Introduction: Pallet Compost Bin

Picture of Pallet Compost Bin

Going green and creating your own compost bin isn't as hard as you might think. All those grass clippings, plant prunings, and other yard stuff is easily recycled into compost. The project is simple.
You need pallets, wire (to bind them together), some simple tools, and any extra hardware you would like to add for ease of use.

Step 1: Getting It Together...The Lay Out.

Picture of Getting It Together...The Lay Out.

Your going to need 4 pallets minimum. If you decide on a slanted base (floor), you'll need another pallet. Some people may choose a slanted base design to catch the "tea" that your composter produces when watering your compost. The "tea" can be diluted and sprayed on your plants.
We don't have a slanted base in this design. Simple is easier. We're going with 3 sides and a door.

Choose your lay out. I don't need a huge bin, so I opted to stand the sides up to narrow the bins depth. Plus, it gives me a 2x4 side to attach my hinges to.

Step 2: Piecing It Together.

Picture of Piecing It Together.

I've purchased 14 gauge wire, hinges, and a latch for my bin. If you want to pass on these items, you can still get by with just the wire to bind the pallets together. A make-shift hinge can be made from the wire.

Start with cutting the wire to a workable length, roughly 18", and strap the side and back pallets together by twisting the wire tight. Be careful not to over do it. Too much tension and the wire will break. Two lengths twisted on each corner should be plenty.

Step 3: Adding Some Stability....

Picture of Adding Some Stability....

I've opted to add a landscape pole to the hinge-side of the bin. These pallets are not light and I wanted the hinges to support some of the weight of the door pallet. I had originally thought I was going to put pole in both side pallets, but figured I only need the hinge-side to be supported. I hammer into the ground about 12".

Step 4: Adding the Hardware

Picture of Adding the Hardware

Once you've finished tying the pallets together. It's time to add hinges. My hinges were about $6.50 from the Depot. A little better than constucting wire hinges.

Now, we're ready for the door.

Step 5: The Door.

Picture of The Door.

Before adding the door to the bin, I added a spacer to the bottom by using the left over scrap from the landscaping pole and attaching it with screws. This will provide some ventilation for the compost since all other sides sit on the ground.

Next, attach the door.

Step 6: Optional, More Hardware.

Picture of Optional, More Hardware.

In most cases, you would be done. I, however, need more bling for my bin. I've added a latch to keep my 2yr old out the bin.

AND YOU'RE DONE....Or are you.

Step 7: More Stuff.

Picture of More Stuff.

If you live in a climate that has good to mild humidity, you would be done at this point. However, I live in hell, Phoenix, AZ. Mesa to be precise.
We don't have much humidity and moisture is what helps to break down the organics in your composter. To effectively do this, we need to add some heavy duty plastic to the bin to help keep some of the moisture in the bin. Moisture and heat are a compost bin's best friend.

Step 8: Start Your Compost.

Picture of Start Your Compost.

I've left the plastic off the door. I will have to experiment to see if it works with or without it.

My wife has already been starting a compost bin with a large storage bin from Walmart. Its done a great job. Just not big enough for our needs.

Good luck. I hope this helps you in your green endeavors.


Greenguyh2o (author)2014-06-18

I have a couple of questions. (1) i live in new york and its pretty humid and it rains occasionally. would it help to put a tarp over it to keep out the rain? Because ive heard that it (the rain) can drain nutrients into the soil. (2) would the compost decompose the pallets?. (3) would it help to staple tarp or plastic to the out side? Thanks

kopper65 (author)Greenguyh2o2015-03-23

No, you want your compost to be wet (think of a moist sponge). The drier it is, the longer it will take to break down, so it's best to keep it moist, and allowing it to be rained on is a great way to do that. Don't worry about any lost nutrients... there are plenty more! And the water filtering down into the soil beneath your bin will encourage worms to move up and help break it down, so that's a good thing, too. And nailing or stapling on some wire mesh (like 14" hardware cloth from Home Depot) on the inside of the bin will help keep the critters out. The pallets are made from treated lumber and will last for years. My only concern about using pallets is that the chemicals used to treat the wood might leach into the compost. This is why I bought a "Soil Saver" compost bin.

TomH24 (author)kopper652016-05-11

Pallets are NOT made of treated wood. They aren't made to last, so why would they?

Snow4jc (author)TomH242016-06-19

Pallets are usually treated with either heat or chemicals. There is a stamp the bottom that will tell you which one. If there is an HT in that code, Then it is heat treated. I made a pallet garden which is when I learned that.

WildOne1985 (author)kopper652015-05-16

Pallets are normally never treated. Why would they? They are made for mainly indoor use (factory, trucks, warehouses) with the occasional move in light rain, and many are one-time-use as well. Actually I've never seen a treated pallet before.

ted.prewitt (author)WildOne19852015-09-22

Pallets wouldn't generally be treated with wood preservatives, but they can be treated with insecticides to kill off wood boring insects. Since many pallets cross state and international borders, this is sometimes done to prevent infestations. Some are heat treated to kill insects, others have no treatment at all.

kopper65 (author)kopper652015-03-23

That should've said 1/4" (one quarter inch) hardware cloth, not 14".

