How To Build A Simple DIY Compost Bin

how to build a simple diy compost bin


Why Should I Build My Own Compost Bin?

why build a compost bin

When I first started composting, I didn’t want to spend a ton of money on fancy, overpriced composting bins or compost tumblers. I wanted to use the materials I already had lying around to try it out and see if I liked it. There are two simple approaches to building a composting bin that I like to recommend for beginners to get started quickly.

The first is a simple wooden compost bin that you can assemble yourself with just wood, screws, and glue. The second is a trash can composter, which you can make from an old trash can and a drill.

How To Build A Simple Wooden Compost Bin In 10 Easy Steps

How To Build A Simple Wooden Compost Bin

The reality is, you don’t need to spend a ton of money to create soil to sprinkle across your vegetable garden or fertilize your fruit trees. Just gather your supplies and follow 10 simple steps to assemble your wooden compost bin.

Supplies You’ll Need To Build A Simple Wooden Compost Bin

Supplies To Build A Simple Wooden Compost Bin

While you can make your compost bin any size you want, the board sizes included here should be enough to build a small bin about 30″ wide by 24″ deep by 24″ tall. Keep in mind lumber sizes are nominal, meaning a 1″ x 4″ is actually 3/4″ x 3-1/2″, and a 1″ x 6″ is really 3/4″ x 5-1/2″.

  • 2-1″x4″x8′ boards (we recommend cedar)
  • 8-1″x6″x10′ boards (we recommend cedar)
  • Box of 1-1/8″ galvanized screws
  • Box of 2″ galvanized screws
  • Screw gun or screwdriver
  • Hammer (to tap boards into place)
  • Carpenter’s square (to check alignment)
  • Wood glue
wooden compost bin

tiny house tools

10 Steps To Build A Simple Wooden Compost Bin

10 Steps To Build A Simple Wooden Compost Bin

Step 1: Cut your wood

The first thing you’re going to want to do is cut your wood to a proper size. Regardless of the exact method you choose to use, your bin should be big enough to handle to process of turning the compost. For this specific compost bin design, you’re going to cut up these pieces:

  • (10) 1x6x30″ for the horizontal slats for front & back
  • (10) 1x6x24″ for the horizontal slats for the sides
  • (8) 1x4x24″ vertical legs for the corners
  • (5) 1x6x31-½” slats for the lid
  • (8) 1x4x12″ battens for the lids and slide-in front panels
  • (1) 1×4 cut 24″ long, then rip in half to make rail pieces
cut wood pieces for compost bin

Step 2: Build the back of the bin

Once you have your lumber cut, you’re going to want to build the back of your wooden compost bin first. Place two leg pieces flat on the ground, then place six horizontal slat pieces between them. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but using the carpenter’s square to check for alignment when building each panel will help things go much easier when assembling the entire box structure. Screw your horizontal slats to the vertical legs with 1-1/8″ screws. Keep the ends of the horizontal slats 3/4″ inch from the outside edges of the leg pieces. Leave a 3/4″ gap between each of the six horizontal slats as you screw them in.
build back of compost bin

Step 3: Build the sides of the bin

Now you’re going to make the left and right sides of the bin the exact same way — laying the leg pieces flat and aligning the five horizontal slats between them. Space the slats the exact same way as you did for the back of the bin and screw them in. Once you have the sides made attach them to the back using 2″ screws and wood glue. The structure you’ve assembled so far should look like this example.
build sides of compost bin

Step 4: Attach the rail pieces at the front inside of the bin.

Next, attach the thin rail pieces to the horizontal slats on the inside front edges of the side panels with 1-1/8″ screws. These should be set back about 7/8″ from the front of the boards on each side to allow the removable front pieces to slide in and out easily.
add slide rail peices to compost bin

Step 5: Connect vertical legs to the front corners.

