How to Make Half-Barrel Planters

Updated February 21, 2017

Half-barrel planters make an attractive container garden and are very effective in growing plants. Making a half-barrel planter from a whole barrel requires some time and effort. The oldest and most gnarled half-barrels offer a rustic appearance that contrasts well with fresh, bright colourful flowers or a shrub or small tree. New half-barrels that are freshly lacquered and polished with bright shining barrel hoops have a dignified appearance and a lot of character to add to the most refined garden.

Obtain a full-size wine or whiskey barrel available at garden centres and home-improvement stores. They may also be available from wineries or distilleries. It is important that the metal hoops tightly hold the barrel staves in place, beyond that there are several simple methods to make the barrel watertight.

Measure the barrel from top edge to bottom edge and place a thin chalk mark directly in the centre of the barrel between the metal hoops. Continue measuring and marking the halfway mark every 12 inches around the circumference of the barrel.

Stand the barrel on end and wrap the string from a carpenter's chalk line marker, available at hardware stores, around the barrel and centred on the halfway marks previously made. Snap the line against the barrel and continue until a yellow chalk line is visible around the barrel centred on the halfway marks.

Lay the barrel on its side and have one responsible adult on each end to hold the barrel in place while a sabre saw is used to saw the barrel in half along the yellow chalk mark.

Turn the two barrel halves, after cutting, upside down and use an electric drill to place six 1/2-inch holes in the bottom. Evenly space five of the holes around the circumference of the barrel bottom approximately 3 inches from the edge. Place the sixth hole in the centre.

Use coarse sandpaper to smooth the edges where the barrel was cut in half.

Scrub the metal hoops on the barrel with a wire brush to remove rust and treat them with a lubricant.

Find the correct size plastic barrel liner at the garden centre or home improvement store to render the half-barrel planter watertight. If the correct size is not available, line the half-barrel with plastic pond liner, fill it with water, smoothing the liner as you go. Staple the liner just below the top edge of the barrel approximately every 6 inches apart.


Soak the barrel with a water hose, keeping it wet for several days until the barrel has soaked up water, swelling the wood and preventing leaks. Sanding the outside of the barrel and painting with lacquer makes the wood look new. Place one barrel on each side of the doorway of the home or the entrance to the garden for an attractive appearance.


Be careful not to get water between the plastic liner and the inside of the barrel so mould and mildew is controlled. When cutting the barrel in half make sure all three people wear safety goggles. Use wood sealant to assist in making the half barrel planter watertight.

Things You'll Need

  • Full-size barrel
  • Tape measure
  • Chalk
  • Carpenter's chalk-line marker
  • Sabre saw
  • Electric drill
  • 1/2-inch drill bits
  • Sandpaper, coarse
  • Wire brush, stiff
  • Barrel liner, plastic
  • Pond liner, plastic
  • Stapler
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Freelance writing since 2009, Tom Ross has over 30 years of corporate management and hands-on experience in the supermarket industry. Ross was featured on the cover of "Instore Buyer" magazine and his articles have appeared on various websites.