After some finagling with Home Depot’s online ordering shortcomings, waiting a couple of days for their surprisingly fast shipping, and landing on a beautiful day to spend outside, I have my rain barrel set up and ready to catch some free water. Actually I spent a little bit of time yesterday getting it most of the way setup, then moved it and finished the job today.
I started by laying some dirt I had around the house to help create a level foundation. I then sat four cinderblocks on their ends and got them as level as possible. I actually let the front two to be ever so slightly higher than the rear two, my reasoning is the house will have a better chance holding up the weight of 50 gallons of water than my dog or a small child if the barrel were to tip frontward. I may strap it to the house with some metal strapping at some point.
Next, I disassembled the spouting from the gutter, I was lucky enough to be able to simply reorganize the fittings and point the flexible spouting right over the screen for the rain barrel. Don’t be afraid to have to purchase these materials though, they are quite cheap, the flexible downspouts can at the time be had for around $10 at your local hardware store. The sheet metal downspouts are even cheaper, but the flexible ones are quite convenient and worth the extra expense in my opinion. However, being of the thrifty mindset, use what you have if you can make it work and spend as little as necessary.
My next venture sent me to the roof, to install the gutter guards I purchased also at Home Depot. These were very cheap compared to some of the more elaborate solutions I have seen for sale. Of course you get what you pay for, they are without a doubt quite a bit more rudimentary. For my tastes they do the job, and will keep the heavier debris from the tree hanging over head, being leaves, twigs and such out of my gutter, and out of the filters further down the line. I picked up 6-8 of these 3-foot sections at Home Depot for about $2-$3 a piece.
The last portion of my system that I added was wrapping the plastic screen provided with the rain barrel in a paint strainer that I once again bought at Home Depot. If memory serves me these were $3-$4 for a 2-pack. While the provided plastic screen will do a great job of keeping mosquitos and other bugs out, the paint strainer will help catch smaller debris being washed off the roof like the grit from the shingles etc. I actually wrapped the plastic screen in the paint strainer so it creates a filter sandwich, then screwed the screen back onto the barrel.
Oh, and of course at some point throughout the above process I installed the brass spigot, taking care to wrap the threads with the provided thread tape (both provided with the rain barrel).
The cost breakdown is as follows:
- $130 – Rain barrel
- $20 – Gutter guards (6)
- $5 – Cinderblocks (4)
- $5 – Paint strainer (2)
Total cost – $160
As you can see a small scale rain catchment system can be built for well under $200, including a rudimentary gutter guard system. I plan to use water collected in this barrel for watering plants and garden, and also to wash the car. I assume the water pressure will not be good enough to use it to spray the car off but at least for filling the buckets to mix with soap. Basically anything use that is not require potable water. In the future I would love to be able to set one of these up on the roof of my bathroom and use it as toilet water, for now I am going to work with what this single 50 gallon barrel provides me.