Using the 2″ screws and wood glue, screw the legs on the sides on the front of the bin. The sides of the front legs should be flush with the fronts of the legs on each side.
attached front legs to compost bin

Step 6: Build the bottom half of the slide-in front panel

The front facing panel is going to be split into two portions that slide into the structure. For the lower panel, use three horizontal slat pieces and space them ¾ inch apart. Then, use two batten pieces and space them 3-1/2″ inches from the ends of the slats. Attach the wood with your 1-1/8″screws.
build removable bottom panel on compost bin

Step 7: Attach your three flat sides to the leg pieces

You’re going to do almost same thing to make the upper panel, but this time using 2-1″x6″x30″ slats and make sure the batten pieces extend past the bottom slat to create the 3/4″ gap between the top and bottom panels when assembled. The finished parts should look like this example when finished.
build top wooden panel for compost bin

Step 8: Check to make sure you can easily remove both front panels

Double check at this point that both the removable front panels will easily slide up and out of the groove. You don’t them binding or getting stuck. If necessary, detach the rails you installed in Step 4 and move them back about 1/8″ or more to allow for a wider groove for the front panels.
check that front panels will easily slide out

Step 9: Add the lid

Finally, construct the two lid portions in the same way you built the front sliding panels, only make the slats 31-1/2″ long so they set on top of the sides.
construct lid for compost bin

Step 10: Add in your scraps

Your new wooden compost bin is ready to go. All you need to do now is mix in your brown and green materials, add a little water, and you’re all set to create earthy compost to nourish your garden!
add scraps to finished compost bin

How To Build A Compost Bin Out Of A Trash Can In Five Easy Steps

How To Build A Compost Bin Out Of A Trash Can

The trash can compost bin is even easier to put together than the wooden bin. Gather your supplies and follow these simple steps to assemble your compost bin from a common trash can.

Supplies You’ll Need To Build A Compost Bin Out Of A Trash Can

Supplies To Build A Trash Can Compost Bin

  • Plastic trash can
  • Screwgun
  • 3/4″ spade drill bit
  • 3 bricks
  • Bungee cord

Five Steps To Build A Compost Bin Out Of A Trash Can

Five Steps To Build A Compost Bin Out Of A Trash Can

Step 1: Drills holes in the can

First, take your drill and ½-inch bit and drill small holes through the sides and bottom of your track can to allow air to get in.
drill holesd in trashcan

Step 2: Add in your scraps

Next, layer your brown and green materials on the inside of the can. Brown materials include things like fall leaves, pine needles, twigs, chipped tree branches/bark, unlaminated paper, sawdust, coffee filters, dryer lint, or cardboard. Green materials include things like fruit and vegetables, eggshells, coffee grounds, grass clippings, weed clippings, or flowers.
add scraps to trashcan

Step 3: Add water to your compost bin

Add a little bit of water to the top of your can, but be careful not to add too much! You want to add just enough water to make your scraps barely wet, without submerging them in standing water.
add water to compost pile

Step 4: Mix your compost

Now, let’s get ready to mix up your compost. This is the work that compost tumblers do, but you can do this yourself with a simple bungee cord. Make sure the lid on your can is secure, then wrap the bungee cord vertically around the bin to keep the lid super tight and in place so nothing falls out when you roll it. Then just give your bin a quick roll around the yard to blend in all the nourished contents and make the most out of your mixture.
roll trashcan to mix compost

Step 5: Wait for your compost to turn to soil

Lastly, place your freshly mixed compost bin on top of your bricks (this trick will help to ensure good airflow) and wait for the compost magic to happen.
set trashcan composter up on bricks for airflow

composting with worms

Outdoor Compost Bin Verses Indoor Compost Bin

Outdoor Compost Bin Verses Indoor Compost Bin

When I set out to build my first compost bin, I wanted to make sure I knew where I was going to put it once I had the thing built. I had to consider the benefits and setbacks of keeping my bin outside verses inside.

Outdoor Compost Bin

Outdoor Compost Bin

ouotdoor compost bin

One of the first questions beginner composters ask themselves is whether or not they should keep their compost inside of outside. Here’s the scoop on outdoor compost bins.


  • Less Mess
  • Conveniently Located
  • Faster Composting Time


  • Might Attract Animals
  • Influenced By Weather
  • Further From The Kitchen

PRO: There’s no mess or odor inside your house or apartment.

A helpful aspect of outdoor composting is the lack of mess you bring into your living environment. Composting can bring unwanted bugs, odors, and other pests around if not done properly, and those aren’t things you want in your clean kitchen. Keeping your compost outside keeps the mess outside too.

PRO: Place your bin right next to your garden for easy access when the soil is ready to be used.

If you’re compost bin or pile is outside, its way easier to start using your fresh soil immediately after if it is ready. You can easily keep your pile in the back corner of your yard or right next to your garden bed to dump onto your plants when the hummus is at completion.

PRO: You can put your bin or pile in direct sunlight.

Sunlight speeds up the composting process by adding heat to the pile, which helps the bacteria and fungi work faster. Indoor composters have a lid or take place in enclosed bins or cyclers. If you keep your compost outside, you can put it in direct sunlight to achieve faster results.

CON: It’s easier for nighttime critters to mess with your scraps.

One bad thing about having a giant pile of food and trash in your yard is that, unfortunately, animals love food and trash. Keeping your compost inside keeps it out of reach of racoons, squirrels, rats, mice, or whatever critters you may have around. When you have an outdoor pile, you run the risk of having some unwanted guests messing with your scraps and compost process.

CON: Weather and climate changes can affect the speed of your compost turning into soil.

Keeping your compost outside makes it more susceptible to the elements than if you were to keep it indoors. Conditions such as temperature, wind, and rainfall influence the composting process. Where you live and the general climate in your area will influence decisions like how big to make your pile, what scraps might be most successful, the best location for your pile, and how often to turn it. With indoor composting, you don’t have to consider these things.

CON: You have to walk outside to add new scraps to your pile and manage your compost.

If your pile is outdoors, every time you cook and want to add more to your mix, you’ll have to walk outside where you have your compost bin. This can make it more tempting to just chunk scraps in a kitchen garbage can instead.

Indoor Compost Bin

Indoor Compost Bin

indoor compost bin

There are also pros and cons to keeping your compost in your kitchen. Here’s the scoop on indoor compost bins.


  • Easy Access
  • Protected From The Weather
  • Safe From Animals


  • Odor Inside Your House
  • Messy Kitchen
  • Attract Pests or Flies

PRO: You have easy access to your compost and can add your kitchen scraps immediately.

Because your compost bin is sitting on your counter, you can easily throw your scraps into your pile after you’re done cooking or even while you’re cooking. This can make it easier to keep up the environmentally conscious habit.

PRO: Your compost is entirely protected from weather and the elements.

An indoor bin is protected from rain, wind, extreme cold, and extreme heat. You won’t have to adjust the makeup of your pile to fit particular climate conditions. This extra step won’t be something you have to adjust your pile for.

PRO: Your compost is entirely protected from animals that could mess with the process.

Critters can’t bother your pile if it’s indoors. This prevents racoons, foxes, or rodents from weaseling their way into your pile, eating your scraps, and disrupting the progress those active bacteria and microbes have been making in your pile.

CON: If your compost produces an odor, the inside of your house or apartment could smell.

Compost can be smelly. Ideally, the scent coming from your compost pile will be a sweet, earthy aroma that is pleasing to the nose. However, when things in your pile go wrong, those kitchen scraps can produce quite an awful stench. This isn’t as much of an issue when your pile is in open air and kept in the yard, but a gross odor isn’t something you want filling up your house.

CON: Your compost or scraps could make a mess inside your kitchen if you aren’t careful.

