Build a Compost Tumbler


You do not have to be an avid gardener to understand the value of building a compost tumbler. Compost is an essential part of your garden and a tumbler is just the thing to help cultivate and protect the compost you use to enrich your soil. For those who have little space to give to a compost heap, a tumbler can keep your compost contained, while making it easier to mix and distribute the nutrients. Best of all, a tumbler can be built in just a few hours. Invest the time now and save time and space later.

Building A Compost Tumbler

There are a number of different ways you can build your own tumbler, including using a variety of household tools and scraps. The best tumblers, though, are made of construction grade materials that are built to last. Your tumbler will get a lot of use, so make sure it holds up by constructing it out of quality materials.

This basic tumbler consists of a saw-horse style wooden support to hold the tumbler. A PVC pipe will be inserted through the barrel, extending out both ends. These pipe ends will rest on the X of each side of the saw horse support, holding it in place and allowing the barrel to turn easily. Inside the barrel, a galvanized metal "fin" will stir the compost when you rotate the barrel by hand.

The materials you need can be found at your local home improvement store, and many of the tools can be rented. Have the store cut the PVC pipe and 2x4 boards to the correct lengths to speed the job along.


  • Plastic drum: Any size between 20 and 55 gallons depending on how much compost you think you will generate
  • 48-inch length of 2-inch wide PVC pipe
  • Drill
  • 2-inch spade bit
  • 1-inch spade bit
  • 6 pieces of 2x4 boards cut to 3-1/2 inches in length
  • 2-inch long nails
  • Hammer
  • Jigsaw
  • 2 kitchen cabinet galvanized metal hinges, approximately 3-inches in size
  • Small galvanized metal bolt latch
  • Screwdriver
  • Length of galvanized sheet metal: Ideally, this should be as long as the drum width, and half as wide as the drum length; it will act as the fin inside the barrel. Wwhen bent at a 90-degree angle should be roughly half the length and width of the drum
  • Two, 1-inch galvanized metal bolts
  • Two, 1-inch galvanized nuts
  • Wrench


  1. Drill a 2-inch hole in the center of the top and bottom of the barrel and push the length of pipe through the barrel so it extends evenly out of the barrel on both ends
  2. Create a saw horse for the pipe to rest on two 2x4 boards together in the form of a cross or X. Repeat with the other two boards. Stand both X-shapes across from each other and nail the remaining two boards along the bottom from outside edge to outside edge to hold the two sections together to form a stand. It should resemble an open-topped saw horse when complete.
  3. Lower the barrel between the two stands with the pipe extending into the X of each end to support it.
  4. Drill several 1-inch holes along the body of the barrel for aeration. Space the holes out as evenly as possible and ensure all areas of the barrel are covered. Aim to have at least one aeration hole per square foot of barrel.
  5. Measure the length of the barrel and find the center point. Mark a 10-inch square with the center point resting in the middle. This will be the opening for the tumbler door.
  6. Use the jigsaw to cut the 10-inch square door you measured on the barrel. Remove the plastic section entirely and attach hinges to it. Use the screws and nut to attach one half of the hinge to the plastic door. Each 3-inch hinge should be placed 1-inch in from the edge of the door, with 2-inches between the hinges. Attach the other half of the hinge to the barrel, directly beneath the opening so the door opens out and down when the barrel is set into the stand.
  7. Attach one-half of the bolt latch to the top of the door and the second half to the barrel directly above the opening. The bolt latch should slide down from the barrel and into the door to hold it shut while the tumbler is being turned.
  8. Bend the sheet of galvanized metal lengthwise 90-degrees to form an L-shape.
  9. Drill two 1-inch holes in the back of the drum, opposite the door and two holes into one portion of the galvanized metal fin.
  10. Match-up the holes of the fin to the holes of the drum and push the bolts through from the inside of the drum to the outside. thread and tighten the two nuts from the outside using a wrench until the bolts are secure and the fin is held tightly in place.
  11. You are now ready to fill your compost drum with leaves, cuttings and scraps.

Using Your Compost Tumbler

Periodically, turn the barrel in its stand to thoroughly mix and turn the contents, This will also allow air to enter the compost mixture. Rotate the drum by pushing it over manually with your hands while it rests in the stand; it will turn on the PVC rod. The galvanized metal fin at the back of the tumbler will ensure the compost is well-turned and mixed with just a few rotations. Keep the door shut and latched to prevent wide life from entering the drum and clear any debris that collects in the aeration holes.

Build Your Own Today

Building your own compost pile can be quite simple if you have the right equipment and material and follow these steps. Give it a try and after seeing the improvement in the quality of your compost, you will be glad you made the investment.

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Build a Compost Tumbler