Tori is a 28-year-old, three-time animal mom and DIYer living in Northern Atlanta with her boyfriend.
We used to live in a house. When we lived in the house, we would take our dog, Parker, out on a walk twice a day and take her in the backyard for short potty breaks in between walks. When we downsized to an apartment a few months ago, it was a little bit of an adjustment. The apartment we moved into is on the ground level, so we have a screened-in patio with a fenced outdoor patio attached, but unfortunately, the outdoor patio does not give us any exits to the grassy areas, so we can't let her out without taking her on a full-blown walk.
I decided I wanted an outdoor porch potty for her on the patio, to make it easier to let her out quickly if she needs to go in between her twice daily walks. All of the ones I saw online were really expensive, so I decided to make one myself! I used the structure from this youtube video as a guide as far as the design was concerned, but did different sizing and modified a few steps to fit my needs a little better.
In this article, I'll show you exactly how I built my porch potty as well as all of the tools and materials I used so that you can copy this at home and make it yourself!
Notes to Consider Prior to Starting
A few notes, before we get started:
- This project price can vary depending on what materials and sizing you decide to go with. This particular version is 3 ft x 5 ft in size, and I had a couple of the materials and all of the tools already. This project cost me personally around $85 to make.
- You could complete this whole project in one weekend if you have all of the right tools and around 14 hours (plus overnight for stain or paint to dry). I spread it out to a couple of hours every day, so it took me personally about four days to complete.
- There are a few steps where I did things slightly differently (as you'll see in the pictures) than what I tell you in the directions. This is mostly because I either used the wrong size bit or could have chosen a better material. Therefore, in my tools/supplies lists I've included what you should use, and in my directions list I've included how you should use it, so that you don't make the same mistakes I did.
- Make sure you have the right hole-drilling bits for this project or your life will be much, much harder!! The Hole Dozer and Spade Drill bit are very important and will make your life infinitely easier if you use them.
Supplies You'll Need
Each of the supplies I've listed below is exactly what I used for this project. I built the porch potty so that any and all liquid would pass right through the sod, into the waterproofed box, to a drainpipe that let out into the grass just outside our patio. If you don't attach some sort of drainage system, your sod will not last as long because it's just soaking up dog pee and will probably smell really bad (and fill up quickly!)
Feel free to modify this plan how you see fit based on your needs. For example - if you live on a second floor apartment building and not ground floor, you may have to figure out a different solution for the drainage pipe depending on your situation.
|Supplies||Sold-By Size||Number Needed||Price||Cuts|
8 feet (96 inches)
Each board: 60 inches and 32 inches (will have a little left over)
8 feet (96 inches)
Each board: 60 inches and 32 inches (will have a little left over)
8 feel (96 inches)
10 pieces of 12 inches each (will have leftovers)
1/2 in x 4ft x 8ft
32 inches x 52 inches (will have a lot left over)
Plastic Shower Curtain
will cut to size after attaching to box
1/2 inch PVC Pipe
4 pieces of 36 inches (will have some left over)
1/4 inch 23 Gauge Steel Hardware Cloth
3 feet by 5 feet
1-1/2 inch PVC 90 Degree Elbow
1-1/2 inch PVC pipe
#10 3 inch wood screws
2 in a bag
#8 1-5/8 inch construction screws
1 lb box
Silicone Kitchen and Bath Sealant
Sod (you can use astroturf instead if you prefer)
2.6 sq feet pieces
T50 1/2 in. Leg x 3/8 in. Crown Galvanized Steel Staples
Tools You'll Need/What I Recommend
The tools mentioned below are mostly tools we already owned, except for the drill bits, which were suggested by the nice man in the tools section at Home Depot! I'm including them here for your reference, to make your life a little easier and to ensure that you have access to the same results I did while building this porch potty, in case building things isn't quite your forte but you want to try it.
