Make Your Own Gravity Fed Home Water Filtration System

Note from Nick: Thanks to Cash for contributing this great article. I personally own the Royal Berkey system from Jeff “The Berkey Guy” at Directive 21 and think it is a great addition to any home from both a practical standpoint and aesthetic standpoint, however if you have been looking to make a quick little project and save some money this is a great way to make your own Berkey-Style water filter. Not to mention that home filtration is a basic prep I think everyone should have. If you end up getting the fitlers from Jeff over at Directive 21 please tell them that you are purchasing because of Save Our Skills and that would help to support the efforts of this website.

Thank you!
– Nick LaDieu

By Cash Olsen from KD5SSJ Solder Paste, Solder Tools and Solder Kits

I just made a water filtration system similar to the commercial units, cost about $100.

There is nothing real difficult, drills and hole saw. I have seen the details of a similar system, elsewhere. The major difference in my unit is that I used a Gamma lid in the top bucket for easy access to the filter elements and clean out of any silt and debris. The top bucket to bottom lid is carefully sealed with silicon caulk to make sure that no unfiltered water can dribble down the outside of the top bucket when being filled. The bottom bucket has a replacement spigot purchased for other water containers.

I purchased 4 sterasyl ceramic filter and installed two in this filter and will save two for future replacement. The filters are the same as used in the commercial units. Cost was $35 dollars each. So my total cost comes in right about $100. All the specifications of my bucket would also be the same as a commercial unit because the critical components are the same.

This was what my 5 gallon filter looks like.

This is the first bucket with the Gamma lid mounting ring attached. This should be done first because it must be driven on with a rubber mallet or hammer with wood to protect the ring from marring. This requires about 6 -7 sharp raps of the mallet around the ring with the lid removed.

This is the bucket with the Gamma lid in place. This should be removed for further assembly.

The next step is to mount a normal lid to the bottom of the bucket. This is rather critical. First apply a bead of silicon bathtub caulking around the inside recess of the lid so that when the bucket is set into it it will seal the bucket to the lid. Then apply another bead of silicon bathtub caulking around the bottom of the bucket just above the lid. This is important because you don’t want any contaminated water which might run down the side of the top bucket to be able to get into the lower bucket, that’s why it needs a very good water tight seal. Allow the silicon caulk to dry at least overnight, the instructions say that it is shower ready in 3 hours but this only means that the surface is skimmed over.

I measured 3″ from the center of the lid to the and marked two places, one on either side of the center. Use as small drill bit < 1/8″ (0.125″) and drill two pilot holes at each of the marked places. Drill as straight and perpendicular to the lid, as possible, through the lid and into the bottom of the bucket. Using the 1 1/2″ (1.50″) hole saw, picture 100_0117.JPG, enlarge the the whole in the bucket lid in both places. Using a 1/2″ (0.500″) drill bit drill two holes through the bottom of the bucket. The plastic lid and bucket are very easy to drill but be careful not to enlarge the 1/2″ hole size because this will only make it more difficult to seal the filter candle to the bucket in the next step.

From the top of the bucket mount the Sterasyl filters in the bucket. The rubber seal goes on the bottom of the filter and to the bottom of the bucket. Thread the wing nut onto the threads of the filter from the other side of the lid as shown in picture 100_0106 and tighten it good by hand. I used rubber gloves while installing the filter candles so as to avoid oils and other contaminants on the ceramic surface. There is a significant gap between the bottom of the top bucket and the lid, this is why it’s necessary to get a good seal and also the enlarged hole to give access to the wing nut.

shows the filter candles mounted in the top bucket. Picture 100_0112.JPG is a closer view of one candle mounted in the top bucket.

shows the bottom bucket with the drain cock, I have not yet mounted it at the time of this picture. Drill an appropriate hole for the grommet and mount it very near the bottom of the second (lower) bucket.

Shows the finished 5 gallon filter completed stack. I removed the locking ring and I have not yet determined if I want to seat the lid on the second bucket. I have found it to be very handy to be able to unstack the system and carry each bucket by it’s bail handle.

