If you are planning on working in your backyard office for many hours at a time, an inbuilt toilet would be more useful than going back to your house regularly! The whole point of having an office shed in your backyard is to get away from things and have your own dedicated (hopefully quiet!) space to work in, so some people find that having a toilet/bathroom is important to them. But is it possible to have one in what is ultimately just a shed?

Yes, it is possible to have a toilet in your backyard office. It will naturally take up a bit more space, because you will have to put in a room partition wall. Beyond that, you can either run water and drainage to your office shed - or take the easiest option of a waterless composting toilet. This article explores all these considerations in more detail.

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Extra Partition Wall

The usual backyard office that we picture in our heads is just an upgraded shed: a simple building with a single room, but with drywall and decoration instead of bare timber walls. However this naturally does not have to be it: you can change it however you would like. If you want a toilet/bathroom in your backyard office, the solution is to build the floor slightly bigger than you usually would and include space for a partition wall. This will give you an extra room, which can contain your toilet and/or bathroom:

A basic floor plan with a good size office area and then a small toilet/bathroom area to the right.

Alternatively, it is not always ideal to have a living or working space directly next to a bathroom. Whilst space is naturally limited in an office shed, you could always build a small passage way (which could always contain some handy storage), meaning that there will be two doors (and also a solid wall) separating the toilet area from the office area:

An improved floor plan with a good size office area and then a small toilet/bathroom area to the right: but only accessible via a separate passageway.

The benefit of this approach (apart from the reduction of - sorry to mention it - smells coming from the toilet into the office area!) is that you probably will not need a toilet/bathroom running the full-length of the backyard office (like in the first floor plan). So this second design will make better use of space, and the passageway can always contain storage with wall units and shelves.

Assuming you have running water too (instead of just a waterless composting toilet) - which we explore in more detail below - there is no reason why you cannot have a more functional bathroom that is decorated nicely and gives you everything you would need:

Bathroom area, with full size toilet and sink.

In terms of building the extra partition wall, it will be the same as the outer walls - apart from the fact that you will need a header and trimmer above and to the sides of the door, to provide extra support for the hole that you have cut into the wall. Our step by step guide to building a backyard office goes into this in more detail, however the below diagram is handy to refer to:

Diagram showing exactly how windows and doors should be handled in a timber wall frame, from InterNACHI.

The diagram might seem a bit confusing at first, but try and ignore the right hand side of it (which covers the - more complicated - windows). The door’s weight will naturally be supported by the floor, so the main goal is to ensure the timber wall is stable around the door - hence the header and trimmer. There is no difference between the external door and the internal door (in terms of the timber frame) so if you built the frame for the outside walls, you should have no issues with building the frame for the internal walls.

However even if you did not build your current office shed but you want to add in the partition wall yourself, it is not too tricky to do when you get going.

Running Water and Drainage (Hard!)

Once you have the extra room for a toilet or bathroom, your next goal is to obviously have a toilet (and sink, if applicable) in there! In this approach, you will need to run normal water and drainage pipes to the backyard office.

  • Water pipes. The easiest way to run this is to branch off the pipe for your outdoor tap. You can run this down into the ground, through the trench (as we cover below) and into the toilet/bathroom area. You will need to ensure that you buy underground-quality water pipes, such as blue poly pipes (chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC)) for this. If you do not have an outdoor tap… it will get a bit trickier. You will need to find an indoor water pipe, and branch off this - running the pipe outside and then down into the ground. Mind you, whilst you are doing this you may as well install an outdoor tap - they are very handy!

  • Drainage. The drainage can be trickier than the relatively small water pipes. You will firstly need to use soil pipes which are thicker and have a larger diameter than normal waste pipes. Soil pipes differ from waste pipes in that they are designed to carry away soiled water (i.e. liquid and solids from a toilet) to the sewer. You will probably need to find the soil pipe in your current house, and whether it goes outside (and into a sewer point from the outside) - or whether it goes under the house and into a sewer from there. If it goes outside, you can just extend off this and run the soil pipe underground in the aforementioned trench. If it is all underground, however, it will be more difficult: you will have to look at running your new soil pipe into the nearest sewer point.

Once you have a plan, you will need to dig a trench. From there, your pipes (which must be underground-quality) can be run through the trench and into your backyard office:

Initial trench being dug, with string lines to guide where the trenches need to go.

And that is ‘all’ there is too it! Does that sound like a lot of work? Well yes, to be honest it is. And you could argue that it is too much work for providing a convenience-toilet in a backyard office. It all comes down to your skillset (for running the pipework) and your requirements/desire (for having a toilet inside your backyard office). If you think it sounds straightforward enough and you have the time/desire to do it, then go for it! There is no reason why you cannot go further and have a shower, too: this would then really help make your office shed a dedicated space for you then.

Install a Waterless Composting Toilet (Easy!)

If reading the above made you never want to look at pipes again, then a far easier option is to install a waterless composting toilet. The key point is in the name: it is waterless, meaning no water pipes need to be run to your office shed. And it is composting, meaning that you will not need a soil stack to take the soiled toilet water away.

The way these work is the liquid (i.e. urine!) that goes into the toilet will be used to help carry out a microorganism process to break down any solids (i.e. poo!) that goes into the composting toilet. When having a number two, a carbon additive is also added: which is just a fancy way of saying something like peat moss or sawdust. Basically the combination of liquid, solid and carbon additives inside a composting toilet will kick off a process which breaks down the solid waste and turns it into easy-to-dispose of compose-type material.

Composting toilets need to be emptied every few weeks or months depending on use, although it will probably be more like months if it is just you using the toilet. Some people worry that composting toilets might smell (after all, the solid waste is there for months!): but thankfully this is not an issue. They are designed with this in mind, and they maintain a negative pressure so that any smell does not travel back up through the toilet into your office space.

Will a Permit Be Needed?

This is a good question to think about: you do not want to go through all the effort of digging trenches and running pipe, only to find that you need to buy an expensive permit to have a toilet in your backyard office! Or even to find out that you are not allowed one!

The reason we say ‘not allowed one’ is because the planning offices in some areas will start to consider a shed (or any external building) with a toilet as a detached living unit. Some areas do not allow two living units on a single bit of land (i.e. with a single address).

So the short answer is that yes, you might need a permit to have a toilet in your shed. Or it is possible that you simply will not be allowed a toilet! With thousands or different planning offices and codes, we cannot say for certain: we would suggest that you contact your local planning officer before going through all the effort of the full building work.