I’ve been wanting to build a rain barrel system for a long time!

I wanted something that would store a a large volume of water that can be used in the garden during the long periods without rain.

I also wanted to build it in a way that it’s expandable. In other words, I wanted to add to it over time to make it larger for storing more water for even longer dry spells.

Here’s what I came up with:

Dual Rain Barrel System

Dual Rain Barrel

It’s a simple two-barrel system with PVC plumbing. The barrels I used were black 55-gallon drums with clamp on lids. I chose the black drums over the white or blue ones since they’re supposed to grow less algae inside of them by blocking out most of the light.

Here are the details for building the system:

I began the project by selecting a location. The place I picked is on the back side of my deck. I picked this location since it’s hidden from view by a large bush on one side, and by my gas grill on the other side.

Cinder Blocks stacked for Rain Barrels

Cinder Blocks stacked for Rain Barrels

Once I decided on this location, I leveled the ground where the barrels will be placed. Things have to be nice and level since the barrels will be placed upon a stack of cinder blocks. The purpose of the blocks is to elevate the barrels as much as possible while still keeping them stable. The higher the barrels are, the more water pressure will be produced at ground level. I decided to build the stack of cinder blocks 3-high.

Leveled ground for rain barrels

Leveled ground for rain barrels

I placed the blocks in a triangular configuration so that the most contact was maintained between the barrels and the blocks. I also made sure there was a space between the blocks for the plumbing to be placed. (see later photo)

Next, I acquired the plumbing fittings I chose to use. I used 1-1/2″ PVC throughout this project.

Here are the parts for the inside of the barrel to act as a drain. I bought two of these – one for each barrel. I will only be using the male threaded piece. However, these usually come as a set.

Plumbing for inside the rain barrel

Plumbing for inside the rain barrel

Here is how these parts come from the store.

Plumbing for inside the rain barrel

Plumbing for inside the rain barrel

The next part needed is a good rubber washer. This should help to keep the drain sealed without the need for silicone or caulking in case I ever need to service the drain.

Rubber Washer for rain barrel drain

Rubber Washer for rain barrel drain

For the outside of the drain assembly, a female threaded piece is needed. The inside male threaded piece will screw into this piece to sandwich the rubber gasket against the inside of the barrel.

Rain Barrel External Drain

Rain Barrel External Drain

A hole saw will be used to cut the drain hole into the barrel bottom.
Note: You will need to repeat each of these steps for each barrel.

Hole Saw for cutting rain barrel drain

Hole Saw for cutting rain barrel drain

Be sure to use the correct size of saw for cutting the hole. It should be a snug fit to insure your rain barrels do not leak.

Checking the hole saw size

Checking the hole saw size

You’ll need to find a good flat spot on the bottom of your barrels for drilling the drain hole.

Rain Barrel Bottom

Rain Barrel Bottom

Now carefully drill the drain hole.

Rain Barrel Drain Hole

Rain Barrel Drain Hole

The pieces are assembled to form the rain barrel drain.

Drain Installed in Rain Barrel

Drain Installed in Rain Barrel

The rain barrels are now placed into there final position on the cinder blocks.

Rain Barrels in position

Rain Barrels in position on the cinder blocks

The next steps will be to finish the plumbing so that water can be drained from the system whenever desired. For this step, I used four 90-degree PVC elbows and four 4-inch pieces of pipe.

Plumbing the Barrels Together

Plumbing the Barrels Together

For all of these connections, I used PVC cement to keep things water-tight. I started by inserting one of the 4-inch pieces into the barrel drain.

Plumbing the Barrel Drain

Plumbing the Barrel Drain

Next, I attached one of the elbows to direct the drain away from the cinder blocks.

Plumbing the Barrel Drain  - Step 2

Plumbing the Barrel Drain - Step 2

Then I attached another of the 4-inch pieces.

Plumbing the Barrel Drain  - Step 3

Plumbing the Barrel Drain - Step 3

Now, another of the elbows pointing in the direction of the other barrel.

