Build your own living roof bin store
Or, as I prefer to call it – a bin shed! As featured on BBC Gardeners’ World
I’m not sure quite how to take the fact that on my Instagram interiors account, my best performing picture is that of my affectionately named bin shed! I love bringing a bit of green into our otherwise grey front garden patio. Our council have issued us with four wheelie bins, so finding a way to disguise them has really helped make the front garden more garden again and less refuse site! The bees love it too and it’s really heartwarming to be able to do our bit for the environment, even in such a small, urban space.
I’ve been thrilled to have so many lovely messages about it and a few of you have asked for a how-to so that you can build your own. Now, in the interests of openness, I probably wouldn’t have done such a good job on this had I done it single-handedly! My step-dad built it for me; I’m pretty lucky to have him on hand to help but he’s put together some drawings below which I hope might help some of you have a go yourselves.
Before you get started…
You can buy a bin store online; if you opt for this, rather than building the whole thing from scratch as we did, you could just make the planters that sit on top. We got our wood from Wickes, but any DIY store will have it. Ask someone in store for advice on what to pick up; we used sawn treated timber for the cladding and left over wood treated for use outdoors for the main frame. The size of this wood was 65mm x 45mm. Similar can be purchased from Wickes but adjustments will need to be made to our plans below as the size is 47mm x 47mm. Often wood can be cut to size in-store. We had three wheelie bins to house and the bin store is pretty big as a result (in fact we have four, but could only fit in three!). If you just have one or two, then you’ll need to adjust measurements accordingly. Ours are council issue but make sure your bins will definitely fit based on our measurements and otherwise adjust yours to suit. My planters are on a slight incline. This is to help with drainage and also create more of a display; basically I like seeing them at their best when I leave the house! It’s much easier to build a flat top though, so you could adjust your measurements. Scroll down for the single bin store, including flat top planter, which is an easier version to build – and it looks just as good!
It’s always a really good idea to draw out plans beforehand so you can work out exactly what to get. I have listed what you need for our project, but if you tweak it at all, then draw up a quick sketch and note down what lengths of wood you’ll need etc. It saves time in the long run.
1. The main frame
So as I mentioned, this bin store is built so that the planters will sit on an incline. This helps from a drainage but the main reason is so that you can see and enjoy the low growing plants. It is therefore aesthetic rather than essential.
The main frame has a height of 1150mm at the front and 1250mm at the back. It is 930mm deep, however, the wood we used was 65mm thick (as illustrated), so the actual length used for the bottom strip is 800mm. Again – this is why a drawing helps! Your wood may not be exactly the same thickness as ours, so keep that in mind. The Wickes timber I’ve linked to is 47mm by 47mm; if you use this, the bottom strip would be 836mm. Just adjust your lengths using a sketch as a guide and you’ll be golden.
The top frame panel is on the incline, so this means cutting it at an angle. You’ll need to get your old secondary school protractor out for this and measure the angle required (the angle at the highest point on ours is 83 degrees); you’ll then need to draw this onto the wood and cut the wood at the required angle. For an easier version, with no angle-cutting required, scroll down for our single planter bin store.
As our bin store houses three standard sized wheelie bins (council issue), we needed four frames, as illustrated above. They all take the same dimensions as in the first drawing. If you are just housing one or two bins, you can simply adjust your measurements to suit (don’t forget those sketches!)
Get your panels cut to size first and make sure they fit in the intended space! It’s well worth double checking before you are too far along in the process to adjust them appropriately.
The panels are held in place by a metal bar. We bought ours from Wickes and it can be cut to size with a hack saw. It is set into the wood, so you need to cut out a little insert (no deeper than the thickness of the metal) for it to sit in. The groove can be cut out with a jigsaw or you can use a chisel.
2. Cladding panels
The side cladding (panels on the sides) can all be cut to size in one go. You will need 12 in total – 6 for each end. The wood we used is treated wood of 19mm thick and 100mm in height, cut to size.
The width of the main frame (as illustrated above) is 930mm, so the panels illustrated here are 100mm x 930mm.
It is worth checking if the panels can be cut to size in store for you.
There is also cladding at the back of the bin store as illustrated below:
We have 6 panels, which line up with those on the sides and these are 2100mm wide (so 100mm x 2100mm).
So in total you need 12 x side panels of 100mm x 930mm and 6 x rear panels of 100mm x 2100mm.
3. Making the planting trays
Next you need to cut the wood for the planters. We have one planter atop each bin, so three in total. You could have one long planter, but it would be very heavy. Having separate planters makes planting easier, allows you to physically lift the planters more easily too and spreads the weight. Again, you can adjust as necessary, making just one for a one bin shed or two for a two bin shed.
We have used the same wood as we used to for the cladding.
