DIY: Horizontal Storage of 55 gal. Water Barrels

water_barrels_finalFAILURE WARNING: After two weeks two barrels started to collapse due to insufficient support. I plan to add a 2×6 or 2×8 across the middle to increase the surface area supporting the barrels. I was anxious to share this project and should have waited longer to see if my concerns about too little support were legitimate. I will re-post this article once I have a proven design.

I will  I stumbled across this DIY project recently for storing 55 gal. water barrels horizontally. The biggest drawback of standard upright water barrels is getting the water out when needed. This generally involves either a siphon or a hand pump. Storing the barrels horizontally and adding a spigot to one of the caps makes using the barrels much more convenient. You’ll also be more likely to exchange the water every six months since it will be easier to do.

Here’s the website I found this project on and here are the instructions you’ll need (same pdf as you’ll find on the other website).

Since I have 5 water barrels I decided to make a six barrel holder instead of the two barrel holder you see in the picture. This allows me to store more in less space than before and now I have an incentive to add another barrel. I’ll share the changes I made to the design and what I learned to make this project as easy as possible. Since this is basically a box, you should be able to complete this project in a few hours. For me it took a little longer because I also cleaned or rather my kids cleaned the water barrels, I had to dig through random boards to find what would fit the project and I ended up stopping before completing the project and finishing on another day.

It was  time to exchange the water in my barrels so this project came at a perfect time. I also had wood lying around so I was only missing the spigots.

barrelsThe first task was to empty the water out of the barrels using a garden hose for a siphon. I had two going at once to speed this up as it takes a little while. I let my 10 year old boy suck on the hose to start the water siphoning. I was surprised since he didn’t seem to suck very hard but the water still came. It takes a lot less suction than I imagined, even with a long hose.

I let my boy clean the barrels while I gathered the tools and hunted down boards. I also read through the instructions, decided which changes I’d like to make and then calculated my board quantity and lengths for cutting.

Suggestions/Changes I Made
Main changes I made were to add an inch on each side of the barrels since these barrels sit outside and I wanted to allow for expansion. I also calculated the changes I would need to make this 2 barrel rack into a 6 barrel rack.

Here are the instructions you’ll need as a reference for the board letters below (same link as above).

In the diagram the boards labeled E (skids) are not necessary and you can cross them off your list.

You decide whether to use boards labeled C for cross braces or use the boards labeled F. Using both is overkill.

I used 2 x 6’s instead of 2 x 4’s for boards labeled A since my rack is three barrels high instead of two. I also cut the first notch in A 6″ up so that I would have more room to connect a hose to the bottom barrel without kinking the hose. This also allowed me to use all 90° hose bibs (spigots) instead of using 45° angled hose bibs on the bottom barrels.

To make a double wide rack as I did, just double boards B & D. OK, technically you double the length and subtract 1 1/2 inches. CAUTION: you must be more exact in your measuring and cutting out the notches in A for the cross boards B as you now are lining up three points of contact instead of just two.

barrel-rack-cutoutsI decided to eliminate the curved plywood boards D and instead used the cutouts from A, cutting them into wedges. If I had to do this part again I would make two identical wedges by cutting straight from corner to corner of the cutout. I saw these wedges right as I was preparing to cut out the plywood and this idea worked wonderfully.  I would do it this way again but it is not as finished or attractive as using the plywood boards to keep the barrels from rolling.

barrels-wedgesMake sure you drill a hole through the wedges first or you’ll split them with the screws.  I placed the wedges about 7 1/4″ from the vertical supports A but your measurement may vary depending on the shape of the wedge. Also, I widened my supports by an inch on each side of the barrels for expansion so my veritical supports A are further away.