|Tools/Bits We Used||Price|
Milwaukee 18 Volt Drill/Driver
Stanley SharpShooter Heavy-Duty Staple Gun
Stanley PowerLock 25 ft. Tape Measure
Milwaukee Shockwave Impact Duty Driver Bit Set (56-Piece)
Milwaukee 1-3/4 in. Hole Dozer Hole Saw with Arbor
Dewalt DW1582 1-Inch by 6-Inch Spade Drill Bit
Heavy Duty Foldable Sawhorse 2 Pc Set
Step One: Buy All of Your Supplies
The first step to this process is buying all of your supplies, particularly the lumber you will need. A few notes:
- If you purchase from Home Depot, they will cut all of your lumber to size for you so you do not need to have any kind of sawing materials to complete this project, or figure out how in the world you're going to fit 8 or 10 foot boards into your 2014 Dodge Dart. Some Home Depots may charge something like 50 cents per cut after the first 3 cuts, so be aware of this.
- Home Depot cuts lumber but they do not cut PVC Pipe (unless you know a guy). Cutting PVC pipe is easy using these PVC pipe cutters. They are pretty cheap too so it is a handy tool to have in your arsenal.
- I used untreated lumber and then painted it, but if you don't want to paint or stain it I would recommend using pressure treated lumber (so the wood doesn't get nasty when it rains).
- Plywood can be expensive especially since it typically comes in a size much larger than you will need for this project. I saved money on my plywood because the man who helped me in Home Depot happened to have a piece that was mis-cut by a previous customer, which was able to be cut to size for me at a huge discount. My plywood piece only cost me around $8 as a result, so make sure you ask the hardware store people if they have any pieces laying around that could be sold and cut at a discount so you can save some money.
- DO NOT BUY SOD UNTIL YOU HAVE BUILT THE ENTIRE PORCH POTTY. I made this mistake of buying sod with all of my supplies, but didn't actually get to install it until day 4. which means that a lot of it dried out while waiting to be installed, which means you may have to buy more.
Optional Step: Paint or Stain Your Wood
If you choose to use untreated wood for this project, you will absolutely need to paint or stain the wood to protect it from mildew and rotting. If you choose to use wood that is treated for out doors, you don't necessarily need to paint or stain, but it may not look as nice!
I recommend doing this step before you start any assembly, though you could wait till already assembled if you want to. All you need to do is sand the 2x6's and 1x4's using 100 or higher grit sand paper (if you have a palm sander this step will be super easy). Then apply the paint or stain using the appropriate brush or cloth.
If you're looking for some recommedations, I like Minwax stains - and if you use these, make sure to cover with 2-3 coats of polyurethane as the stain is only for color and will not protect the wood. For more steps on applying stain properly, refer to this post here which goes more in depth. If you choose the paint route, my favorite is Rustoleum's Painters Touch Latex Paints, which give really great one-coat coverage.
Step Two: Assemble The Frame and Supports
Take the 2x6 boards and lay them out in a square on your workspace. You'll be attaching the short pieces to the inside edge of the long pieces (as seen in picture below), so make sure they are lined up as such.
Using 2 three inch nails per side and Phillips screw tip in your drill, attach the boards to each other. SPECIAL NOTE: Make sure that the Phillips screw head you are using is not the pointy one. This will strip the screw completely and you won't be able to get the screw all the way in or take it out. If you're using the same Milwaukee impact set I have listed, it has a flatter Phillips screw tip which allows for more grip in the screw and decreased chance for stripping.
Now, it's time to cut your drainage hole. Decide which part of the frame you would like for your drainage pipe to exit from. I put mine near the corner of one of the long sides of the frame. Use the PVC elbow to mark the spot you'd like the hole to be. stand the frame up on its side with the marked spot facing up, and using the Hole Dozer drill bit, drill out the exit hole. You will need to apply a bit of force to the drill so that the bit goes all the way through.
Once your frame is put together, you will attach the supports that hold up your plywood. This step is key for making sure that your drainage works properly. I did not do this right the first time because I didn't think about it, so make sure you follow these directions.
