How to Make a Rain Barrel from a Garbage Can in 5 Easy Steps

Save water and money with a DIY rain barrel you can create in a couple of hours.

Did you know that each inch of rain that falls on 500 square feet of roof equates to about 300 gallons of water? Instead of letting this precious resource just run off into storm drains, you can use a rain barrel or two to collect and store it until you need it. Besides helping conserve your area's water supply, you can reduce your water bills by using your collected rainwater in your garden. Note: some states have restrictions on collecting rain water, so be sure to check your local regulations first. Here's how to make a DIY rain barrel out of a garbage can in just a couple of hours.

backyard rain barrel in garden
Jay Wilde

Materials You'll Need

It's probably easier than you think to make a rain barrel by upcycling an inexpensive plastic outdoor trash can with a lid. Here's the list of tools and supplies you'll need:

  • 1 plastic outdoor garbage can with lid (the larger it is, the more water you can collect)
  • 1 brass spigot
  • 1 tube of watertight sealant
  • 1 roll of Teflon tape
  • 1 threaded pipe union fitting (or 2 rubber washers, 2 metal washers, and 1 nut)
  • Power drill and bit
  • Box cutter or utility knife
  • Landscaping fabric or fine mesh screen
rain barrel diy drilling hole spigot
Jay Wilde

Step 1: Drill a Hole

Drill a hole a few inches above the bottom of your trash can. This is where you'll insert your spigot. Use a drill bit that's a little smaller than or the same size as the spigot or union fitting (matched to the size of your spigot).

Step 2: Attach and Seal the Spigot

Place a metal washer onto the threaded end of the spigot, then put a snugly fitting rubber washer over the threads to help hold the washer in place and prevent leakage. Apply waterproof sealant over your rubber washer and insert the spigot into the hole on the outside wall of your barrel. Allow the sealant to dry, then run a rubber washer, followed by a metal washer onto the threads of the spigot inside the barrel. Secure the spigot in place inside your barrel with a nut.

Alternatively, insert the pipe union fitting into the drilled hole, leaving a small gap. Apply sealant to the fitting, then tighten it onto your barrel. Apply more sealant to the fitting's nut and screw onto the fitting, inside the garbage can. Allow sealant to dry. Wrap spigot threads with Teflon tape, then screw the spigot into the union fitting on the outside of the barrel.

Step 3: Make Entry and Exit Holes

Carefully cut a hole in the lid of your rain barrel. This hole should sit under your home's downspout so the water runs right into the barrel. Cut the hole so it's large enough to accommodate the water flow from the downspout. You'll also want to drill a couple of holes near the very top of your rain barrel. These holes will allow water to overflow if necessary.

Test Garden Tip: You can run a short length of hose or PVC pipe from the overflow hole to another rain barrel to connect them. Then, if your first rain barrel fills up, the excess water will run into the next one and you won't lose overflow water.

rain barrel diy cutting landscaping fabric barrier
Jay Wilde

Step 4: Screen the Top

Cut a piece of landscaping fabric or screen to sit over the top, with at least a couple of inches hanging over the side. Then, put the lid over the top of it to secure it in place, trimming away excess screen or fabric. This will create a barrier that prevents mosquitoes and other creatures from getting in your rain barrel water. Plus, it will help keep any debris washing off your roof out of your water.

Step 5: Place Your Rain Barrel

Position your DIY rain barrel directly underneath a downspout where it will be most convenient for you to access the spigot. It's best to set your rain barrel up on a sturdy platform, such as a low stack of bricks or cinder blocks. This will help gravity push water out better when using a hose attached to the spigot. The added elevation also makes it easier to fill up watering cans directly from the spigot. Then, just wait for it to rain so you can enjoy the water (and money) savings.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles