Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Story of the Composting Toilet

Ever since we moved into our Hazel Bell house the question has been 'What do we renovate first?'.
Move in day almost 3 years ago!!
It's not that we don't love our cute little one bedroom one bath house, but she needs a lot of work. We have termite damage in the deck, soggy bathroom walls that need to come down, and old grody kitchen cabinets that need refreshing. One huge barrier to renovating the bathroom (possibly the most important room to renovate) is that we only have 1, and we need to take it down to the studs. So this got us thinking, how will we shower and poop without walls? Brendan and I worked hard last summer to put in a kick-butt outdoor shower, inspired by my Uncle's rad beach house showers, so that took care of the showering problem, but the toilet was a whole other thing. 
See the cute saloon style shower tucked in next to the garage door. Outdoor showering is seriously the best!
See, just enough room for a toilet. Wait, what?
When we gutted and refreshed our laundry room last fall (and also turned it into a decent guest room) Brendan had a crack pot idea; Let's put a toilet into the laundry/guest room! That way our guests don't have to walk outside and come into the main house to pee in the night, AND when we gut our main bathroom we can live out of the guest room for a while. This, however opened up a few cans of worms, including the fact that we can't plumb this toilet to the septic tank (it's up hill from the laundry room) and we definitely cannot afford to put in a new septic tank. Thus the idea to use a composting toilet was born. Yes, I know, it sounds gross, but the composting toilet is just what it sounds like, a toilet that turns your poop into, umm, compost, like for the plants.
You're probably thinking what I have been thinking (and am still thinking), who wants a toilet in a tiny little guest room, especially one that doesn't flush your business completely out of sight/out of mind?! Well Brendan, being the awesome engineer he is, has put a butt load of research into this project and claims it will be just like a normal toilet, taking your, um, business out of the room in a drain pipe with water into a holding tank shaped like a drum to decay and decompose and basically turn into dirt, with the help of peat moss and wood shavings and magic and stuff. 
Anyway, what I intended to write about when I sat down in the first place was our progress. Although it has been slow, and hot, we have been chipping away at this project for the past couple weeks. Here is what we have accomplished so far. 
Brendan dug all kinds of trenches and holes under the deck for the composter (the drum thing) and a leech pit. He did this in the hottest part of the summer, and mostly by himself since I insisted digging was his job. He even got to use a jack hammer to get rid of a pesky rock. 

That's the composter above. It has a trap door on top for us to shovel peat moss into it, and a handle you turn as a catalyst to the magic part. Then you dump the contents into a drawer (once they are turned into compost) and empty the drawer out into the garden. 

Next we got to put all the pipes into place, which involved cutting holes in the wall and building a riser box for the toilet to sit on (it needed a little height to get the pipes at the right angle). 
Now all that is left is to tile the floor, do a little plumbing magic, bolt down the toilet and build a wall around this thing so you can use the toilet in private (it's going to be airline bathroom small). I am still very skeptical about this whole ordeal, but there is no arguing with Brendan when he gets an idea in his head! Let's hope by this time next year we are gutting the actual bathroom and making it beautiful!

Hopefully I will post a final project update at some point, but only really having time to work on the weekends makes progress slow, very, very slow.

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