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DIY Composting Toilet: Build Your Own at Home
Composting toilets use decomposition and evaporation to recycle human waste, making it an excellent option for those living off the grid, in RVs, and tiny homes, as well as the environmentally conscious. They use little to no water and don’t require a sewage system.
Although there are many composting toilets available on the market, composting toilets can be pricey. And in fact, in some situations, you save more money making your own composting toilet.
Fortunately, one of the best things about composting toilets is that it requires little effort to build from scratch. As long as you have some plywood, a urine separator, a toilet cover, and some tools, you’re ready to build your own off-grid toilet.
In this article, I’ll show you how to build your own DIY composting toilet at home in seven easy-to-follow steps.
But before going into how to build a functional composting toilet, let’s discuss how a composting toilet works.
How Does a Composting Toilet Work?
A composting toilet is a toilet that uses aerobic decomposition to break down human waste. It follows the same concept as systems that compost animal manure or kitchen scraps with separate containers for processing and disposal.
The toilet consists of three primary elements: a urine separator, a urine canister, and a solid container for feces lined with a compostable plastic bag. Here’s how it works:
- You sit down and do your business.
- The separator separates urine from feces, storing them in two containers.
- Liquid waste (along with the moisture from solid waste) will go directly into the waste pile and evaporates through the exhaust fan system.
- Instead of flushing the toilet, you’ll add a carbon-based bulking agent like sawdust, peat moss, wood shavings, or coconut coir in the container that holds solid material.
- The bulking agent will break down the solid waste, which can then be used as compost to fortify the soil.
Composting toilets need to be emptied at least once every two to three months. You can add the compiled waste into a compost heap and have it turn into compost over time or leave it at a drop-off location for compost. The compost will be used by farmers to enhance their soil.
Tools and Supplies
Composting toilets don’t require any plumbing or the need to dig up a pit so you can place it almost anywhere. Here’s how to make your own DIY composting toilet.
- 12 to 15 mm plywood
- 2 x 4 wooden planks (x 4)
- Toilet seat
- Urine separator
- Screws, nuts, and bolts
- Electric drill
- Drill bits
- Handheld saw
- Pocket hole jig
Step-By-Step How to Build a Simple Composting Toilet
Once you’ve gathered your materials, you’re ready to start building.
Step 0: Design the Toilet
To design a compost toilet, you’ll first need to select a location, measure the size of the toilet, and determine the materials and tools needed.
For sanitation and safety purposes, the composting toilet should be placed on level ground and at least 6 meters from the nearest dwelling and water supply and 3 meters from the nearest property line. The site should allow easy access to the toilet and ease of compost removal.
As for the design, it depends on how and where you want to use the toilet.
A permanent double-vault compost toilet is typically made from brick and mortar or reinforced concrete, but it takes more than basic DIY knowledge to build it.
A self-contained composting toilet, which is often used in boats, RVs, and cabins, is made of tough polypropylene and fitted with a vent to expel build-up gasses. For DIY purposes, the polypropylene container can be replaced with a bucket.
A split system, sometimes called a central system composting toilet, needs to be hooked up to a septic tank. It’s split into two sections: a pedestal above the floor and a tank below the floor. Like a double-vault compost toilet, this type of composting toilet needs professional help to install.
Some people who own a tiny house or property on a homestead rely on composting toilets as their primary toilet since it does not require indoor plumbing to function.
In the upcoming steps, we’ll show you how to create a DIY self-contained composting toilet with a plywood frame and a 5-gallon bucket.
Step 1: Build a Box
Measure the available space around your DIY toilet and cut out six pieces of plywood for the sides, bottom, and top of the box. Use a pocket hole jig to connect the wood boards together.
Step 2: Cut the Hole
Cut a hole in the center of the box with a jigsaw blade.
Use a toilet seat or a 5-gallon bucket as your guide. Place the seat or bucket on top of the plywood, draw around the inside circumference, and start cutting.
Once done, take sandpaper to smooth out the rough edges of the plywood.