AllNaturalChris (author)2015-01-08

Looks great (and very good instructions), although you can actually start a compost bin using something as simple as an outdoor garbage can. Poke holes in the bottom (be careful - ask why I'm saying that, LOL).

Marchelle (author)2014-10-13

Thanks for the instructions! It looks great. I left off the plastic because I love in an awesome state. And we couldn't find the right size hinges, so we just used latches on both sides of the door. I'm sure it will work well for us.

wanttobegreenthumb (author)2009-07-27

Has anyone experimented with a mesh-type floor for the finished product to fall thru? I really like the idea here. Am very new to this gardening thing and need all the help and suggestions I can get. I have an acre and a third yard, and my garden is 50 ft by 40 ft so I have lots to compost. Also live in the Dairy State so the weather is favorable and there is plenty of manure to add. What else do I need to know?

Haven't seen any 'mesh' type bottoms. However, there are plans for a slanted 'hard' bottom to catch the drippings from the compost. Also, known as 'Tea'. This liquid is used on your plants. To complex to build on a budget. You definitely need something sturdy on the bottom so you can turn your pile. Good Luck.

scottinnh (author)kootsman2014-04-20

Build a catch tray into a fifth pallet, use on the bottom. You'll need some 2x4s or metal corner joiners to attach the base.

plantintimidator (author)2009-03-25

my neighbor was a docent at the zoo. To keep neighborhood cats out of her garden, she applied straw that had been used as bedding for the lions. It worked! It seems like this would compost well, and for you people in urban areas, your zoos might be really happy to get rid of this stuff....just a thought.

That same straw would probably repel deer as well.

solarbipolar (author)thepelton2013-07-07

My Bushmaster repels deer VERY well.

dbldragons (author)2010-06-20

if thats what I think it is, I would worry more about what looks to be oleander around the left side of your bin..... I heard a story while living near Tucson about hikers taking branches to cook hot dogs on a fire from an oleander bush and it killed all of them.... its has digitalis (a cardiac glycocide heart stopper) great instructable though.... we moved to "ugh humid" NC so I think I can skip the plastic and might use chickenwire or hardware cloth instead

solarbipolar (author)dbldragons2013-07-07

You mean that everyone in the country that has oleander needs to now start worrying about hikers using them for hot dog sticks and killing themselves?

siwattu (author)2012-06-24

simple & use full give praise

northcalgreens (author)2012-05-22

Ive been useing ground cloth( very cheap ) on the sides and a piece of old rug for a lid. I wrapped the pallets with chicken wire, which acts as a hinge at the corners. These work great. Remember to balance your browns and greens and keep it moist but not wet. Mulch happens!

Spaceman Spiff (author)2012-05-11

This is so awesome I made it, cost me nothing. Thanks for the ible.

KingLabs (author)2010-04-22

I'd worry about smells if the compost doesn't get enough oxygen.  However, like you, I'd be willing to try it.  I'm in AZ too and I get a lot of dry spots on the edges, but I'll water my compost pile once every other week and it stays wet in the middle.  I haven't tried plastic on the sides, but I had some luck with an old carpet thrown over the top.  It seems to keep the middle part wet for longer times.  Thanks for the instructions!

leah_thomas (author)KingLabs2011-07-25

If it smells bad your mixture has too much nitrogen. While air helps it does solve the main problem. The general rule is two parts carbon to one part nitrogen. High carbon items are usually brown and dry while high nitrogen is generally green and moist. Other high nitrogen materials are kitchen scraps and manure. Adding things like dry leaves or grass and sawdust can really help neutralize the smell. Typically some people I know only use nitrogen based products.

**Most of the above info came from The Veggie Gardener's Answer Book. The book is wonderful at addressing many gardening problems!!!!

appieh58 (author)2010-04-29

Great instruction, thank you!
If you want to view a video about this whole proces you can find it here :

On this page I have collected three videos. The first two videos explain the process of making compost. The third video explains making a compost bin with four pallets. However the design of this compost bin is very simple. 

yogadavid (author)appieh582010-07-20

Very nice and helpful videos. Thanks

ei (author)2010-05-18

Thank you - this is just what I'm looking for, something easy to put together. This is going to be my weekend project.

vanillasmoke (author)2010-04-23

This looks awesome, but one thing you want to be careful of with pallets is foreign insects.  In our area (Northern New Jersey) there are restrictions on pallets because of the Asian Longhorned beetle.  The larvae are in the wood of the pallet, hatch, and destroy local trees. 

Just something to consider, depending on your area.  It's a great instructable though!

eecharlie (author)2010-04-22

A similar design I've seen calls for expanding this to two or three adjacent 'stalls' with shared walls, allowing you to rotate which pile gets fresh material while the others finish composting.

