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Thread: Building & Maintaining Outhouses

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    Default Building & Maintaining Outhouses

    We are in the process of erecting our first outhouse.....does anyone have any suggestions or advice? What about general maintenance?

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    OK i'll chip in here,
    what we have used is a 55 gallon drum with both ends cut off and multiple holes in the sides. the holes were made with a large screwdriver driven in with a hammer. the drum is placed in the hole to keep it from collapsing in on itself and then backfilled around it. this may not be necessary where you are depending on soils. if you are going to be using it in the winter i highly recommend a stryofoam seat. a plastic seat at 30 below can lead to chronic constipation. we have used a 2 inch thick piece of blueboard insulation with a hole cut out of it. this is just laid over the plywood seat. it can be sanded down to smooth it off. if it gets too used or dirty you can just sand it down again. in the summer we keep a can of lime in the outhouse and some of that is sprinkled down the hole occasionally to keep the odor down. one last tip, dont put your TP in the hole or it will fill up faster unless you like digging holes. we keep a small garbage can in the outhouse for the TP then just throw it out with the trash or burn it later.

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    My first outhouse lasted 16 years with regular, mostly year-round use by three people plus regular visitors on weekends and holidays. It was nothing more than one 55 gallon drum sunk in the sand. What I learned over the years was that water was my friend. If it started to fill up I'd use Superbugs or an organic septic treatment from the home centers after flooding with water. A week later, the pile was reduced. Now I have a much deeper hole and the springtime high water table "flushes" it for me. I still use the bacterial septic treatment stuff, too. I've never had smell problems. I've tried chemicals like soda ash to reduce the pile but nothing has worked as well as Superbugs. On the other hand, a friend has a hole that's dug in organic soils and doesn't drain well. It drains, but very slowly. His outhouse smells. I have no idea how to deal with that situation because I've never had to.

    Think of your outhouse like a septic system. You have a place to store stuff but you want it to break down and leach out. Select the best location/best soils to achieve that. That may mean you need to dig deeper. But if you're sitting on a shallow layer of clay or something similar? You may be better off making the structure easy to move and just plan on a new hole every few years.

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    Member Vince's Avatar
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    again NO TP IN THE HOLE!!!!


    and the lime will also reduce the FLY issue in the summer... nothing like a few hundred buzz buzzer's tickling your business...

    i have never used the super bugs but have heard others report the same as Mr pid, one other thing


    out houses tend to be small in stature, if your area can be prone to high winds... anchor it down. nothing like come to the cabin only to have to reposition the house over the hole... and on that note...

    i was doing rental maint. for 2 land lords here in Fairbanks. 52 cabins with 52 out houses...

    they planted culvert in the ground to catch it. and did not leave room for our ground to heave in the. last spring i re leveled 50 of them if you use the drum plan ahead for your area and ground type..the benefit to the drum or pipe is it can be pumped. if accessible.
    "If you are on a continuous search to be offended, you will always find what you are looking for; even when it isn't there."

    meet on face book here

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    I disagree. I won't ask anyone to put their ass-wipe in a box so I can deal with it later. Toilet paper is biodegradable. Everybody I know with a septic system flushes their TP, so why not drop it in the outhouse hole? If it was a problem? I'd plan on digging a new hole every several years. That's a better alternative for me.

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    mr pid,
    i had to laugh when i saw your post, i think the TP in the hole or not argument may be like the old ann landers debate about whether the TP is supposed to come off the top of the roll or the bottom. both sides are passionate but there is no real difference. however, i am amazed at how squeamish people are about used TP, the only difference between throwing it in the hole and throwing it in a trash can lined with a garbage bag at your feet is about 18 inches. TP is biodegradable but so is human waste but yet the hole still fills up! at least i hope we can all agree on styrofoam seats

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    I'm spoiled. I have a lot that has perfect sand all the way down to perfect gravel. I'm blessed with an outhouse that works like a mini septic system rather than a turd dehydration facility. Not only does my outhouse work really well, but new holes are really easy to dig, too! I think when a guy is out looking for advice he should consider what his conditions are and factor how his conditions compare to the guy giving advice.

    Oh, by the way, we use a fuzzy fake fur seat cover. Actually we have several so they rotate into the laundry regularly. No blue foam at my place. The seat is a conventional toilet seat mounted to a deck that's made from pre-formed formica countertop. Very easy to clean. The formica is blue, though.

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    like you said everyone needs to remember that their mileage may vary. i guess i am more shovel averse than you are and you are more TP averse than i am. i was sorry to see we dont even agree on seats. i'm still searching for common ground here, how about no hard plastic seats at 30 below?

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    Friends have the blue foam seats. I have nothing but (butt?) positive comments about them when it's cold. My wife is a clean freak and she says no foam. The fuzzy fur seat covers work fine. And it gives me an opportunity to leave yet another toilet seat up.

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    I stopped at a place somewhere in BC once. It had an out house that was like 30 feet deep. They used a metal colvert that they must have somehow driven straight down or drilled a wide hole and dropped down the pipe. They must have some law saying it has to be that deep. It was strange pinching a log into an endless pipe.

    The fuzzy fake fur idea is great. I might do that and put shag carpet down too.

