How to Make a Burn Barrel

If you need to dispose of burnable trash, and there isn't anyplace available to take it, you probably need a burn barrel.


  1. Image titled Need barrel Step 1
    To make your very own burn barrel, you first need a barrel. A 55 gallon (208.2 L) metal drum works best. These can often be had for free, or very cheaply, from manufacturing facilities, junkyards, etc.
  2. Image titled Open top Step 2
    One end of the barrel, which will become the top, must be open. If your barrel has a cover, remove the cover. If the barrel is a 'tight' drum (both ends are sealed), you will need to open one end. A reciprocating saw works best, but a jigsaw with a metal cutting blade will do. Wear hearing protection, this will be loud!
  3. Image titled Turn up side down Step 3
    Once the top is open, turn the barrel upside down. With a hammer and large punch, drill, or something similar, make holes in the bottom of the barrel. You may wish to make a few holes in the sides of the barrel, in the bottom third of it. Not too many, or your barrel will be weak.
  4. Image titled Make cover Step 4
    Using a piece of 'expanded metal', heavy screen, or something similar, make a cover to be placed over the barrel. This will keep sparks and cinders to a minimum.
  5. Image titled Few larger holes Step 5
    Some barrel makers like to add a few larger holes around the bottom to act as vents, supplying oxygen to the fire. These are not necessary, but can provide a more complete burn.
  6. Image titled Let it burn Step 6
    Place your 'burnables' in the barrel, use a long lighter or fireplace match to light, place the cover over the top, and let it burn.


  • Some ashes can be used in compost bins once cool, helping to reduce your impact on the environment.
  • Be safe.
  • Check with your local authorities (town officials, fire wardens, etc.) to see if a permit is needed to operate a burn barrel.


  • Careful when cutting off the top of the barrel, it may have once contained combustible liquids.
  • Be sure to not touch the barrel while burning, it will be very hot.
  • Do not burn with the cover removed-cinders and ashes can and will start fires in unwanted places.
  • And be sure to clear weeds or other debris around 10–15 feet (3.0–4.6 m) of the barrel.
  • Do not burn plastics, metals, or other materials in your barrel. Not only can it be harmful to the environment, but it can also create quite a mess in your barrel.

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Categories: Reduce Recycle and Reuse | Landscaping and Outdoor Building