Keeping your compost inside makes it easier to make a mess in your kitchen. The composting process is messy, packed with scents, garbage and bacteria. Having your compost pile spill all over your kitchen isn’t exactly ideal.

CON: Your compost could attract pests or fruit flies.

Fruit flies, ants, mites and other small insects can gravitate towards your indoor compost pile. These are not desirable for the outcome of your compost, but they’re also just gross to have around. If your bin is outside, these bugs won’t be as big of a deal — but once you have those guys inside, they can be hard to get rid of!

What Type Of Compost Bin Is Best?

What Type Of Compost Bin Is Best

A simple compost trash can or wooden bin can certainly suffice to produce nutrient-rich compost, but there are perks to trying different bins, containers, and methods. I’ve listed various types of compost bins below with pros and cons, whether each belongs indoors or outdoors, and an estimated cost. I hope this helps you make a wise, informed decision about the type of compost bin that’s best for you.

Compost Trash Cans

Compost Trash Cans

A compost trash can is the easiest type of bin to build yourself, and it’s also one of the cheapest options. You don’t need a ton of extraneous supplies to make this composter work and you can build it in an hour or less. It’s also beneficial if you want to use the supplies you have laying around the house already to build a compost bin.

plastic compost trashcan

Pros: This type of compost bin is the easiest and cheapest to make yourself, DIY style.

Cons: It’s harder to turn your compost in this type of bin due to the shape.

Wooden Compost Bin

Wooden Compost Bin

Want to build one of the simplest, most popular compost bins? Wooden compost bins are helpful because you are in charge of how big or small you want your bin to be. They also aid in managing the moisture levels of your pile. Cedar is one of the best options to use to create this bin based on its durability.

outdoor compost bin made of wood

Pros: This type of bin can be assembled easily for a moderate price.

Cons: Wooden compost bins rot easily due to moisture from rain.

Wire Compost Bin

Wire Compost Bin

If you’re in need of a compost bin that holds your compost tightly as well as aerates it evenly, a wire bin might be the way to go. You can mend the shape of the wire mesh to fit the size of your pile. A compost bin made from chicken wire or wire mesh is a fairly popular option for storing compost because it is the best method to provide ventilation to your decomposing compost. You can also combine this method with the wooden bin by creating a wooden frame and filling in the walls with wire mesh to aid air flow.

simple wire compost bin

Pros: The holes in the wire helps regulate air flow for the microbes

Cons: Holes in wire bins make it easier for critters and pests to get into your compost

Compost Tumbler

Compost Tumbler

outdoor compost tumbler

A compost tumbler is a sealed, metal container which can be rotated to mix the composting materials without having to manually turn your pile. Compost tumblers were invented to make composting more user friendly. They have open bottoms and are lifted entirely off the ground, which is different from bins which sit on the ground directly. It’s recommended that you spin your tumbler about three or four spins a week to keep the scraps mixed up and the microbes happy.

Pros: The pro on this one is obvious: lack of intense manual labor. The tumblers do the hard work of turning the pile for you.

Cons: Experts say that expensive tumblers aren’t usually worth it — the turning process on compost tumblers isn’t as effective to produce high-quality compost as turning your pile yourself. Large outdoor tumblers are expensive.

Countertop Composter / Food Cycler

Countertop Food Cycler

Food cyclers are different than any other kind of compost bin because it does all the hard work for you right from your kitchen. You just throw your food scraps into the cycler, seal the lid, and press the power button to let the cycler quickly decompose your scraps. Several experts have started to go the countertop composting route because they have easy access to their bin while cooking. Plus, these cyclers are electronic, and the turnaround rate is fast. A food recycler breaks down food waste using a three-phase cycle. Each of the three cycles can last between three and 48 hours, depending on the type of cycler you are using and what scraps you choose to compost.

countertop food cycler and composter

Pros: Food cyclers turn your kitchen scraps into fertilizer for you, so there is very little management on your part.

