Basics of Owning an Outhouse

Introduction

If you’re off the grid with no running water, or out at your camp, or just want a bathroom close to the fire pit, an outhouse in probably your answer.  

There are alternatives, however, there is nothing quite like the quaint appearance of an outhouse.  Also, as anyone who uses an outhouse knows, there is also nothing quite like using the facilities a nice view.

Ventilation

Ventilation is key in an outhouse, whether you live in the cold north or not.  It’s important for a couple of reasons, and the need for an open window and proper pit ventilation should be obvious.

The best way to air out the pit is through a pipe running from the seat shelf up and out of the roof.  This can be open of capped, although if you have trouble with mice and squirrels, you’ll probably want to put some sort of cap on it.

As the warm air of your deposits rises, it will find it’s way up the pipe and out into the air.  If you don’t have a pipe, then in winter you will find lots of ice crystals forming both in the outhouse and around the seat.

You should also have a metal-screened window or two in the outhouse to help with cross-ventilation, as well as odor control.  The screening will keep out pests.  The pit can and will be a favorite eating and nesting spot if not cared for properly.

Toilet Paper

If there’s nothing worse than running out of TP, then imagine how horrible it will be to run out of it in the middle of the night in the winter, requiring a long walk back to your cabin to retrieve more.  It is best to keep more than enough in the outhouse to avoid just such a circumstance.

A large coffee can is just about perfect for storing a roll of TP in and they usually have a lid.  You can collect several, or find something a little larger.  An old metal pot of Dutch oven can hold two or three rolls, and will most definitely keep the mice out.  TP is one of their favorite nesting materials.

Toilet Seat

This may be an afterthought, but make sure you do not get a soft toilet seat, or even a wood one, especially if you live in colder climates.  The temperature and humidity differences will cause splitting and cracking and possibly provide fodder for pests.

After you’ve gotten your hard toilet seat, be sure to take care of it.  If it gets really cold where you live, keep the seat inside until you’re ready to use it.  That way it won’t be bone-chillingly cold in the depths of winter.  Just be sure to wipe it down with a disinfectant before storing.  

Odor Management

The better your outhouse is ventilated, the better it will smell.  You can try to use air fresheners or absorbers, but a big enough pipe and a couple of windows will do the trick for the most part.

You can also keep a bucket of lime in the outhouse.  Get some at the local hardware store and store it in a five-gallon pail with a scoop as well.  Sprinkle some in the hole every time you use the outhouse, and the lime will neutralize a lot of the odors.

Placement

Whether you’re adding a new outhouse or it’s time to move an existing one, deciding where to place it can be an important decision.  You’ll want a flat area with little to no rain runoff going through it.  The last thing you want is for the outhouse to float away in a big storm.

But there are other considerations as well.  Don’t place it too close to any trees so you can avoid trying to dig through roots.  If there are any areas on your property with fewer rocks, then try to put it there.  

You also want to make sure that the hole is at least six feet deep.  Studies have shown that tape worms can move through soil about five feet, and then they die, so having your hole deep enough to keep them from making it to the surface is an important safety concern.

Be sure to pick a location with a nice view too.  You’ll soon realize that having the door open is one of the most pleasurable ways to do you business.

Summary

Whether you use your outhouse daily or just once in a while, having it in the right location with plenty of ventilation will make your experience that much better.  Adding in a warm seat and having an ample supply of toilet paper will make your daily routine much more enjoyable.

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