Our three planters are 700mm ( W ) x 960mm ( L ) (keeping in mind this includes the thickness of the wood. The actual length of wood for the side of the planter (see illustration) is reduced by thickness of the wood, so 922mm. There are 9 panels lined up to create the bottom, with a gap of about a mm between each. This leaves a gap at the front of a few centimetres and the purpose of this is for drainage. The thin strip at the bottom of the planter, in the illustration above, is this empty space for drainage – you haven’t miscalculated! It’s meant to be there!
Summary of materials required:
For the main frame:
Treated timber, thickness 45mm x 65mm (or otherwise adjust other measurements appropriately using sketches to help):
4 x 1150mm
4 x 1250mm
4 x 800mm
4 x 800mm (angled)
2 x steel bar 5mm (approx.) x 30mm (approx.) x 2100mm (NB. As long as the width is right – ie it is the full width of the bin store – it doesn’t really matter if your metal bar is slightly different dimensions to the one we used. Wickes has plenty of options).
For the cladding and planters:
Treated timber, thickness 19mm (or otherwise adjust other measurements appropriately using sketches to help):
12 x 100mm x 930mm (sides)
6 x 100mm x 2100mm (rear)
33 x 100mm x 700mm (planter width)
6 x 100mm x 922mm (planter length)
Other materials and tools:
Bench and saw for cutting wood (or ask the DIY shop to cut to size)
liner for the planters (heavy duty bin bags are fine)
hack saw to cut metal (or ask the DIY shop to cut to size)
compost and plants (we will get onto that later)
Putting it all together
Treat all the wood with wood preservative. Then, put everything together. This part is surprisingly straight forward – it’s getting everything cut to size that’s the more tricky bit. Once you’ve got your wood ready, you will just need an afternoon to actual build it. I’d suggest putting it together where you intend to actually use it as it’s rather large to carry! You will need two people to put the bin store together.
Build the four frames which will form the main frame.
Fix the frame together using wood glue first and then screw two screws into the top and bottom panels at back and front to hold together tightly as illustrated in the pictures above.
Attach, using screws, the cladding to each of the end panels, spacing evenly. The easiest way to do this is to attach the first panel to the bottom, just above where the metal bar will sit, then use another piece of cladding as a spacer and attach the next piece above that; this will give you evenly space gaps all the way to the top. You could also attach trellis to the sides for a climber to grow up.
Next attach the back panels. Line them up with the side panels and affix with screws. It will certainly help to have two people for this bit.
Once all the cladding panels have been attached, the metal bar will need to be attached to the top of the frame. Drill through the steel with a high speed steel 4-5mm drill bit. Attach with screws.
The middle panels should then be fixed to the frame again using screws. Next, attach the second metal bar to the bottom of the frame so that it is held together securely.
Put the frame into position wherever you intend it to stay.
Making the planters
The planters should then be put together in the same way, using glue to attach the frame together first, plus a couple of screws to hold together securely. Then attach each panel to the bottom with wood glue and screws. The gap at the front is for drainage. Don’t forget that the sides of the planter will be cut on an angle the same way as the frame was.
Position the planters on the bin store so you can work out where to attach the wooden block that will hold the planter in place against the metal bar. Once lined up, use a pencil to mark where the blocks should sit at the fronts and sides. Attach the blocks using wood glue and screws. The blocks help keep the planter securely in place.
The planters need to be lined. I used old black out blinds that we just happened to have lying around, however, pond liner or even heavy duty bin liners will work fine and there is no need to buy anything more specialist than this.
Attach the liner using a staple gun. Fold it under the drainage gap at the front and staple underneath too.
Add bits of broken pot or large stones over the drainage gap and then fill with compost as you would any other planter.
Once you have planted up the planters with your chosen plants (a separate blog on that to follow!) they are ready to be placed on top of the bin store. The wooden runner at the bottom of the planter should sit against the metal bar, holding the planter in place.
A smaller version…
If you’d like to start small, here is another one we made, which is a little easier, as it just houses one bin and the planter is not on an incline.
The process is much the same and the dimensions are similar, albeit scaled down! Since this one is not on an incline and the planter just sits flat, the frame is the same size back and front and no wood needs to be cut at an angle. You can use this version on a bigger scale too – it’s easier to build and you will still see the plants.
I will be writing another blog soon to help you choose plants for both style and various sites from shady to sunny.
I hope this has helped guide you as to how to build your own bin store. The plans can be adapted to suit your project – just don’t forget the sketches! It really does help. If you have a go, I’d love to see the end result; please tag me in your Instagram pics @littleterracedhouse or comment below.
Happy building and happy planting 🙂
The picture above illustrates a DIY bird box which you can make with off cuts! The strip in the middle illustrates a length of wood with the dimensions to the sides. I have blue tits in mine!!
A step-by-step guide to making your own bin store complete with living roof