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Build a DIY Composting Toilet: Step-by-Step Guide for 2024

diy composting toilet

Have you ever thought about the magic of transforming waste into something beneficial for the environment?

Or are you just looking for your next project? If so, welcome to the world of DIY composting toilets! 

As someone who’s ventured down this path, I can tell you it’s a fun journey and a meaningful step towards sustainable living. 

In this guide, I’m excited to share how to build your very own homemade composting toilet.

It’s a project that builds skills, and I believe compost toilets can bring much value to yours, too.

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What is a DIY Composting Toilet? Understanding the Basics

Sign that Reads "Composting Toilet"

A DIY composting toilet is a simple, eco-friendly system that turns human waste into compost. Unlike conventional toilets, which use water to flush waste away, a composting toilet uses natural processes to break down waste into harmless, nutrient-rich compost. 

It’s a smart solution for areas without access to standard plumbing and for those looking to reduce their ecological footprint. 

How Do Composting Toilets Work Exactly?

Filter, Seperator

Composting toilets are a clever way to turn human waste into a useful compost pile. They use natural processes, either aerobic or anaerobic, to decompose waste. 

The cover material, like sawdust or peat moss, makes this work in a DIY setup. This material creates air pockets essential for decomposition and helps control odors. 

When the bucket is full, you transfer the contents to a compost area, where the decomposition completes, turning the waste into fertilizer.

Interested in learning more? I recommend checking out this detailed guide for a more comprehensive understanding of how composting toilets work.

How Do You Build a DIY Composting Toilet? – Step-by-Step Guide

DIY Composting Toilet

Building yourself a DIY composting toilet is more than a weekend DIY project, it’s a step towards a more sustainable lifestyle. Plus, it’s surprisingly straightforward – you don’t need to be a DIY expert to complete an outdoor compost bin on your own!

Materials to Get You Started

Building materials, plywood

Starting your DIY composting toilet project is exciting, and you’ll need a mix of basic and optional items. Here’s a more straightforward rundown:

Core Materials

  • Two Buckets: The heart of your composting toilet.
  • A Toilet Seat: Comfort is key, so choose a nice comfortable toilet seat.
  • Plywood Piece: For the top of your toilet box.
  • Four Planks of Wood: These should be as tall as your buckets for the sides of the box.
  • Screws and Wood Glue: To hold everything together securely.

Essential Tools

  • Pocket Hole Jig: For durable joints in the box.
  • Electric Drill and Drill Bits: For precision in assembling and drilling holes.
  • Jigsaw: To cut the hole in the plywood.
  • Screwdriver: For securing screws.
  • Woodworking File and Sandpaper: To smooth out edges and surfaces.

Optional Extras

  • Handles: For easier mobility of your toilet.
  • Wood Stain: To add a personal touch and protect the wood.
  • Urine Separator: For a more advanced setup.

Step 1: Constructing the Base Structure

Composting Toilet

When starting our DIY composting toilet, the first task is building the base of this tiny house.

This is where comfort matters. I learned that the right height is crucial for ease and health benefits. 

To figure out the perfect height, I tried sitting on various objects at home until I found a comfortable spot. For the structure, take plywood and cut out six pieces for the top, bottom, and sides. 

A pro tip from my experience: use a pocket hole jig for a sturdy assembly and to hide screws. Remember, this wooden box will be the foundation of your eco-friendly throne.

Step 2: Carving Out Space: Making the Central Hole

Drilling holes

Now, let’s focus on the top of our composting toilet – the part where your toilet seat will be. 

The key here is accessibility to the bucket underneath.

Place the toilet seat on the plywood top, open it, and trace the inner edge with a pencil. This ensures your hole is just right.

When cutting out the circle, I advise making it slightly larger than marked for ease of use. A pilot hole first, then use a jigsaw to follow your line. 

Don’t worry about imperfections; they add character! Smoothen any rough edges with a file or sandpaper for a neat finish.