Ok, so I made lots of changes to the original design but I’m happy with the result and I now have a much more convenient and compact storage rack for my water barrels. I also have room to add one more barrel to the rack. I guess this is an example of resourcefulness as I didn’t purchase anything to build this rack.  I only used what I had on hand and my only expenses will be replacing the drill bit I broke and the spigots.

barrels-rackAssembly
You will want a helper to hold boards in place as you screw everything together.  I found it easiest to assemble the front and back sections on the ground or on a flat, level surface.

Follow the order on the instructions eliminating step #6 (the skids) and do either step #5 or #7 but not both as discussed above.

I didn’t encounter any difficulties in putting everything together. The only addition to the instructions would be to make sure the notches in A are facing outward and not towards the center of the rack.

I used some pretty hefty 3 1/2″ screws to put everything together and pre-drilled holes before screwing each of the boards together.

Hose Bibs
I found 3/4″ Celon Hose Bibs for $3.29 online (half the websites spell it Bibb the other half Bib). As I am currently seeking employment I opted not to purchase the hose bibs just yet and to install these the next time I rotate the water in these barrels.

Used Barrels
I picked these barrels up for $20 each a few years back. They were filled with juice concentrate previously and were really a pain to wash out since you can’t get to the bottoms to scraper them out. If you have a pressure washer it might be easier. Since I saw clean, new barrles for $45 just a few weeks ago at macey’s, it is probably not worth saving a few dollars buying used barrels unless you are seriously strapped for cash.

barrel-rack-doneConclusion
It has been a week now since I finished this project and the rack is still standing :-) Since each filled barrel weighs about 450 lbs. this rack is holding 2,250 lbs. total. I’m very happy with how it turned out and would highly recommend this project to anyone who has 55 gallon water barrels. If you don’t have any water storage currently then consider the storage options in last month’s water storage group buy which are very convenient. If you decide to build a horizontal rack then please share your experience in the comments below.

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  • http://wadeshearer.com/ wade

    Great work, Royal. Your rack looks great. FYI, Walmart has the blue drums (at least in Lehi) for $38 right now.

  • http://wadeshearer.com wade

    Great work, Royal. Your rack looks great. FYI, Walmart has the blue drums (at least in Lehi) for $38 right now.

  • http://wadeshearer.com/ wade

    What is the site where you found the house bibs?

  • http://wadeshearer.com wade

    What is the site where you found the house bibs?

  • http://kentucky-preppers-network.blogspot.com/ matthiasj

    Great post! That rack is awesome, great way to keep your water storage sorted out. Good work.

  • http://kentucky-preppers-network.blogspot.com matthiasj

    Great post! That rack is awesome, great way to keep your water storage sorted out. Good work.

  • http://selfrelianceadventures.blogspot.com Angela

    I have some barrels, but don’t have them filled since I have no place to put them that they won’t freeze in the winter and I’m afraid the barrels will crack. We do have *some* water stored inside, but I’d really like to get these barrels filled. You said yours were outside. How do you deal with the freeze issue? Any help would be appreciated–I don’t like having empty water barrels! :)

  • http://selfrelianceadventures.blogspot.com angela

    I have some barrels, but don’t have them filled since I have no place to put them that they won’t freeze in the winter and I’m afraid the barrels will crack. We do have *some* water stored inside, but I’d really like to get these barrels filled. You said yours were outside. How do you deal with the freeze issue? Any help would be appreciated–I don’t like having empty water barrels! :)

  • Michelle

    I don’t want to burst any bubbles, but a friend of mine told me that those water barrel racks weren’t a good. Someone my friend knows deals with those barrels and says that because of the seams down the side, the barrels are more likely to crack under the pressure of being on their sides. As a result, I haven’t made any. I would really love an update in a few months to hear if you’ve had any issues. I still think it’s a great idea and would love to do it if it works out well.

  • Michelle

    I don’t want to burst any bubbles, but a friend of mine told me that those water barrel racks weren’t a good. Someone my friend knows deals with those barrels and says that because of the seams down the side, the barrels are more likely to crack under the pressure of being on their sides. As a result, I haven’t made any. I would really love an update in a few months to hear if you’ve had any issues. I still think it’s a great idea and would love to do it if it works out well.