I purchased the buckets and lids (including Gamma lid) from and I purchased the 4 x Doulton Super Sterasyl Ceramic Filter Candle 10″ @ $35.00 10 Long Mount W9121709 total including shipping was $141.99 from . I have a spare set of ceramic filters for replacement. I’m sure that there are other sources for all of the components.

Note from Nick: I talked with Cash and he agreed that Super Sterasyl Ceramic filters from Directive 21 was a better deal (saving about $10)

Follow the instructions with your filters candles for the initial use and restarting after prolonged lack of use.

Remove the Gamma lid to fill the top bucket and replace it loosely while the filtration is taking place. At the rate of 1 liter per hour (gravity feed) for each filter you should expect 5 gallons (18.9 liters) to take about 9 1/2 to 10 hours, or 10 gallons per day (two 5 gallon runs in 24 hours).

If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment below.

  • Cool! Couple thoughts: It would probably make sense to use food grade buckets given how long the water is in contact with the bucket. You can even find them in larger capacities (6-7 gallons) at homebrew stores.

    Also, what is the maintenance on the filter elements??

  • Anonymous

    it did not specifically say that, but yes they are food grade. I get mine free from local bakeries… just ask and they are yours for the taking. Then you just need to buy the gamma lids. I get them from emergency essentials:

    Another thing to note is upgrading to the berkey “Black” filters will get you a lot more mileage out of your system and raise the effectiveness of it.

    The maintenance instructions are included, and I don’t have them handy but it is basically just a matter of washing them out from time to time if filtration slows to unacceptable levels.

  • Anonymous

    Bubba, I notice you sell soap stuff… let me know if you want to contribute to SOS and promote your site… thanks (nick@save….)

  • Bob

    I have purchased a couple of these, and have the buckets, though I have not yet installed one:

  • Bob

    I actually ordered from this link, however (it’s been a couple years):

  • Kathleen

    Cool Nick. I can’t get a Berkey system because I live in STUPID California >:(
    I wonder if Jeff can sell me filters only?? The bakery dept. of my local grocer is happy to give me the buckets for free. Hmmm… I’ll have to look into this.

  • Anonymous

    Are they banned in CA or something??? Yes you can buy just the filters… go to his site and click on accessories

    that is pretty crazy!!

  • Kathleen

    Yeah. We have TWO conflicting bills passed by our legislators about testing products for lead. Berkey doesn’t want to get caught up in any legal actions. Can’t blame them. Maybe if we didn’t have sooooo many bills/rules, the legislators could remember what the old ones were about. Bunch of idiots. Anyway, thanks Nick, I’ll check out Directive21.

  • Steelheart

    You can order the Berkey filters if you live in Cali but they can’t be shipped there. What you could do is to have the filters shipped to a friend or relative who lives in free territory and have them re-ship the filters to you.

    I’ve got a box that needs to go to my aunt (Sport Berkey’s) on my kitchen table right now….

  • Jeff radtke

    wouldnt four filters in the bucket increase the speed of filtering??

  • Anonymous

    Yes it would.. in fact my Berkey has holes for 4.. I have plugs in 2 of them. Now having said that, for home applications 2 is fine.

  • Kathleen

    Good idea. I’ve got a cousin in Oregon 😉 Hehehe… “free territory”, that’s funny!

  • Nick W

    How’s the water quality? I found a site where I can get an aquasana coupon and I’m just wondering about the differences in filtration abilities. Thanks.

  • Onsitem

    the only problem with tis home made filter system is it is plastic.. the whole reason i want to have a gravity filtering system is to stop drinking from plastic bottles….

  • Onsitem

    i would love to buy a berkey system but i live in Thailand and have looked hi and low for one. however i have see the filters here.. they must be being used on some home systems

  • syku

    I am not looking for a gravity “filtration system.” I am looking for ideas/instructions/data of how to install a “gravity water system” which would include optimum height of water holding tank, optumum water line sizes/diameters. That is all. Doesn’t anyone have or know how to post information about what I have mentioned here. A filtration system is a matter of common sense and I do not need information about supplying hot water. Hot water is of little use in a tropical climate where the waters never get cold. Thanks.