Tiny House Toilets: All Your Questions Answered!

Which toilet is right for your Tiny House

Tiny houses have revolutionized the way we think about living spaces, offering a minimalist and eco-friendly alternative to traditional homes. One essential aspect of tiny house living is choosing the right toilet system.

You might be surprised to hear that there are many options when it comes to tiny house toilets. What's right for one person might not be right for you. So we've put together a guide that will answer all of your questions about tiny house toilets and help you make the right choice for your specific situation. 

Tiny House with girl outside in woods. How Do Toilets Work in a Tiny House?

What is Considered A Tiny House?

First things first, let's talk about what a tiny house is, exactly. Each style of dwelling has different specifications, regulations, and laws. It's important to understand that a dwelling might not be considered an "official" tiny house just because it is small. 

For the purpose of this article, when we reference tiny houses, it could mean any of three primary types of tiny houses that can be considered primary residences. Let's dive in to learn about each type!

1. Tiny House

Yep, the term “tiny house” is actually tied to a specific type of small dwelling. A tiny house is like a cozy cabin on steroids, but without the 'roid rage. These pint-sized pads are all about maximizing space while minimizing the footprint. They're usually built on a foundation and generally capped at around 400 square feet. That's like fitting your whole life into a shoebox, but in the coolest way possible.

Now, when it comes to regulations, it can vary depending on where you plant your tiny roots. Some places have specific zoning laws or building codes to follow, so it's always smart to do your homework before you start hammering away.

2. THOWs (Tiny Home on Wheels)

THOWs, also called tiny homes on wheels, are the nomads of the tiny living world. They're like the rebellious cousins of tiny houses because they can hitch a ride whenever you're ready to explore new horizons. These cuties are built on trailers, giving them the freedom to roam.

But here's the kicker: because they're on wheels, they're often subject to rules different from those of traditional houses. Some places treat them like RVs or mobile homes, while others have special regulations just for THOWs. The square footage is generally about the same as a

traditional tiny house build, but the layout might differ since these are designed to be transported on highways. 

3. ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Units)

ADUs, or accessory dwelling units, are like the secret hideouts of the housing world. They're extra living spaces that are either attached to or located on the same lot as a primary residence. Think of them as the ultimate sidekick to your main digs.

Now, the cool thing about ADUs is they can come in all shapes and sizes, from a converted garage to a standalone mini-house in your backyard. And when it comes to regulations, it can get a bit tricky. Some places have strict rules about ADUs, while others are more chill. Size-wise, they can vary quite a bit, but they usually range from 300 to 1,200 square feet, giving you plenty of room to play with.

What To Consider when Selecting a Tiny House Toilet

To begin with, you should ask yourself some of these questions to help you determine what tiny house toilet will meet your needs. 

  • How many people will be using the toilet? 
  • What space do you have available for a toilet, both for the fixture itself and the plumbing and electrical components? 
  • What is the capacity of the toilet or system? 
  • How much power will the toilet use? 
  • What is your budget for your tiny home toilet system? 
  • Do you have plentiful access to water? 
  • Is there access to a septic system or sewer hookup? 

Once you have answered those questions, you can learn about all the types of tiny house toilets on the market and choose the one that’s perfect for you. 

You can use a regular flush toilet in a tiny house.

What Types of Toilets Can Be Used in a Tiny House? 

Space is precious in a tiny house layout, so choosing a toilet that maximizes space efficiency is crucial. You can use the same toilet options in a tiny house as you would in a regular house. Many tiny home dwellers opt for a sustainable solution that uses less (or no) water.

Regular Toilet (Flushing):

Traditional flushing toilets use water to carry waste through a sewer system to a treatment facility or septic tank. Since a tiny house, THOW, and ADU are all just smaller versions of normal houses, they can still be used if plumbing infrastructure is available.

Pros:

  • Familiar and easy to use
  • Efficient waste removal
  • No special maintenance requirements

Cons:

  • Requires connection to sewer or septic system
  • High water usage
  • Not always suitable for off-grid living

When a regular toilet makes sense in your tiny house

  • if your tiny house is already plumbed for a regular toilet
  • if the property your tiny house is on requires you to have a septic system or sewer hookups
  • if you have an ADU that is connected to your primary dwelling, and the primary dwelling is connected to a sewer or septic system
How Does a Composting Toilet Work in a Tiny House?

