I just know you’ve been crossing your legs waiting for the final part of the story… (Note: Could we call it: “Crapping for a Cleaner Planet”?)
A look down the loo at where we left off…
So, there we were with empty chambers and time to get these crappers right! The first task was to attach some wooden baton to the chamber walls.
Steve positioned these at a height just above the drainage pipe level and on an incline, slightly greater than the 2% slope of the original floor. It remains to be seen whether increasing this gradient means the liquid flows away from the heap too fast, leaving the compost too dry…
The purpose of the wooden batons was to provide an edge to work with when cementing the base. Dragging a board over the concrete in line with the batons, Steve was able to get a smooth, even finish – no dips for liquid to settle in! In the photo below of him ‘tampering’ the concerete, you can see value of the batons:
The trusty concrete mixer was dusted off for the job:
We added a waterproofing material to the mix of sand & cement as an added precaution to keeping the chambers dry. The mix had to be shovelled into a bucket that could be handed into Steve, bent over in the cramped space.
Although it was a relief for Steve to get out of the hole, the last bit was very tricky – and even when the rest of us thought the job was done, Steve still patiently smoothed the cement, ensuring no lumps or dips and making sure the floor sloped to meet the drainage pipe correctly:
A few days later, after a little rain and then some sun, the new concrete floor was dry. No cracks. No holes or dips. It looked great. However the first chamber, nearest to the gutter off the building (which currently dumps water down into the soil because we can’t afford to install a water collection system at the moment) was wet.
Streaks on the (inside) of the outside wall showed that water had been seeping in that way although these weren’t fresh leaks – it hadn’t rained enough to soak the ground and walls completely but it had rained enough (and at a very direct angle) on the wooden hatches. What we suspected was definitely confirmed – the hatches leak. This means a further stage to the project – we need to build a concrete frame around the hatches, so that water runs off without hitting the hatches. And we need to cover the hatches (probably with some roofing felt) so that any strangely angled precipitation that might hit the hatches directly will run off rather than soak in. We have to hope that funds become available to collect the rainwater from the building’s guttering to stop soaking the ground nearest the chambers’ outside wall and that this, combined with the extra waterproofing gunge in the cement mix, will prevent moisture ingress through the concrete…
Meanwhile, back to the project in hand: the wooden batons now needed to be covered over. The wood is likely to decompose over time and if it rotted away completely, we’d end up with 2 channels along each side that would allow liquid to collect. Steve mixed up a little more cement and concreted over the wood. You can’t really see it in the photo below but the concrete is gently sloped to meet the sides, encouraging any liquid to run down the sides, onto the floor and out.
The jigsaw puzzle of crates completed, Steve sensibly suggested a thorough soaking of the chamber to ensure the water was running away properly and not pooling anywhere before we covered the crates with mesh and called it “job done”. So we stuck a hose down the loo and kept everything crossed:
Obviously, I never doubted Steve’s genius and meticulous work for a second so it was no surprise to see the water merrily flowing away, just as it should. Phew!
New holes had to be drilled in the chamber walls since the floor was now 5 cms higher and those original holes were buried beneath concrete. Re-using the pre-drilled pipe, Steve drilled through this into the wall. Stainless steel screws were screwed through a fresh piece of mesh and the pipe, into the wall to secure the mesh firm and quite taut over the crates. Here’s Steve with his plethora of tools: pencil for marking holes through the pipe into the wall; hacksaw for any troublesome bits of pipe that needed ‘tidying up’; big drill for drilling into the wall (I was on generator duty – turning it on & off as necessary); cordless screwdriver & box of screws:
A bag of compost (to get the process started) and we had a compost toilet up & running again! Only 2 more to go…