Things to Consider Before Building an Outhouse

When living off-grid long-term, one factor that everyone must face is waste management.  Going about it improperly will have a serious effect on your comfort, and could have a serious effect on your health.  The most traditional way to handle the issue is the age-old outhouse.  If placed and maintained properly, an outhouse will not present a health hazard and will not even stink (at least not more than an active compost pile).

Here are the factors you need to consider before building an outhouse:

Placement

First, when planning your outhouse make sure that you consider the fact that improper placement of your outhouse may not only leave you holding your nose, but could leave you with seriously ill health.  Be sure not to place your outhouse near a water source, especially uphill, used for anything (this would include your neighbors who might
use water that you are not using).

Construction

The principle is simple enough, dig a hole deep enough to accommodate the waste of all that will be using the outhouse for a long enough time that the waste can break down and not pile up to the top.  For most people a hole approximately 3 feet wide, 6 feet deep (at the low point with a slight grade), and 10 feet long will safely fit all that you can put in it.  Cover the hole with what you have available, corrugated metal or ¾ board will be enough if the hole
is not too wide.  Mark the portion of the hole that your outhouse will not cover, so that no one walks or drives on it.

Erect whatever covering you need for privacy and to keep you out of the elements while you are using the outhouse.  And finally, leave a hole for your waste to go down through, keeping in mind that you may be able to later add a toilet.  Even off -grid, a toilet can be filled by a bucket of water and flushed without running water. You could even use grey water that you collected from washing dishes or showering.  Keeping in mind that you do not want to have too much soap in your hole as it could kill the bacteria that are breaking down your waste, which could
cause a build up.

Maintenance 

You could always purchase lye at your hardware store to add to your hole every time waste is added, but the cheaper, and perhaps the better option is to simply add grass clippings and kitchen waste (not meat or animal products) after each use.  This can even be combined with lye.  This will keep a healthy environment for the organisms that break down the waste, preventing build up, and greatly reducing odor.

Everyone does it, so you have to have a plan on what to do with it.

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