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When we hit dry times on the farm, running the hose to water the garden isn't always the best bet. Our well is somewhat shallow and tends to bottom out during droughty weather. For years, we've had a rain barrel attached to our gutter system so that we could store excess rainwater from rainy weather to use in our garden when the sun is shining just a little too much. It worked very well and is a functional part of how we reduce our water usage on the farm, but that big blue barrel just stuck out like a sore thumb.

Our DIY project for today takes just a few hours and will hide that ugly rain barrel while creating a beautiful outdoor feature for your home.

Outdoor Home Maintenance: Rain Barrel Disguise DIY Project

Tools and Materials

• We purchased a 55-gallon plastic barrel at the local feed store, but they're often found on Craigslist, Facebook or similar sites for a few bucks. Check that the barrel is food grade and wasn't used for chemical storage.

• I used 13 cedar fence planks due to their natural resistance to decay and rot. You could use almost any thin, solid-wood board available, 6"x48" vinyl plank flooring or with a shorter barrel, 6"x36" ceramic plank tiles could be used.

• To hold the planks against the side of the barrel, I used 50' of rope, but you could also use about 15' of lightweight metal banding or copper pipe that has been hammered flat. If you use rope, the nylon rope pictured lasts much longer than sisal or jute.

• 1-5/8" outdoor deck screws secured the plank tops in place.

• Plumbing materials include a 3/4" threaded hose bib, steel nipple, steel coupler and Teflon tape.

• A tiny bit of bath and kitchen silicone caulk was sandwiched between the inside of the barrel and the coupler for leak prevention.

• To get as much water out as is possible at a time, I placed a few 4" concrete blocks underneath it.

• To create the planter, you can use a bowl, element from a water garden or a little pond liner stapled to a frame that will sit on the top of the planks. Remember to pick up potting soil and plants.

• To make the hole for the plumbing at the bottom and drive the screws to hold the boards in place, you'll need a spade bit, driver bit and drill. Ceramic or vinyl planks will require an appropriate bit for the screw holes, and a masonry bit for the ceramic tile's plumbing connections at the bottom of the barrel.

• A circular saw, saber or jigsaw will be needed for cutting wood planks. If you're using ceramic wood planks, a tile saw will be required.

• A plumber's wrench is needed to tighten up the connections.

Getting the Planks Ready

Determine how tall your barrel planks should be. I used a water garden component on top of the barrel, so the planks had to be tall enough to reach the top of the component's lip.

Once you've measured, cut your planks to the correct length. By carefully matching up your plank edges, multiple planks can be cut at once.

Once the planks have been cut, check how you're placing them around the barrel. Wood planks tend to cup. For this project, we'll take advantage of that curve. If I lay a plank out with cupped edges out, it has sharper edges.

If the plank is turned around, the curve follows closer to the curve of the barrel and planter. This makes a much tighter fit and better appearance.

Start to lay your planks around the barrel.

Securing the Planks

To hold the planks against the barrel, pass the rope around the barrel, then tighten it down so it can secure everything in place. For vinyl or ceramic planks, start by pre-drilling the screw holes. Don't drive the screws too far through the barrel itself. Measure down the plank until you've gotten just below the barrel's lip, then drive a screw into the plank to secure it. The screws will push the plank away from the barrel at first, so start by just securing the screws into all the planks, then make a second pass to tighten them into the barrel.

If you're using rope, divide it in half and use a couple inches of duct tape to secure the ends from unraveling. Make a loop that will protrude about 3" below the top wrap, leaving the rope's end sticking out at the top. Wrap the rope around the barrel until it's too short to make another wrap, then tuck the end of the rope through the loop:

Now you can pull the upper end to pull the lower end up behind the rope:

Then you can simply tuck the ends in:

 

Adding Plumbing

Now it's time to create an access from your gutter to the barrel, which can double as an overflow. You'll also need to place the hose bib near the bottom to control the flow of water out of the barrel. Begin by cutting one board shorter at the back. To get it right for your system, you may need to play with the final cut to make it work.

 

Check that the lid fits well over the gutter elbow:

After the top entry point is finished, check that your drill bit is the same size or just slightly larger than the steel nipple that passes from the inside of the barrel to the outside plank, connecting the two points. For this project, I found a 1-1/8" spade bit that was very close in size to the 3/4" plumbing nipple.

Measure from the top of the barrel down into the inside to discover how deep it is when the barrel's side starts curving into the bottom. The bottom of your plumbing hole needs to be above this point for a solid connection. Measure to the same point down the barrel's exterior, then pick a point a little way above that to start your hole.

Note: Using Vinyl or Ceramic planks?

Keep dripping a little water or oil on the drilling site so the bit doesn't overheat. For vinyl planks, keep your drill speed slow so it doesn't catch and tear the vinyl.

After the hole is completed, wrap the plumbing nipple with Teflon tape to prevent corrosion and get a tighter seal with the threaded connections.

 

Screw the plumbing nipple to the hose bib, then insert it through the hole. After you have it in place and the hose bib is fairly level, attach a pair of screws to help hold it in place, which will keep it from rotating. Bear in mind that for ceramic or vinyl planks, you'll want to pre-drill these holes.

On one side of the coupler, add some silicone caulk approved for wet areas to create a strong seal.

Screw the coupler onto the end of the steel nipple that is on the inside of the barrel, then tighten it using a wrench and add one more layer of caulking to the connection. Use your finger to smooth the silicone caulk around the connection to push the caulking further into the joint. This creates a better seal. Caulk over the ends of the screws that have passed into the inside of the barrel.

 

Plants for Beautification

Your rain barrel is functional as soon as the caulk finishes drying, but to really make it pretty, it's time to add the planter. Put the barrel on top of the risers you're using, connect it to the gutter and put the lid back in place. Put the planter on top of the barrel and add potting soil.

At this point, you can add your plants, put a hose on the hose bib and get down to business. You can allow wood boards to weather to a soft gray color or stain and seal them to preserve warmer brown tones. Vinyl and ceramic tiles will retain their appearance with very little outdoor home maintenance. With the investment of a few short hours, you can save water while preventing runoff problems.

Cathleen Vought is a dedicated DIYer, writer and artist living with her family on their sheep farm in southwest Missouri. With over 26 years of experience in contracting and advanced DIY, she loves helping people find their inner artist and style. She's an active member of the local arts scene creating beautiful glass and fiber artwork, and also volunteers in a range of emergency response roles in the community.

Read about some of Cathleen's other projects for our affiliate - Surplus Warehouse:

Mosaic Tile Table

Organic Looking Shower Surround

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