Buying & Installing A Rain Barrel For Earth Day

Happy Earth Day everyone! (And Happy Birthday to Sherry’s little brother, who’s also known as Almost-Doctor-Dan <– warning, very cute baby Clara pics here). In honor of this eco-tastic holiday, we thought we’d share a story about driving down the street and noticing this sign:

We’d been meaning to get a new rain barrel since we left the old one that we made at our first house when we sold it. Of course we would have been happy to make another one, but we had yet to get to that part of our to-do list (and sign up for a local course to get our mitts on a large food safe barrel). So we took that sign as, well, a sign and pulled over to window shop. Not that the place had windows…

We learned that we had happened upon Carolina Mike’s Produce Stand, but he’s still a week or so away from having produce. And although it looks very out-in-the-boonies, it’s actually on a busy suburban street across from a Target (Richmonders, it’s on the corner of Forest Hill Avenue and Cherokee Road in the Stratford Hills area).

Mike was super friendly and told us the tall black barrels (formerly used to transport jalapenos) were $60 and the shorter blue ones (which used to contain soy sauce) were $40 – even though both were 55 gallons. Coincidentally, $40 was exactly what we spent to make our last rain barrel (through a local class) so we took the easy route and tossed one of the $40 ready-made barrels into the backseat. That is, after I took a trip home to drop off Clara and Sherry to make room for my new blue best friend.

The barrel actually sat unused in our carport for a week-ish while we debated where to put it. But we finally decided that he’d be most helpful near the small fenced garden area behind our carport / next to our sunroom. And yes, I realize this would make more sense had I already written an outdoor tour post for you guys (I promise that’s around the corner – the pics are taken and uploaded, just not yet edited).

This area currently acts primarily as Burger’s restroom, but we’re soon hoping to de-liriope most of it (aka: dig up that floppy grass) and trade that thin brick pathway for a nice big stone patio on this side of the house (since it’s accessible from a sliding door in the living room). But we still plan to leave plenty of plant beds that will need watering around the perimeter of our DIY patio, so that downspout next to the brick half-wall (which is actually the back of the carport) was calling our rain barrel’s name.

First I made sure we could fit a watering can under the faucet (aka “hose bib”) which meant I wouldn’t need to raise the barrel on blocks or anything. Though if I had made the barrel from scratch, I probably would’ve put the hose bib in a bit lower so I could use all of the water in the barrel – not just what collects above faucet level. The good news is that our last barrel has a spigot in around the same spot and we didn’t have any issues with smell or algae from the water that collected below the spigot after years of use (we can always tip the barrel forward to fully drain it).

Anyway, once I leveled the ground where the barrel would sit and figured out where my downspout would need to end, I got out a small hacksaw and began cutting away.

You can see a more thorough breakdown of this process on our original “How To Build A Rain Barrel” post. But basically I squeezed the curved spout back in place after putting down the hacksaw, slid the barrel underneath it, and called it a day. Voila! Infinite rain collecting potential:

We’re still waiting for an actual rainstorm to put Ol’ Blue to good use, but it does feel good to be back in the rain barrel club again. Even if our new barrel is so bright that it doesn’t exactly blend quietly into the landscape.

Once we begin to more formally tackle this area we might take a paintbrush to it (brick red perhaps?) to help camouflage it a bit better (like we did to our utility boxes and propane tank here). Heck, maybe we’ll even plant a few things around it to further obscure it. ‘Til then, we’ll just consider it our not-so-subtle way of celebrating Earth Day.

Is anyone else in the rain barrel club after a lapse in membership like us? Or do you have big patio plans on the agenda? Every day Sherry taps me on the shoulder and says “Wanna go dig up some liriope? Come on you know you want to.” Sheesh. It’s like the adult version of “are we there yet?” Can’t a husband bask in the I-built-you-a-12-foot-console-table-glory for a little longer? No? Ok, I guess I have some shoveling to do…


  1. says

    John I love the picture of you and your new blue best friend. :)

    Guys, I had my first ever YHL related dream last night….WTF? Somehow though Burger never did make an appearance….and all Sherry did the whole time was respond to comments.

