Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Manifold Rain Barrel System Part One

As promised, here is Part One of my myriad and detailed posts regarding the manifold rain barrel system I made.  Before proceeding, you may want to take a look here, a former post in which I wrote a little about the ground leveling stage.  At any rate, I actually completed this project around two weeks ago but the photos sat in my camera FOREVER.  I swear, next to rain barrels, cameras are the laziest contraptions out there.  They just refuse to download photos themselves.

Before I begin, here's a photo of the completed system, just to give you a reference point for the more detailed photos:

Mainfold rain barrel system
As I mentioned in the former post, drilling a hole in the center of the bottom of each barrel was the first order of business.  For 3/4" PVC, a 3/4" drill bit was not quite enough, so Byron bought a 7/8" bit.  Even with that, I had to do quite a bit of filing to get the threaded end through the hole.  In one of the video links I provided in my previous post, it was mentioned that a 15/16" bit might work, and I think that would have been perfect.  The next task was to get the threaded piece into the barrel:

I attached a long piece of PVC to the threaded piece and...

...twisted it into the hole through the inside of the barrel.  It was a little tricky, but it worked.  I pulled the long piece of PVC out before turning the barrel upside down again.

Here the threaded piece of PVC sticks through the hole in the bottom of the barrel.  Although I used a rubber O-ring on the threaded piece, I was sceptical that it would be water tight.  So I screwed the coupling piece you see sitting next to it onto the threaded piece, turned the barrel right-side up, and put a bit of water into it.  Sure enough, leaking ensued.

Another issue: All barrels are not created equal!  This one had a thick, wavy seam on the bottom that I had to attack with an exacto knife.  It was a no-brainer that this one would leak, too.

I asked around, knowing I needed some sort of plumbing material that would withstand weather and be flexible.  Plumbers putty worked, but it doesn't really dry so I was afraid it would fall off under the weight of a filled barrel.  My Dad recommended something called RTV, which is a silicone-based liquid gasket.  I couldn't find it anywhere, but he found some at an automotive store.  It's really easy to work with and is similar in properties to silicone caulk.  After a bit of tweaking, it worked like a charm!  I used it for all the threaded pieces.  Thanks, Dad!
Here's the coupling piece over the threaded piece.  Is this making sense???

Because all barrels are not created equal, I measured how high above the bottom of the each barrel each coupling piece would protrude. It was easy: just a straight edge, a ruler, and sticky notes.

I then used a hacksaw to cut a small piece of 3/4" PVC to attach to the coupling piece. Filing off the burrs is important, too. 

To attach non-threaded piece, I used PVC cement (actually, I accidentally bought CPVC cement, but it does the same thing).  PVC cement is one of those fun adhesives that come with warnings like, "Touch this and you will die.  Eat this and you will die.  Give the adhesive a dirty look and you will die."  So I wore latex gloves and I'm still here.  Anyway, PVC cement basically melts the PVC.

Getting ready to attach the elbow...

...and the bottom of the barrel is plumbed and ready to be joined to the others!
 To be continued!


  1. Thanks so much for the tutorial! I had read your original post and thought it was genius, and made a note to myself to keep an eye out for barrels. Got lucky-found 4 of them at a yardsale this weekend for $10 total! Was going to have hubby figure it out on his own, but this way is so much better lol. Thank you!

  2. Tootled over after Lisa's at Two Bears Farm sent me the link :O), wanted to get a look see at your rain barrel system! Looking good!, going to go read part 2 and 3 now!

  3. thanks for ideas
    I used the existing openings on my barrells 2inch pipes and used a pvc bushing 2x3/4 and a threadded coupling foe a faucet