We built a compost bin yesterday for under two hours of time (including getting the supplies) and less than $11. You can build a 3-stall compost bin for less than $11, too!
- seven (7) shipping pallets
- twelve (12) light-duty L-brackets
- forty-eight (48) screws
To build your compost bins, you first need to collect shipping pallets. If you see them piled up next to a dumpster or outside of a business, stop in and ask if you can take the pallets off of their hands. Most places are happy to see them go, and in addition to helping the business and getting free compost bin walls for yourself, you’re keeping wood out of the landfill.
Yesterday we visited a business that had a stack of weathered pallets out back. They were happy to let us take all we could. We picked up eight pallets of about the same size.
On the way home, we stopped at a big-box home improvement store and purchased 3-inch medium-weight metal L-brackets. Ours were purchased 4 brackets to a bag, and the screws were included. At $3.48 per package, we spent a grand total, including Virginia’s 5% sales tax, of $10.96. If your pallets are new and in good condition (not warped), you can shave off about $1.50 and maybe go with lighter-weight brackets.
From there, assembling the compost bin is easy. If you were on a ladder looking down, your compost bin system will look a bit like this: |_|_|_| .
To start, lay out your pallets to ensure you have enough room for your bin system. A nice, level area will make the job much easier. We decided to move our location after we started because the slight slope threw the bins out of alignment.
Now stand up two pallets and attach them at a 90-degree angle with the L-brackets. We used one bracket near the top and one near the bottom. You could add another bracket to the middle to help avoid any future warping. (This will add $3 – $4 to your total cost, still keeping the cost under $15.) Ensure that the back wall is to the inside of the side walls when you attach, as in this little graphic: |_| . By doing so, it is easy to then attach the next bin’s back to the current bin’s sides: |_|_ and so on.
Once your first two walls are up, add the second side wall. This creates a U-shaped bin, and with our plans, you’re done with your first compost bin! If you only want one bin, you can stop here, and you’ve spent less than $4.
If you want your bin off of the ground, you can also add a pallet to the base, again attaching with more L-brackets. I want worms to help with the composting duties, so my bins don’t have bottoms.
You can add a plywood roof if you want to keep rainwater from oversaturating your bin. I tend to overthink and overplan, so I’m forcing myself to keep this as easy as possible. In addition, our bins in the past have just been chicken wire and rain has never been a problem in the composting.
Something we will most likely add in the future is a front door. We have old hinges and more pallets, so this won’t be an additional cost for us. We may only add the door to the “finished compost” bin.
If you want two or three or more bins, just add on additional walls. We installed three bins. This gives us one bin for finished compost, one for “cooking” compost, and one for building a new pile. After the initial build up of the piles, we’ll ideally always have one “ready”, one “cooking,” and one “building.” If you want to know more about composting, I’ll post soon some basics to help you get started.
Do you have any compost tips to share?
*** This personal blog is comprised solely of the opinions, views, projects, and travels of its author, Stacey Morgan Smith. She is lucky enough to have loving family and friends whom she drags along with her on her adventures and whom she puts to work on her little farm. She uses this blog to help promote living in the mountains of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, from Roanoke to the Potomac River.**