How To Collect Rainwater –
Plumbing Your Storage Barrels Together
By Rudy Kearney
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So yesterday I talked about some of the basic concepts of rainwater storage. Today I want to tell you how to plumb everything together in a way that makes sense.
Again I will make some Basic Assumptions.
For this section I’m going to assume that you have a reasonable roof to collect water from, such as a house or shed, and you’ll be installing your storage barrels nearby.
ll use four 55 gallon barrels for a total of 220 gallons of storage. The concepts will easily adapt to any structure you may have.
First, The Storage Barrels
To make things easy, we’ll build a wooden platform to support the barrels. This gives us a stable platform to keep the barrels on and gives us a few extra feet of elevation for better water pressure.
Use pressure treated 4x4s as uprights with pressure treated 2x8s as the frame. Build a simple platform with these, and pick what you want for the top … I’d recommend using 2×4 or scrap 2×8.
Make sure that the 4x4s are embedded several feet into the ground so that your platform will be reasonably stable. It’s also important to make sure that your platform is as level as possible.
Make sure your platform is aligned along the end of the shed, and that it’s off to one end of the shed. You don’t want your platform too high either. A couple feet is good. Having that much weight too high up can be a safety concern.
If you don’t know how to build a platform, holler and I’ll help you out.
Second, Plumb Them Together
Before you start, if you didn’t buy an opaque barrel, you might consider painting them. Of course you might want to do that anyways in case the stylish blue clashes with your decor…
Before you start, set the barrels where you want them to be on the platform and mark the centerline. You’re going to want to drill a 1-1/2″ hole in the platform for each barrel, smack dab in the center. This will be for the pipe from that barrel.
To connect the barrels together, we’re going to leverage the way water behaves. So at the bottom of each barrel, drill a hole in the center with a 1 inch hole saw. Buy or borrow a 1″ plumbers pipe tap and thread the hole.
Take a 1″ PVC Male Threaded Connector and thread it into the hole. You should either use caulk or silicone glue, or perhaps simple teflon tape to prevent leaks. Glue a length of PVC to the connector that is long enough to reach below your platform.
Set your barrels in place on the platform.
For this part, dry fit everything first before you glue. If you didn’t measure everything quite right, you may need to make a few tweaks.
Now use 1″ PVC and ‘T’ and ‘L’ connectors to put together a pipe that can connect all of the barrels together. You’ll use ‘L’ connectors, or elbow connectors, on the two ends, and ‘T’ connectors for the two center barrels. Decide where you want to have your hose attachment, and put a ‘T’ connector in there as well.
I don’t have a picture handy, but the ‘T’ and ‘L’ connectors that feed the barrels should be facing up and the ‘T’ connector for the hose should face forward.
Once everything fits right, glue it all together.
Put a length of 1″ PVC on the ‘T’ connector for the hose connection. It should be long enough to go just past the platform edge. Glue a ball valve on the end of it, and when that’s dry add a 1″ brass hose connecter to the end of the ball valve.
Third, Add Overflow and Venting
In order to allow these barrels to fill up we have to vent the tops. We also need to deal with overflow when the rain fills the barrels past what they are able to handle.
This is actually really simple. Using 1″ or 1/2″ PVC, drill and tap a hole on the top of each barrel towards the back of it … but no closer than three inches to the edge.
Put a threaded male connector into the hole, and assemble a ‘U’ shaped PVC pipe setup using two ‘L’ connectors. A picture tells a thousand words, so this is roughly what it should look like.
Now one key thing here is to drill several holes along the top of each overflow pipe. This gives you ventilation but also protects against any sort of siphoning action.
Next … Connect It All To The Roof!
Tomorrow, I’ll tell you how to connect this to your roof and gutters. But for now, enjoy!