Composting Toilets

Composting toilets are popular due to their compact size, minimal footprint, and the fact that they don't require plumbing or a water hookup like traditional toilets. They also don't use any harmful chemicals to break down organic matter.

Many of these toilets separate humanure (solids) from urine (liquids), which helps eliminate smell and allows easy emptying and cleaning. 

Another option is to have a “built-in” composting toilet, that has a container underneath your tiny home that holds both liquids and solids. This container varies in size depending on how many people are using it, and has a large agitator that can be accessed as needed to mix the humanure to encourage the initial breakdown process. 

Pros:

  • Environmentally friendly
  • Reduces water usage
  • Suitable for off-grid living
  • Low maintenance
  • Creates "starter" compost for gardening (Note that solid matter in your composting toilet is not fully composted when emptied. The full compost process takes up to 6 months.) 

Cons:

  • Requires regular emptying of solids and liquids bins with small self-container models
  • Slight learning curve to understand the full composting process and how to maintain your composting toilet 
  • May require space under your tiny house to store a storge container

When to use a composting toilet in a tiny house:

  • if you want to save water
  • in a tiny house or THOW that is fully off-grid
  • if your property allows a resident not to have a septic system on-site
  • if you want to save money by not plumbing your tiny house bathroom
  • If you want to capture valuable resources to use in your own garden (check out Humanure handbook for tips on composting humanure).

Dry Flush Toilets

Dry flush toilets use a mechanism to wrap waste in an air-tight bag, sealing it away. Keep in mind that the bags for these toilets are not biodegradable, so when you’re throwing them out, they go to a landfill… and stay there. 

Pros:

  • Minimal water usage or no water required
  • Compact and suitable for tiny spaces
  • No odor between flushes

Cons:

  • Not environmentally friendly
  • May have to purchase toilet-specific brand bags
  • Need to replace cartridges or dispose of waste bags
  • Limited capacity, requiring frequent emptying
  • Expensive

When a dry flush toilet is a good choice in your tiny house:

  • in an off-grid rental unit, if you will have to empty a toilet after each guest
  • if you don't want to deal with other portable toilet options and have access to waste receptacles

Cassette Toilets

Cassette toilets collect waste in a removable cartridge for disposal. These toilets are compact and can be easily installed in small spaces. Some people refer to portable toilets with a detachable black tank as cassette toilets, but a true cassette toilet has a built-in (non-movable)

toilet that connects to a “cassette” holding tank that is removable from the exterior of the building. These small black tanks are then emptied into a dump station. 

Pros:

  • Minimal water usage or no water required
  • Compact and suitable for tiny spaces
  • No odor between flushes

Cons:

  • Limited capacity, requiring frequent emptying

When you might use a cassette toilet in your tiny house

  • if you are only in your tiny house for short periods of time and can clean the cassette toilet between visits
  • in the interim, while you're finalizing your permanent tiny house toilet

Incinerating Toilets

Incinerating toilets use high temperatures to burn waste into ash, reducing it to a sterile residue. They are often used in places where plumbing is difficult or not feasible. They require an electrical hookup that can draw a significant amount of power, although there are some types that can be connected to a 12-volt system or powered with propane. 

Pros:

  • No need for plumbing or water connection
  • Reduces waste volume significantly
  • Minimal maintenance

Cons:

  • Requires a power source for heating
  • High energy consumption
  • Initial cost can be high

When an incinerating toilet might be right for you:

  • when you have enough power to run the incinerator
  • if you have limited access to waste receptacles
  • if you want to save water and don't want to use a composting toilet
  • in a rental unit that doesn't have a septic system or sewer hookup

Macerating Toilets

Macerating toilets use a grinder to break down waste into smaller particles, which are then pumped away through small-diameter pipes. They are suitable for installations where traditional plumbing is impractical.

Pros:

  • Can be installed below the main sewer line
  • Versatile installation options
  • Less disruptive to install than traditional plumbing

Cons:

  • May require more maintenance than standard toilets
  • Can be noisy during operation
  • Limited capacity

When a macerating toilet is the right choice:

  • if you have no other options... seriously, this one is a rare choice!
  • if you want to add a toilet to a location of your tiny house that isn't plumbed into a sewage system
  • if you need to utilize regular plumbing, like a shower drain, for your toilet system

Portable Toilets

Portable toilets are self-contained units that can be moved and used in various locations. They are commonly used in outdoor events, camping, and temporary housing setups. Some portable toilets have a detachable black tank, so you can easily empty it in a dump station or even a regular toilet. Make sure if you are using chemicals in the black tank, they are septic friendly if you choose to empty it in a toilet or outhouse. 

