Building an Outhouse

It’s not very common today to hear somebody say “I need to build an outhouse.” In fact, most people will think you’ve lost your marbles if you tell them something like that. Most of the guys I know think it’s silly, because “Why can’t you just pee in the grass?” and for the people who don’t think that, it’s more like “Why? Don’t you have a toilet in your house?” In fact, after building the outhouse, Scott had to tease me a little and ask all of the people who came over for Rocket Club, “Is it normal for you to go to work and come home and your wife has built an outhouse? No? It’s not?”

I’ve actually been wanting to build an outhouse for a few years now. The original idea came when we had a power outage a couple of years ago. With a house full of kids 24/7, not being able to flush the toilet is kind of a big deal. (You don’t need electricity to use a toilet, but you do need electricity to pump the water into your toilet.) Anyway, not having power for a full day, it was a bit of a headache, and I was thinking that if the outage had gone on any longer, we’d have had a big problem on our hands. An outhouse makes for a nice solution.

We also host a big Independence Day party every 4th of July, and between that and the summer bonfires and hosting Rocket Club a few times a summer, having a bathroom near the firepit is just a good idea, and it’s even nicer to have when you have a lot of company at an outdoor gathering.

This year, we planted pumpkins in part of the pie field (which is where the fire pit is located), and we planted a sunflower patch. Since I’ll have to do maintenance and harvesting out there this summer, having a bathroom located near by is a helpful thing for me. And I just realized, I am hoping to do a pumpkin picking day with the nieces and nephews, and maybe some friends, and having the outhouse out there will be nice to have when we get to do that!

The roof is on, waiting for a cap piece we salvaged from the barn. The corrugated metal was purchased, new. The door was inside the old chicken coop when it burned down. it was actually a potting table in the garden shed half of the building. The black is actually from the fire. The hinges came off of the door we replaced on the house this spring.

Scott and I both agreed that after I got the outhouse into the field, it makes the field look more like a destination than just a field, and that’s ultimately what we are aiming for out there. I keep saying that I’ll write more about the Pie Field soon, but gosh, I don’t know when that’ll happen. But anyway, the goal is to have the fire pit, a picnic area, a few trees around the perimeter of the pit for shade (and fruit production), and then have the different slices be patches of food… a berry patch, a pumpkin patch, a sunflower patch, a nut grove, an apple orchard, a fruit tree nursery… And stemming from the center of this field are walking paths that divide the different slices of the pie. It’s supposed to be a destination. The outhouse just finally makes it feel a little like that.

The reason this project actually happened is that Scott was able to pick up a bunch of free wood from work. It all came from a huge shipping crate for a piece of equipment that his company ordered. The wood was just going to be scrapped, so he picked it up and took it home. We were discussing what to do with it. My immediate thought was outhouse. He wanted to build a smokehouse. My argument against a smokehouse was that it was the wrong material for the job. I’ve done a lot of research on that subject, and we need different wood for the job. But it was just the right amount of wood for the outhouse project! Then Scott argued that we use it for a couple of other projects, and I argued against that for varying reasons. We finally agreed that I could build an outhouse with it.

The wood sat for months. Far longer than I would have liked. Once I had some of the bookshelf wood out of the garage and the garden was planted and maintained, I was able to turn myself to the build. Even though we had enough wood for the bulk of the project, I did have to pick up some materials. The 2x4s for the studs, the metal roofing material, and some of the hardware were all purchased. I had picked up some of the supplies for the interior awhile ago, but the remainder of the supplies (the door handle, door, hinges, and cap piece of the roof, and the plywood for the sub-roofing were all from varying things around the property.

Finally, at the end of May/beginning of June, I had time to work on the project. It only took a few days to complete, and it was a really fun, quick, and inspirational project. I say inspirational because it got me inspired and motivated to finish a bunch of other projects around here. I was really, really pleased with how the whole thing turned out.

Paul and Elijah helped me with the build a little bit. Adam helped me paint, and Aaron helped me haul it and put it into position. Adeline helped me out a ton by helping to take care of Gideon when I needed it.

The structure is 4’x4′, and around 8′ tall at the peak of the roof. We painted the outside red to match the other outbuildings (only, there was a mix up with our painting choices, and really, it’s not going to match pretty soon… oh well. It’s still red!) The inside is white to help keep it bright. I used screen material to cover up the vents. The toilet is composting, meaning it’s a 5 gal. pail with wood shavings in it. I decided I would prefer to do that than to dig a big pit, because pits are kind of creepy and smelly. Yes, I’ll have to deal with cleaning out the bucket after it gets used, but it serves more than one purpose. So… yeah.

I ended up building a little hand washing station that can go inside the outhouse when it’s not being used. That was a simple little touch that makes a big difference in my opinion! I also added a nail to the outside of it so that we can hang up our fire pokers there. We never really had a good home for the fire pokers before, and this just makes sense. I put up some solar lights around the outside of the outhouse so that it’s easy to see where you are going in the middle of the night when you are coming to it from the fire pit. I also make a “torch” with one. It has a resting spot on the outside of the outhouse, and when you are ready to go inside, you can grab it and put it in a hole in there so you have some light.

Around the outside, I planted some lavender and mint. The hope is that the lavender keeps bugs away, and the mint keeps mice away. We’ll see if it works.

The kids thought it was the coolest thing that I was building a toilet for outside. They wanted to show it to everybody after it was finished, which was kind of hilarious to me.

Like I said before, this project was really rewarding in a strange way. It was such a fast and fun project, it was beneficial, and I just really like how it turned out! I can see it from the window in our stairwell, and it just looks nice out in the field!

What do you think? Was I crazy for building it or not? Do you like how it turned out?

Love and Blessings~Danielle


  • Susan Casper

    Danielle: you are amazing–“a quick, easy project.” This would have taken us the entire summer–and we are retired! I love the special touches, like the hand washing station–that’s a biggee, and the holders for lights–you’ve thought this through. Well done–once again.
    Your homestead has really taken shape. I can’t wait to hear about your next project.

    • Spring Lake Homestead

      Ha! I suppose it’s not everybody’s idea of quick and easy.
      Thanks! I was trying to think of all of the things outhouses lack, and add that to ours to make it more pleasant. Things are going to look a lot different by the end of the summer!

  • sabrina7farb

    Love the idea but I am stuck on having to clean out the 5 gallon bucket. ugh. How is that going for you? where do you dispose of the waste? We have a country place and need another toilet, but ick. haha.

    • Spring Lake Homestead

      Sorry for the delayed response. It’s really not that bad. We have the outhouse in a fairly large field, and there is a location not terribly far away where it can be dumped. Make sure you put down a layer of wood shavings on the bottom of the bucket to prevent things from sticking. Honestly, I’m not sure that anybody has used it for #2 yet. The urine will build up an ammonia smell if you don’t dump it out often enough, but it can be rinsed out easily. You could use a garbage bag as a liner, but then you have to get rid of that. Wet wood shavings wouldn’t burn well, and it’s easier to dump out a bucket than a plastic bag…. Hope that helps!

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