Go Green With Rainwater | Lumber | Barrel

Go Green with Rainwater

By Paul Fiebich 09-17-10
Collecting and storing rainwater can reduce your lawn and garden watering expense as well as contribute to a “green” environment. For the homeowner who is somewhat handy, here's how to make a water storage unit holding about 100 gallons. Obtain two containers such as the fifty-five gallon Coca-Cola syrup barrel and the forty gallon discarded water softener tank shown. If possible, get two that are identical, I couldn't. Build a four-post wooden framework to accommodate two of the larger sized containers. Framework size is based upon the interior measurement of 24" X 48". Use pressure treated fir or similar lumber suitable for outdoor, above grade structures. I used 4 X 4 (31/2” X 3-1/2” actual size) recycled redwood for corner posts, and 2 X 4 (1-1/2” X 3-1/2” actual size) pressure treated fir lumber elsewhere. For convenience, lumber is referred to by its nominal, not actual size

Assembled and Finished (framework, barrels, foundation and piping)

Material Cut List (4) Posts 4” X 4” X 4 feet long (2) Cross ties 2” X 4” X 2 feet long (2) End rails 2” X 4” X 24 inches long (2) Side rails 2” X 4” X 51 inches long (2) Platform sides 2” X 4” X 4 feet long (4) Platform stretchers 2” X 4” X 16 inches long

Framework annotated (Photo description identifying components) Board Cutting Description • Cut both 8 foot long post in half to make four corner posts. • Cut two, 2 X 4 X 8 foot long boards to include one side rail, one cross tie, and one stretcher each. • Cut two, 2 X 4 X 8 foot long boards to include one platform side, one platform end, and one stretcher each. For convenience, cut all pieces to length at once, leaving the cut-in pockets to be completed as needed. The pre-cut lumber controls the framework's size. Assembly dimensions not provided, are left to the builder's judgment. Each corner post contains two, 3/4” inch deep X 1-1/2” wide, cut-in pockets on their inside surfaces to receive the barrel platform and its supporting cross ties. These joints support the rain barrel load (up to one thousand pounds) in compression rather than by using fastening screws only and no cut-in pockets, which support in shear. When making the two cut-in pockets in each post, note that each pair of diagonally opposite posts are different!

Post cut-in joint pockets A platform made from 2 X 4s supports the barrels and attaches to the posts. Make four 1/4” deep X 11/2” wide cut-in pockets in one of the large surface of each platform side to receive the stretchers. Assemble the barrel platform using three-inch long deck screws (not galvanized, which will stain the wood) for all joints. Drill clearance holes in the first piece of wood the screw passes through, no pilot holes are necessary in the piece of wood it screws into. Attach the four posts to the assembled barrel platform. The platform is also supported by two cross ties fitted into the remaining cut-in post pockets that should be installed now. The retaining rail is fitted on the outside of the posts. It should be above the barrel's half-way height measurement. The rail is screwed directly to the posts' outside surfaces. Install the two shorter end rails first, then the front and rear rails noting how they overlap. To improve appearance, allow the posts to extend above the railing several inches, add a decorative finial, and bevel all sharp edges. A brushed coat of wood preservative will extend the structure's durability and make it look better. Rest this assembly on a footing that won't sink into the ground. Dig a four inch deep trench for each pair of end posts. Add two inches of sand, then two inches of paver base. With a small board, screed the top layer level and tamp firm. Output water pressure is determined by barrel/water height. Position, level, and add cement blocks on this footing to achieve your goal. In earthquake-prone regions, secure the framework to a solid structure.

Make a riser from wood or patio stones to elevate one barrel higher than the other, place the barrels in the framework. Divert an eaves trough downspout to enter the higher barrel. Connect the barrels with PVC pipe or similar conduit thus allowing water to overflow from the higher barrel to the lower one. Make a similar overflow tube from the second tank to drain onto the lawn. Cut a hole near the bottom of each barrel and Install a water tank heater drain valve, a rubber washer and a securing nut.

Assembled without barrels Attach a (delivery) garden hose to a drain valve fitting and wait for rain to fill the barrels. Water flows downhill by gravity, however it can be siphoned over structures higher than the barrels. The best watering results are achieved by connecting the delivery hose to a soaker hose lying among the garden plants. To avoid creating a mosquito breeding area, place one fourth of a biological mosquito control tablet such as “Mosquito Dunks” and one cup of bleach in each barrel when it is refilled.

Piping---Downspout entry, overflow to second tank, overflow from second tank to ground level splash block Congratulations! You have just done your part to conserve a natural resource and reduce your water bill. Total cost of this system is about $75.00, dependent upon your scrounging ability and use of recycled material. Prior to winter freezing, drain the tanks and reconnect the downspout, returning it to its original position.

Watering directly from the delivery hose All photos were taken by Paul Fiebich as construction progressed. July 21, 2010

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