  • http://wadeshearer.com/ wade

    While it may be good to add some additional support, it does seem like you should be able to construct a rack that safely holds drums horizontally. I too would be interested in hearing back from Royal several months from now regarding whether he is observing any flexing or misshaping of the drum. If you have some extra wood, it seems like it would be helpful to add a support in the middle so that the drums are being held up by more than just the ends. One other thing that seems like it would be helpful would be to ensure that the sides are supported. I can’t tell from your picture if the drums are touching the vertical supports. Having supports on the side (in the middle especially) would make a big difference in minimizing the stress on the seams as they would help maintain the normal shape of the drum.

  • http://wadeshearer.com wade

    While it may be good to add some additional support, it does seem like you should be able to construct a rack that safely holds drums horizontally. I too would be interested in hearing back from Royal several months from now regarding whether he is observing any flexing or misshaping of the drum. If you have some extra wood, it seems like it would be helpful to add a support in the middle so that the drums are being held up by more than just the ends. One other thing that seems like it would be helpful would be to ensure that the sides are supported. I can’t tell from your picture if the drums are touching the vertical supports. Having supports on the side (in the middle especially) would make a big difference in minimizing the stress on the seams as they would help maintain the normal shape of the drum.

  • http://www.BeyondReady.com/ royal

    wade – Hose bibbs http://doitbest.com/Lawn+Faucets_+Bibbs_+and+Sillcocks-Mueller+B+and+K-model-103-204-doitbest-sku-437325.dib. I updated the post with the link also.

    angela – These barrels are outside all winter and yes they do freeze. I have water stored inside as well. I also have a year-round stream about a rock’s throw from my house that I can filter. When they freeze there’s usually snow on the ground also that can be melted. Just a thought…if you had a way to move a 450 lb. barrel into the sun and use a solar reflector you could melt the ice. Sounds like a fun project to me :-)

    Michelle – Thanks for the feedback. I’ll provide an update if something does break :-)

    Wade – I was concerned with putting so much weight on such a small area of the side of these barrels. A support in the middle would definitely spread the weight out and decrease the chance of barrel failure. I was willing to be a guinea pig with this project as I have several other sources of water if this project fails.

  • http://www.BeyondReady.com royal

    wade – Hose bibbs http://doitbest.com/Lawn+Faucets_+Bibbs_+and+Sillcocks-Mueller+B+and+K-model-103-204-doitbest-sku-437325.dib. I updated the post with the link also.

    angela – These barrels are outside all winter and yes they do freeze. I have water stored inside as well. I also have a year-round stream about a rock’s throw from my house that I can filter. When they freeze there’s usually snow on the ground also that can be melted. Just a thought…if you had a way to move a 450 lb. barrel into the sun and use a solar reflector you could melt the ice. Sounds like a fun project to me :-)

    Michelle – Thanks for the feedback. I’ll provide an update if something does break :-)

    Wade – I was concerned with putting so much weight on such a small area of the side of these barrels. A support in the middle would definitely spread the weight out and decrease the chance of barrel failure. I was willing to be a guinea pig with this project as I have several other sources of water if this project fails.

  • http://freedomista.wordpress.com/ Michael

    Great post, but does water stay fresh for how long?

  • http://freedomista.wordpress.com Michael

    Great post, but does water stay fresh for how long?

  • http://www.BeyondReady.com/ royal

    Michael – Water in storage should be exchanged every six months.

  • http://www.BeyondReady.com royal

    Michael – Water in storage should be exchanged every six months.

  • Zillaq

    # royal Says:
    July 21st, 2009 at 9:58 am

    “Michael – Water in storage should be exchanged every six months.”

    Why?

  • Zillaq

    # royal Says:
    July 21st, 2009 at 9:58 am

    “Michael – Water in storage should be exchanged every six months.”

