Rain Barrels Made from Garbage Cans

This post is really more of a spring-time post.  And ideally I would do it as a step-by-step DIY post with photos.  But I had a request to see our rain barrels made from garbage cans, so here it is.  I can’t do it step-by-step with photos, just directions, because we aren’t building one right now and it is cold and snowy outside.  🙂  The next time we make a barrel I will do a good DIY post with step-by-step pics.  But for now, this can help if anyone wants to make one sooner.


  • 35-gallon garbage can with lid
  • Screen
  • Staples and Staple Gun
  • (2) 1/2 inch Spigots
  • (2)  3/4-inch to 1/2-inch PVC bushing reducers
  • Teflon Plumbing Tape
  • Tin Snips
  • Drill
  • 1/4-inch or larger bit
  • Spade bit – same size as the outside diameter of the valleys of the spigot threads

Using the spade bit, drill two holes where you want the spigots.  One up high for overflow, and one low for draining.  Take into account that you need to be able to hook a hose on the bottom one and not have it kink, so if the barrel is not up on something, the spigot needs to be higher on the side so the hose can hook on.  Put the overflow as high as you can.  Also, consider which direction you want your overflow going out in regards to where your lower spigot is.  We put ours 90 degrees from each other so that the overflow could be directed down the alley, but the drain hose could easily go towards the gardens.

Wrap the threads of the spigots with teflon plumbing tape.  The wrap needs to be going the same direction that the spigot will be screwed in, or it will just shred.

Begin screwing in the spigot.  As soon as the threads catch and it is about 1/4-inch into the garbage can, screw the PVC reducer (the 1/2-inch side) onto the spigot until it is against the inside of the garbage can, then hold it tight and screw the spigot through it as well.  Think of a nut and bolt.  The spigot is like the bolt and the PVC reducer acts as a nut to help hold the spigot in and give it support on the inside since the garbage can plastic is so thin.  So your spigot should be screwed all the way tight in the hole, with the PVC reducer screwed tight on the back side holding the spigot in the hold and giving it support.  Repeat for the second spigot.

Cut your screen to a square big enough for the top of the garbage can.  Staple it on to the top edge of the garbage can, stapling every inch or so.  Cut the screen around the edge.

Cut a square hole in the lid at the proper location and to the proper size for your downspout.  We did this by first drawing the square on the lid.  Then we used a 1/4-inch bit to drill a hole inside one of the drawn corners of the square (it could be a bigger bit).  That made it possible to get our tin snips in and cut the hole.

Once the hole is cut, put the rain barrel in place and put the lid on over the screen.  Then get the downspout lined up to the hole.  You can attach your hose (or hoses) and start using it!

12 thoughts on “Rain Barrels Made from Garbage Cans

  1. Interesting idea, but I thought that capturing ANY rainwater was illegal except for fire cisterns. I’ll have to look into that. Been kind of dry this winter, from what I’ve seen. Hope we get more precipitation later on.


  2. Trash cans are not cheap! They can cost almost as much as a rain barrel! Rain barrels cost almost as much as old wine barrels (which are expensive to dispose of if they are not sold). I just do not use wine barrels because they do not last long.


  3. Pingback: High-Altitude Cold-Climate Gardening: Overcoming the Climate Challanges | Just another Day on the Farm

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