Introduction: Outhouse

Who needs indoor plumbing when for less than $300 you can have a perfectly good outdoor crapper. Check your local laws.

Step 1: The Foundation

A good foundation is the key to a good outhouse. Dig a hole about 4' deep, 3.5x3.5ft square. Make it a good hole with even sides because you'll have to line it.
One point about soil. If you have hard clay soil, make sure that the drainage around the outhouse is good to avoid too much water getting in, because it won't want to leave (this could cause splashback).
You've got your hole. Drop a wooden box with tarpaper wrapped around it in the hole to keep moisture out. Level and even out the ground around the hole and place a foundation made of treated 4x4s around it. The foundation will for this one was 4'x3.5' (this allowed a 4x8 sheet of plywood to be cut at 3.5ft, one piece for the floor and the other for the roof with an over hang. 4'wide on the floor and 4' deep for the roof).

Step 2: The Frame

This pretty well shows the frame of the outhouse (nevermind the braces still on). It should be stable, but not too heavy since you may have to move it some day. I left the studs off the side walls.
Note the hole cut in the floor for the "business". I recommend coating the inside of the seat section with plastic to keep "it" from getting all over the wood after a curry night.
I sheeted it with 1/4 plywood and used 1/2ply for the floor, roof, and seat. I put my seat at 1'5" high, as you can see in the photo.

Step 3: Roof, Finishing, and Notes on Use

I shingled my roof in the standard manner. Note the vent pipe made of 4" PVC. An oversized cap is on top to keep water out. Holes were drilled in the end of the pipe to allow extra ventalation. Screen was wrapped around the pipe to keep the bugs out.
I would suggest that you paint the inside with a mold resistant paint like Kils. Additional windows can help with ventelation, just remember to put screen over them to minimize the number of bugs hanging out in there.
Also, one thing to consider if you think you may have a water flooding problem, place a cinder block upright in the pit right below the shitter. That way if it does flood, no splashback. Enjoy. Sorry for the poor spelling I'm in a hurry.



    • Casting Contest

      Casting Contest
    • Make it Move Contest

      Make it Move Contest
    • Oil Contest

      Oil Contest

    We have a be nice policy.
    Please be positive and constructive.




    While this is a great tutorial, I feel the need to make sure that your readers know that studies on tapeworms show that they can move about five feet through the soil, in any direction. Make sure your outhouse hole is at least 6 feet deep to avoid sanitation issues.

    Excellent simple instruct-able. I've been checking a couple of other sites too for a privy and saw some other interesting ideas. The vent stack methinks should be venting from as high as possible in the chamber since hot air rises. Also, suggest using black pipe and running the vent stack outside up the side of the privvy on the sunny side so that the sun-heated black pipe will draw the air by convection. This avoids having to put a hole in the roof as well. Also I intend to put the privy on a couple of 4'x4' skids for relocation. I can then tow it with an ATV or by hand on the snow in winter. Since it is only for periodic use at a tent site I don't intend to dig a hole deeper than a foot or two and plant a tree on the old spot when done. I'm sure it will grow strong. This will meet the bylaws for this area too btw.

    So is it 4 foot wide or 4 foot from front to back?

    Great instructable. Thanks.

    Awesome! working on mine this week as well! love the step by step with pics!

    Awesome instructable. I'll be building mine this week. Thanks!

    Don't forget a fat 'Yellow Pages' book, just in case. And reading material...

    I think this is a good idea for a back country cabin. Or a campsite that you own and use often. But I know that these things get cold. So I suggest insulating the building. Even if all you do is put up extra card board.

    does the vent stack go all the way to the bottom of the pit? do you need to drill holes in the pipe under the seat box? thanks.

    1 reply

    It goes a few inches below ground level, no where near the bottom.

    Nice basic Instructable!

    Years ago, my great-grandmother used garden lime to sprinkle over the waste in the outhouse... worked good.


    Most old school outhouses were made so that the door opens inward. In the summer it would really smell so you wanted to open the door to let in fresh air. Then if you saw somebody walking by you can push the door closed with your foot.



    Plus you can rent it out as an in law apartment.


    A really good way to prevent splashback, and control the direction of donations, use a bucket, take a large pail (round works better) and cut circular a hole in the bottom, remove all but 1/2" lip.

    Use *NONRUSTING* screws, either brass, or coated, (from personal experience the last thing you want on a hot june morning is to fish a bucket out of a hole filled with... yeah... :( ) to screw it to the underside of the seat-box. Cut the round hole in the seatbox the same size as the plastic hole in the top. Infact if you make the seat-box the same height as the bucket, when the contents get about 12" below the bottom of the bucket, its time to switch to a new location.

    Also, a trick to keep the smell down, if you have access to a fireplace/campfire pit/charcoal bbq, keep the ashes in a metal bucket with a lid. You can get stainless steel farm buckets from your local supply store for cheap. After each use, a light sprinkling of ash (1-2 cups) will help neutralize the smell.

    As for the animals eating the seat issue, remedy the situation by using a foam seat. cut a peice of blue (or pink) insulation styro to fit. It has a few benefits; its removable for cleaning with mild dish detergent (ie salt removal), and its warmer in the winter when its -40 out.

    The last thing to add is what to do with a spot when it *is* fullup.
    Granted it shouldnt happen often unless you have high-use in which case you really should have a septic or some other means ie. composting/combustion toilet. What we do is the following;
    1, dig and prepare the new location. (keep the dirt in a pile beside the hole you'll need it later eventually when its full)
    2, move the outhouse to the new location.
    3, now's a good time to fully dig out your fire-pit/fireplace/stove use all of its contents to cover the used hole.
    4, cover the contents with the original pile of soil (you did keep the soil in a nice neat pile right??)

    5, last but not least we like to plant some trees and shrubs in the area and over the hole, it keeps us from re-digging there any time soon and helps lower the footprint.

    2 replies

    I heard that Ashes aren't the best idea, because you want microbs working down there and eating the business. I've had mine for more than 2 years now and the waist height hasn't budged much with all the bugs and bacteria working on it. The smell isn't to bad because I've pretty well sealed it, except for the pipe. Thanks for the comment!


    yeah, like i said its a light sprinkle, i dont have any technical data to back it up.. all i know is it *does* work through my years of experience. I dont know about it affecting the ph etc. but you're probably right, a vent-stack will do more to vent-away unwanted methane and other noxious gasses as long as you keep the seat closed.

    And when I say relocate the house... I'm 27, we've relo'd the house twice in my lifetime. once because it was full, another because of some soil erosion made the house start to sink.

    thanks for the good instructable. i'm gonna retrofit mine for a vent-stack I dont know why i never thought of it.

    When installing new septic fields, one must first do a perc test to ensure that fluid will percolate through the soil at the right rate. This might be useful when siting an outhouse -- after digging the hole, perhaps you could dump water into it and time how long it takes to drain. I don't know what the rate should be, but since percolation varies from location to location, this might help you find a good location for your outhouse. Something to look up anyway. Please post back if you can with how well it holds up over time. I'm curious about how many uses you get out of a given location before you have to find a new site. Thanks for the instructable; nice job.

    1 reply

    I've had my lot perced and it did pass. I've been using the outhouse for more than 2 years now, and it does appear to hold water around the last 6", right where I hit hard clay while digging. Having the water down there may be good though, it appears to support more waste consuming life. Of course it would be ideal if it was dry and could compost... either way somethings eating it. Thanks for comment!

    You might want to consider a sheet metal cover for the outside of your seat base. In my Montana experience porcupines and other critters love chewing on the wood for the salt that accumulates. Can be kind of a nasty surprise in the middle of the night.