 90 degree bend – one end female threads – one end glue
- PVC cement/glue
- One 3/4 inch PVC cap – if you plan on adding more rain barrels at a later date as I’m planning to do
- One 3/4 inch PVC ball valve with glue ends
- Teflon and pipe dope (you could use just one of these, but I like to over do it working with water)
- One 3/4 inch male thread (brass) adapter with a male threaded garden hose on the other end
- Burlap and twine
- Window screen and hose clamp
- Bunghole wrench – homemade from scrap lumber
- Jig saw
- Adjustable wrench or pliers
- Drill and bits
- Tin snips or metal-cutting blade a circular saw
- 3 feet of 3/4 inch PVC pipe – I’d recommend heavy walled schedule 40 for this application
Step 1: Remove the two-inch bunghole so you can rinse the barrel out. Some recommend a chlorox-water mix. Since my barrel contained vinegar, I just rinsed with water. Vinegar is a great alternative to bleach for cleaning anyway.
Step 2: Turn the barrel upside down so that the lid is on the ground. Place the 3 inch side of the 3×4 inch reducer on the barrel bottom a couple of inches from the edge of the barrel – trace the circle of the fitting on the barrel. Drill a starter hole on the inside of the circle. This allows you to insert the blade of your jig saw to make the circular cut. Tip: I had DRG hold the cutout with a pair of needle nose pliers so it didn’t fall into the barrel when the cut was finished.
Step 3: Flip the barrel back over. Remove the bunghole with your homemade 2×2 wrench. Being the first-born male of a master plumber and general tinkerer, I carefully clamped the bunghole in a vise and cut through the 2 inch and 3/4 inch threads with a hacks saw. This removed the extra nipple (non-threaded) portion allowing me to attach a 3/4 inch male adapter in the center of the 2 inch bunghole cap. Do Not cut through the threaded part of the bunghole cap.
Step 4: Once the cap of the 3/4 inch female center is removed, add teflon and pipe dope to the 2 inch threads of the bunghole cap and screw the cap back into the barrel hole. Tighten with your 2×2 wrench. Be careful not to over tighten and strip the treads. Now apply teflon (5 to 7 revolutions) to the 3/4 inch male adapter. Tighten hand-tight and just a half turn with a wrench.
Step 5: I built a stand for the rain barrel out of old 4x4s and half a shipping pallet. I’ve used cement blocks for rain barrel stands before this project. Whatever material you have available would work.
Once the barrel is in place on its stand, you’re ready to start cutting and putting together your drain assembly. Cut two pieces of 3/4 inch PVC pipe 5 inches long. These measurements depend on what your stand measurements are.
(Note: I made several mistakes at this point in my project. I didn’t account for the barrel sitting on a pallet and glued up my drain beforehand. Then it hit me. How am I am going to the drain through the pallet stand? I recommend you dry fit the parts – check for fit – then glue it with the barrel in place on the stand.) Below is a picture of me realizing my stupid mistake.
Step 6: Assemble the drain. With the adapter tightened into the center of the bunghole cap, apply PVC glue to the female end of the adapter and the end of one of the 5 inch pieces of pipe you just cut. Mate the two together and give the pipe a 1/4 turn (do this to all your glue joints) to ensure a good seal.
Now glue a 3/4 inch elbow to the end of the other 5 inch piece of pipe. Then glue the elbow to the 5 inch drop piece attached to the bunghole cap. This should give you an inch or so of pipe sticking out (stub-out) in front of your pallet stand.
Glue the 3/4 inch PVC tee to the stub-out with the open ends running parallel to the stand. On one end (closest to my garden area) of the tee, glue a 3 inch piece of 3/4 inch pipe. Then glue the ball valve to the other end of the 3 inch piece. Cut another 3 inch piece and glue it to the open end of your ball valve.
Go ahead and attach the threaded end of the brass fitting to the female end of the last 90 degree elbow before gluing it to the open end of the pipe sticking out of the ball valve. Remember not to over-tighten.
Now glue the 3/4 inch glue end of the elbow to the end of the pipe.
Cut an 8 inch piece of pipe and glue it to the open end of the tee. Glue the cap on the end of this pipe. Your drain assembly is complete. To add more barrels, simple cut the pipe at the capped end and couple it to your next rain barrel drain assembly.
I moved the down spot on our gutter from the front corner to the side corner on the front of our house. The holly bush will help hide the barrel on the stand.
Step 7: Attach mesh screening to the 4 inch side of the reducer with a hose clamp. This will keep debris and mosquitoes out of your barrel. Place the 3 inch side of the reducer back into the hole on top of the barrel.
Step 8: With the barrel on its stand, measure the distance between the downspout and the 3 x 4 inch reducer sitting in the hole on top of the barrel. Cut a piece of gutter the proper length and secure it to the wall so that it directs rain water into the 4 inch opening at the top of the barrel. Note: Leave about two inches of space between the downspout and the top of the 4 inch reducer. This allows you room to remove the reducer to wash out collected debris periodically.
Step 9: Camouflage your barrel (optional). DRG and I picked up 3 yards of burlap from a fabric store for under $10. It’s 4 feet wide so it covered the barrel with some left over. Wrap the barrel with the burlap and tie it on with natural cordage. I tied jute twine on the bottom and top rims and two more in the middle of the barrel. Then I laced the top flaps together with more twine to insure it didn’t slide down the rain barrel.
Now pray for rain. We just got an inch of rain last night. A 1,000 square foot roof will yield 600 gallons of water with one inch of rain. Needless to say, our barrel runneth over.
I check the pressure with the barrel being full and it will water the garden with no problem – or chlorine – or fluoride tainted city water. A water bucket is the next option if the water pressure gets too low to reach the garden.
Not only that, it’ll save us money on our water and sewer bill. Plus, it adds one more layer of resilience to our home.
Keep Doing the Stuff,
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We are doing rain barrels too this year! Also, mobile pools for irrigation. I don’t know if you get on Facebook but I have started a page about what we are doing on our property: