How We Built a Compost Toilet

in Homesteading2 months ago


Following a post that described my eating choices and diet, it seems that this one complements it in a beautiful cycle. Death follows life. Waking up follows sleeping and so inevitably pooping follows eating. It's a basic necessity and this post is about how we built ourselves a compost toilet to use in the hills.

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The Build

The inception of this toilet started when I was in the city and visiting a dear friend and amazing boss lady behind Makhi Design Studio. We collaborated on this project with the idea to make a wooden composting toilet using her tools and expertise.

The base was a simple wooden box on top of which we would create the toilet seat. To do that, the first step was figuring out dimensions of the hole we needed for a comfortable pooping experience. We pretty much used the same dimensions of a regular western commode she had in her house and then emulated that onto a wooden seat.

Using a jigsaw to cut out the shape of the toilet hole

The freshly cut hole that needs rounding out to remove sharp edges

The hole after it's been rounded off and smoothened

The next step was sanding, treating and finishing the separate wood pieces. We also added a surprise element around the seat on a whim just for fun and to see what that addition would be like.

Sanding down the wood to a smooth finish

All the components of the toilet treated with a water based polyurethane solution to waterproof them

After all the components were dried and ready, the last step was putting it all together with screws and attaching the lid onto the base of the toilet with hinges.


The toilet assembled, and Java the curious cat was of course the first to test it

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The Toilet

Toilet complete, I set about photographing it. Please enjoy this ridiculous, over the top and unnecessarily aesthetic photo shoot of our humble creation.



That's right, the toilet seat glows! That surprise element I mentioned earlier was glow in the dark pigments mixed with white paint and painted around the seat. A beacon to guide travellers on nocturnal pooping expeditions.



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Building a Compost Loo on the Land

The entire toilet could be disassembled and flat-packed so I had no trouble carrying it with me on a bus back up to the hills. To house the toilet we started off with a simple wooden frame from which we hung old curtains and mats to form the 'walls' of the compost loo. The floors were done with treated wood planks and loose rocks.

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The screening we used couldn't withstand the monsoon hurricanes, winds and rain and were destroyed pretty quickly into the first monsoon after this build was complete. To provide a sturdier shelter, we built a fortified wooden frame and used wooden planks to make our walls. We also added a tin sheet roof to keep the rain out.

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The operation of the compost toilet is quite simple. At its core it's really a glorified way of shitting into a bucket. I line the bucket that sit's underneath the lid of the toilet with biodegradable plastic bags. All the waste is collected into this bucket and when it's full I simply have to take out the bag and deposit it into a large pit we dug right next to the toilet that we keep covered with a tin sheet. This is a dry toilet so there's no flushing. In between every poop, we add mud, leaves and sometimes sawdust to cover up the poo and fill the bucket. The key to getting no smell is to use enough cover material to absorb the liquids inside. As long as the bucket stays relatively dry, it doesn't smell. As we don't have a urine separator, the bucket does fill up quite fast, but is relatively easy to swap out. Whenever the toilet is emptied out into the pit, we add brown and green organic matter to help the composting process with the ideal ration of carbon and nitrogen to break down the organic waste. This toilet has been in operation for a little under a year and the pit we dug for the waste collection isn't even half full yet. I haven't used compost from the toilet just as yet, but I think it's amazing to be part of perpetuating a cycle. We eat plants from the land to nourish us, and then the plants grow from compost created by our waste. A beautiful circle. Great food and great poops make life so good.

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I love the glowing seat, and the ease of taking this around with you. The effort that's gone in to make the compost toilet, and the post and images itself (the ones by the beach are really cool!!) is great. Definitely not a shit post!!!

And I have the perfect home for your post in The LooLoo Community. Cross posting it there where it belongs 😀

Hear hear! I was about to tell him that ;<)

Thank you so much for reading and the repost. Haha, it's just wordplay cause you know, it is literally about shit. It's pretty cool that there's an entire community for beautiful bathrooms, will go check out other posts there!

amazing! glow in the dark was the CORREKT choice!

wow, yours is so much fancier than ours. I'll have to walk around the property and take pictures of the other ones around. we just poop right into the bucket, no bag.. and jump straight into the pile and rinse out after. maybe not as sanitary. thanks for sharing.

I love the no nonsense, straightforward approach you have. Honestly cleaning out the bucket is still rather messy though the bag helps a bit. It's hygienic enough as long as people are healthy and don't have any pathogens that can be carried in the waste. A lot of the times when there's no one else on the land, I just poop in the wild and let the bugs break it down.

Best shit post ever with amazing photography! Did you actually take a pic of this toilet at the sea? Love it! And the glow in the dark addition is da bomb and extremely helpful for any house. I prefer to pee in the dark, at night, even inside a house, as the lights hurt my eyes and effect my sleep.

