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Outhouse or Porta-Potty for my Castle

We recently purchased the Helmer Castle and are in the process of restoring it to use as an Airbnb rental. The Tower is 6 stories accessed by a narrow spiral staircase. Each floor is a bedroom with a fireplace - lovely…except, no bathrooms in the tower. Not exactly ideal to have to trudge down all those stairs during the night to go to the bathroom. The only solution I can think of is to put a composting toilet in each room. Or is it better to just not.
We also want to be able to host events or weddings, except our Septic System isn’t designed for large groups of people. So, which is preferred - an Outhouse or Porta-Potty?
Thank you in advance for your thoughts.


Are you sure that’s what you want to do with this building? Sounds like mission impossible.

I imagine you plan to charge a lot of money and I would doubt listing outhouse or porta-potty is going to draw a lot of people to your site.

My 2 cents.


Depending on the depth of your pockets, I guess I would take it a bit slowly and get some income from the easy bedrooms, and then the minute you can afford it, get that septic system upgraded. I think people will love the tower, but the bathroom situation would be a dealbreaker for many.


What about fire escape? Safety issues? Would love to see photos🙂

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Google Helmer Castle and it will pop up. It’s lovely but as for an Airbnb, not so sure.

It sounds like a fantastic place! A real castle. :slight_smile:

No easy access to a loo would be a deal breaker for me, I’m afraid. I’ve got to the age where I need to get up in the night (or maybe it’s simply all the red wine I drink in the evenings) but age could be immaterial. Even a twenty year old who has had a few pints (or champagne or cocktails or whatever) will need to get up in the night.

And they will go wherever - whether you like it or not. Blokes have the equipment for being creative in the peeing department so it’s important to give this a lot of careful thought.

Wow. It’s amazing. :slight_smile:


Oh my! It’s amazing! Not too big, a good size, and looks to be in excellent condition. Could not find a spiral stair photo. Thank you!

Old style commode chair?


I would do a composting toilet for rooms and really do your research. For events I think I would suggest getting into an arrangement with one of those companies that does high end portable toilets. I’ve seen some that are better than many bathrooms. It’s usually a small trailer and has well stocked handwashing stations, etc.


The place is awesome, but the number of Airbnb guests who are going to be okay with a composting toilet, a porta-potty, an outhouse, or traipsing up and down several flights of stairs to go to the toilet will be few and far between. And have you ever tried to carry luggage up a spiral staircase? I don’t see a photo of the staircase, but unless it’s plenty wide, that could also be an issue (at least it doesn’t look like they could scuff up those stone walls with theiir suitcases :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:)

Even hosts who list rustic places and make it very clear in their ad that it has a composting toilet or an outhouse get guests who find it “gross”, fail to use it properly, complain about it and leave less than favorable reviews.

Also, are you aware that advertising your place as an event venue will get you kicked off Airbnb as well as attract drunken partiers who’ll trash the place?

I can think of other cool commercial uses for the place, like an art gallery, for instance, or a retreat center, but using it as an Airbnb is going to be tricky.

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I used to ski into a cabin in winter that had an outhouse, but guess what? It was free.

I’m also of the age where I prefer a bathroom close by. But that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t partake in rental where I had to go downstairs. I rented a room in a NYC hotel where the bathroom was down the hall. So don’t be intimidated, and maybe the market will help you make the decision of what to do.

I’d build a modified garderobe like real castles had. That is, make a stone column on the outside of the tower with an outhouse type toilet in each room. Eventually add water and flush toilets perhaps. Maybe even make the addon big enough to add sinks and showers later.


I suggest setting a target for your maximum event size, and then working to expand the event facilities over time until you reach it.

I doubt if you’ll have any luck renting rooms if folks have to use the stairs to get to a bathroom. I would bite the bullet of replacing your septic system with a small sewage treatment plant that would probably take less space, and a new drain field well downhill from the castle.

There are many stone buildings in the UK and Europe where a bathroom has been installed. That’s why diamond drills were invented. :wink:

It won’t be cheap, but it’s probably the only way your rental will make any money. I think that I’d keep owner/family in the tower, and rent rooms in the house instead.

It looks to me like your primary focus should be events, but you’ll need to upgrade the sewer for that, too, or as another has posted, get your own loo wagon that you can park out of sight when not needed. If you’re serious about being an event venue, then you should consider adding a catering/dining hall with kitchen (you could, as one high end wedding venue here has, also use it for cooking classes), which would, of course, have larger restrooms.

Folks dressed up for a fancy wedding are NOT going to want to use a porta potty, no matter how clean it was when it arrived.

And if you can find a herald trumpet at good price (it’s a normal trumpet, but the horn is full length instead of folded, usually with a hanging banner) you should buy it so that you can have fanfares for the wedding couple played from the top of the tower…

Have you looked into insuring the castle for short-term rental?


It’s so pretty (and what a bargain)! I wouldn’t personally be deterred by a couple flights of stairs to get to a bathroom (although 6 flights sounds a bit much) but I’d never consider renting a property for a night (much less an event) that didn’t have a proper bathroom & toilet (unless I were camping). Are you thinking you would rent all rooms in the tower to one group of 5-6? Not sure what you mean by outhouse, but if it just means a bathroom with normal plumbing in a separate building from the tower, I think many younger guests under 50 would be absolutely fine with that. Do be aware that the spiral stairs will be a hazard (and a liability) for drunk or clumsy guests.

A port a potty is a non-starter. I have a near-phobic relation to them, and when I’ve been at a campground, I would walk 10 min or even drive 10 min to use a proper toilet. I don’t know what a composting toilet is but if it’s anything like a port a potty I wouldn’t want that near my room. I may be way more bourgie and neurotic than most people, however, so you’d need to target really “down to earth” guests that wouldn’t blink an eye at a port a potty (which sounds totally possible in the midwest). Good luck!


Go for period realism and put chamber pots in every bedroom. :upside_down_face:


Have you checked with the city to see if it’s possible to rent this space out for overnight guests. Code may not allow this type of dwelling to house people.
Hope you did your homework on this one.


Doesn’t sound like you properly researched the viability of a six floor rental with no toilets or bathrooms.

Nope, and like many others in this topic that’d be a deal breaker for me.

An alternative could be to reduce the bedroom count and install bathrooms, but you’d probably have to look at upgrading the septic set up also.

If you want to throw money at it, you could make an interesting listing.



This seems like an ideal event venue for weddings and other special events like birthdays. When people do farm weddings here in upstate without indoor bathrooms, there’s “luxury” porta potty rentals that the clients take care of.


“The only solution I can think of is to put a composting toilet in each room.”
Which would need to be emptied I’m guessing?

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