Build a Compost Bin Using Free Materials

One of the quickest ways to build a compost bin, also happens to be one of the cheapest. Below, you'll find instructions for building a compost bin using free wooden pallets, or wooden skids.


Since wooden pallets are readily available (just ask any company in your nearest industrial area), you might be able to start, and even finish, building your compost bin today.

This is just one example of the many different ways to build a compost bin.

For instructions on building other types of homemade bins, including other wooden compost bins, please check out our composting bins page.

The picture below shows an example of a finished bin that was built using wooden pallets.

build a compost bin with wooden pallets


What You'll Need

To build a compost bin using wooden pallets, you'll need the following materials:

  • 4 wooden pallets (approximately sized 4' x 3')*
  • 48 square feet of cardboard OR 48 square feet of wire mesh (chicken wire will do)
  • 8' rot-resistant rope
  • 4 large metal L-brackets
  • 15-20 3.5" wood screws or galvanized nails
  • 4 6' T-bars, 12 additional screws, sledge hammer (optional)
  • staple gun
  • screw driver or hammer

wooden skid *Ideally, the top and bottom planks don't overhang the edges of the pallet's frame (see example of ideal pallet on right). Building a bin with this type of pallet, fits together better, and produces a lot nicer appearance when completed.

Instructions

Step 1

    Determine the location for your compost bin. When determining the location of your compost bin, you'll want to think about convenience, aesthetics, and functionality.
Step 2
    Lay all 4 pallets down on the ground, face up. When we refer to the "face" of the pallet, we mean the side with the most planks on it (i.e. the top of the pallet). For instance, the pallet in the above image is lying face up. Using the staple gun, cover each face with cardboard or wire mesh (approximately 12 square feet per pallet). We prefer to use wire mesh for two reasons: it prevents most materials from coming through the planks, and also allows for great air circulation.
Step 3
    Stand the first pallet up at the back of your compost bin location. Make sure the pallet is facing inwards.
Step 4
    Stand the second pallet up perpendicular (i.e. at a 90 degree angle) to the first pallet. Use 2 L-brackets and your 3.5" screws to attach their corners together.
Step 5
    Repeat step 4 using the third pallet, placing it on the opposite side of the first pallet.

    You should now have a 3-walled structure. The opening should be facing outwards to your yard. This opening will be your access point, which you will use to turn your compost, and remove it when it is complete.

Step 6 - optional
    If you'd like to build a compost bin that is secured to the ground, please include this step.

    Using the sledge hammer, drive 2 T-bars into the ground just inside the second wall. These T-bars don't have to be in the corners of the structure, but they should be at least 2' apart. The goal is to drive the T-bars as close to the pallet as possible, so you can eventually secure it to the pallet using screws. Next, drive the other 2 T-bars into the ground just inside the third wall.

    Now secure each of the 4 T-bars to its adjacent wall, using several more screws. Depending on the type of T-bar, you may need to drill holes through them first.

Step 7
    Cut your 8' rope into four 2' lengths. After standing up your last pallet, use the 4 pieces of rope to attach it to the corners of the second and third pallets. This fourth pallet will act as a door to your new compost bin, and the ropes will act as its hinges.
Step 8
    Add all of your compost ingredients, and cover it with a piece of old carpet or tarp. This covering will help to keep in heat, thus speeding up the composting process.

Advantages & Disadvantages

When you build a compost bin of this style, there are several advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages

  • It can hold a large amount of material (more than a cubic yard)
  • It can be expanded into a 2- or 3-bin model quite easily
  • Quick and easy to assemble
  • Low cost for materials

Disadvantages

  • Not the most aesthetically-pleasing compost bin design
  • The wood used in some pallets is pressure-treated, which can be harmful to compost microbes
  • Not rodent-resistant
  • Wood may rot over time*

*When you build a compost bin out of wooden pallets, you can decrease its likelihood of rotting by raising it slightly off the ground. You can use concrete bricks, or even other pieces of wood for this purpose.

This is just one example of the many different ways to build a compost bin. For instructions on building other types of homemade bins, including other wooden compost bins, please check out our composting bins page.