man pouring compost into his compost bin
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How to Build a Compost Bin

Want to hide your scrap heap? Shelter it in a structure made from weather-resistant cedar—or pick up a ready-made option

If you love to garden, nothing feeds your plants better than compost from your very own backyard, and its price (free!) is impossible to beat. But the pile itself isn't exactly an eye-catching feature. Though you can buy a compost bin made from budget-friendly plastic or even chicken wire, a wood bin, typically made of rot-resistant cedar, will conceal those yard clippings and kitchen leftovers without sticking out like a sore thumb on your landscape. The gaps between the wood slats let air circulate around the pile to keep odors at bay and ensure that wastes are breaking down; removable slats, front panels, or doors make it easy to turn the pile and remove compost when it's ready to spread. Follow these directions to make a rustic little structure that will help you keep your yard thriving year-round.

Or buy a compost bin for easy install.

Shown: Compost bin: ECO Composter by Exaco, $130; europeangarden.com. Compost pail: Copper-finish compost pail, $35; gardeners.com


Steps // How to Build a Compost Bin
1 ×

How to Build a Compost Bin

 
Step One // How to Build a Compost Bin

How to Build a Compost Bin

ekploded viw illustration of a compost bin assembly
Illustration by Gregory Nemec

The bin pictured was fashioned from wood thermally treated to make it weatherproof and rot-resistant, but you can also build one from stock cedar lumber.

 
2 ×

Cut Lumber to Size

 
Step Two // How to Build a Compost Bin

Cut Lumber to Size

exploded view illustration of compost bin assembly with emphasis on each length of wooden slat that needs to be cut
Illustration by Gregory Nemec

Using the dimensions shown, cut 1x4 lumber to make 24 horizontal slats, 8 vertical legs for the corners, 8 slats for the lid, and 8 battens for the lid and slide-in panels. Cut a 1x4 to the bin's height, and rip it in half to make rails for the slide-in tracks.

 
3 ×

Make the Back and Sides

 
Step Three // How to Build a Compost Bin

Make the Back and Sides

exploded view illustration of compost bin assembly with emphasis on the back and sides
Illustration by Gregory Nemec

For the back of the bin, lay two legs on the flat and attach six slats across them with 1 1/8-inch screws, placing the ends of the slats ¾ inch from the outside edges of the legs. Be sure to leave a ¾-inch gap between each slat as well. (Use a 1x4 turned on its edge as a spacer.) Make the sides the same way.

 
4 ×

Make the Slide-in Panels

 
Step Four // How to Build a Compost Bin

Make the Slide-in Panels

exploded view illustration of compost bin assembly with emphasis on the slide-in panels
Illustration by Gregory Nemec

For the lower panel, secure three slats spaced ¾ inch apart to two battens spaced 1 5⁄8 inches from the ends of the slats. Make the upper panel in the same manner, but be sure its battens extend ¾ inch past the bottom slat to create the gap between the slats.

 
5 ×

Assemble the Bin

 
Step Five // How to Build a Compost Bin

Assemble the Bin

exploded view illustration of compost bin assembly with emphasis on the parts that get glued and/or screwed
Illustration by Gregory Nemec

Glue and screw the sides of the bin to the inside edges of the back legs so that the legs form the back corners. To create the slide-in tracks for the front panels, attach the rails to the slats on the inside front edges of the side panels, flush with the ends of the slats. Glue and screw (with 2-inch screws) the remaining legs to the front edges of both sides to form the front corners. Slide the front panels into the tracks.

 
6 ×

Make the Lid

 
Step Six // How to Build a Compost Bin

Make the Lid

exploded view illustration of compost bin assembly with emphasis on the two halves of the lid
Illustration by Gregory Nemec

Attach battens to four boards so that they're flush with one edge and 2½ inches short on the other. Repeat for the second half of the lid. Flip the pieces over and top your bin; it will have a 1-inch overhang all around.

 
 
 

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