How Do You Make a Cheap Rain Barrel at Home?

How Do You Make a Cheap Rain Barrel at Home?

As part of her honors degree, my daughter has been taking a sustainability class this summer. One of her projects was to make a cheap rain barrel at home out of things she had or could get cheaply. I’ve wanted a rain barrel water collection system for years, so I was excited about her assignment. There are many different methods you can use. She went with a simple, 5-gallon bucket for ours. However, you can also use a 55-gallon trash can or just about anything that will hold water.

Why Do You Need a Rain Barrel Collection System?

I don’t know about where you live, but in rural Indiana, our water company charges astronomical rates. Our water bill in the summer is often $80 or $90 a month. That is water ONLY. Unlike many areas, our sewer and water are not bundled together, but we are on a septic system anyway. One of the biggest reasons I’ve wanted a rain water collection system is to save money.

Other reasons might include:

  • Conserve water
  • Less chemicals in the water
  • Save the environment with less processing
  • More natural system
  • It’s fun
  • Harvest water already on your property
  • Reduce processing
  • Closer source for watering garden

For some crazy reason, we never put a spigot on the back of our house. When we want to water our plants, we have to pull the hose from the side of the house and it’s a pain. 

Is It Legal to Collect Rainwater?

Check the regulations in your area. Some places don’t allow people to collect rain water. Others only limit commercial collection and let private property owners do what they’d like. 

states where rainwater harvesting is legal
Screenshot taken from:

States Where Water Collection Is Encouraged

  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Indiana *(Where we live. Yay!)
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • N. Mexico
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Virginia

States Where Water Harvesting Is Legal

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Oklahoma
  • Maine
  • Mississippi
  • New Jersey
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

State Where Rain Collection Is Legal, But There are Restrictions

  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Louisiana
  • Nevada
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Texas
  • Utah

What Are the Restrictions to Rainwater Harvesting?

Restrictions exist because some people fear collecting rainwater may disrupt the hydrological cycle and impact streams and waterways in the area. Since most rainwater collection is used on gardens and lawns, the argument doesn’t stand. Others worry people might try to drink non-potable water. Honestly the core reason likely has to do with the profit some government entities make from selling water to consumers.

Some states require the water be used for non-potable purposes, the system designed by an engineer or limit the amount of water that can be collected. Some of the rules date back to laws from the 1800s and are antiquated. 

Should I Harvest Rainwater?

  • You can save money on watering your garden this summer.
  • Reduce the strain on the environment since the water facility isn’t treating a portion of the water you use.
  • Rain barrels are heavy when full. Make sure they system’s secure and can’t fall over on small pets or children.
  • Keep a lid on the barrel to prevent insects getting inside and mosquitoes laying eggs.
  • Place the barrel where you can access the water into a bucket or watering can. Put it on blocks or place the spigot high enough to release water into something sitting below it.
  • Think about the natural flow of water down your gutters.
  • Use the water frequently or cut off the barrel temporarily, such as when you’re on vacation. 
  • Harvest only what you’ll use.
  • Expand your system if needed.

Building Your Own Cheap Rain Barrel at Home

I’m going to share photos and the system my daughter came up with. We will also look at some videos of others creating rain collection systems, as there are many good ideas you can use. My daughter went with a small 5-gallon setup. We thought this was safer with a baby around and two small dogs. It’s also big enough to water our tomatoes and cucumbers for now. We plan to expand it later on. 


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We used a rain barrel conversion kit very similar to this one. It was easy to put together. 



Building a Rain Barrel Step 1: Drill a Hole in Bucket

make a rain barrel step 1

Start by drilling a hole for the spigot. Make sure the size of the spigot matches the size hole you’re drilling. There are various sizes. Since we used a 5-gallon bucket for our rain barrel collection system, we went with a smaller gauge. 

build rain barrel step 2

Building a Rain Barrel Step 2: Secure Spigot

build rain barrel step 3

Screw the spigot into place. The setup we had used a connector from the inside. We placed the base of the spigot inside the barrel and then screwed the back on. If you’re worried about leaks, you can use some plumbing cement to add another layer of waterproofing. 

Building a Rain Barrel Step 3: Drill Holes in Lid

build rain barrel step 4

Next, you need to drill a hole in the plastic lid for the tubing to bring the water into the bucket and another small hole for ventilation, so the water doesn’t get too stagnant. With a rain collection system this small, you will probably use the water before that is a concern, but better safe than sorry. 

build rain barrel step 6

Building a Rain Barrel Step 4: Add Connector to Lid

build rain barrel step 6

There is a plastic piece you snap into the larger hole on the lid. This will connect the hose to the insertion point on your gutter. 

Building a Rain Barrel Step 5: Prepare Gutter

build rain barrel step 7

Figure out where you want your rain barrel to sit. You need to be able to drain water from it, so there has to be space to get a buck


et under there. Our location was on the edge of a patio, so we are able to move the bucket to the side and drain it into a bucket by sitting the bucket on the ground. You could also put your bucket or barrel up on blocks.

build rain barrel step 9

Measure how much room you need for the hose to stretch down to the lid. Drill a hole in the side of the gutter and attach the connector.

build rain barrel step 10


Screw it into place and add the hose. You’re ready to go!

build rain barrel step 11

Other Ideas for Building a Cheap Rain Barrel

The 5-gallon bucket was a great solution for us, but there are many cheap ways to create a rain harvesting system. 

Use an Old Bucket

If your gutters sit up from the ground, you can just place a bucket under them and use it within a few days for watering.

Trash Can Rain Barrel

Cheapest Rain Water Harvesting System

Gravity Irrigation System

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Crabby Housewife

AuthorCrabby Housewife

Lori is a full-time housewife and writer, living in the Midwest with her husband of 30 years - they have two daughters. They have a house full of pets and her house is never quite perfect.