Pros:

  • No need for plumbing or water connection
  • Highly portable and versatile
  • Can be used temporarily or in remote locations

Cons:

  • Limited capacity, requiring frequent emptying
  • Odor can be an issue, especially in warm weather
  • Typically uses chemicals that are harmful to the environment
  • Creates black water that must be disposed of properly 
  • Not suitable for permanent residential use

When you would use a portable toilet in your tiny house:

  • much like a cassette toilet, you might opt for a portable toilet if you're only staying in your tiny house for short periods of time
  • if you have an outdoor outhouse for an off-grid tiny home but want something indoors for nighttime emergencies
Is a Tiny House Composting Toilet Right for You?

What Tiny House Toilet Will You Use?

Obviously, we're big fans of tiny house composting toilets as a practical and sustainable solution for tiny house bathroom needs. But just because that's our tiny house toilet of choice, doesn't mean it's the right choice for you. 

The good news is that regardless if you have a tiny house, THOW, ADU, or another tiny dwelling, you have various options to choose from!

Tiny House Toilet FAQs

In case you have more questions about tiny house toilets, check out these commonly asked questions: 

How Do Bathrooms Work in a Tiny House?

Bathrooms in tiny houses work the same as those in traditional homes, with one caveat: They are smaller. They are designed to make the most of limited space while providing essential amenities. A tiny house bathroom typically includes a shower, toilet, and sink. Clever storage solutions and multifunctional design elements are often incorporated to optimize functionality in a small area.

How small is a tiny house bathroom?

As you come up with tiny house ideas, you might wonder what size a tiny house bathroom is so you can consider what you put in it. Just how small is small?

Tiny house bathrooms come in various sizes, but they are generally compact to make efficient use of space. They can be as small as 12 square feet and generally don't take up more than 25% of tiny house floor plans. However, some designs may be smaller or slightly larger depending on individual preferences and space constraints.

Can I put a composting toilet in my tiny house?

Can I put a composting toilet in my tiny house?

Yes, you can absolutely install a composting toilet in your house, whether it's a tiny house or a conventional dwelling. Tiny house composting toilets offer a sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional flush toilets, making them suitable for a wide range of residential applications.

Do I need a composting toilet planning permission?

Keep in mind that regulations regarding composting toilets vary depending on your location and local building codes. In many areas, composting toilets are permitted in tiny houses, especially for off-grid or alternative housing setups. However, be sure to research and consult with local authorities to ensure compliance with regulations and obtain any necessary permits or approvals.

The question should really be, "Can I put a composting toilet on my land?" because the regulations typically apply to the land you are on, not the actual structure it will be in. Some ordinances require that homeowners, no matter how big or small, install a septic system on their property if it is going to be a primary dwelling.

As you plan your tiny house design, before deciding on the type of toilet you will have, you'll want to ensure you understand the permitting process and regulations of the land on which you are placing or building your tiny home.

If allowed, installing a composting toilet on your land is a viable option, particularly if you're interested in off-grid living or sustainable living practices.

Does a tiny house community allow composting toilets?

Tiny house communities are popping up everywhere, catering to those who choose a minimalist and sustainable lifestyle. But compositing toilets don't always go hand in hand with tiny homes. Some tiny house communities might be completely off-grid with solar power and independent water systems, while others might be within a city or municipality that requires city hookups, including a sewage system.

It all comes back to the land itself and its associated regulations. Always contact your local building permit office to determine if you can add a composting toilet to your dwelling.


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Sierra Eberly


Sierra is an avid trail runner, dog mom to Snow, and solopreneur who has been traveling full-time in a campervan since 2020. 

 

After a career algorithmic trading, he had plans to follow his long held passion for AI but the pandemic brought about an unexpected twist.

 

After traveling for over a year while working remotely full-time at a corporate job, she decided to shift gears and pursue her passions for writing and marketing strategy.

 

Boondock Consulting was formed, and she now supports like-minded small businesses with their big aspiration

 

Sierra and Snow continue to travel, balancing work and play while trying their best to make a minimal impact on the planet and enjoying everything it has to offer. You can follow along with their travels via Instagram or Sierra’s personal website, Sierra’s Traverse.

 

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