Make a Trash Burner - the basics

If you want to make a trash burner, it's quite easy. The most common materials include a 55 gallon drum, commonly referred to as a burn barrel.

For those of you that choose to burn your trash, let me explain how I make my burner so I get clean and nearly complete burns. I'm not fond of smoke, so I like to have sufficient air intake to allow the material in the barrel to be fully consumed.

The decision to burn, bury, recycle or reuse is yours to make.

I recycle what I can, reuse what makes sense, haul to the dump all the rest of the stuff that really isn't appropriate to burn. The rest gets burned when conditions are right.

The Basic Trash Burner

A 55 gallon drum makes a good trash burner. It provides a sturdy, non-flammable means of retaining material to be burned. Although the "burn barrel" will eventually burn out, they can last for 3 or 4 years, providing good service if you take reasonable care of them.

My burn barrels have both the top and bottom removed. I also like to drill holes in the barrel so it provides good air intake to allow the burn to draft upwards out of the top of the barrel. A hole saw works well, or you can use a "remote hole device" that comes in various sizes; 12 gauge, 9mm, .357 and .223 are common sizes for these type of remote drilling devices.

I create a stand or rack for the trash burner to sit on. The bottom of the stand has some sort of heavy grating material that allows air to pass up through the barrel from the bottom. This provides a chimney effect that supports clean burning.

With the barrel sufficiently holed, and the grate in place at the bottom, all you need is grating over the top to keep large pieces of ash from exiting during the burn.

My Approach to Burning

Regardless of what the rules and regulations say, we will all have our own approach to burning based on our local conditions and our desire for safety. Here are my standards:

  • I like to have an area free and clear of combustible material around the burn barrel. A 30 foot clear zone is usually a good number to use.
  • Weather conditions must be calm or nearly so.
  • Ideally, burning is done after a snow or a rain.
  • I stand right there and watch it burn until it gets down to smoldering.
  • Burning in the evening or night is also a good choice. The weather is generally calmer, and the ambient temperatures will be much lower than during the day.
  • While it's smoldering, I'm always "around" so I can keep an eye on the trash burner until it no longer has any potential to start a fire.
  • When in doubt, I put it out. If I have any concerns about being able to control the fire, I use a water hose to extinguish the barrel.




Safety First

Being safe is always a good approach. Use common sense when starting or adding to the trash burner. Here are some of the things that I watch out for.

  • No aerosol cans in the trash. These explode violently and can send material out of the top of the barrel.
  • Use a gas and oil mixture, diesel fuel, or fouled flammable fluids as starters if you desire. These types of fuels burn. Pure gasoline doesn't burn, it explodes, and that can send flaming material and covers flying off your trash burner and onto you.
  • Don't burn anywhere near your fuel tanks nor downwind of them as vapors can travel a long ways and be ignited by the burn barrel.
  • Recap and take far upwind any starting fuel you might use - before you set the barrels on fire.
  • Have a spare grate to cover the fire. Using gloves or a tool, you can quickly flip off the hot grate easily to put more material inside the barrel, then take your time replacing the grate with the spare one that is cool to the touch.

If you use common sense and stay on top of your fire, you won't have trouble, and that's always a good idea.

Done with Trash Burner, take me back to Do It Yourself

There certainly is a broad scope of topics here at Frugal Living Freedom. When you think about it, money permeates so very many activities in our lives, therefore, being frugal encompasses a wide range of interests, from being employed to taking a vacation, and just about everything in between. Enjoy the variety, pick up some new ideas, and start making frugality a part of your signature.



I'm a big proponent of being debt-free, and I mean entirely debt-free - no mortgage payment. It's not essential for financial freedom, but you'll love the feeling once you get there. If you didn't have a rent or mortgage payment, how much more could you do for yourself with your current level of income? I suspect plenty.











If you ever hope to see an abundance of wealth, you need to plug the hole in your boat. The wealthy don't necessarily make lots of money, instead, they know how to hang onto what they make, and make it work for them.