Hi all - I just registered So, I have some land out in the Icelandic countryside where I plan to build a house, but money is tight, so I figured I could supplement it by running a campground (tourism is a big industry here). While I've just started listing the site, at present it's honestly a pretty barebones wilderness campsite, without even a functional toilet - just a water tap and some scenic land to camp down on. I figure I should remedy that ASAP (some people will inevitably ignore the "bury solid waste" rule, and I could charge a lot more / get more guests if there were toilet access). And I have no shortage of scrap wood to build with.
I've been googling how to build an outhouse, and I had a couple questions.
A lot of pages say to line the pit with tar paper, plastic, or things like that. Wouldn't that mean that everything gets trapped and turns into a smelly soupy mess? Wouldn't you want it to drain into the surrounding ground, like a septic system does? I've seen the stated reason for lining it as to prevent water *influx*. Would that mean that if it's on naturally well drained ground (for example, talus + sand + gravel), it wouldn't need a lining? My land sure could use all the extra "fertilizer" it could get!
Our big threat here is wind during the winter (it's relatively calm in the summer). I mean, our winter storms can get truly monstrous; I've had a steel shipping crate full of steel, timber, glass, etc tossed around like a children's toy (across the fjörd they clocked gusts at over 70m/s (156mph)) So I was thinking about building the outhouse in a sheltered place, maybe up against a cliff down in the canyon. What do you think about anchoring? I was thinking maybe some combination of diagonal braces extending into the ground (I use these on my windbreak) and maybe even cementing eye bolts into cracks in the cliff as permanent anchors (I'd rather not cement a foundation in the ground, as I'd like to just be able to bury over the pit eventually). Thoughts?
Wood screws, or bolts with oversized washers? Was thinking maybe the latter would be stronger. Other structural considerations?
As for general location, my understanding is it shouldn't be too close to water (how close is too close? That could be tricksy, the property abuts a river, with a number of side streams and marshes). Also it's (reasonably) said that it should be downwind of people (aka, to the west on my property). At the same time, I wouldn't want it to be too far from good camping areas so as to be inconvenient - and I might have to build a boardwalk if it's past a certain area with marshy / uneven ground.
As for construction materials: while I have a ton of timber, most of it is not pressure treated/preserved (it's mostly intended for building concrete forms and the like). I know that anything that goes into or on wet ground should be preserved or pressure treated (was thinking about making the floor from shipping pallets, as they're free around here... just line some up and board them together), but as for the aboveground stuff with nontreated timber, I was thinking about wood stain (for aesthetics) followed by a water sealant - do you think that would be enough to get some years of life out of it? Maybe some tar cloth on the roof? What about the pit itself - wouldn't it need some sort of internal reinforcement to keep it from collapsing in over time? E.g. a wooden box that would end up buried in the ground, to rot alongside the waste? Not sure how long untreated wood would maintain structural integrity in such an environment...
Liming, yes or no? If so: frequency, amount?
Any other considerations (aesthetic, practical, etc)? Heck, maybe I forgot to include the biggest question of all: "Am I crazy to even be considering this?" Maybe I should just consider renting a port-a-potty and pay to have it serviced regularly.... Or just simply prioritize building the septic system for the house above everything else, and build something plumbed into that....
I don't think you're crazy, and you seem to be asking all the right questions.
If you have a lot of scrap wood that you can chip, or if you can get sawdust or some other bulk source of cheap, clean carbon that you can dump atop each dump, it will greatly minimise smell and the leaching of human effluent into the ground water, which is usually the concern when they talk about lining an outhouse pit, either directly, or by the flooding of the pit, which contaminates the incoming water, which then drains away into the groundwater.
If a seasonally-high water table isn't an issue, then lining the pit might be skipped, especially if you can add enough carbon after each deposit. If you do as Paul suggests and try to keep the outhouse dry, as in, get guests to water the bushes, where possible, rather than peeing in the pit, not only do you get direct fertilisation of plants with urine, you also limit the bacteria food to the pathogens in the feces in the pit, which leads to fewer smells.
But let us know how you proceed, with pictures, if possible. And good luck.
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
-Robert A. Heinlein
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