How to Make a Rain Barrel for Your Yard

This homemade rain barrel to recycle rainwater for use in your lawn and garden is an easy do-it-yourself project that costs less than $50.

Here’s how to go about making a rain barrel to help you conserve water in your yard.

Rain Barrel Materials

  • Large plastic garbage can with solid bottom
  • Drain strainer (available in lawn & garden department for outside drains)
  • Brass water spigot
  • Brass nut to fit the threads on the spigot
  • 2 Flat neoprene rubber washers (available in plumbing department)

Making the Rain Barrel

  • Drill a hole in the side of the garbage can near the bottom to fit the threaded end of the water spigot.
  • Put one of the rubber washers on the spigot.

  • Push the threaded end of the spigot through the hole in the can from the outside.
  • Slip the other rubber washer on the spigot threads from inside the can.
  • Screw the brass nut on the spigot from inside the can and tighten.

  • Cut a hole in the can lid with a jigsaw to fit the drain strainer.

  • Insert drain strainer in hole in lid.

  • Place lid on can and drill 1/4” diameter holes through the lid and top flange of can on each side of the can and lid.

  • Attach the lid to the can through the holes using cable ties to hold the lid on securely and prevent children or animals from falling in the rain barrel.

  • Remove the existing gutter downspout from the gutter, and set the rain barrel on concrete blocks next to the house under the downspout opening.

  • Modify the downspout so that it fits in the top of the barrel.
  • Attach a hose to the faucet and use it for watering the plants in your yard.


  1. Hey Carolyn, Here are the tools required to convert a plastic trash can into a water-saving rain barrel: 1-inch spade bit and drill/driver for boring a hole in side of can for the spigot; jigsaw for cutting hole in top of trash can for drainage grate; 1/4-inch twist-drill bit for boring holes in lid for cable ties; drill/driver or screwdriver for removing and reattaching downspout; and finally, a shovel for leveling the ground beneath the concrete blocks that support the rain barrel. Good luck!–JT

  2. what is the best way to take care of a rain barrel if you live in the north (Pennsylvania). Should I disconnect it from the downspout so that it doesn”t freeze and crack. We have had temps that went to subzero weather. Thanks Faye

    • Hi Faye,
      I can’t say for sure whether your rain barrel would crack or not if the water in it froze, since we’re in the sunny South, but I would think it would be a good idea to disconnect and drain it to be safe. My guess is that it would have to freeze solid for cracking to be a problem. You might check the website of the company that manufactured it (or call them) and see what they say. If you find out for sure, let us know.

  3. Faye, I live in Connecticut, and we experience winter-time temperatures similar to northern PA. I would definitely recommend that you drain the rain barrel. The entire contents of a full barrel wouldn’t likely freeze, but enough of the water will freeze to cause problems, including splitting the plastic barrel or rupturing the spigot hole.

    In fact, before the first hard frost (probably late-fall, I’d recommend removing the hose from the spigot–if one’s attached–and opening the spigot. Then, tilt the barrel to drain out any remaining water, and leave the spigot open throughout the winter. Good luck!–Joe T.

  4. what would you do about the mosquitoes i see there are ways for them to get into the water to lay eggs do you have a rev for this project???

  5. For mosquitoes, try mosquito dunks there a doughnut shaped material that contains BT. It is lethal on larvae but does not hurt plants nor animals. Just one in your barrel is enough to solve it.

  6. For Mosquito provention, you could try wrapping the drain strainer, in window screening or place it in the cup. I would check it also for roofing materials that drain down, so it doen’t get plugged. This way you don’t have to use the dunks, one less chemical in the garden is always good.

  7. Hi Brenda, I would not recommend using fish to control mosquitoes. First, they’d likely die from lack of sun (warmth)and air. And you’d have to feed them regularly; they’d never survive totally on mosquitoes. Plus, what happens to the fish when you drain the barrel? Raking fish off your lawn doesn’t sound like much fun–for you or the fish.
    If mosquitoes do become a problem, you can try dropping into the rain barrel one of those donut-shaped mosquitoe “dunks.” (It’s available in pellet form, too.) I’ve never used dunks, but they’re designed to slowly dissolve and kill off any mosquitoe larvae. It’s best to use this product early in the spring, before the mosquitoes hatch.
    The dunks cost about a $1 apiece and are sold at most garden shops and on-line at Good luck!–Joe T.

  8. Mosquitoes are not a problem in my rain barrels. If your lid and roof drain fittings are tight then there is no way for the mosquitoes to get in to lay eggs!

  9. Wouldn’t you want to make another hole in the side of the barrel near the top for overflow? This may not be much of a problem in this application, since this barrel is not water tight, but if you have one that is water tight, the water make back up and site in your gutters and overflow from there.

  10. Hey Derek, Good question. You’d only need to drill a drainage hole if you ignore the rain barrel for many months. (Although even then I suspect excess water would dribble out; the lid isn’t watertight and there’s a large drainage hole in the lid.)

    However, the whole idea of a rain barrel is that you would collect and use the rainwater regularly to hydrate your lawn and garden. If you’re not able to use the collected water on a regular basis, then I’d recommend attaching a hose and leaving the spigot open so water can drain out on its own. Thanks for writing.–Joe T.

  11. I have been promoting rain barrels ‘on the cheap’ since 2002. If you visit the web site of the Michigan Division of the Izaak Walton League of America ( and look at the tab labeled ‘documents’ you will find some basic illustrations of the method I use. If you get the barrel for free, your costs will be about $5 per barrel. Of course they won’t look as pretty as yours but mine are behind the garage so it doesn’t matter.


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