How To Build The Ultimate Compost Bin

Step 1: Beg Explain patiently to professional carpenter husband over several months that current compost bins are old and too small and in the wrong place.  Paint dazzling word pictures of abundant food and rich soil that would result from beautiful new compost bins.

Step 2: Research.  Turns out it’s not easy to find a good set of plans!  Most of the compost bin instructions out there are for recycled pallet bins or a couple of other common designs that were dismissed by said husband as either too ugly, too expensive to build on our budget, or lacking in lateral or other significant supports.  We did end up finding these useful plans from the City of Vancouver, and this became our base idea.  I figured that if these plans would keep Vancouver compost dry in the winter monsoons and safe from raccoons and other city critters, they were good enough for us.

Step 3: Take stock of existing supplies and recycle as much as possible.  Can you believe the fr#@%!*g price of wood these days?!  Skipper recycled our previous deck stairs and some cedar posts that he rescued from a job site a year or so ago.  He salvaged as much of the old bin’s cedar as he could.  We bought a small amount of pressure-treated wood for the base, a small amount of cedar for the front pieces, some hardware cloth to rodent-proof the bins, and a small number of assorted screws and other bits and bobs, and we’re still into this for almost $300.  Hence the large number of online plans for recycled pallet compost bins!

Step 4: When the good weather arrives—start building!


Old 2-bin system falling apart. Note loose plywood top--hinges are rusted out and old lid is long gone...

Preparing the new site perpendicular to the old one. New footprint: 10' x 4'.

The frame of recycled cedar posts stacked on concrete pavers to keep the wood off the ground.

We decided to raise the bins off the ground for both rodent-proofing and to make shoveling a little easier on the back.

Coming together: more salvaged and recycled cedar. Former deck stairs create the base. We could have parked our deck chairs right there, it's so sturdy!

Hardware cloth on; first bin complete!

Complete! New metal roof, and compost curing in its new home.

The details…

Each of the front (removable) panels has 2 screws in place at the bottom and has holes drilled in it for air circulation

The metal roof on its cedar frame. Light for me to lift!

The finished product!

It’s our equivalent of Rob at OneStraw‘s Compost Bin of Dreams.  It’s hard to convey through these photos just how sturdy and stable the whole thing is–ready for many tons of compost to be produced in the years to come.  The Skipper is pretty psyched; he’s even taken to pilfering all the fruit peels shed by his crew at work each day and bringing them home in a bucket “for me”. :)  Most importantly, the bin’s new location clears the way for the chicken coop, and the bigger size anticipates the fabulous chicken manure and litter that will be piling up in the not-so-distant future.

Apologies for the long hiatus between posts recently.  As you can see, we are now Making Progress in a big way on our spring plans.  I have lots more to report on, so will be trying to post more often.  Stay tuned!

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33 thoughts on “How To Build The Ultimate Compost Bin

  1. Hi Toni, welcome back! Wow, I can’t imagine having to keep the compost dry. Around here the biggest problem is keeping track of watering the darned thing in the summer. Your new bin sure is a beauty though. : ) D

    • Thanks Rob–your compost bin and building posts (along with the blog generally) have been pretty inspiring. I’ve been shredding my fall/winter prunings like crazy! :) Our soil is pretty similar to yours, your basic industrial backfill, so I’m hoping that regular mulch and compost will make a big difference over the coming years. Thanks for sharing all your learning and research on line for the rest of us to benefit from!

      Deb, we definitely dry out in the summer (and welcome is the drought at that point!) too. But this time of year, dry, sunny weather is only a far away dream…sigh. ;)

  2. Thanks! Skipper deserves the credit for the design of the front panels–they look gorgeous, but I have to admit that I wasn’t sure that air circulation was an issue given the huge ventilation on all the other sides. I have to be careful what I ask for–Skipper can really take an idea and run with it! (and that’s not a complaint. :) )

  3. I love all that you two are doing to the property and can’t wait to come and see it all for myself. Jealous that my hubby was there and got to see it all before me. I too have been searching for “the perfect compost bin” and now thanks to “Skipper and Toni” I will one day soon have one too. Love your blog and I log in at least twice a week to read and reread as you have done so much research that takes soooo much time (thank you for that). Alain might just have to steal some of your ideas Skipper!

    • Rhonda, great to hear from you! I’m so glad you’re enjoying following along on our adventures and learnings–now if only we had your piece of property! :) I hear we’re not the only ones who’ve been busy lately, too; I’m looking forward to seeing your changes too!

  4. Well I searched for “the ultimate compost ben” so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to find your work of art! What a beauty! Hope to have one similar soon. Thanks for the inspiration.

  5. Amature question…

    Why three bins?

    I’m assuming…

    One to hold compost material – one to hold green stuff and one to hold brown stuff for future use?



    • Hi Pat,
      The three bins are for different stages of compost. You start in bin 1, layering until the bin is full. Then, after a time, the pile needs to be turned over, so into bin 2 it goes. Bin 1 can then be refilled. After a while, when bin 1 is full again, bin 2 gets turned into bin 3, bin 1 to bin 2, and then bin 1 filled again. At this point, we hope that the pile in bin 3 is fully composted and ready to use.

      Good question, and there’s lots more info online about why and when to turn your compost piles, and how long they need to sit until they’re ready. Have fun!

  6. Nic looking bin but with it begin off the ground how do worms etc get in to it. Also as was mentioned above but not answered is compos needs to be keep moist. Condensation from the metal roof won’t be enough.

  7. Hello, almost finished building my compost bins, just waiting for someone to give away roof material on craigslist…..Is there any way to share pictures here?

  8. Pingback: Geek-Out-Worthy: Composters and Chicken Combovers « Space-Farm Continuum

  9. Pingback: How To Build An Awesome Compost Bin For Your Garden

    • Hi–can’t really do a supply list; we made lots of this with salvaged materials. The key is to make bins that are at least 3′x3′x3′ each, so that you can fit at least 1 cubic yard of material in each one. You need at least a cubic yard of fresh material to heat up enough to make good compost. Good luck with your project!

  10. Can one make good compost with just leaves and grass? Should I assume that weeds should not go into the compost pile?

  11. Hi, thanks for writing this up, looks great. Also, the link to the plans is very, very helpful. Working on de-constructing a big watch tower so I can repurpose the lumber for this project. Thanks again! Guppy

  12. I was just wondering, around where I live we have to be careful about wood being left on the ground, because if there is a board left on the ground with in two days it becomes a termite buffet. And they seem to do a LOT of damage to anything left with ground contact in no time. Do you not have to worry about termites in your area or do you treat the wood with something first.

  13. Wow, i love the bin. Great design. I am in the middle of making my very first compost bins and made a rookie mistake of running the lumber from side to side instead of front to back. Well done you-it will make turning it much less jarring! Thanks for all the tips,I will be referring back to your site again

  14. Pingback: Compost Bins | HagtipsHagtips

  15. First off, beautiful compost bins! I’m curious why you have floor boards in the bins; wouldn’t that keep the worms and other decomposes out?

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