    Why?

  • http://scorpionsurvival.com/ Chris

    Great idea. Just beware of leaks. Valves like that can sometimes betray you when you least expect it.

  • http://scorpionsurvival.com Chris

    Great idea. Just beware of leaks. Valves like that can sometimes betray you when you least expect it.

  • http://wadeshearer.com/ wade

    If you have stored your water in dark green or blue containers and placed them in the dark and in a climate controlled environment, you could go as long as two years between rotation.

  • http://wadeshearer.com wade

    If you have stored your water in dark green or blue containers and placed them in the dark and in a climate controlled environment, you could go as long as two years between rotation.

  • Zillaq

    Once again why rotate water? Does it spoil? Does it go bad? Does it decompose?

    Climate controlled environment? Say what?

    What difference does the color of the container have to do with anything? An opaque container would stop all light and therefor any algae growth. Bleach does the same thing.

    Water does not have a “pull date”.

  • Zillaq

    Once again why rotate water? Does it spoil? Does it go bad? Does it decompose?

    Climate controlled environment? Say what?

    What difference does the color of the container have to do with anything? An opaque container would stop all light and therefor any algae growth. Bleach does the same thing.

    Water does not have a “pull date”.

  • http://wadeshearer.com/ wade

    You rotate water because things grow in it. Climate controlled environment means that you keep it somewhere where the temperature does not fluctuate. You want to store your water in a dark, cool place that stays dark and cool. Dark green and blue containers have been proven to hold out the light the best.

  • http://wadeshearer.com wade

    You rotate water because things grow in it. Climate controlled environment means that you keep it somewhere where the temperature does not fluctuate. You want to store your water in a dark, cool place that stays dark and cool. Dark green and blue containers have been proven to hold out the light the best.

  • http://selfrelianceadventures.blogspot.com Angela

    Zillaq–I’ve stored water from the tap in 2 liter pop bottles in an upstairs sunny bedroom (not blocked from light, not climate controlled except that they didn’t freeze) and not rotated it and drank it after 4 years. I fill clear to the top and leave no air in the bottles. The water was fine. A little “flat” tasting, but heck, water tastes flat after sitting out for 12 hours anyway. We have bottled water leftover from my sister’s wedding 3 years ago that we still drink when we go camping. It’s fine. Now, I wouldn’t go telling people to store water for 4 years and drink it as there are probably a lot of variables in water quality, etc. and I don’t want to have my advice cited in someones water poisoning death or something crazy like that.

    I suppose it would depend on where you got your water in the first place and how it’s stored as to how long it would be safe to drink. The 6 months/2 years/whatever other length of time are guidelines probably based on the lowest common denominators in water storage. In my opinion, if you’re storing water with bleach treatment or from the tap that’s already “clean” and safe to drink and it’s stored in clean containers, it should store as long as you want to store it. Rotation is for peace of mind. No scientific evidence to back it all up though, so don’t cite me if you get sick from drinking your 10 year old water. ;)

  • http://selfrelianceadventures.blogspot.com angela

    Zillaq–I’ve stored water from the tap in 2 liter pop bottles in an upstairs sunny bedroom (not blocked from light, not climate controlled except that they didn’t freeze) and not rotated it and drank it after 4 years. I fill clear to the top and leave no air in the bottles. The water was fine. A little “flat” tasting, but heck, water tastes flat after sitting out for 12 hours anyway. We have bottled water leftover from my sister’s wedding 3 years ago that we still drink when we go camping. It’s fine. Now, I wouldn’t go telling people to store water for 4 years and drink it as there are probably a lot of variables in water quality, etc. and I don’t want to have my advice cited in someones water poisoning death or something crazy like that.