Cons: Food cyclers are made small to fit on your countertop, which means they can’t hold as much organic waste as a pile or bin. Countertop cyclers are expensive.

Lomi Compost

Lomi Compost

The Lomi composter is a specific brand of countertop kitchen composters that will turn food scraps, bioplastics, boxes, and more household waste into soil in a single 24-hour cycle. This is one of the fastest methods for composting scraps into useable soil. The Lomi composter is highly convenient. All you have to do to use it is place it on your kitchen counter, give it your food waste, and press a button.

lomi composter

Pros: Lomi is the fastest method for composting. It turns your compost on its own and gives finished results in 24 hours.

Cons: The Lomi Composter is small, just like other kitchen composters. It cannot hold a large amount of organic waste at one time. It is one of the more expensive methods to compost your kitchen scraps.

Bokashi Compost

Bokashi Compost

Bokashi composting is a fermentation process, which sets it apart from other types of composting. The Bokashi method uses anaerobic bacteria instead of aerobic bacteria to break down organic waste, meaning the pile will work in the absence of oxygen.

To use the Bokashi method, composters use a Bokashi bucket. The Bokashi bucket has a tight lid and a spigot at the bottom to drain off the liquid that is created as your kitchen scraps decompose. Draining the liquid is a crucial element of the Bokashi process. If you don’t drain the excess liquid, the compost bucket produces an awful stench. The excess liquid, called bokashi tea, can be used as a nutrient rich, natural fertilizer.

bokashi composter

Pros: Bokashi composting does not require manual turning or monitoring of any kind, it works on its own. You can compost kitchen scraps that don’t breakdown easily in traditional compost bins, like dairy, meats, and oil.

Cons: The Bokashi method produces a sour, acidic, pickle-like smell as it ferments. This can be bothersome to some composters. Bokashi composting doesn’t produce soil at first. The method preserves scraps in a semi-decomposed state for you to bury and turn into mature compost later.

Hot Composting

Hot Composting

Hot composting is a much faster method for turning organic waste into soil than cold bin composting is. Hot compost bins usually function around temperatures between 40° and 77° Celsius, or 104° and 170° Fahrenheit. How does your pile heat up? By turning your compost and introducing the active microbes and bacteria to oxygen, causing them to release thermal energy.

After you initially build a hot compost pile, you will need to monitor and record the daily temperature of the pile with a compost thermometer. There are several different factors that can affect the temperature of your pile, like moisture levels, the number of scraps you add, or the type of scraps you use. The entire hot composting process usually takes about four weeks to turn into soil.

hot composting pile


  • Hot composting produces a greater volume of soil than cold composting.
  • Hot compost contains far fewer weed seeds than cold composting.
  • Hot compost leaves you with richer substances in your soil/fertilizer.
  • The entire process only takes about a month.


  • Requires a lot of attention to manage and turn the pile.
  • You have to build your pile in a large, compact manner or it won’t retain heat. This can be tricky and
    frustrating to get right.

Cold Composting

Cold Composting

Cold composting is composting in its most basic form. It undergoes the same process of turning organic scraps without the use of oxygen and heat. When you make a cold compost pile, all you have to do is throw your scraps in a pile and wait. You do not have to actively turn the pile, because the goal of introducing the microbes to air flow isn’t the same as it is with hot composting. In six months to a year, the bottom portion of the pile will become a thick hummus you can spread in your garden or under your trees.

cold composting pile


  • Requires minimal effort to maintain. The pile basically does all the work on its own.
  • The pile doesn’t have to be a particular size or shape, you can just dump on more waste as you go.


  • The entire process takes anywhere from six months to a year or more to complete.
  • The lack of high temperatures brings an abundance of unwanted weed seeds.

tiny house toilet options
Your Turn!

  • What supplies and materials will you need to buy to build your own compost bin?
  • What type of compost bin are you going to build?

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