Thank you, yes I really went all out for that shoot. Woke up before sunrise and carried it over to the sea. The other benefit to this was that I got to test how effective our water proofing was. I didn't actually test the toilet itself, but dunking it in the sea was a good indication of how weather proof it was. We were extremely pleased with the glowing seat as well, although the toilet is reserved for poops only. When it comes to pee the entire land is the toilet, haha.

Wow! That's pretty impressive to hear. I actually shot my very first serious attempt at a ( short ) film, back in 2010/11, at the sea. Blogged about it years ago. I also know, from experience, that it isn't the best location to use a camera. I think I killed my first ( Mini DV ) camera at the beach, around 2005, without managing to finish a single film project with it. It just stopped recording video one day, just audio haha!

We were extremely pleased with the glowing seat as well, although the toilet is reserved for poops only. When it comes to pee the entire land is the toilet, haha.

Hahaha! And same here, concerning the latter, I pee in my own garden/ on my own land most of the times, or in the woods, whenever I go on a walk.

Great food and great poops make life so good. Hahahahahaa. That, the cat gif and the beach picture! Imagine if this toilet was duplicated and actually used in the settlements by the beach! From a development professional's pov, I think one of the biggest problems we face is providing basic services like accessible, hygienic sanitation. Which is also one of the indicators of poverty. I reckon you could totally make this into an easy DIY kit that then gets distributed to our homegrown settlements. If you wanted!
I think I remember seeing this glow-in-the-dark seat on Instagram and was so fascinated by it. Hate turning on the light in the bathroom at night and just pee in the dark anyway. Genius, Genius.

Thanks, we had fun making it. I don't know how effective this would be as a large scale solution because a lot depends on the composting that follows the toilet filling up. To compost an entire settlements waste is a logistical challenge that needs regular maintenance. it would definitely be better than having no toilet, but this will definitely have to be adapted for that scenario. This is perfect for people living off grid who can dig and maintain their own compost pits. Mo' people mo' problems.

Loved the cat levitating out XD and the ridiculous over the top photo shoot XD

Having the glow in the dark seat is a brilliant idea in an outdoor toilet XD

My youngest was wandering past and asked where you were as he doesn't think outdoor toilets in Australia are a good idea, they seem to attract every spider in a large radius xD

Thank you, the conceptualising and photographing of this was a lot of fun.
We're in South India. There's plenty of spiders here as well but none of them particularly murderous. Also with the lid closed, there really aren't too many things that get into the bucket. The pit is covered too and I've never had a problem with finding animals or insects in either the bucket or pit.

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I love the artistic photo shoots! 😁

I'm in a local refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle group on Facebook and one of the discussions that often comes up is the definition of "biodegradable" and whether it's compaostable or not. So when I read about your lining bag I could almost see that discussion/debate going off. 😆

@tipu curate

Thank you. Yes biodegradable is very different from compostable. It's also important to know the timeline when it comes to these things. Something that takes 10 years to degrade isn't particularly useful in this context. They come with different grades and the bags we have can apparently take a year to fully degrade.

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B-E-S-T SHITPOST EVER!!!! Loved it, the design, the colors, all awesome. I want to be as good as you at building things.

Hey, could I use your "this post was written using renewable solar energy" logo thing? I'm writing using my recently acquired solar panels as well ✨

Happily following you, had been searching for an account like yours 💚

Thank you so much. It's an honour you think my builds are good. Sometimes it feels like I'm a Jack of all trades, but that actually helps in putting together projects with different components.

Sure, feel free to download the image and crop the part you need. I could also maybe do a post of different graphical resources like banners, headers etc later.

Thanks for the follow, will check out your blog as well!

Graphic resources would be awesome, please do it 💗

We have had them for ages and as I started living in the house I live in now I broke it down. The wooden toilet outside. Strangers who passed by used it too and it isn't very hygienic.
What I have now is an ordinary toilet pot inside (better during cold winters and at night). Underneath is my own hole. I flushed with buckets of water and since Sunday we have a water closet. At least as long as it isn't winter and the pipes aren't frozen.
Btw I saw toilet seats on the beach, above a hole all very clean.

Your toilet seems like a better long term solution. Someday when we have more people living here we might have to look into having a large hole underneath our toilets. It's nice you could repurpose an existing seat into one that works for you. Luckily we don't have to deal with sub zero temperatures and frozen pipes, can imagine that's hard!

It's better not to dig the hole underneath your toilet. Mine is about 3-4 metres away from the toilet. A stone wall around it and a lid on it (beton first wood with a hole in it). From the toilet a pipe is going to it. Try to avoid adding too much toilet paper in it. Lucky you you don't have to deal with winter.

Wow such a smart idea, love how it can be taken down and moved.

Thank you, it was definitely convenient that it was modular.

Great post!
Keep it up :D

Thank you! :)