Also, if you use a pallet for the floor you may get better air circulation.

What if you put the plastic along the outside of the walls so it isn't abraded when compost is turned, and creates a layer of airspace outside the pile for circulation? You could even add a lid to catch condensation and get a greenhouse effect speeding things up.

Haru (author)2010-04-22

just a reminder to all those who have or make a compost heap to turn it over every so often to prevent fire
and yes they can start smoldering then start a fire

OneHarp (author)2009-10-18

Hey, great instructable. I'm in Tempe, so I know how hard it is to compost here in the valley. I have a home built compost bin too. I built it into the corner of my block fence in the back yard, so it has concrete blocks for walls on two sides, and wood slats on the other two sides. I used chicken wire to keep the small bits from falling out. I didn't think to use plastic though! How has the plastic lining been working? If it works well, I might just add some to the open two sides of my bin... Also, one thing I wish i had was a lower door that you could swing open to pull all the good stuff out from the bottom. I hate having to remove all the uncomposted top stuff just to get at my good dirt below!

kootsman (author)OneHarp2009-10-19

The plastic lining ended up falling apart. Now, using FRP (Fire Resistant Panelling). Its very durable and will hold the moisture.  The plastic only took a year for it to fall apart. Good luck with your composter. Currently planting carrots, beans, peas, lettuce, broccoli, and califlower.

OneHarp (author)kootsman2009-10-19

Oh, wow. Thanks for getting back to me about this. That's some good info to know. I was planning to use some leftover "vapor barrier" from when I put in our flooring, but I guess I'll forgo that for something else (maybe some of that FRP like you used). Yeah, I planted seeds for carrots, Arugula, lettuce, bok choy, broccoli, and eggplants about two weeks ago. I'm already getting TONS of arugula! I just overseeded the lawn, so I have tons of lawn thatch to add to the compost bin! Time to get it all in order! Thanks again for the info!

gemgh (author)2009-04-09

This is simply beautiful and easy to do. We just put our scraps of eggshells and other debris on the ground and cover it with a black mat. The heat from the sun cooks it down and makes it into a usable compose for the garden. We never put bones, meat or citrus in our compose pile. We have a beautifully rich garden from doing this.

thepelton (author)2009-04-03

I used pallets to construct a bin for cutoff wood scraps to help clean up my workshop, and constructed a workbench out of pallets stood on end with a four by eight sheet of plywood on top. To stabilize it, since it shook a bit when I first tried to use it, I bolted it to a support pillar in the garage with sturdy angle iron. Lots of things you can do with old pallets, and they can be gotten for free!

Yerboogieman (author)2009-03-25

Or if you have pallets and little kids, you can make a fort thing for them.

bosherston (author)2009-03-25

Great bin! We also have three like Dreino, keeping one empty for regularly turning and aerating the compost . Put a permeable lid on to keep humidity levels up and ( in our case ) excessive rainfall out! 4 stars :)

SinAmos (author)2009-03-24

I appreciate the effort, but that's it.

laconvert (author)2008-08-14

Great bin idea! We've had problems with mice and rats being attracted to our compost. Our local council has a good idea to line the bin with wire mesh on all sides. Then either cover the base of the bin with the mesh or put the mesh into the ground by a few inches to stop the mice/rats from digging down and getting into your compost from the bottom.

dreino (author)laconvert2009-01-31

We actually welcome the mice (not the rats so much), since they tunnel thru the material and add air passages, as well as consume some of the stuff that won't break down as fast as we would like. We use beef cattle manure as a base ingredient for my compost, and it usually contains some whole kernels of corn. The mice dispose of this slow to compost stuff for me. We live out in the boonies, so there are mice everywhere anyway. We have three pallet composters, two of which are full at all times, with the third used to turn the other two into as required to keep the heat going.

iPodGuy (author)2009-01-21

I like this design. It looks very nice and your pictures came out well.

kootsman (author)iPodGuy2009-01-21

Thanks, appreciate the comment. The bin is full. I've got so much yard work that it keeps the bin maxed out. The plastic is definately needed here in AZ. The compost isn't breaking down as fast as it was in the summer. Composters don't favor cool weather. But it did yield some very good compost. My orange and peach trees dig it... Thanks, again. Jeff

chr15sc (author)2008-08-15

Nice construction. At the last house I had three in a row and they work very well, Be sure to use some of the previous compost as a starter. Make layers and mix grass cuttings with some soil otherwise you get a slimey glob that stinks. Happy composting

smrat alleck (author)2008-08-15

very nice. always happy to see simple, functional uses for discarded pallets!

skincage (author)2008-08-14

Nice to see someone else in AZ making their own bin. I'm in Tucson and experimenting with one myself.

turia777 (author)2008-08-14

The great job comment above was not done by kootsman but by his wifie "me". I had to sign out of his acct first :-p

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