Step 3: The Finishing Touch: Mounting the Toilet Seat

Toilet Seat

Attaching the toilet seat is more than just a practical step, it’s about ensuring comfort in your DIY project. 

After carving out the hole, it’s time to secure the toilet seat to the top of your plywood box.

Choose a sturdy and comfortable seat – it’s an integral part of your daily routine. 

Align the seat with the hole and use screws to firmly attach it to the top. 

This simple step brings your composting toilet closer to completion and makes it feel more like a traditional bathroom fixture.

Step 4: Supporting Your Creation: Building Sturdy Legs

Outhouse

It was a game-changer for longevity when I added legs to my composting toilet. Elevating the structure off the floor prevents water damage and adds stability. 

Here’s how I did it –  chose four sturdy pieces of wood and attached them to each corner of the base. It’s crucial to make sure they’re evenly sized and securely attached.

Once in place, I gave the structure a few tests, gently shaking it to confirm it stood firm and stable.

This step might seem small, but it ensures your composting toilet is both durable and safe.

Step 5: Finalizing the Setup: Bucket Placement

Buckets

The bucket is the heart of the composting toilet. When I placed mine, I started by adding a few inches of sawdust at the bottom – it’s key for absorbing liquids and controlling odors. 

Make sure your bucket fits snugly inside the box, leaving no gaps. After each use, I cover the waste with more sawdust. 

This practice is crucial for maintaining a functional and odor-free composting system.

Always keep a stash of sawdust or similar material close by for convenience.

Step 6: Adding Functionality: Urine Separator Installation

Split ways, two way

Installing a urine separator was a smart move for my DIY composting toilet.

A urine diverter separates liquid waste, reducing moisture in the solid waste bucket, which is crucial for odor control and compost quality. 

Here’s how I did it –  I screwed the separator onto the underside of the lid, making sure it was positioned correctly.

It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions here.

Getting this part right makes a big difference in how well your composting toilet functions.

Step 7: Optional Touches: Painting and Customizing

Tools

Customizing your composting toilet can be a fun and creative process. I chose to paint mine, adding an extra layer of protection against moisture and wear.

You could also stain the wood for a more natural look. Remember, this isn’t just about aesthetics, it’s about making your toilet stand against the elements.

Choose a paint or stain that suits your style and the environment where the toilet will be used.

Step 8: Optional Upgrades for Enhanced Efficiency

Solar Panels

Once you’ve got the basics down, consider some upgrades. I thought about adding a fan to help with moisture and odor control. 

Solar panels or solar generators are great options if you’re looking for an eco-friendly power source for the outhouse and toilet. 

These upgrades aren’t necessary, but they can significantly enhance the efficiency and comfort of your composting toilet.

Remember, it’s all about tailoring the system to fit your needs and lifestyle.

The Advantages of Creating a Composting Toilet

Compost

Building your own composting toilet comes with many perks. 

  • It’s perfect for off-grid living as it doesn’t need plumbing or sewage systems. 
  • These toilets are often waterless, significantly lowering water usage. 
  • Plus, when built well, they don’t emit odors. 
  • The best part? You produce organic fertilizer, reducing environmental impact.

Composting vs. Regular Toilets – Benefits and Drawbacks

Outhouse Toilet

Composting toilets are a huge leap forward in reducing water use compared to traditional toilets. 

While they require some upfront investment and hands-on management of composted waste, the payoff regarding water savings and environmental impact is substantial. 

On the other hand, regular toilets, while more convenient, consume a lot of water and energy.

Let’s take a moment to consider the impact of regular toilets on water consumption. A household can use around 8,559 gallons of water annually just for flushing. 

Different Types of Composting Toilets – Explained

Toilet

There are mainly two types: self-contained and central composting toilets.

Self-contained units are great for smaller spaces, keeping everything under the toilet seat. They’re simpler to build but need frequent emptying. 

Central composting toilets also known as split central systems, on the other hand, transport waste to a separate tank, often underground, making them ideal for larger homes. They handle more waste but are more complex to set up.