    I suppose it would depend on where you got your water in the first place and how it’s stored as to how long it would be safe to drink. The 6 months/2 years/whatever other length of time are guidelines probably based on the lowest common denominators in water storage. In my opinion, if you’re storing water with bleach treatment or from the tap that’s already “clean” and safe to drink and it’s stored in clean containers, it should store as long as you want to store it. Rotation is for peace of mind. No scientific evidence to back it all up though, so don’t cite me if you get sick from drinking your 10 year old water. ;)

  • http://selfrelianceadventures.blogspot.com angela

    Royal- do you leave air in the barrels for expansion when they freeze? or fill them to the top? The solar melter does sound like a fun project. I’m not moving the barrel once it’s full though . . . :)

    • http://www.BeyondReady.com royal

      I always leave air in the barrels for expansion. When the water freezes it makes the barrels tilt to the side like a leaning tower until they thaw out again.

      With the barrels horizontal you can’t fill to the top so there will always be air. I guess this could be one slight disadvantage to horizontal storage.

  • http://selfrelianceadventures.blogspot.com Angela

    Royal- do you leave air in the barrels for expansion when they freeze? or fill them to the top? The solar melter does sound like a fun project. I’m not moving the barrel once it’s full though . . . :)

    • http://www.BeyondReady.com/ royal

      I always leave air in the barrels for expansion. When the water freezes it makes the barrels tilt to the side like a leaning tower until they thaw out again.

      With the barrels horizontal you can’t fill to the top so there will always be air. I guess this could be one slight disadvantage to horizontal storage.

  • Kate

    Wade,

    Where exactly in Wal-Mart would the water barrels be? In what section would I find them?

  • Kate

    Wade,

    Where exactly in Wal-Mart would the water barrels be? In what section would I find them?

  • http://wadeshearer.com/ wade

    At the American Fork Walmart, they are in (between the two sets of doors where the carts are) the Northwest entrance (the side with McDonald’s), on the left, immediately as you enter. I was just there yesterday and noted that the price is still $38 per barrel.

  • http://wadeshearer.com wade

    At the American Fork Walmart, they are in (between the two sets of doors where the carts are) the Northwest entrance (the side with McDonald’s), on the left, immediately as you enter. I was just there yesterday and noted that the price is still $38 per barrel.

  • http://www.self-sufficient-home.com/ Todd

    Where can we find the 55g jugs reasonably priced?

    And that’s SOME SERIOUS weight there too!!! Be careful.

  • http://www.self-sufficient-home.com/ Todd

    Where can we find the 55g jugs reasonably priced?

    And that’s SOME SERIOUS weight there too!!! Be careful.

  • http://wadeshearer.com/ wade

    Read back up through the comments here. The best price I have found is at Walmart.

  • http://wadeshearer.com wade

    Read back up through the comments here. The best price I have found is at Walmart.

  • Darrell

    There seams to be a lot of opinions on water storage. What color container, temp, etc. but almost no one agrees on length of time water can be stored safely. I found an additive called “Aerobic Stabilized Oxygen” by E.D. Goodloe sold at various emergency prep web sites. I found it for $15.00 one container 2.36 fl. treats 55 gallons for 5 year period. Bets emptying 55 gal drums every 6 months. But that just my opinion. Good luck all. See you on the other side of the meltdown.

  • Dan L

    If
    you want to save space you can put the barrels upright, then put a
    piece of plywood on top of them and store other things on top of that
    (nothing real heavy).  You still get pretty good space usage that way.  Frankly that rack looks dangerous, those barrels would kill you if they fell on you.

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  • Weredytogo

    I like the horizontal idea but the framing needs to be beefed up due to all of that weight I would go with 4×4 uprights and at least 2×6 crossbeams notched into the uprights

  • Tyson Pulsipher

    Just stumble upon your site. I will definitely be setting it as a favorite! I am looking to build these storage shelves. I noticed your warning at the beginning; did you put the middle support boards running the length of the barrels, or across the width?

  • Local Guy

    How well will this hold up to an earthquake? Any ideas to reenforce the support to keep the barrels from falling during an earthquake?

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