How to Build a Comfortable Outhouse


Yesterday I talked about sanitation; today I want to continue this subject by talking about outhouses.  When I was young I lived in two different homes that had outhouses and I am somewhat familiar with them.

An outhouse does not have to be the stinky mess that most people imagine and what you often see in poorly maintained parks.

Building your outhouse.

Building an outhouse is not complex.  All it takes is digging a 3-5 foot deep hole and placing a simple wood shack over it. Now you add a fully enclosed bench inside with a hole for seating.

The average outhouse is about 4′ x 4′ square and 7′ tall.  The bench, or seat, should be about 2′ wide and 2′ high, and completely closed in. The hole should be about 10″-12″ in diameter.

Place your outhouse about 50′-150′ away from the house and further from your water source.  It is best if the outhouse is down hill from your water source.  Outhouses should be located away from areas that may get soggy or flooded in heavy rains.

Some tips to improve your outhouse.

An outhouse hole dug in good dirt.
  • A simple outhouse should be light enough so it can be moved when the hole gets full.  Use the dirt from the new hole to cover the old hole.  Because of soil conditions in some areas you may need to box in the top of the new hole or insert a 55 gallon barrel with bottom cut out to keep the soil from crumpling in and filling the hole.
  • Make sure the house completely covers the hole so that animals can’t fall in.
  • In high wind area, you may have to cable the outhouse down to secure it.
  • A sliding barn type door is best, for access if you have deep snow.
  • Porcupines will eat any wood that gets pee on it, they will also eat plywood for the glue.
  • Bright high gloss white paint is easiest to clean, and brightens the house.
  • Hooks for a light and your coat are convenient.
  • Used coffee cans or #10 cans work great for holding toilet paper.
  • Two-inch blue polystyrene makes a warm seat in winter.
  • Placing an outhouse in a shaded area helps keep the odor down in summer.
  • To make a magazine page useful always crush and roll it in your hands.  That softens the paper.  Even slick, colored pages can be made fairly efficient this way.
  • Newspapers should be aged until the ink is thoroughly dry.
  • If a cupful of wood ash is thrown in after every use, it will help to control the odors.
  • Any exterior locking device should be able to be opened from the inside.  I still remember what happened to me as a young child after my father caught me, when I locked a couple of elderly ladies in the outhouse.  They had been in there for some time and were not happy and neither was my backside.

Using an outhouse does not have to be the horrible experience that many people expect.  You can make them quite comfortable.


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