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Posted by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 4/3/2009

One of the things we'd decided back when we made the decision to build was that the existing outhouse just wasn't going to cut it for construction.

We're not really sure who put it there; probably the owner before us.  She had a family and they regularly came up to camp and such, so my guess would be that (by popular demand) they did something to make private matters a bit simpler.  The old outhouse was fairly well done--they'd bought a simple Port-a-Potty, cut a hole in the bottom of it, and plunked it down over a simple pit that they dug.  They must have dug the pit by hand as it wasn't all that deep, and there was no evidence whatsoever of equipment being in that section.

Over the years this worked fairly well, though by the time we bought the place the pit was getting somewhat full.  A couple of years ago we were letting the Boy Scouts up onto our property to camp and such and realized that this would quickly overwhelm what little room was left in the existing pit, so we dug a new one and moved the enclosure a few feet.  This worked okay but it turned out that the new position wasn't as good as before since heavy rains would wash sand off the road and into the pit--we found this out the hard way, of course.

So once we decided that it was time to build we realized that we were going to need to address this issue, particularly if we ended up having any crews up there (such as for pouring concrete).  I'm pretty sure that the county requires that you do something anyway, and it just seemed "the right thing to do" in any case.  I definitely was not interested in putting up a simple Port-a-Potty of my own though--the thought of paying rent to somebody for the privilege of this particular type of comfort just didn't seem right, and I'm not entirely sure that we could even get service at Tanglewood--it's a long way back in the mountains! After some research  on this site and a couple of others, then, we ended up ordering a Sun-Mar Excel NE Non-Electric Composting Toilet, with Optional Solar-Powered Vent Fan!  This is a pretty robust little unit--intended more for cabin use than for a "temporary" use such as this--but as I've noted before as I'm an engineer I'm a firm believer in over-engineering and this seemed like it would be more than capable of handling the larger groups we might get from time to time.  While I think (hope) that it's overkill for this use that should also make it more robust and more likely to survive potentially unkind treatment over the summer.  When all is said and done we'll probably put it up for sale on Craig's List or something; somebody else out there will doubtless find it useful (perhaps for their own O-B project!).

The toilet arrived late last week and Colleen ran up to install it today.  She didn't really have too many problems--it's a very straightforward unit--though we ended up with one "gotcha" on placement.  Our plan was to set it up in a kind of plastic ToughShed job I'd bought at Sam's Club that I had set up a couple of years ago and moved last summer (since it was over the well). Unfortunately while we still did this we ran into a problem.  We had hoped to extend the vent through one of the skylights in the shed's roof (plastic of course), probably by simply cutting a hole and caulking it.  Not elegant but it would do for the construction timeframe, and I could always order a replacement skylight--or so I thought.  Turned out that the company that  made our shed went out of business essentially the day I bought it (sigh), and so cutting a hole in something I couldn't replace would probably not be our best option.

Colleen is a smart monkey though and quickly figured out a better option.  She removed a small portion of the shed's roof (it has a 'bay window' kind of area at one end which normally has shelving) and ran the vent up through the resulting hole.  Right now it's all open, since she brought the section back down to cut a replacement out of plywood to serve as a temporary replacement.  Once that's done we'll carefully put the original away in a safe place, and when we're all done with the build then we can put everything back into place.

Once she's got the roof replacement cut she'll run back up there to get everything finished off.  She'll also take up an old shower curtain and curtain rod to run across that portion of the shed so there's some privacy even if the main door is open.

A good solution, and one of Those Things that you just "have to do" when you're building.

And yes, kinda fun!

Steven in Colorado Springs

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