Do you want to make a burn barrel out of a 55 gallon drum?
With burn barrels, you can safely burn unwanted wood and lawn debris from your back yard.
This cuts down the need to take stuff to your local waste management and you don’t have to take all the debris from your backyard to the front yard for them to pick up.
And when done properly, burn barrels are very efficient in burning the debris, so there’s little smoke involved.
If you don’t want to make your own barrel, here are some you can buy
We also created a quick video, walking you through our process here:
Time needed: 1 hour.
Here are the simple steps you’ll want to take to make your own burn barrel.
- Buy or Get Your Burn Barrel
You can find burn barrels usually through Craigslist or Facebook for $7-$30, depending on where you are or if the lid comes with it.
We get ours from a feed and seed store or a local hardware store that carries them. The last one that we got came from Rural King and usually goes for $20.
When getting the barrel at Rural King, the thickness of the metal is not as thick as you’d see in a drum, but it does the job nicely, with no worries.
You can also search Home Depot for them and will find something that already has holes and comes with a lid. We prefer to make our own.
- Choose Your Barrel Location
You’ll want to pick a good area in your backyard to set this up. This should be at least 25 feet from your house or your neighbor’s home.
Make sure that it’s not under tree canopy and that the area around the burn barrel is free from bush or grass.
- Add Cinder Blocks On Bottom
You want to put your burn barrel on top of cinder blocks. This helps air flow to keep the burn efficient.
You’ll also have holes in the bottom of the burn barrel, so having it on the cinder blocks helps with drainage from rain water.
- Add Holes to Your Barrel
This is the bulk of the work you need to do. You can use a hammer and a metal punch, but we find it way more efficient to use a drill and drill bit. The best drill bits I’ve found to drill metal is cobalt or titanium. The cobalt will last longer even though they are more expensive. Depending on the thickness of the metal, you may have to start with a smaller diameter and work your way up to the 3/8 bit.
You’ll want to add enough holes to allow efficient air flow. In this 55 gallon we did 18 holes throughout and then did 11 holes in the bottom.
Several people say you only need 4 in the bottom, but the last one we had with 4 just wasn’t enough to allow enough drainage for us. We used a 3/8 inch drill bit.
If your holes are at least 1/2 an inch, then 4 should be enough for you.
- Use Grate Cover to Keep as a Screen
This is just a little extra precaution to have a little grate on top to keep sparks or fire debris from escaping the barrel.
We found this one at Lowe’s in their sheet metal department.
Those are the basic steps to creating your burn barrel. You can definitely get as technical as you want. Just look at this “vortex burn barrel”
Some people swear by them, but really, we’ve see great results and clean burning brush with just these simple steps that we’ve used.
We hope this article helped you learn how to make your own burn barrel. You may also want to see our guide on best materials to burn in a fire pit.