From Wine Barrels to Rain Barrels

Real Estate Appraiser with Ashcroft & Associates

Rain Barrels:  They've has been on my to-do list for about two years now.  Realizing that I'm more of a list-writer than a do-er when it comes to manual projects, I enlisted the help of a friend, Maurice to help me check this project off my list. 

I started some online research about the basics to creating a rain barrel verses buying a pre-made rain barrel.  Even with paying for labor, I figured I could save about $50 by DIY.  Every dollar counts right now, aye?

Thanks to the popularity of water conservation and, finding rain barrels around here is pretty easy.  A lot of places sell plastic grain containers for about $5 to $20.  These are popular for rain barrel conversion, but I was willing to spend a bit more for some wine barrels.  We are fortunate enough to have enough wineries in the area to find these for sale locally.  Once I started searching for the wine barrels, I realized that I would have to pay quite a bit more for the esthetics of a nice old wine barrel verses a grain container... about $130 more.... But with a few more days of searching on craigslist, a winery that was going out of business was willing to sell them for $50.  That would do.  My friend went and picked them up.  It wasn't until he toted them to our house that I realized how big a 60 gallon wine barrel could be.  They barely fit in the back of his stripped out van.  He also picked up (or found laying around) the following: a stopper for the bunghole (yes, it is called a bunghole), a spigot, some mesh (replacement window screen), flexible metal and bendable plastic downspout house.  I found it a bit of an eye-opener that he could find all this material in our garage with exception to the spigots (... although later I did find one old spigot in there that would have worked). 

Maurice built a rain barrel stand out of recycled wood that he had laying around for the back yard rain barrel (gravity is key for getting the water out).  This stand has to support about 400 lbs of barrel and water... the sturdy beast he built will certainly suffice.  The front yard rain barrel will sit on our concrete porch and so there is no need for a stand there.

We did a water test and found that the barrels had dried out enough that they would leak a bit until the moister allowed the wood to expand.  This is good to know and we'll be watching the barrels over the first couple of rains so that we can divert water away from the house properly. 

Maurice then cut a hole for the spigot and the top for the downspout, sealed the bunghole.  He lined the top hole with the window screen mesh to keep the bugs out and secured the mesh with the flexible metal (he mentioned that an embroidery ring would have done the job as well... sadly I did not have one).

He hoisted the barrels into place (yes, by himself... this I do not recommend) and cut into the existing downspouts.  The plastic flex downspout was routed to the top of the wine barrel. 

Now we wait for the rain.  We will have to ‘waste' at least the first fill of rainwater to ensure that the wine residue does not harm the plants or turn them pink.  We may find it necessary to add an overflow hose in the future, too. 

Well, that's it... our first attempts at a rain barrel.  I'll update notes with trials and errors if any should occur.  Now for installing a clothes line. 


4/17/2009 Update:

I meant to post this note our first day of rain.  The overflow valves should be installed immediately.  The first night of mild rain overflowed both 60 lb barrels!  We do plan on adding the overflows soon, but for now, we've been releasing the water as necessary.

10/5/2009 Update:

I just responded to a private email to someone inquiring about the rain barrel supplies that are needed. I thought I would paste the information here as well:

A platform of some sort (if you're planning on gravity flow… you can also buy a pump, but they're spendy and not as energy efficient as gravity). Remember this has to hold a barrel and 60 gallons of water, so it's got to be sturdy.

Articulated downspout - Between cut off portion of downspout and your rain barrel (there is a possibility that you can position your rain barrel directly below the downspout so this part is not necessary)

Plumbing drain cap and caulk for wine barrel's bunghole

Mesh - When you cut a hole in the top of the barrel to receive water from the downspout, you want as little debris as possible to enter the rain barrel. Our friend also found an embroidery ring that fit snuggly into the top hole (which he had to cut) where the mesh is placed

Threaded spicket and caulk to release water

Overflow pipe and caulk to divert excess water from the barrel in heavier rains - This is very important as we found out. The barrel will fill in 1/2 a nights rain… and that's from just half of a modestly sized roof. An old piece of galvanized pipe connected to the top of the barrel and draining away from any structures. One of our rain barrels has piping plus some plastic tubing connected to it which can be moved around like a second hose.

If you choose a wine barrel, will see some minor leaking coming from the barrel at first. No worries, the wood will expand again. If the water is in the wine barrel too long (especially in warm weather) your water will smell like fermented wine and fruit flies will gather. It's best to empty it in a timely fashion at first. Also, the first barrel or two might have a hint of pink to the water from the left over wine.


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  1. Janice Roosevelt 04/05/2009 06:04 AM
Oregon Multnomah County Portland
Out Of The Box!
Everything Oregon
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rain barrels
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Matt Listro
National Credit Fixers - Matt Listro - Vernon, CT
Your Credit Repair Expert

Hi Sara: Just a curious question: how much do those things weigh?


