How to Make a Compost Bin from Pallets

, written by Benedict Vanheems gb flag

Pallet compost bin

With the pre-winter clear up completed you’re probably left with lots of plant debris: the spent crops, weeds and prunings of the old growing season that form the perfect ingredients to a soil-nourishing compost. Composting is a great way to recycle valuable organic matter and, of course, plants love it!

That said, loose compost heaps have a habit of looking a bit messy, so read on or watch our video to discover a tidier alternative – a compost bin made from wooden pallets.

Materials for Making a Pallet Compost Bin

To make a pallet compost bin you’ll need four pallets of matching size (or you can cut them to size). Old pallets are widely available but check they’re safe to use by looking for the pallet stamp. Stamps should display the IPPC or EPAL logo, plus the letters HT, which indicates the wood has been heat-treated and there’s no risk of toxic materials leaching into your compost. Avoid using pallets with the letters MB on them, as these have been treated with methyl bromide which is a toxic pesticide.

To join the pallets together you will need four corner brackets, a box of screws, plus a drill and a screwdriver. The front pallet will be cut in half and attached to create two hinged doors, a bit like a stable door. Attach them to the walls with four sturdy hinges and use two pairs of hook and eye latches to keep them shut. You’ll also need a saw.

Building a Compost Bin with Pallets

Start by joining together three pallets to create the back and sides. Stand them up, lean them against each other then screw them together to hold them in place. The two side walls should be flush with the width of the rear wall.

Screw two brackets to each corner of the bin, one at the top and one at the bottom. You now have your completed walls.

Assembling a compost bin made from pallets

The fourth pallet will be made into a door for the compost bin, to make filling it easy. Using a saw, cut the pallet in half between two of the rear slats. Correspondingly, the front side should be cut between two of the front slats. Saw right up against the slats to give an even, tidy finish.

Now attach the doors to the walls. Use two strong hinges per door, attaching the hinges on the outside so the door can swing out more easily. Set the bottom door slightly off the ground to stop it from catching. Similarly, leave a slight gap between the bottom and top doors. With the hinges in place, it’s time for the hooks and latches. Screw them into position, near the top of each door.

The compost bin is now finished, but if you want to make yours extra sturdy you can screw in additional plate brackets at the rear corners. The front ends can be further anchored into place by hammering in lengths of rebar either side of the walls like this, effectively jamming the pallets into position.

The compost bin is now finished, but if you want to make yours extra sturdy you can screw in additional plate brackets at the rear corners. The front ends can be further anchored into place by hammering in lengths of rebar either side of the walls, effectively jamming the pallets into position.

Securing pallet composter in place with length of rebar

Some gardeners like to wrap their pallet compost with chicken wire or netting. This keeps any stray contents from escaping the bin, but it isn’t strictly necessary. Attach the wire or netting with u-shaped nails or a staple gun.

Using a Pallet Compost Bin

Start filling the compost bin with a mixture of browns, such as dried leaves or torn pieces of cardboard, and fresh green materials, including grass clippings and kitchen scraps. Try to ensure a good balance of browns and greens to speed up decomposition and so air can penetrate the compost heap.

Mature compost, ready to sieve

You could add additional compost bins alongside the first. A three-bay compost setup allows for the three main stages of composting. The first bay is the active bay, into which new material is currently being added; the middle bay has been filled and is left to rot down; while the final bay is beautiful, mature compost that’s ready to use.

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Comments

 
"good video. I liked the suggestion to make the needed 3 compost containers. It needs 10 pallets. I don't think the boards in the middle of the 3 compost containers need to be covered with the chicken wire. Am I correct?"
janice on Tuesday 4 July 2017
"good video. I liked the suggestion to make the needed 3 compost containers. It needs 10 pallets. I don't think the boards in the middle of the 3 compost containers need to be covered with the chicken wire. Am I correct?"
janice on Tuesday 4 July 2017
"Hi Janice. That's right, it isn't really necessary as you'll be clearly able to differentiate the different ages of compost when you come to dig it out/turn it. Chicken wire on the middle boards might also catch the tines of the fork, which would be annoying."
Ben Vanheems on Tuesday 4 July 2017
"Would it be a good idea to cover the top of the bin to control the amount of moisture (ie rain!), or is this not necessary?"
Jackie on Tuesday 18 July 2017
"It really depends on how wet it is. If you get a lot of wet then it can be advantageous to cover the compost so it doesn't get excessively wet and possibly slimy as a result. On the flip side, if it's fairly dry, then any rain will help to keep things moving. I would keep it covered for now and see how you get on - adding a cover if you feel this is necessary at a later date."
Ben Vanheems on Tuesday 18 July 2017
"Thanks for this. Please forgive these rookie questions! 1. Assuming one transfers the contents of one bin to the next in stages, how do you know when it's ready to do so? 2. How often should one turn over the contents of a bin (presumably to aerate it)."
Warwick on Friday 27 July 2018
"Not at all - they're not rookie questions and are very much worth asking! In answer to them: 1. You can leave a bin to sit as it is until it's ready to use. A multi-bay system means that once one if full of material, you can then leave it to rot down while filling the next. This negates the need to turn. That said, turning the contents can help if things aren't rotting down successfully and it needs reinvigorating by getting more air into the heap. Compost is ready when it's dark and crumbly and you can't really make out any of the original 'ingredients'. 2. Related to the above, the contents of a bin are indeed turned to aerate it. You may find this isn't even necessary, but if things are slow then you may need to do it perhaps once, after a couple of months. In most cases it's easy to simply dig out all the material then re-fill the bin, which will add plenty of air to it. I hope this helps. Happy composting!"
Ben Vanheems on Friday 27 July 2018

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