One of my favorite things about owning a house is having a back yard with room to garden! Getting the garden planted was the first thing I did as soon as the snow melted; there are still boxes left to unpack from the move, but our garden is planted and thriving!
The second thing I did was build a DIY compost bin! I love the idea of reusing food waste; it keeps it out of the landfill, and my plants will absolutely love the rich soil! I know there are tons of pre-made compost bins that you can buy from a hardware store, but I had specific ideas about how I wanted mine to work, so I built my own!
I had a lot of fun designing this DIY compost bin! My mom is also an avid gardener and I spent a lot of time talking to her, my dad (the woodworker), and my aunt and uncle who just finished building their own compost bin about what makes a good compost bin. We decided the following things were important:
- Easy to add things to the top of the pile, preferably being able to open the lid with just one hand since you’ll be holding the compost bucket from your kitchen with the other
- Lid has to latch to keep the critters out (my parents have crazy stories of their years long battle with the raccoons and rats in their area that kept getting into the bin!)
- Easy access to the bottom of the compost pile to get out the soil that has finished composting (this piece also has to latch because of critters)
- Bottom of the bin also has to be critter proof so nobody tunnels up from the bottom
- Open and airy enough to allow for good airflow, and to let bugs and worms in to speed the decomposition
- Sturdy enough to hold up to the crazy Chicago weather
So I finally came up with a design that met all the criteria above!
How To Build A DIY Compost Bin
You can download the scale drawing I created for this compost bin by clicking here. I used SketchUp to create this drawing, so you’ll need the SketchUp program in order to open the file. Luckily, SketchUp is free and you can download it here!
This drawing file is copyright by Practically Functional LLC and is for personal use only. Please do not redistribute this file or use it for any commercial purposes. (But feel free to link to this post so others can come download the file for themselves!)
We used untreated cedar for our compost bin; it’s slightly more expensive than treated lumber, but since I plan on using this compost in our edible garden, I want to make sure the compost doesn’t leach any chemicals out of the lumber as it sits in the bin.
You can make the following cuts yourself, or if you buy your lumber from a major hardware store, they’ll usually make the cuts for you if you ask! We went to Home Depot, picked out a few boards, and a super nice employee made all of the cuts for us while we continued shopping for the other supplies we needed! Just take this cut list into the store with you and they can do the rest!
- 2×6 boards, cut into the following pieces: (two 12′ boards and three 10′ boards)
- 15 – 2×6 at 3′
- 2 – 2×6 at 3′ 3″
- 2×4 boards, cut into the following pieces: (one 12′ board and one 10′ board)
- 7 – 2×4 at 3′
- 2×2 boards, cut into the following pieces: (two 12′ boards)
- 2 – 2×2 at 3′
- 2 – 2×2 at 1′ 3-3/4″
- 2 – 2×2 at 3′ 1/2″
- 3 – 2×2 at 2′ 9″
- 15′ of 3′ tall chicken wire (1″ holes)
- box of #8 2-1/2″ deck screws
- box of #8 1″ wood screws
- 3′ x 3′ corrugated polycarbonate panel (I used a large SunTuf grey tinted panel that I found at Home Depot and cut it down to size; the large panel is only available in stores, but you can find smaller versions online and attach them together)
- 2 gate handles
- 4 3-1/2″ door hinges
- 4 3-1/2″ rotating post safety hasp latches
- 2 3″ t-shaped flat corner braces
- 4 4′ fence stakes
- electric drill (I used my Ryobi 18v One+ drill and it worked great! I bought this starter kit that came with the drill and a circular saw!)
- circular saw (if you need to cut down your polycarbonate panel)
- 3/8″ drill bit
- screwdriver bit (flat, phillips, or square drive, depending on the deck screws you have)
- staple gun + staples
- carpenter’s square
- wire cutters
- tape measure
- fence post driver (or a hammer and a spare block of wood)
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If you liked this project, check out these other great outdoor projects!
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