What materials should I use when building the pit walls of my outhouse?

By Allan BritnellAllan Britnell

What materials should I use when building the pit walls of my outhouse?

Photo by Thinkstock


The Question

I am building an outhouse and do not have a clear understanding of how to support the walls of the pit. Should I use 4" block on a concrete footing or something else?

–Cliff Elliot, Parry Sound, Ont.

The Answer

According to the Ontario Building Code (OBC), when building what’s technically called an earth pit privy, “The sides of the pit shall be reinforced so as to prevent collapse thereof.” Obviously you don’t want your outhouse, occupied or otherwise, to fall into a crumbling pit. However, the code doesn’t set out any specific materials you can or can’t use on the job. According to Alex Campbell, an on-site waste management specialist with R.J. Burnside and associates in Orangeville, Ont., “anything goes, just use whatever’s available.”

Campbell has supported outhouse pits with everything from pressure-treated fence boards to pieces of sheet metal. These can be driven down the sides during excavation. Loosely stacked concrete blocks will also do the trick. Sheet metal is particularly useful for holding back sandy soil.

Whatever you use, the area around the top of the pit should slope away from the opening to keep rain and snowmelt from flowing in. And although the bottom of the pit should remain open to allow liquid to seep out, it must also be at least 90 cm above the high groundwater table, as required by the OBC.


Sort order:

Oldest Newest


Oct. 1, 2012

7:19 pm

I purchased a damaged galvanized culvert coupler from RONA and bent it to shape the pit and put additional supporting stakes inside. It is strong and will last for many years.


Aug. 17, 2012

4:32 am

What we used , a plastic barrel. Cut the top off but leave the bottom. Drill holes through the barrel at the bottom and sides for drainage. The reason you leave the bottom of the barrels top on , when you pump out the outhouse the septic companies do not like to do it just in case they pick a rock up and damage the pump. Make your hole about 6 inches wider than the barrel all the way around. Once the barrel is set back-fill with 1 inch crush gravel around the barrel.



Aug. 16, 2012

8:02 am

A 45 gallon (55US) steel drum with both ends removed, provides good support for a privy pit. They are 24 inches in diameter and 36 inches high. Two stacked together will give a depth of 6 feet. Drill and punch holes as necessary to provide additional seepage. These can be purchased, at a reasonable cost, from your local scrap yard.

You need to be logged in or a registered user to leave a comment

Log in  |  Register

Tonight on Cottage Life

  • No listings available
View Full Schedule


Allan Britnell