Step 3: Install a Urine Diverter
Screw in the urine diverter under the toilet seat. Position it about one-third from the front of the toilet hole.
The urine diverter is responsible for separating solids from liquids. It doesn’t have a border, so solids fall directly into the solid container, and liquid waste falls into the liquid container.
Step 4: Add a Toilet Seat
Install a toilet seat on top of the hole you made earlier. Drill two to three holes for the toilet seat hardware and screw it in with nuts and bolts.
Step 5: Add Support
Screw a 2 x 4 wooden plank at each corner of the plywood and secure it with screws to create four legs. Stand the frame on its legs and make sure it’s secure. If it isn’t stable, tighten the screws as much as you can to get the legs steady.
Step 6: Add a Bucket
You need two buckets for your composting toilet: one for solids and another for liquids. For liquids, search for a long and narrow container or a 3.5-liter plastic pot. For solids, use a 5-gallon bucket.
Step 7: Add Absorbents Into the Toilet
Layer a few inches of a carbon-based bulking agent into the bucket.
Hardwood sawdust is the preferred option because it excels in neutralizing bad odors and soaking up excess moisture.
If you don’t have sawdust available, you can use other cover materials like peat moss, wood ash, fine wood shavings, chopped straw, or hemp.
Building your own DIY composting toilet isn’t as difficult as you may initially think. With some plywood, a urine separator, a bucket, and a toilet seat, you can build one in no time at all.
A composting toilet is simply an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional flush toilets for people who are not connected to a plumbing system. They not only minimize your water usage but also enhance the growth of non-edible plants in areas where soil amendment is permitted.
Moreover, they’re the best solution when plumbing or septic systems aren’t available.
However, if you feel that after reading this article, you’d rather purchase a composting toilet, we down selected our 6 Favorite Composting Toilets for our own experience with them. Check out the list if you are interested in seeing what’s available.
Additionally, some people have opted to make their own off-grid no plumbing system with their own off-grid sink and off-grid shower solution. We have also selected the 5 best off-grid shower solutions for people not connected to a plumbing system.
To learn more about composting toilets, check out our post on the 18 most frequently asked questions about composting toilets.
People Also Ask
How to Clean a Composting Toilet?
Composting toilets don’t have a flushing system, which makes cleaning slightly more difficult than regular toilets. They must be cleaned regularly to prevent urine smells and the spread of bacteria.
You should be disposing of urine frequently. The urine container isn’t connected to a sewage system or waste pile; it should be emptied at least once every two days. Rinse the urine container with water and towel it dry before returning it back into the composting toilet. If you want a more thorough wash, mix hot water with vinegar and let it sit for a couple of hours before rising it well.
The solid container is dressed with a trash bag made of compostable material. You’ll need to empty the composting toilet once every three or so months or until it’s halfway full.
Rinse the container with a cleaning solution and let it dry completely before adding it to a new trash bag.
We also suggest having a spray bottle of cleaning vinegar next to your composting toilet so that you can spray down the area to help reduce odor and kill harmful bacteria. However, don’t use bleach as it is not made from organic material.
Does a Composting Toilet Smell?
One of the best things about composting toilets is that they don’t smell. If you smell something coming from the toilet, it’s an indication that something is wrong.
The compost pile may have been exposed to extreme temperatures, killing off the good bacteria in the composting pile and exuding unpleasant smells.
Compost toilets also release smells if the compost pile is too wet or if the exhaust fan stops working. A well-maintained composting toilet smells much like nothing because the high-carbon content neutralizes the scent of human waste.
What is the Best Toilet Paper to use for a Compost Toilet?
Although toilet paper is easily decomposed in a compost toilet, we suggest using recycled toilet paper or toilet paper made from organic material. The reason for this is that you do not want to disrupt the anaerobic bacteria from their natural composting process. Adding non-organic material may ruin your compost.
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If you are looking to buy cookware, you probably came down to ceramic cookware vs stainless steel cookware. Learn to see which is better for you.