New Life for an Old Out House

One reader describes how he recycled an old out house into a new privy.
By David Weems
September/October 1981
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A little imagination and a willingness to do a bit of work can give an old out house new life.

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Although few of us will discount the advantages of indoor plumbing, more and more homesteaders are—by necessity—becoming reacquainted with the utilitarian convenience of an outdoor privy.

Now to my mind, there are two basic ways to obtain an outhouse: One way, of course, is to build your own "water closet" from scratch (a job that can cost several hundred dollars). The other is to scrounge up someone else's retired commode and convert it into a serviceable facility. And that's exactly what my family did a short time ago.

If you keep your eyes open as you drive through the countryside, you'll most likely spot a number of freestanding huts that are no longer in use. It seems that—particularly on older farms—when the occupants of the "big houses" installed plumbing a generation or so ago, the privies were abandoned but left standing because most folks have ...reservations about using an outhouse for other purposes. But many such people will have no qualms about letting you haul the derelict away for free.

When we first saw our to-be-adopted outbuilding, it was covered with vines and its roof leaked horribly. We moved it with the aid of a pickup truck and lots of muscle power. The structure's needed repairs included a new seat, a roof, and a smoother (more level) floor. We solved the last problem first, with a single sheet of industrial-grade chipboard that had been discarded by a nearby factory. The chipboard raised the floor level slightly, so we next had to shorten the door to fit.

A new bench was constructed from the plywood leftovers of a previous project. We then scavenged a toilet seat from the local dump, and—since the plastic hinges were irreparable—glued the "throne" to the plywood with silicone sealant.

The only material we purchased new was a $5.00 package of asphalt shingles, which we cemented to the roof after removing the layers of old shingles and tar paper.

Our little house now rests comfortably on a rock foundation above its new clay pit, and is kept cool most of the day by large, shady trees. It may not look like a palace, but the "pathroom" serves its purpose well ...and for next to no cash investment.

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Evelyn Casto_2
1/5/2010 1:45:56 AM
The Mother Earth pop ups that keep coming up while I'm trying to read the articles is really annoying.

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