If you think it is very difficult to build a DIY composting toilet, you’re wrong. Truth be told, there’s some solid science behind it. But, you don’t have to know all about it. It’s enough to follow a couple of simple rules and you can have a functional composting toilet on your homestead.
Sometimes, all we lack is the courage to give it a try. I know way too many people who quit their dreams even before they have tried to make any of them come true. So many people value and appreciate DIY ethics, but fear that they don’t possess skills to have a go at it.
And it’s not a great secret that we are polluting and destroying our environment. However, there’s an increased number of people ready to embrace a more self-sufficient lifestyle even in urban environment. Whether you’re a survivalist, prepper, aspiring homesteader or environmentalist, you should have a composting toilet. You’ll use less water, your waste won’t pollute earth or water, and eventually, it will become compost.
Just in case you didn’t know, compost is a hummus-like organic matter that can be used to enrich the soil in gardens, urban agriculture, horticulture, etc.
What Is a Composting Toilet?
I used to believe that everyone knew what the composting toilet was. But, then I discovered that people often confuse it for an outhouse or pit latrine. So, let’s clear this out. A composting toilet is a type of toilet that turns human waste or humanure into a dry, odorless material, called compost.
Composting toilets don’t require water so some people call them “dry toilets”. Unlike pit latrines, composting toilets provide controlled conditions that allow rapid decomposition and prevent potential groundwater and soil contamination.
How Does a Composting Toilet Work?
We can make a science out of it, but it is actually pretty simple. You need aerobic bacteria to turn waste into compost. Aerobic bacteria need oxygen to survive and transform your waste into fertilizer. However, there are bad guys, too. Anaerobic bacteria thrive when there’s no or very little oxygen. They produce ammonia and some other substances that smell pretty bad.
So, how do we attract good bacteria and repel bad bacteria?
You need air and carbon-rich materials. Typically, composting materials are classified as either “brown” or “green”. Brown materials are dry leaves, hay, sawdust, peat moss, paper, and so on. Green materials are animal or human manure, fresh grass clippings, veggies and fruit scraps, coffee grounds, and more. Brown materials are carbon-rich and dry, while greens are usually wet and nitrogen-rich.
Excessive moisture and nitrogen hinder the process and produce some foul odors. So, all you need to do is to provide enough browns to keep the balance. Perfect balance depends on temperature and content but it should be roughly 3 parts of brown and one part of green.
Keep this ratio and good bacteria will do the rest. There will be no odor and your waste will turn into compost pretty soon.
How to Build a DIY Composting Toilet on Your Homestead
What You Need
- a toilet seat
- 2 five-gallon buckets
- 4 wood boards for the box
- 1 plywood for the top of the box
- Screws or nails
- 2 hinges
Step 1: Construct the Bucket System
I didn’t mention the dimensions of wood boards because they depend on the height of your bucket. Wood boards need to be of equal height with the bucket. Anyway, you need to assemble the box around the bucket. Use screws or nails.
Step 2: Assemble the Top of the Box
Cut the plywood into two pieces. The smaller piece should be 3 inches long. Now, attach it to the back part of the top of the box. Use hinges to attach it to the larger part of the plywood. You have just made the top part that can be lifted to allow for bucket removal.
Step 3: Saw a Hole Into the Plywood
At the moment, you have an enclosed box and a bucket inside of it. It is time to cut a hole for the waste to fall through. Use your toilet seat to trace the opening. Cut it just a little bit wider because toilet seats often wiggle a little bit. So, there you go. Now, you have an opening as well as the base for your toilet seat.
Step 4: Attach the Toilet Seat
Drill holes in the plywood to install the toilet seat. Attach the toilet seat and it’s done! You have just made your first composting toilet for your homesteading backyard.
This is the fastest and the simplest design to build a functional composting toilet in no time. However, if you’re in no rush, you can improve some details to make it stronger and prettier. Sanding the edges to make them smooth is easy and your toilet will look better and more professional.
Adding an agitator will improve the aeration and ensure efficient decomposing. It is basically a bent piece of steel. You need to make holes on the opposite sides of the bucket to pull the steel through. As you rotate it, it will mix the content. I am talking about #2. Urine could leak through the holes.
How to Use a Compost Toilet
Building a compost toilet is easy. But, it’s not enough. You need to use it properly to make sure it will work. It is also simple and easy. You just need carbon-rich materials to mix them with the waste. Sawdust and peat moss are the most common and most efficient choices. Cover the bottom of your bucket with your cover material. Each time you use the toilet, cover the waste with another layer of the substrate. Empty the bucket when it’s nearly full.
It is best to have a secondary composting system where you can move your “product” to decompose further and faster.
Some people don’t separate urine from the waste. It can work, but urine has a lot of nitrogen and adds too much moisture into the mix. Moisture and nitrogen are enemies and usual suspects for the terrible smell. So, use separate buckets for #1 and #2 or purchase a urine-diverting device.
A composting toilet has so many benefits. There’s no waste of water, no contamination of any kind, no plumbing, and the end product is great for the soil. And you can build it quickly even if you’re not an experienced handyman.
You can also buy composting or portable toilets but they are usually pretty pricey. And DIY projects bring more satisfaction and pride even before you start using the product. Now you know how easy it is to make one. So, waste no time to use your waste to a great effect.