  2. says

    That is awesome! In the country side of the Dominican Republic (where I am from), we did that for most of our water supply! We would put a cloth mesh on top and tie it with a rope and that would be the screen to hold any leaves or anything that came in the water. We used it to clean the house, water the plants and sometimes cook (if you boil it first). We also have these things we call “tinacos” where it’s a big ball on top of your roof that holds the rainfall and a filter, with a direct line to your shower so you can shower with that water!

  3. L says

    Love the way your new barrel matches John’s eyes!

    I have access to food-grade plastic barrels ($15 each) and your excellent how-to instructions (thanks!) but before I can do anything barrel-wise, I have to install gutters and downspouts on my house. :-{ How lame is that?

    Totally second the Craigslist-Your-Liriope suggestion. You might even get the “buyers” to dig ’em for you.

  4. says

    A rain barrel is that dream item of mine that I cannot *wait* to get. We plan on having a few of them and will likely install a couple of them as one of the last thing we do, along with solar hot water. Even though we have well water, so what soaks into the ground goes back into the well (more or less) it would still be great to use the water for our fruit plants, some flowers and if the ph is right, for making my soap I sell.

    • says

      That’s so funny we just chatted about that a few comments back! Definitely something to think about! We never treat our roof though, so the rain in the barrel is the same rain that falls from the sky right onto my veggie garden. Whew.


  5. says

    happy earth day!

    i was wondering what happens when it rains really hard and the water from the gutter is coming down very rapidly–does the water spill over the rim or does it all end up going down in the barrel?

    • says

      It all goes into the barrel assuming there’s room (we did once completely fill a barrel at our old house so we just opened the spigot and emptied it a bit into the garden). The top of the barrel is sloped to guide water in so there isn’t a bunch of standing water (they even drill tiny holes in the lip to keep it from collecting there).


  6. says

    We had one for a few years but this winter accidently forgot to drain it… It froze, expanded, and cracked.
    In the market for a new one, if we encounter a cheap barrel… Last time we got ours at ReStore

  7. Blair says

    Couple questions:
    1. My husband and I are signed up for the Chesterfield workshop you guys took (it’s next weekend, April 30 – funny that you bought yours around the same time!). Is the workshop still worth it, or would you just buy it for the convenience?

    2. About how big around is the rain barrel? We have our spot picked out, but we are worried it won’t be big enough. It would be awful to get one and then not be able to use it!

    • says

      Our barrel is about 2 feet wide. Maybe a smidge wider. Our last one was taller and skinnier (from the class, those all were black and skinnier when we went). It was totally fun and we would do it for the experience if we hadn’t already. But since we had done it and found one for the same price it was easier just to get it. But I think you’ll love the tall skinny barrel in black (and the fact that you DIYed it).


  8. Jenn says

    Definitely have rain barrels on the list.

    I totally just realized (thanks to your post reminding me about earth day) that the timing for our major tree removal is kinda funny. I guess we’re doing earth day backwards this year. Instead of planting trees, today a crew is finishing up the removal of 22 trees from our property. I don’t feel bad though, I’m too busy enjoying all the light streaming in through my windows. Besides, there’s still at least that many left that we plan on leaving up. =)

  9. says

    My husband is actually out right now buying two tons of sand for our patio base! We’ve got the pavers ready and I can’t wait to get started. We tore up a little brick path like yours to make room for the new outdoor living space.

  10. CandiL says

    The blue blends so nicely with your yard!! One question though…aren’t you afraid the water in the bottom of the barrel will get gross?!?! Joking I read all the other comments!! I just bought a house…we haven’t closed yet, but I imagine eventually…I will have one of these!!

  11. Isabel says

    Ohhh, that´s such a neat idea! How do you figure out if they´re food-safe, though? Only checking what is it they used to contain?

  12. Alice says

    My husband and I have been talking about rain barrels and “greywater” a lot lately, but I’m not sure we can set one up since our house doesn’t have gutters. Isn’t that sort of an essential piece of the rain barrel puzzle?

    Yours sounds great though – and you got a great deal! I think painting it in the future is a good idea – you could even do a subtle design and make it look more intentional.

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