How to make 30 Gallon Barrels into Flower Planters

When we purchased our house a year ago, it came with quite a few extra items that were left behind by the previous owner. Mostly tools and a few other odds and ends. Out in the backyard sat these two large 30 gallon barrels that looked like they may have collected rainwater or something, but have long since just become a haven for mosquitoes and mold.

30 Gallon Barrel

I do not have a need to collect rain water so I needed to figure out something to do with these barrels that would be useful. I immediately thought of cutting them down to make flower planters since I was going to redo the flower beds and I wanted to add some “container” elements to help break up the visual line. I noticed right away that I could cut these barrels into thirds along the existing molded lines (which made cutting super easy) and then I could paint them up.

Existing molded line

So here is the materials list of what I used in this project.

  • (2) 30 gallon barrels
  • marker (if you have to draw lines)
  • drill
  • 3/16th inch drill bit
  • 1/2 inch hole drill bit
  • saber saw
  • 6 tps saber saw blade
  • 100 grit sandpaper
  • paint
  • paint brushes

To start with, I needed to drill a hole to fit the saber saw blade into so I could cut around the barrel.


Next I would use the saber saw to cut along the molded line all the way around. It was easier to lay the barrel on its side and rotate it as I cut. Go at a comfortable speed and try not to get off course. Since I am cutting this into thirds, even though the middle section will lack a bottom, I am still going to use it as a planter. Once you are done cutting your piece should look like this:

First cut around

Finish cutting all the barrels into thirds and you should have six pieces total.

One barrel cut into thirds

Now you are going to want to add drain holes to the bottom of the pieces that have bottoms. I used a hole drill bit for this and it worked quickly. You are going to have quite a bit of plastic bits everywhere so make sure you drill in an area that you can clean up easily.

1/2 hole drill bit

You can make any sort of drain pattern that you want, you are mainly just trying to make sure that you are not collecting water and drowning your plants.

Drainage Holes

Now you are going to want to sand down the edges to remove all the little leftover plastic pieces still clinging to the barrel after you cut it with the saber saw. If you have a hand sander you could use that, I just used a folded piece of 100 grit sandpaper and it worked really well and quickly.

100 grit sandpaper

In my case, since these were not new barrels, I had to clean them up before painting and planting. These barrels were quite gross and took me quite a a lot of scrubbing to even get it close to being clean. I used bleach to kill the mold and then washed it down with dish soap. There is some staining inside the barrels, but I am not too concerned with that since the potting soil will cover most of that and I will be painting the outsides as well.

Start painting!

For the paint I decided to use the trim paint that I had from painting the house. It is exterior latex paint that has a primer built in which will help cover the stains from the outside. I want to match the house trim so the planters add to the outside but don’t make a huge statement because I can use accent planters and colors to add that visual later. Since the barrels had the molded lines, the way I cut them left I nice boarder along the top that I could easily add an accent color to, in this case, I added black to give them a little more definition and interest.

Finished planter

Now I have six nice size planters to use in my flower beds up front and save a lot of money using the existing barrels I had in my backyard.

The six planters (and two terracotta pots I painted too)

I will post pictures of how these look in the yard as soon as I am able to work on them. I think these came out great and will definitely help with the curb appeal of my house.

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