Plumbing the Barrel Drain  - Step 4

Plumbing the Barrel Drain - Step 4

Next, the barrel drains are linked together with a single piece of PCV pipe. This piece must be level to insure that all of the barrels fill and drain equally.

Plumbing the Barrel Drain  - Step 5

Plumbing the Barrel Drain - Step 5

Here are the parts needed for draining the barrels. The faucet is 3/4″.

Plumbing the Barrel Drain  - Step 6

Plumbing the Barrel Drain - Step 6

The above pieces are assembled and ready for installation.

Assembling the Rain Barrel faucet

Assembling the Rain Barrel Faucet

Finally, the long piece of PVC is cut in the middle and the faucet assembly is installed.

Rain Barrel Faucet Installed

Rain Barrel Faucet Installed

Since barrels are located behind a large bush, for further convenience, I added a short hose that extends to the outside of my deck. On the end of this hose, I attached a hose-end valve. With this setup, I can simply leave the barrel faucet in the open position all of the time and control the water flow with the hose-end valve.

Hose-End-Valve

Hose-End-Valve

The final step is to connect the rain barrel system to the gutter downspout. For this, I used a device called “The Garden WaterSaver”. I was able to find mine at a local store, but they can also be purchased via the Internet. I was able to find them for about $20 each. I chose this particular device because the installation instructions were very simple. Another nice feature is that it also comes with a couple “disable plugs”. By installing one of the plugs in place of the downspout hose, the barrels are instantly blocked from receiving any more water. This is perfect for wintertime! Another nice feature of this product is the fact that you don’t need to drill an additional over-fill drain hole in your barrel. Instead, when the barrel fills up, it creates a back-pressure into the downspout that causes the Garden Watersaver to automatically bypass the barrel. When this occurs, the downspout operates in its normal manner as if no barrel was connected.

Garden WaterSaver

The Garden WaterSaver

To connect the Watersaver to your downspout, a couple cuts need to be made. These are really easy since the device includes a handy template. Once the cuts are made to your existing downspout, the device is held in place with a zip-tie.

The WaterSaver hose is then connected to the barrel. To hold this tightly in place, I used the following connector which screwed directly into the small bung hole on my barrel lid.

Barrel Lid Connector

Barrel Lid Connector

Lid-Connector

Lid-Connector

Hose-In-Place

Hose-In-Place

At this point, the rain barrel system is done. When water flows into the first barrel, it will flow through the drain into the second barrel keeping both barrels at the same water level. Additional barrels can easily be added by simply connecting more in series in the same manner these were connected.

Rain Barrel System

Rain Barrel System

I hope you enjoy building one of these for your own use too!

Best Wishes!

23 Responses to “Multi-Rain Barrel System”

  • Lisa Lashes says:

    Hi I am 18 years old currently studying. I ask you to please do the moral thing and use your site to spread the truth so we can blow the lies and cover ups out of the water and maybe earth wont be so ravaged by war pollution and greedy lying theiving bankers and politicians….. is anyone out there willing to change the world for the better?

  • Beth says:

    Hi
    I saw your videos on Youtube about your Back to Eden garden.
    I am currently accumulating tree clippings from local tree companies in my area. I live a little Northwest of you in Ohio as well. I enjoyed your rain barrel system. I currently have one but its not as nice as your setup. I just can not find those barrels anywhere, not white or blue or black. Can you give me a heads up as to where you were able to get yours? No one in my area seems to ever have them or will give any away. If you can leave me a note at my email address I would appreciate it. Have a good Harvest!

    • admin says:

      Hi Beth,

      I was able to locate my barrels by visiting a local car wash and tracking down the manager there. I was able to get them for $15.00 each. Just be prepared to do a lot of rinsing to get rid of all of the soap residue.

      Another place I’ve seen them is on Craigslist. The black ones are more difficult to find, but are worth the search since they don’t allow as much light to penetrate the barrels…which causes algae growth. Best wishes in your search!

    • Fred says:

      See if there is a soft drink bottling plant (Coke, Pepsi, etc) nearby. A Pepsi plant near me sells the barrels for $10. They smell of Dr Pepper or Mt Dew concentrate for weeks but the plants probably won’t mind.