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    My cabin is 20 years old. For most of that time the outhouse was an afterthought. A shed with a hole in the ground with a seat sitting next to the generator. While visiting a friend's place we took notice of his nicely finished outhouse. That did it. I was determined to change the outdoor toilet experience at my cabin. My outhouse interior finishes now rival the cabin itself. A nice cabinet, Plam counters, color coordinated everything, custom curtains by a friend, magazine rack, nice lighting, and wall art. It's even got carpet, but low pile type. Everybody likes a nice bathroom. Especially the girls.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Pid View Post
    Everybody likes a nice bathroom. Especially the girls.
    That's a nice idea. Maybe that could be the girls project; to build the outhouse. Well at least finish it...who am I kidding they will just supervise.

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    The times I've lived with an outhouse in Wyoming, I used to keep a small trash can with wood ash in the outhouse. Sprinkle a little after each use, and it kept the smell and flies way down.

    I always put the paper down the hole. Never heard of not. Interesting. I think I'm in the "I'll dig a new hole if this one fills up" camp on that topic.

    As a side note, peeing in the outhouse seemed like it developed more smell than anything else.


    I have an outhouse now, but it has running water and heat, and clawfoot tub. Just wasn't a good place to work a bathroom into the present cabin (14x18). The 8x12 bath house is also the pantry and reloading room.

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    Default Outhouse construction

    Had one once that was made out of cedar boards. Always had that fresh cedar smell.
    As for the TP I guess it also depends on how often you plan to use it. A fishing or hunting cabin with occasional use would not fill up nearly as fast as one intended for year round full time use.

  15. #15

    Default seats

    One alternative some of the more "adventurous" folks might want to consider is to forgo the seat altogether. While a styrofoam seat is a big improvement over a cold hard one, there are some definite advantages to simply squatting.

    I first learned about squatting in Korea while in the Army, but later found out that it's basically the way our species has relieved itself since the dawn of time. It took a little practice and stretching for this chair-trained whiteboy to be able to squat like the Koreans, but in the end there were some definite advantages.

    Advantages of squatting:

    1. No cold seat.
    2. More hygienic (not sharing a seat).
    3. Works anywhere in the woods, not just the outhouse.
    4. Keeps me limber, seems especially good for the lower back.
    5. More naturally/properly aligns the bowel.

    And I don't know how other people feel, but for myself, I just feel somehow more "ok" squatting over a deep hole than having my butt plug it. Maybe it's some ancient, reptilian brain paranoia about not knowing what's down there...

    The one thing I do differently when building a "squatter" rather than a "sitter" is to cut a long slit to squat over, rather than a hole to sit over. This prevents any potential problems with folks squatting too far back and missing the hole. It can also be nice to have something in front of the seat to hold onto for those days when one doesn't feel particularly limber.

    And of course, if some want to squat and some want to sit, a seat can be built that can be set over the slot.

    Don't mean to spread dissent (I know we all wanted to at least agree on the styrofoam!), just another option some might want to consider...

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    Quote Originally Posted by RSHawk View Post
    One alternative some of the more "adventurous" folks might want to consider is to forgo the seat altogether. While a styrofoam seat is a big improvement over a cold hard one, there are some definite advantages to simply squatting....
    I don't think I could sell this idea to the wife if I was Billy Mays (no offence to Billy RIP) You bring up some good points but there is something nice about sitting.

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    Bringing this one from way back in 2009...

    I'm interested to hear about the different types of outhouses built off-grid and how each has been working year round?

    I have a 700sq/ft cabin that will be used by my family of 4 on weekends and I'll be remodeling the outhouse this spring. 55 gallon drums seem to be most common...any others? Love to hear about the trials & tribulations of outhouse construction in AK.

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    Everybody is right for their location.

    Our outhouse is only one barrel deep, but then it was built for summer use only. With full time use the barrell is a little short by spring time. The poop-cycle grows..... Our neighbors all have 2 barrel deep out houses which would work good for our location. The water table and the soils makes a big difference in each location. Flooding the outhouse with water regularly and adding the bugs will keep our outhouse working good for a few years, but pumping is going to happen. We live off the grid but on the road system so pumping is better than digging.

    I recommend the doubling the 55 gallon barrel in good soils. Bad soils may require a larger but not deeper pit.

    Venting the pit will help in all soil conditions. A vertical stack in the pit which vents above the outhouse will keep smells out side if the seat is closed.

    If the seat is closed in a non-vented outhouse the next user will get a frosty. The heat in the pit will case frost on the seat under the lid........Thanks Hun.... for being PC....

    H

  19. #19

    Smile Outhouse

    Quote Originally Posted by TMS View Post
    We are in the process of erecting our first outhouse.....does anyone have any suggestions or advice? What about general maintenance?
    WE HAVE 36 IN. CULVERT PIPE 6 FOOT DOWN.VENTING IS A MUST! ALSO, MAKE IT BIG ENOUGH TO MOVE AROUND AND UNDRESS (COAT HANGER- MAG.-BOOK RACK)) ETC. MOST OUTHOUSES ARE TOO SMALL. YOU NEVER KNOW WHO OR WHAT WANTS TO USE IT!! WE USE DA-BUGS TOO AND PERIODICALLY WHITE SPRUCE ASH. HAPPY CRAP'IN!!P1020062.jpg

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    We sprinkle wood ash down the hole every so often to control the smell.

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