Apr 05, 2009 05:10 AM #1
Sara Goodwin
Ashcroft & Associates - Portland, OR
Portland, Oregon Appraiser

Hi Matt - I would guess about 150 lbs each.  This is where the plastic ones would come in much more conveniently :-D

Apr 05, 2009 06:03 AM #2
Jim & Maria Hart
Brand Name Real Estate - Charleston, SC
Charleston, SC Real Estate

Great project.  I haven't made it to having rain barrels yet, but we have multiple buckets all around our home that collects rain water that we then use for our plants and garden.  I'm interested to see how well these work for you.

Apr 05, 2009 06:34 AM #3
Pat Fenn
Marketing Specialist for CJ Realty Group/Cindy Jones Broker - Springfield, VA

I had a friend who did these at their house.  Look so much better than the plastic ones.  Though they did wish they had come full of wine to drink first!

Apr 05, 2009 06:36 AM #4
Tanya Venable
Orlando, FL
SEO, Mobile SEO, and Internet Marketing Consultant

Sara - interesting post! I hope it works out for you, definitely keep us posted.

Apr 05, 2009 08:06 AM #5
Edward D. Nikles
Ed Nikles Custom Builder , Inc. / Nikles Realty , Inc. - Milford, PA

Thanks Sara for the post ! I have 2 plastic rain barrels at my home & use them when building my green homes also . I remember my grandfather had 2 galvanized tubs & watering cans for watering all his plants for many years ! Now with west nile virus we couldn't do this anymore . Keepin' it Green !

Apr 05, 2009 10:31 AM #6
Jennifer Monroe
Savvy + Company Real Estate - Charlotte, NC
Real Estate REALTOR®/Broker in Beautiful Charlotte

This was a salve to read as I adjust to a shockingly un-ecofriendly new town. They look at me like I'm a freak when I bring my own canvass bag to the grocery store :) And no recycling of cans and bottles :(

So is Maurice a great guy or do you hold some unsavory bit of info on him? From what I read, this really takes some work to get it set up correctly. I do recommend the overflow hose. You'll be surprised how fast it fills up.

Miss My Favorite Sara already!

Apr 06, 2009 01:48 AM #7
Sara Goodwin
Ashcroft & Associates - Portland, OR
Portland, Oregon Appraiser

Jim & Maria - You've simplified the process tenfold :-)

Pat - That would have made them a $50 steal!  We were just watching a special where we learned that old wine barrels have 'wine diamonds' in them.  Microscopic diamonds that can be used on blades, etc.  If we had any clue as to how to 'excavate' them, we might have made our money back on the barrels.

Thanks Tanya - I will keep you posted as there will likely be some important revisions or additions.

Ed - That's great!  I started noticing how many rain catchers are in the neighborhood.  It's definitely catching on around here -

Well hello Ms. Jennifer - It's great to hear from you.  We went thru a similar realization in New Mexico when cleaning out my grandmother's house.  We had to hand over her collection of maonaise jars to the garbage man.  I'd like to think she was just waiting for recycling to kick in in Hobbs before she got rid of them, but in reality, she 'needed' those jars.  My friend started up a recycling program when she moved to North Carolina.  Maybe that's your calling... and your new nickname shall be 'that crazy recycling lady from the northwest'!  Don't give up the shopping bags, either.  Miss you, too!


Apr 06, 2009 03:11 AM #8
Gary J. Rocks
Juba Team Realty - Jefferson Township, NJ


Thanks for the info, I too have been considering rain barrels for my Gardening.

Apr 06, 2009 04:35 AM #9
Sabrina Kelley
ERA Herman Group Real Estate - Woodland Park, CO
Woodland Park Colorado Mountain Homes and Land

Nice Job. Rain barrels were actually illegal the last time I checked in CO. It is considered hoarding water from the people of the state. It seems silly to me but since I last checked the water police weren't looking.

Apr 07, 2009 08:48 AM #10
Sheridan Corrie
Upstage, LLC - West Linn, OR

Very cleaver!  We certainly have the climate here.  Thanks for the detailed project description.  I just might add this to my list!

Apr 07, 2009 03:15 PM #11
Sara Goodwin
Ashcroft & Associates - Portland, OR
Portland, Oregon Appraiser

Hi Gary - I hope it helps!

Illegal?  Really?  The water just rolls off the roof into the sewage drain around here.

Hi Sheridan - Thanks for the kudos.

Apr 07, 2009 03:41 PM #12

Hi there, I came across this site looking for directions on getting up one of these from scratch.  I am wondering how ya'll put the spigot in without leaks?  Thanks.

May 02, 2009 05:00 AM #13
Sara Goodwin
Ashcroft & Associates - Portland, OR
Portland, Oregon Appraiser

Hi Connie -

The silicone is squirted around the spigot.  So far no noticeable leaks there.  The overflows have been added (thank goodness)... copper tubing that runs to a clear tube that will eventually be placed under rock (once it stops raining here).

May 04, 2009 03:52 PM #14
Sara Goodwin
Ashcroft & Associates - Portland, OR
Portland, Oregon Appraiser

10/5/2009 Update above

Oct 05, 2009 03:29 AM #15
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Sara Goodwin

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