While our conversion is still underway, we thought we’d make a little walk-through to show everyone where things stand. Just about every project in the bus is about 3/4 complete, which is both exciting and stressful. Take a look!
There are loads of guides about how to make a simple composting toilet with a bucket. A lot of those guides leave out how to build and add to the compost pile. Here’s a really decent video that has mirrored my experience so far.
As the cold weather began to seep into our nights (and now days), the toilet became a major necessity. Who wants to run nude 40 feet across the lawn in below freezing weather just to tinkle and run back? Or, less appealing, who wants to drag on clothes for this purpose, just to get naked again three minutes later? (Now your burning question is answered: I sleep in my birthday suit.)
So, as a most beloved gift to me, John took the lead on the construction of this nifty DIY composting toilet for us with just a few hours of work!
Isn’t she lovely?
It was quite simple, actually. He just followed these directions, added a couple of personal touches, and we are in business — literally.
He cut the pieces out of a nice board, but there wasn’t quite enough for the entirety. As you can see, the back is a bit short. Without compromising the integrity of the structure or its appearance and without having to buy another board for just the tiny bit that was lacking, we simply fastened the back at the top. Here, John is countersinking and screwing the back panel onto the top. This is what will hold the hinges to allow the box lid to lift when needed.
Here, we have finished fastening all the pieces together. This shows a version of the design that can be done with crisp edges. We chose to round the top edges with a router before finishing, as you can see in the first photo.
Next, we applied two thin layers of polyurethane to the lid and the box, including the edges, sanding between layers. The decision to poly the inside as well as the outside was based on the desire for ease of cleaning and to simply keep as much icky moisture out of the wood as possible.
Remarkably, the most difficult part of this project was changing the orientation of the supports of the seat. They have to be changed because they will sit awkwardly and wobbly on top of the edge of the bucket in their original direction. Turning them 90° allows for the supports to hug the outside of the bucket comfortably.
To change their orientation, first we pried them out of their holes with a flathead screwdriver. Next, we marked the depth of the original holes with some masking tape on the drill bit. Drilling the new holes was a bit tricky, but marking their placement with the pegs worked rather nicely.
And there you have it, folks!
We originally started by using composting bags; however, we immediately found that they did not work very well — the material is just too heavy. So we just dump it right onto the compost pile without a bag.
We have also been playing around with the cover material. Peat moss works well, but it is rather heavy. Corse saw dust from our brand new chain saw works well, too. That will most likely be our go-to for this purpose. We’ll need to cut firewood through the entire winter, so we won’t have to take up the space with a bulky bag of dirt if we go that route.
Either way, it has been working out very well, and we are happily to be able to poop in here. Now it is truly home.
With our hearth done, the next step is to make our wood stove usable. We need to run some stove pipe up and out of the roof. First, we secured the stove to the floor so we have a steady starting point. I’d never drilled into masonry before, but it turns out that with a masonry bit it’s pretty easy. Everything is easy with the right tools.
Next we start building up the stove pipe from the back of the stove. This is the moment of truth, since I did my best to estimate the lengths necessary to vent the stove where we want it, but it was still just a guess.
Success! It landed right where we want it. The stove itself is located directly underneath a solar panel, so we can’t just have a straight pipe going up through the roof. We needed to come over a few feet to clear the panel. Yes, we could have moved the stove’s location, but we would have lost the ability to use the second starboard bench as a bed. It would have simply been too short.
So we cut a hole in the wood, then in the metal roof.
Then we cut a hole in the deck.
To keep any water from getting inside, we used the manufacturer’s flashing and some Henry’s roof tar. I was really impressed with this stuff, and would have used it far more often had I been familiar with it.
We finished by running the pipe all the way up and out the deck. The pipe has double wall construction and 1″ clearances to combustibles. I’ve made sure to test this part of the deck while the stove is running and it stays very cool.
We’re using their basic chimney cap up top. It seems to have no issues with either wind or rain so far. The last foot of pipe and the cap itself are able to be removed for travel.
Inside, we covered the ceiling hole with another piece of the DuraVent flashing. Nishi trimmed it to a perfect circle, and it looks great.
All that was left was to actually start her up!
The stove burns very nicely and, as advertised, we have a smokeless burn in around twenty minutes. I’m still playing around with finding the perfect fuel. The wood needs to be cut much shorter than anything I’m used to, and I haven’t found the sweet spot yet. I have found that the compressed sawdust logs I’ve used in larger wood stoves don’t work that well in here.
We still need insulating curtains over the windows to hold the heat generated by this little stove. The heat difference at the ceiling above the windows is dramatic, and along with a few small circulating fans the curtains will make this quite the toasty space.