Now we have the clearing, it’s time to build our first house. This one is not going to be very large, only about sixteen square feet, but the amount of research required was astounding. Of course I’m talking about an outhouse.
Not very glamorous but a very necessary addition. We did have a washroom in the Fun Finder RV, but in the winter that would freeze. In Alberta it is normal to have weeks at -20C or -4F. On really cold days it can get as low as -40, which is the same in Celsius or Fahrenheit. Down in the valley where our property is, it is usually about 5 degrees cooler. We had one cold snap when it was -46C or -50.8F. At that temperature our can of kerosene froze solid!
Planning for the Outhouse
Before I started, I called the County to check if I needed a permit. The County referred me to the Inspector, who I managed to reach on his cell phone. Not being in the office he wasn’t sure about the rules about outhouse installation. He would check when he got back to the office.
He did say I would need some kind of holding tank, probably concrete. I would also have to get a survey and have soil samples taken. For an Outhouse!?
Fortunately after he checked the rules, it turns out all I need is a hole no deeper than four feet. No holding tank, no permit required!
Now it’s time to figure out the building plans. Fortunately there are lots of plans for outhouses on the Internet. After looking at a bunch, I figured out what it would cost to build.
Not having all the tools or skills needed, it was going to be quite a bit more expensive than I originally thought. Then a colleague told me her family just uses a portable washroom, like they have at construction sites at their cabin. All they did was cut the bottom out and put it over the hole. Good idea! I called around and found one at DC Derrick for $500, DONE!
Digging out the Outhouse
The soil at the property is very sandy so I figured I would need something to stop the walls from collapsing over time or due to any heavy rainfall. Needing something to stop the wind from blowing the outhouse over, I figured pressure treated wood on the sides of the hole and framed at the top with railway ties would do it. I could then lag bolt the outhouse to the ties.
This was going to be a good experiment to see how easy, or hard, it is to dig by hand. We hauled all the supplies and tools to the new clearing. Now we needed to pick a spot to put our new outhouse. The outhouse must to be at least 50 feet from any well, surface water or food preparation area, so we picked a spot on the far side of the clearing and started to dig.
The first 2 feet was pretty easy as the soil was very sandy. However, even sand can get hard the deeper you go. By the time I started to approach the 4 foot mark, the sand was starting to feel more like sandstone.
It was a cool day and it didn’t take long to get the hole framed in and dug down to 4 feet.
I just used pressure treated fence boards to build a frame to make sure the hole didn’t collapse.
Adding the Porta Potty
Using a chainsaw, I cut the bottom of the Porta Potty holding tank and lag bolted it to the railway ties over the hole.
Much easier than trying to build from scratch!