Make your own gray water dry well 55-gallon drum

Written by keith allen
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Utilising a 55-gallon drum as part of a dry well allows wastewater generated from sinks and laundry appliances to be disposed without impacting the sanitary sewer. The dry well is a simple structure designed to allow water to soak away below ground level. The 55-gallon drum gives the dry well structure and creates a holding area for water during the soaking process. The project requires some digging and plumbing, but falls within the capabilities of most do-it-yourselfers.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Shovel
  • Drill
  • 1-inch gravel
  • Landscape fabric or tar paper

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  1. 1

    Dig a hole in the ground at the planned location of the dry well. Dig out enough soil to create a hole at least as deep as the height of the 55-gallon drum plus any planned dirt covering for grass. Make the hole slightly larger around than the size of the drum. Renting an excavator requires the least physical labour although many people dig the hole with a shovel.

  2. 2

    Drill about a dozen 1-inch holes around the bottom of the 55-gallon drum. The drum can also sit with its open bottom facing downward.

  3. 3

    Place about 6 inches of 1-inch gravel in the base of the hole.

  4. 4

    Place the drum in the hole. Fill the area around the drum with more of the 1-inch gravel. Connect the drum to the grey water outlet from the home. This pipe, usually PVC, extends through a hole in the wall of the drum and allows the grey water to flow into the drum.

  5. 5

    Cover the top of the drum and the gravel surrounding it with landscape fabric or tar paper. This prevents the dirt or soil from working its way into the gravel where it may clog the holes in the drum.

  6. 6

    Cover the barrel and the rest of the hole with top soil, and replant grass over the dry well.

Tips and warnings

  • Limit trees or shrubs in the immediate area of the dry well. Roots from larger plants can get into the dry well and clog the holes of the 55-gallon drum.

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