Building a Diverter for a Rain Barrel Building a Diverter for a Rain Barrel

What You'll Need
Electric drill
7/8 inch and 1 inch drill bits
3/4 inch PVC pipe
PVC cement
90 degree pipe elbow
3/4 threaded male adaptor
Plumbers tape
Ball valve
Jig saw
Hack saw
Downspout diverter (accordion type)
55-gallon plastic barrel with screw tops
Plastic-adherent paint (optional)
Water plant basket
Screening and strong glue
Cinder blocks or paving stones for barrel platform

Building a rain barrel diverter is often the part of rain barrel use that can seem challenging. With a few specific steps and materials, the diverter described here is much simpler than it may first appear. The end result can be an economical way to save on your water bill and help the environment.   

Step 1: Select Your Barrel

Be sure your plastic barrel is food-grade and designed with two screw-up openings. Most initially come in industrial colors, such as black, white, or blue. Painting your barrel to coordinate with the colors of your house or garden can greatly improve its appearance.

Step 2: Prep for Spigots

Each screw top has what is known as a threaded knockout through the middle. Drill through the knockout with the 7/8 inch drill bit to create an attachment point for the spigot assembly.

Step 3: Cut the Intake Hole

Turn the barrel over to the side without the screw top. Put the water plant basket upside down on top of the barrel and trace around its edge. Draw a cutting circle outline about ¼ inch inside the resulting traced circle from the basket. This will be the lip for the basket to sit on. Make a starter hole with the drill, and then cut out your intake hole with the jig saw. Clean and rinse out your barrel, using this intake hole. Check that your basket can easily fit into it.

 Step 4: Create Overflow

Drill into the side of the barrel as close to the top as possible, using the 1 inch drill bit. Attach the ¾ inch adaptor and a short piece of hose to direct water away from the house.

Step 5: Assemble Your Diverter  

Wrap plumber’s tape around the big thread of the drilled screw top. Screw a riser into the threading of the knock-out. Use the PVC cement to attach the elbow joint. Cut a length of PVC pipe long enough to extend the ball valve beyond the barrel’s edge, roughly 4 ½ to 5 inches. Cut a second length of PVC pipe about 1 ½ inches and attach this to the opposite end of the ball valve. Attach the pipe elbow, and then check to be sure everything is directed in the appropriate direction prior to applying the PVC cement.

Step 6: Divert the Downspout

Cut a section out of the accordion-type downspout and secure it to the top hole of the barrel.

Step 7: Build Your Platform   

Make your rain barrel’s raised platform out of your choice of cinder blocks or paving stones that can be found at any hardware store. Place it next to the downspout, and make sure all stones are level.

Step 8: Protect Your Barrel:

Cut out enough screening to line the inside of the barrel and secure it with glue. This will keep mosquitoes out of your rain barrel.

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