Building an outhouse toilet might not be the only option for going to the bathroom for a cabin. Still, it can be one of the most comfortable, especially if your cabin is somewhere traditional plumbing isn’t an option.
Going out to a cabin and enjoying all the beauty and peace nature has to offer is, in many ways, a dream come true. But, if you want to enjoy a cabin responsibly, it’s also important to think about what you’re going to do when nature calls.
Here’s what you need to know about building an outhouse for your cabin and why you might want to consider building one.
If you’re planning on building an outhouse and your own log cabin, you might like my article on Best Small Log Cabin Kits On a Budget.
Why An Outhouse Toilet?
Outhouses are a great option if you’re looking for a natural bathroom solution that’s a little more comfortable than squatting in the open elements. Many people think that outhouses have to be cold, uncomfortable, smelly, and hard to care for. Thankfully, the truth is anything but.
A well-designed outhouse can feel a lot like your indoor bathroom at home. A little insulation and ventilation go a long way to making your outhouse more comfortable without taking away from the rustic appeal of your cabin.
Outhouses are also easier to build and install than a traditional bathroom and maybe an option even in remote areas where plumbing isn’t very accessible.
So, if you’re interested in making going to the bathroom a little more comfortable and a little more sanitary, here’s what you need to know.
How To Build Your Own Outhouse Toilet
Building an outhouse toilet is a big project, but remember that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to do it. There are a lot of resources to help answer your questions as you’re designing your outhouse and putting it together.
You’ll need to gather the tools and materials needed to build one yourself. These would include plywood, sheet metal, table saw, nails, a drill, etc. You can use this 7 step guide to building your outhouse from scratch.
Or, if you’re not interested in building your outhouse, you can often order the building. If you choose that option, all you need to do is clear an area and dig the pit.
If you’re looking for an excellent place to order a cabin outhouse, here are some good options:
Choose a Plan
If you’re building your own outhouse toilet instead of buying a prefab or a building kit, the first thing you need to do is decide on a plan for your outhouse. If you’re designing your own plan, think about how much lumber you’ll need, how you want to insulate your outhouse, and how much space you want to move and maneuver.
It’s also important to consider whether you want a 1-seater, 2-seater, or even more. If you mostly spend time in your cabin alone, your outhouse can be pretty small. But if your cabin is a family vacation spot or somewhere you bring friends, you might want a 2-seater with some privacy built-in.
If your cabin is somewhere remote, you’ll probably want to build walls with room for insulation. Insulation will help keep your outhouse comfortable, especially in the mountains or anywhere that gets cold. The insulation can also help create a sound barrier, so you’ll feel more like you’re inside, not squatting on a pit toilet in the great outdoors.
Think about what accessories you need as well. Do you want a water tank and a sink? A hand-sanitizer dispenser? What about a hook for a lantern, or even electric lights?
Investigate Permitting Requirements
Building an outhouse isn’t always as simple as deciding you want one and making it. You’ll need a permit to construct an outhouse within 75 ft of an inhabited building, anywhere, but your area may have more specific requirements as well.
Getting a permit before you get started is crucial since you can be required to tear down any buildings that aren’t permitted and allowed.
Dig a Pit
Once you have plans for the building, and a permit to build an outhouse ready, you’ll need to dig the pit itself. Renting digging equipment is highly recommended for this part of the process. You’ll want to dig relatively deep and as large as you can without de-stabilizing the ground above the pit for the building.
The bigger you’re able to go, the less maintenance your pit is likely to need.
But, one thing you need to remember is that your pit needs to be at least 3 feet above the local water table. That’s partially to avoid contaminating the water table with human waste, but it’s also about making sure your outhouse doesn’t flood and that the pit doesn’t collapse.
If it’s not possible to make an outhouse with an earth floor at least 3 feet above the water table, you’ll need to get a water-tight tank instead. The tank will also need to be pumped out occasionally, and it may be more challenging to control smells in your outhouse.
Thankfully, outhouse toilet tanks aren’t that hard to find. Tank-Depot is a good option if you’re looking for a septic tank for your cabin outhouse.
If you’re building an earth-bottom outhouse pit, you’ll want to install additional ventilation to help control scent and speed up the breakdown of human waste products. Many people use copper pipes with an outlet a few feet away from the outhouse and any other buildings to get that ventilation. Remember, you want to support a flow of air, which means you may need more than one pipe in some cases.
Building Your Outhouse Around The Toilet
Since outhouses are usually built on top of a pit in the ground, it’s essential to make sure you have a plan to support the building, its interior floor, and the seat itself. Wooden supports aren’t usually a good option on their own since wood can decompose and degrade in wet conditions, like the inside of an outhouse pit.
Steel beams are one option, but you may not need something that strong if you’re digging into stone or your outhouse is going over a sealed tank. Concrete and other kinds of beams and supports can be a good option.
Make sure you research what local options are most effective and how you can protect them and make them more effective for your outhouse.
Honestly, building your own cabin outhouse isn’t as difficult as you might think. Just make sure you do your research about any special requirements for your area and that you’re prepared for any complications like a high-water table or strict permitting requirements.