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Instructions: Build a Compost Bin

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Think Before You Build

Before you buy or build, review the list of factors to consider. If your time is more important than your money, buy a manufactured bin. It's so easy and most manufactured bins can be set up in well under 5 minutes.

Welcome Decide whether you need one bin, two, or three. This depends on the amount of room you have, how you use them, and the amount of convenience you require. I use three: one for composting, one for storing leaves that I collect in fall, and one for slow-composters like twigs and holly leaves. Some people have a 3-bin system so they can turn the pile into the adjacent bin, then build another pile in the first bin (sort of a musical chairs for compost).

If you require 3 bins, it doesn't matter whether you get three one-bin systems or one three-bin system. Also, as long as you can build a cubic yard pile which allows the flow of air and water, one bin will not compost significantly faster than another.

If you've chosen to build a bin, read through this page, including links, to get an idea of what you are working toward. Think about materials which you are getting ready to discard or for which you don't have another use. Rather than go out and buy new materials for making a bin, use something you already have. Modify the instructions below to fit the materials you have or can cheaply obtain.

Remember that a material such as 16-gauge plastic-coated wire mesh, hogwire or hardware cloth will wear better than chicken wire, which can easily stretch out of shape. In addition, wood materials are organic and will eventually compost and have to be replaced. It is best not to use pressure-treated lumber as there has been some indication that the arsenic present in the wood will leach into your compost. Treated wood also has toxic levels of copper and chromium.

Bins have been made out of such diverse materials as:

  • spoiled bales of hay
  • wooden pallets
  • aluminum above-ground swimming pool walls
  • discarded rabbit hutch
  • old bricks or cinder blocks
  • snow fencing
Take all safety precautions. Use eye and ear protection when building your bin.

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Simple, Cheap Construction

Welcome Personally, my favorite bin is a ready-made C.E. Shepherd bin. But my SECOND most favorite bin is made of 4 wooden pallets set on end, tied together into a box with plastic ties. Most places, pallets are readily available free of charge from warehouses, warehouse stores, grocery or hardware stores. To make a one-bin system into a two-bin system, just get three more pallets and some plastic ties. The only drawback is that, after a year or two, your bin will have begun to compost along with your other carbons.

Refer to these instructions from the San Diego Master Composters.

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Links to Instruction Pages

The following links will take you to detailed instruction pages on the web. The provider is noted. You may notice several items with the same name, indicating versions of instructions that make the same type of bin. Since these are links to external sites, we include all links so that if one is down, you can get to a version of the instructions on another site. If all else fails, The Rodale Book of Composting has a chapter on Compost Structures that have several sets of instructions.

For a tale on how you might get carried away with this, check out Russ Hoffman's work of art.

Online Stores
Compost Tea eBook
Build a brewer with a bucket and less than $15 worth of components, and make aerated compost tea.
Composting the Holidays eBook
Compost fall leaves, hay bales, holly wreaths, pine trees, etc. Compost pumpkins (food waste) in a compost pile.



  1. Types of Manufactured Bins
  2. ** Build a Bin **
  3. Sifters and Screens
  4. Hand Tools
  5. Chippers / Shredders

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