  • RK says:

    For the second barrel does it need a small hole for air to escape when it is getting filled with water?

    • admin says:

      I didn’t need to add an extra hole for air to escape. Instead, the barrels are able to draw air from the filler tube that runs up to the downspout. However, if I need to drain a lot of water at once, I loosen one of the bung-hole caps.

  • Stavros says:

    Howdy!

    Does the inlet hose fit tight enough to keep bugs out of the barrel? Also, if you used a “t” fitting on the first barrel at the inlet, you could connect both barrels to the inlet and that would also act to vent both barrels when filling and draining.

  • enduros says:

    Greetings! I know this is kinda off topic however , I’d figured I’d ask.
    Would you be interested in trading links or maybe guest writing
    a blog article or vice-versa? My blog addresses
    a lot of the same topics as yours and I think we
    could greatly benefit from each other. If you
    happen to be interested feel free to shoot me an e-mail.
    I look forward to hearing from you! Great blog by the way!

  • Susan says:

    I would just like to thank you for such clear directions and excellent photos. Though am not at all handy, I almost thought I could build this water-saving system. I am saving this in case I find someone to build it for me.

  • Gerald says:

    Hi Jim.
    I think it would be ungrateful on my part if I do not call to say; “thank you very much” for inspiring me to be able to build a multi-rain barrel system for my garden. It is something that I had wanted to but I did not know how. God richly bless you.
    Gerald, Columbus, Ohio.

  • Gerald says:

    Please notify me of any comment or new posts by email.
    Thank you.
    Gerald

  • Carolyn says:

    Is there any concern about Mosquitos entering through the air around the inlet hose? Has anyone had a problem with this?

    • Stavros says:

      Be concerned about mosquitoes, ants, and other bugs getting in if there are any gaps that aren’t screened or tight. I forgot to screen my overflow, and found larvae in the water when draining the water, and found a trail of ants going in because I put the outlet on the ground.

  • Kelli says:

    Greetings,

    I was wondering if you don’t mind, if you can provide an estimate on the cost of this system? I’m hoping to add this system to a farm and garden program for my company’s outdoor education program. Thank you so much for sharing your hard work. I appreciate it!

    • admin says:

      I paid:
      $15 each for the barrels = $30
      $1.00 each for the cinder blocks = $9
      $25 for all of the plumbing fixtures and pvc glue
      $24.95 for the downspout adapter

      Total cost: About $90.00

      • Paul says:

        where can i buy the water storage cans? Im in New Orleans, Louisiana

        • admin says:

          I was able to locate my barrels by visiting a local car wash and tracking down the manager there. I was able to get them for $15.00 each. Just be prepared to do a lot of rinsing to get rid of all of the soap residue.

          Another place I’ve seen them is on Craigslist. The black ones are more difficult to find, but are worth the search since they don’t allow as much light to penetrate the barrels…which causes algae growth. Best wishes in your search!

  • Virginia says:

    Hi my mother has a house in the domincan republic … Most of the time we have gone “home” we have the issue of lot of rain but no running water because the rive breaks the main pipes in the city …so the we have have the issue of no water …well my question is can rain water be filter into drinking water out the system? Or do you have other solution that are cost efected. Thank you . I love your feedback.

    • Stavros says:

      Yes, you can filter the rain water for drinking, depending on where/how you’re getting the rain water in the first place. Check out youtube for videos on rain water filters or sand barrel filters. That should get you started. The filter is extremely simple, involving a barrel, sand, two grades of rock/gravel, charcoal, an exit pipe, and a crossbar arrangement of pvc pipe with holes drilled in them. Pretty easy to make once you see one.

  • Stavros says:

    Howdy! I just realized that you don’t need to level the connection between the barrels. The water will equalize between the two barrels naturally, whether or not the connection is level or not. Of course it doesn’t hurt to be level either.

  • Jason says:

    How were you able to thread the initial connecter together (the one that went through the holesaw hole)?
    With both barrel ends permanent, how did you place and grasp the piece inside so you could tighten up the rubber seal?

    Thanks!

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