Friday, May 17, 2013

Make a Rainwater Collection System: Part I

Making a rainwater collection system is easy! Don't believe me? I made this one by myself, no help at all! (My husband was out of town on a business trip.) Not only was it easy, it wasn't expensive to install.

The most expensive part was the rain barrel itself. However, it doesn't have to be! You might be able to procure one for free (or a greatly reduced price) from a local business. Mine has a faint scent of orange fruit drink in it. I had to order it online and it was a bit pricy, but I didn't have any local options at the time. I got mine from here. Wherever you get yours, just be sure to get a food grade barrel. If you get a barrel from a local source, you may have to add your own faucet and downspout opening. Mine came installed.

After the barrel, it only costs a few dollars more for set up. The first thing you need to consider is where you are going to put it. Then, you will need to make a platform for it to stand on and hook it up to your gutters. I will show you how to do this in a two series post. Today, we will talk about how to make the platform. Next Friday, I will show you how to hook it up to your house gutters.

Put it in an out of the way place, next to one of your downspouts. To keep it steady, you will need to place it on some sort of platform. You will also want to raise it off the ground a bit so you can get to the faucet. I used cinder blocks. If your ground is even, you can just lay the blocks down and set the rain barrel on top of them. My guess is the ground won't be perfectly even so you will have to level it. It is not hard to level the ground! I bet most women think they can't do this themselves. If you can level cake batter in a pan, you can level dirt!

Start by digging a shallow hole. Make sure the hole is big enough for all the blocks. Here is the start of mine.

I dug down about two inches because my ground isn't level at all here. Now, even out the bottom of the hole. Eyeball this. You don't need the level yet. Add some sand at this point. Sand is easier to level then the soil. I went to the store and bought sand the morning I did this. However, by the time I got to this chore, I was out of sand. My sand went to refresh the peanut bed. (I will be planting peanuts next week.) So, my sand was put to a good use, I just expected to have a little left over for this project as well. It didn't happen. I bet you will agree that the peanut bed looks nice, though!

Anyway,  I can't stand going to the store so I knew I was not going to go back to get more sand!  Since it had been raining so much, the soil was quite moist and it all worked out just fine without the sand. I do believe though, the easiest thing to do is to get some sand. You don't need much. Pour it in and level it out. At this point, eyeball it to see if it is level. Just like you would do with cake batter.

Lay the first block and tamp it in a few times to settle it. Don't have a compactor? Neither do I. Jumping up and down on the block a few times will work. Check to see if it is level or how far off you are. I am sure it won't be perfectly level the first time you put the block in. Find the low spot, (or high spot), remove the block and concentrate on reworking the sand at that spot. Lay the block and try again. Not only should the block be level, but it shouldn't move either. No tipping allowed, it should be flat and not move when you press on any corner. If it does, pull the block and level the sand again. I had to add more soil to one side of mine.

I promise it won't take very long to get the block settled. Then, add the next block. Make sure it is firmly set against the first block. Tamp it in and check to make sure it is level. Not only does the second block need to be level on it's own, but the two blocks together need to be level as well. Remove the block and redistribute the sand as necessary. Continue until you have added all the blocks, and they are firmly seated. There should be no gaps between the blocks and none of them should be tipsy. Here is a picture of mine.

Now, back fill around the blocks. I am sure you will have extra spacing around the edge of the hole you dug. Carefully fill it in and press the soil down with your foot. I also added some dirt in the spacing inside of the cinder block. Here is a picture of mine.

Notice my blocks are not sitting directly against the house. That is because my house was built on a slab of concrete. I don't have a basement.  The back block is against the edge of concrete slab and as close to the house as I can get it. Check again to make sure the blocks didn't move as you backfilled the soil. Everything should still be level. Check each block individually and where the block touches another block.  If any one block (or more) moved, you may have to pull the uneven block(s) and do it again.

Clean up and place your rain barrel on the blocks. 

Total time, start to finish, was about one hour. That included the 10 minutes time it took for me to locate my level. Next week, we will add the downspout!

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  1. This is fascinating and really great info. Thanks so much for posting it :)


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