Bulkhead fitting and barrel

Part 2 of Building a Six-barrel Rainwater Collection System

Materials for the Barrel Part of the System

It wasn't difficult to find some stuff for free. The barrels cost the gas to pick them up and we took them to the car wash for cleaning. We had some parts and bought some parts. What tools did we need? We had the drill, the pliers and the hacksaw. We borrowed the hole saw from a carpenter friend. We couldn't locate our grindstone that chucked into the drill, and a neighbor allowed us to use his grinder to smooth out the edges of the plastic bulkhead fitting. Quoted prices are from when this was put together in the spring of 2010.

Construction Details and Pictures

Flex pipe attached to bulkhead fitting.Enlarge image

This is what we're going to do to each barrel. Keep reading for step-by-step instructions.


Making a mark three inches from the bottom.Enlarge image

Each barrel requires a bulkhead fitting and a flexible pipe near its bottom that connects it to the collection manifold. This manifold will connect the barrels together and keep the water level the same in each. We cut the hole for the bulkhead fitting three inches from the bottom. Why not lower? We want to keep a few gallons of water in the barrel to allow any debris to settle instead of clogging up our pipes.


Electric drill wirh one and three-quarter inch hole saw.Enlarge image

Drill and 1¾" hole saw. This size worked for the type of bulkhead fittings we used. Check before you drill to make sure yours will also.


Using the hole saw to cut through the barrel.Enlarge image

Grinding away, took only seconds to cut through the plastic. Sure dumped a lot of plastic shavings into the barrel, though.


Barrel with hole near bottom.Enlarge image

Nice hole, just above the bottom, not AT the bottom, to allow for a couple of gallons of water to stay in the barrels for the foreign matter to settle.


Bulkhead fitting lying on barrel.Enlarge image

This is a bulkhead fitting. The part on the left and the rubber washer go inside the barrel and out through this hole.


Bulkhead fitting lying on barrel.Enlarge image

Oops, then again, maybe not... We could have cut a bigger hole with the jigsaw, but that would have weakened the barrel and then we would have had a big hole to patch. Instead we ground the corners off this plastic fitting.


Bulkhead fitting lying on washed barrel.Enlarge image

Two things happened here, we took the barrels to the car wash and washed them inside and out to remove all the dirt and plastic shavings, and we also ground down the edges of the interior part of the bulkhead fitting so it would fit through the bung hole. But it's a long way to the bottom, how to reach inside?


Tool to reach into barrel to help install fitting inside.Enlarge image

One-inch PVC pipe with a nail through it (we'll need this pipe without the nail on the next page).


Tool in use to reach into barrel to help install fitting inside.Enlarge image

Work the thing into the barrel and push it through the opening from inside. Don't forget the rubber washer, that goes inside also. You could also slide it down a string or use a fish tape.


Bulkhead fitting installed on barrel.Enlarge image

Fasten it with the nut, success! Long arms help if you are by yourself. This fitting is installed right over an outside seam but it's smooth inside, and that's where the rubber washer seals the opening. The flex pipe screws into the threads inside the bulkhead fitting.


Flex pipe attached to bulkhead fitting.Enlarge image

This barrel is done. That loose end of the flex pipe will attach to the manifold. We used flex pipe for several reasons: it's easier to install, it offers flexibility during ground movement (we have earthquakes), and it allows us to remove any barrel without disrupting the system simply by unscrewing and capping this pipe. The entire system can be taken apart easily and cleaned when necessary.

The final step will be to build the manifold system, the part that manages the water. Onward to page 3!


Page 1: Introduction
Page 2: Putting together the rain barrels (this page)
Page 3: Finishing up with the rainwater collection system