Take a Saturday to make this compost bin using lumber and materials available at your local hardware store.

By Jenny Krane
woman opening compost bin door

By backyard composting, your trash will become your garden's treasure. Throw your everyday kitchen scraps like banana peels, apple cores, coffee grounds, and egg shells into this DIY compost bin to create the ultimate plant food. This pallet-style bin looks attractive in any landscape and can be personalized with your choice of paint or stain.

Once your compost bin is assembled, few skills aside from patience are needed to make nutrient-rich compost to feed your garden and landscape plants. Everything else you need to create this mixture is already in your house—you just need to perfect the ratio of browns and greens. Dry, brown leaves and fibrous plant parts—"brown" materials—provide carbon. Fresh, green plant materials and some animal manures—"green" materials—provide nitrogen. We recommend starting with a 3-to-1 ratio of brown to green materials. To speed up the composting process, which can take a few months, chop or shred raw ingredients into smaller sizes and aerate regularly.

Your compost pile, like your plants, need the right amount of air and water for the best results. Add water as needed to keep the pile moist (like a wrung-out, damp sponge) but not swampy. Too much water can drown the important microbes and cause odors. If the pile is too wet, mix in dry brown materials to absorb the excess moisture. Turn the pile regularly—every few days or weekly—to supply oxygen to the microbes that do the work of decomposition. Take a break during cold weather when it's too chilly for compost to heat up.

  • Working time 6 hrs
  • Start to finish 1 day
  • Difficulty Hard
  • Involves Cutting Wood, Drilling, Staining

What you need


How to do it

Part 1

Step 1

Cut Wood Pieces

Following the above cut list, cut the leg slats, 1 x 6 short slats, 1 x 6 long slats, 1 x 2 long slats, 1 x 6 front slats, and 1 x 2 front slats.

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secure wood pieces at corner while clamped
Step 2

Assemble Legs

Join the long sides of two leg slats to make an L shape. Use a carpenter square to be sure that the legs are at a 90-degree angle. Secure with glue and 1-1/4-inch screws. Repeat so that you have four leg assemblies total.

attach planks using spacer for positioning
insert spacer and secure pieces to base
secure last plank to wood bin frame
Step 3

Assemble Sides

To ensure all the slats in the following steps are evenly spaced, use a 1 x 2 x 40-inch spacer block made from scrap wood. Lay two leg assemblies flat on a surface. Then glue and screw on a 1 x 6 short slat across the top of the legs, making sure all edges are flush. Find the position of the next slat by placing the spacer block along the bottom edge of the first slat. Attach a 1 x 2 short slat with glue and screws. Repeat with 1 x 6 and 1 x 2 short slats. The hinge that attaches the door dictates the next space. Use the hinges as a spacer to determine the placement of a third 1 x 2 short slat. There should be about a 1/4-inch space. Attach a 1 x 2 short slat with glue and 1-1/4-inch deck screws. Then slide the hinge out. Repeat, alternating 1 x 6 and 1 x 2 short slats to bottom of legs. Repeat to build a second side assembly. 

secure horizontal piece to frame with spacer
Step 4

Assemble Back

Starting at the top, use glue and deck screws to connect the two side assemblies with 1 x 6 and 1 x 2 long slats following the pattern and spacing for the first two sections. Make sure the slats are flush with the two side assemblies. This section will be the back of the compost bin.

Step 5

Start Front

For the front, begin by attaching a 1 x 2 long slat right below the hinges and finish the pattern downward, making sure the slats align with side assembly slats. Use glue and deck screws as before.

secure top piece to outside corner of bin
Step 6

Attach Front Edges

Beginning with the 1 x 2 front slat just above the hinges, work upward, attaching slats with glue and deck screws. Use the spacer block and hinges as a reference to alternate 1 x 2 front slats and 1 x 6 front slats. More importantly, make sure the front slats align with their coordinating slats on the side assemblies.

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securing corner pieces with pocket screws
Step 7

Create Door Frame

Measure the empty area between the side slats to ensure the door rail will fit there. Measure the empty space between the top and the slat at the hinge spot to ensure the door stile will fit there. Trim the rail and stile as needed so that you have a 3/4-inch gap between the stile and the front slats. Make two pocket holes at each end of the stiles and rails. Use pocket holes to join the rails and stiles. This will be the frame for your bin door.

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secure wood pieces to frame around spacer
Step 8

Attach Door Slats

Lay the bin doorframe on a flat surface. Using the spacer block and starting with a 1 x 2 door slat at the bottom edge, attach door slats with glue and deck screws. For a cleaner look, attach the slats over the pocket holes of the door frame and drive the screws from the inside of the door.

clamp inside piece and secure with screws
Step 9

Attach Door Stops

Attach the door stops to the inside of the front leg pieces. For the cleanest finish, make sure the door stop piece is flush in the corner of the leg. Use glue and deck screws to attach securely.

secure hinge onto wood frame with screwdriver
attach second metal hinge to frame with screws
latch detail on wood compost bin
Step 10

Attach Hardware

Paint the hinges to match the gate latch, if desired. Attach two hinges to the bottom of the door, each 3 inches in from the outside edge. Then attach the door to the top side of the middle long slat. Wait to attach the gate latch until you have secured the door to the rest of the structure. Sand and seal to finish.

Comments (1)

How difficult was this project?
September 20, 2020
Difficulty: Very Hard
Nice looking compost bin, but man were those awful instructions (that is why I rated hard rather than kind of hard). For materials, you need to say how many of each item you need. And for cuts, you need to check the numbers. There are four legs, and each has two boards screwed together. So that would be 8 leg slats, not 4. And why would you recommend a 6' cedar board to cut 42-1/4" boards? That would make 8 boards (with 8 x 29-3/4" pieces left over) vs 4 boards (with only 4x 11-1/2" pices left over). Finally, a picture of the finished piece - preferably from several angles - would be really helpful. The close up photos were really good, but it is kind of like describing a house by only providing closeups but never a pic of the house. With some improvements, this could be a great project!

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