How to Safely Dispose of Composting Toilet Waste

Sewage Waste Truck

The key to safe disposal is ensuring complete decomposition before use. 

Once fully composted, the waste becomes a safe, nutrient-rich fertilizer. 

For detailed steps on safe and responsible disposal, check out my article on how to dispose of composting toilet waste safely and responsibly.

Maintenance and Upkeep – Ensuring Longevity and Hygiene

Cleaning

Regular maintenance is crucial for a composting toilet’s effectiveness and hygiene. 

This involves regular emptying, ensuring adequate cover material, and monitoring moisture levels. 

Keeping the system well-maintained prevents odors and ensures the composting process works efficiently.

Conclusion

Outdoor Bathroom

Wrapping up, I have the steps and considerations of building a DIY composting toilet.

From understanding how they work to gathering materials and tackling frequently asked questions, it’s clear that this eco-friendly project is not just about saving water or living off-grid. 

It’s a step towards a more sustainable lifestyle, where we take responsibility for our waste and turn it into something beneficial.

Whether you’re a seasoned DIY enthusiast or a beginner, this guide empowers you to create a composting toilet that suits your needs and contributes positively to our environment.

Frequently Asked Questions About DIY Composting Toilets

Is there a composting toilet you don’t have to empty?

Outhouse Bathroom

In the world of composting toilets, constant emptying is generally part of the deal.

However, some high-end models are designed to minimize this task through more efficient waste processing. These systems often involve additional technology or larger composting areas.

What is the most simple compost toilet?

Outdoor Toilet

The self-contained composting toilet wins the title for simplicity. It’s straightforward, compact, and perfect for small spaces or beginners. Plus, you can easily build and maintain it yourself.

How is a composting toilet emptied?

Emptying a composting toilet involves carefully removing the container or bucket that holds the waste. This content is transferred to a designated composting area to continue its decomposition into safe, usable fertilizer.

How do you keep a composting toilet clean?

Keeping your composting toilet clean revolves around regular maintenance. This includes timely emptying, using ample cover materials like sawdust, and cleaning surfaces with eco-friendly cleaners. It’s all about staying on top to ensure hygiene and functionality.

What if you have diarrhea in a composting toilet?

Dealing with diarrhea in a composting toilet requires extra attention. Increase the use of absorbent cover materials to handle the additional liquid.

This helps maintain the necessary balance for effective composting without disrupting the system.

How often do you empty urine in a composting toilet?

The frequency of emptying the urine container from a composting toilet largely depends on usage, but as a rule of thumb, doing so every 2-3 days is a good practice, and spray with a garden hose.

This helps prevent odors and maintain overall hygiene in your eco-friendly setup.

What’s the best toilet paper when using a composting toilet?

Toiler Paper

The best toilet paper for composting toilets should have several key characteristics:

  1. Biodegradable: Look for toilet paper that is specifically labeled as biodegradable. This toilet paper breaks down more quickly and easily in the composting process.
  2. Septic Safe: Toilet paper that is safe for septic systems is also a good choice for composting toilets, as it is designed to break down in similar environments.
  3. Recycled Material: Choosing toilet paper made from recycled materials can be more environmentally friendly and still effective for composting.
  4. No Added Chemicals or Dyes: Avoid toilet paper that has added fragrances, dyes, or other chemicals. These can interfere with the composting process and potentially harm the beneficial microbes.
  5. Single-Ply or Thin: Thinner, single-ply toilet paper often breaks down more easily than thicker, multi-ply options.

Popular brands known for their biodegradable and septic-safe toilet paper include Seventh Generation, Scott Rapid-Dissolving, and Caboo.

However, it’s always important to check the specific product details to ensure it meets the requirements of your composting system.

Remember, the effectiveness of toilet paper in a composting toilet can also depend on your specific type of composting system, so it’s wise to consult the manufacturer’s recommendations or guidelines for your system.

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