Building a Rain Barrel From a Trash Can


Rain barrels help you make the most of free, fresh water.
Rain barrels are an economical and environmentally-friendly way to capture fresh, soft water to store and use for gardening, lawn care or other uses. By catching rainfall, rain barrels also minimize run-off on your property and local roadways, preventing floods. If you pay for tap water, you should also experience yearly savings on your water bills. While there are many types of rain barrels available for sale, a good barrel does not have to be fancy; you can create a serviceable rain barrel using a sturdy trash can and some household tools.

  • Heavy duty plastic trash can with lid, 32 gallon size or larger
  • Garden hose
  • Electric drill with drill bits
  • Tin snips
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Nylon or fiberglass screen
  • Shop scissors
  • 48-inch bungee cord
  • Silicone caulk
  • Large plastic spigot
  • Teflon plumbers tape
Choose and purchase a trash can that can be converted to a rain barrel. Sturdy, plastic trash cans with fitted lids, such as those intended for indoor/outdoor use, are fine choices for a first rain barrel.

Fill the trash can with water from your garden hose to clean and check for leaks, particularly at any seams. If you find any leaks, you can repair them with some pieces of the Teflon tape. Keep in mind that too many leaks will affect the integrity of the rain barrel--it has to withstand the pressure of containing water.

Drill holes, 2 inches to 3 inches in diameter, in the trash can lid. These holes will be how the rainwater enters the barrel; make them large enough to catch as much water as possible, but small enough to keep small animals from entering the barrel and drowning. Use the tin snips to enlarge holes as necessary. Set aside.

Lay the trash can on its side. Determine where you would like to place the spigot. Experts from the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station at Rutgers University recommend placing the spigot about 10 inches from the bottom of the barrel.

Drill a hole for the spigot. Enlarge hole with snips, as necessary, until the spigot can be fitted into the hole.

Secure the spigot into the hole using the Teflon tape, then covering with silicone caulk. Allow to dry.

Cut a square of nylon or fiberglass screen with the shop scissors, large enough to lay over and cover the top of the barrel, with at least six inches to 10 inches of overlap.

Turn the trash can upright. Drape the screening over the top.

Secure the screen in place by wrapping the bungee cord around the sides so that it catches the screen overlap. Tug the edges of the screen to tighten.

Place the lid on the trash can, over the screen. Place the rain barrel on a level surface.

Article images courtesy of:
Summer Rain Image by Alison Bowden From

Copyright © 2024