my father helped me drill a hole in the top of a brita filter. i was thinking about refilling one with activated carbon (instead of just tossing it out). however, the filtration media inside wasn't exactly what i thought it'd be. there was activated carbon, but the pieces are very small, much smaller than what i'd be able to find in an aquarium. there were also little translucent balls1, which may be some form of zeolite; while the charcoal will get rid of any weird taste in the water, the zeolite will remove any trace of ammonia (not that there should be any in the drinking water). there was also a lot of media inside the filter, enough that it actually makes some economic sense just to buy replacement filters than trying to fill my own.
after i had some sauerkraut lamb soup, my father and i finally assembled our rain barrels.
the first rain barrel we worked on required drilling a hole big enough to fit a 1/2" sillcock spigot. this is only because we had a spare sillcock which saved us from having to buy one more. the only problem was we didn't have a drill bit of the right size. after drilling in the initial hole, we realized it was too small so my father kept tracing the perimeter of the hole with the drill bit, slowly expanding the opening.
after the hole was properly sized, we took turns crawling inside the barrel to get a sense of how the spigot will be attached. barrels are easier to get into than to get out of. my arms would get stuck inside the opening; definitely not a job for claustrophobics. when my father tried to get out, at one point i was afraid he was stuck in there for good until i managed to pull the barrel up over his head.
i volunteered for inner barrel work since i'm smaller. i got back inside with the tail end of the spigot assembly (1/2" male terminal end, 1"-1/2" reducing washer, homemade rubber washer) and a tube of silicone caulk. i caulked the edge of the hole then threaded the assembly through the opening. my father waited on the other side; i handed him the silicone so he could caulk the rim on the outside. while i held on to the end of the terminal end from the inside (to prevent it from turning), my father twisted on the sillcock faucet. we also put plumbing tape on the threaded end of the terminal.
it's surprisingly roomy inside one of these barrels. even with a 3/4" hole, there's a good amount of light. it's also pleasantly warm, although i'd think if you stayed inside one of these long enough eventually you'll pass out from the carbon dioxide build-up.
next we drilled the overflow hole on the top of the rain barrel. originally we wanted a 1-1/2" hole for maximum drainage, but we couldn't find an elbowed insert spout matching that size; lasco (the company that makes insert fittings) does make these but they're specialized enough that home depot doesn't sell them. so instead we decided on a 1-1/4" fitting, a little smaller, but still a good size. this size also matches the 1-1/4" 24 ft-long black sump pump hose i bought.
with a 1-1/2" drill bit my father made a hole for the 1-1/4" elbowed insert fitting. we immediately realized that 1-1/2" is actually still too small a diameter to fit the 1-1/4" male terminal end. so we ended up filing away the edge of the hole with a rat-tail file to get the proper size.
we actually had an old 1-5/8" drill bit which is actually the perfect size for the 1-1/4" fitting. the two subsequent overflow holes we drilled was using the 1-5/8" drill bit. we also realized the first overflow hole we drilled was a little high; screwing the rain barrel lid back on would hit it just a bit and rain water wouldn't flow out until it was almost at the height of the lip. for the two remaining barrels, we lowered the overflow hole by about an inch.
although the first barrel used a 1/2" sillcock, the second and third would have a larger 3/4" version (not sure which is the more standard size, but i know that garden hoses usually are 3/4" diameter). the spigot diameter isn't too important because we don't need the water to come out very fast from this end; not that it would anyway, since water pressure is based on the height of the barrels and none of the barrels will be very high off the ground.
for the 3/4" spigot holes we used a 15/16" drill bit. 15/16" is the correct size, but in our first attempt my father didn't have the bit centered and was going too fast so it carved out a slightly lop-sized hole that he later had to file to size with the rat-tail again. the second one we went slow and made sure the teeth made good contact; this hole was perfect.
with rain barrels assembled (the only parts we were missing were 2 more elbowed insert fittings, which we'd buy tomorrow) now came the next part: diverting the gutter downspouts into the barrels themselves. a few days ago i'd purchased an accordion-style plastic downspout but it was actually hard to bend into the right shape and too heavy to be suspended in the air (those are more designed for ground level water channeling). so we decided to go the traditional rectangular-shaped downspout route. we already had a few spare elbow pieces and in the garage were 4 unused plastic downspouts2 ready to be cut to the proper length. we concentrated our effort on the downspout at the center of the house, because that's the one that would potentially see the most rainwater action.
finally we assembled the 4th and last raised bed. we discovered an easier way to join the pieces together by stacking them on top of an already-assembled frame. in the future, a better place to work would be the flat surface of the driveway. it was interesting to see just how tall a stacked frame is, approximately 24". this is just a little bit taller than the height of my original raised bed idea, a 20" tall box. in hindsight, that would've been too tall; the height we have now at 12" i think is just right.
later i moved the rain barrel by the foot of the staircase to the one at the middle of the house. my father said we needed two (on serving as an overflow backup) and the blue one he got for the cafe he didn't need anymore so we could use it in the backyard as well.
i came home to watch the end of game 1 between the knicks and the celtics. it was almost too painful to watch, with the celtics trailing by double digits. but jermaine o'neal caught on fire and single-handedly kept the celtics in the game. the celtics ended up stealing a victory when they really should've lost. game 2 on tuesday.
1 those balls are actually ion exchange resins, whatever that means.
2 those downspouts were from the last time we had heavy rain, a preventative measure taken by my father to channel the rain water farther away from the house foundation. they'd been lying in the backyard all winter and i finally put them away in the garage.