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rain barrels -- hard piping the discharge line.

I recently offered up a DIY Life construction feature on building a rain barrel. I am very happy with mine; the (somewhat spotty) rainfall here in the north Georgia metro area, combined with my water saving techniques, puts ample water in the barrel to take care of my annual flowers and the newly installed plants in my yard.

When I built the barrel, I mentioned that I would temporarily use a hose for a discharge line but that, after some testing, I likely would make the change to hard pipe. My intent was to discard the hose laying on my deck and, more importantly, increase the discharge flow from the barrel. I am very pleased to report that my goals have been well satisfied. If you have a rain barrel, this upgrade just might be the thing for you.

Take a look at the gallery -- it'll be helpful.

First off, safety: be careful when cutting the PVC pipe; the edges may be sharp. You'll likely get PVC primer or glue on your hands, unless you wear gloves; just be careful not to get either of those items in your eyes (to quote Yoda from Star Wars, "very sorry, you'll be"). Wear protective glasses.

The materials:

  • Two, 3/4" PVC ball valves; the kind used generally used for irrigation work -- $6.
  • 3/4" adapters; three female, one male (your needs will vary, depending on exactly how your system is configured) --$1.50.
  • One 45 degree elbow -- $.38.
  • Eight, 1" electrical conduit clamps (see the gallery) -- $2.50.
  • Three sticks of 3/4" Schedule 40 PVC pipe -- $6.25. I needed three because of the length of the run.
  • Hose repair kit -- $3. Get the in-line kind.
  • PVC primer and glue --I had these in my shop; probably cost about $5 for the pair.
  • Metal roofing screws -- had these, also. Any kind of 1-2" screw will work, to attach the clamps.
  • Teflon tape -- had this; probably runs $1.
  • Brown spray paint -- $1.
  • Hose -- had an old 6' piece that I cut down to the requisite length.
  • A three foot length of pressure-treated stock that I had cut from a 2 x 4; you may use anything handy for a support.

The tools:

  • PVC pipe cutters -- I had these; you may use any kind of saw to cut the pipe.
  • Screwdriver for the hose clamps.
  • Screw gun

The time: took me about an hour for the project, once I had all the parts on hand.

The process:

  1. The first part of the project was to decide exactly how I wanted the discharge business to work. I needed flexibility to run the water into a bucket or watering can and also be able to attach a hose at points along the system.

    Just as easily done as said! I laid out the appropriate combination of pipe and fittings and went to work, measuring, cutting, assembling, and gluing the valve for the barrel to its adapters and pipe (see the gallery, again, for a good view of the entire process), then setting this assembly aside. Just for grins, I applied a bit of silicone at the junction of the barrel and adapter threads. I didn't, at this point, cut the main line to length, connect it to the elbow, or attach the valve at the end.
  2. I had already (cleverly) preplanned my use of water in the barrel to drop the level by about 3/4; then I just leaned the barrel back against a deck chair, unscrewed the old valve, Teflon taped the new one, and inserted it into the old hole. What a deal!
  3. I cut the hose to length (inserting the repair kit connector and hose clamps), leaving a little slack so I could move the barrel if need be, and attached it to the discharge valve assembly and the PVC pipe and adapter at the elbow.
  4. I hung the main piping along my back deck, allowing for about 14" of fall over 20' of pipe (or about 3/4" per foot) and attached the line with the clamps and metal roofing screws.
  5. I cut the main line to the correct length and then cut, assembled, and glued the pipe, valve, and hose adapter together. I made sure that I had sufficient clearance between the valve and the ground to allow me to stick a bucket or watering can under it, or attach a hose.
  6. Lastly, I secured the valve to a support which was attached to my deck stairs.
  7. As a concession to my neighbors, and with a modicum (your word of the day -- look it up) of good sense, I spray painted the glaringly white pipe with brown paint. Finito!

There you have it. As promised, the system is now complete; through testing I have determined that the water flow from the barrel is now about 3 gallons per minute, or a half a gallon more per minute than before the modifications. That is a bit more than I expected from the increase in valve orifice size, but very pleased to have it.

If you have a rain barrel, why not spend an hour on the retrofit and gain the increased efficiency? You'll be glad you did.


  • Willy

    Cool. But do you still dump your shower-water out the bathroom window? Or is that hard-piped in now, too?

  • Bill Volk

    Willy -- thanks for the comment. As for the water out the window; yes, I still do it the "old-fashioned" way. I did briefly consider hard-piping -- engineering-wise it wouldn't be difficult -- but I suspect the homeowners association might not think it all that appropriate!

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