For this step you will need your 12 inch 1x2 wood pieces and your 1-5/8 inch construction screws. The 1x2's will be attached to the inside of the frame, so that the plywood will have something to sit on once inserted.
In order to have proper drainage, the plywood needs to be tilted to the direction in which your drainage pipe will be attached, so your supports will need to be tilted in the same manner. Below are a few drawing configurations to refer to, so that you understand what I mean. You have some flexibility with this so it really depends on where you decide to locate your drain pipe as to how many supports you need and what direction you attach them.
Optional Step: Add Feet To Your Base
If your patio is covered and doesn't get soaking wet every time it rains, you can probably skip this step and allow the frame of the potty pad to sit directly on the ground. However, if your patio is like ours (totally un-covered and made of cement), it's likely that the patio will remain soaked for at least a couple of hours after a rain, which could affect your frame and make it constantly wet and moldy. For that reason, I suggest propping it up on something that is waterproof, so that the frame doesn't touch the ground.
You have a couple of options. If you want your potty pad to be mobile, you can attach a couple of wheels as the feet. You could also attach plastic couch feet or spare pieces of wood with shower curtain stapled around it.
Step Three: Prep and Insert Plywood
Place the plywood piece into the frame. It should sit neatly on your supports, however you decided to configure them. Now it is time to prepare the second hole cut through the plywood for the drainage pipe.
Being extremely careful, tip the frame up on its side with the plywood inserted. Using the PVC elbow, insert it into the frame hole you cut earlier, and align it with the area of the plywood that you will be cutting the drainage hole in, and mark that area. Set the frame down, take the plywood out, and place it flat on some sawhorses with your marked side up. Using the hole dozer, cut a hole into the plywood for the drainage pipe to connect through.
After the hole is cut, replace the plywood back into the frame.
Step Four: Waterproof the Box and Insert Drainage Pipe
In this step, you'll make the inside of the box waterproof so that any liquids that drip down from the grass will get to the drainage pipe without being absorbed into the wood. There are a couple of different materials you can use for this. Shower pan liner would be the ideal material, but it is pretty expensive. You can also use a medium grade plastic shower curtain, or a simple, cheap waterproof tarp. I used a waterproof tarp, however I recommend that you go mid-range and use a shower curtain instead.
Lay the material you decide on into the box and press into the corners. Cut a hole the same size as your drainage pipe hole into the material. After the hole is cut, staple the material to the frame about an inch above the plywood. You don't want to staple too low because if it rains, water could seep through the staple holes and affect the inside of the wood frame or the plywood.
At the drainage hole, apply a layer of silicone sealant underneath the tarp edges to adhere it to the plywood and make that exit a little bit more water proof. Pipe a little bit of sealant into the hole itself, and insert the PVC pipe. Let everything dry in place for a few hours. After it has dried, pipe some more sealant on top of the tarp and into the PVC pipe, to really seal those edges in and prevent any water leakage.
After all sealant is dry, attach the 1-1/2 inch PVC pipe to the elbow through the hole you cut in the frame. Depending on your patio type, you may not need this pipe in its entirety. The piece we used was 2 feet long. Cut yours down to the proper size if necessary.
Step Five: Drill Holes and Insert PVC Supports
While your drainage pipe is drying, grab your 36 inch PVC pipes and your spade drill bit. The PVC pipe will act as a support for the steel hardware cloth that is holding the sod and the weight of your pet.
A note on these supports: I designed this porch potty for a 20 lb corgi. It could most likely support up to a 35 lb dog but anything heavier may need additional PVC supports or a stronger non-wood support material than PVC, such as metal pipes. I do not recommend using wooden supports because the wood will soak up dog pee and start to smell. If you do decide to go with wood supports, make sure you wrap them in shower curtain or tarp material so they do not absorb anything.
Further note: I took the hard way when attaching these supports to the frame by carving out a U-shaped bend with several miscellaneous tools because I didn't have the right size drill bit. Though the way I did it worked fine, it took a heck of a lot more time than it needed to. So instead of telling you how I did this, I'm going to tell you what you should do instead.
Insert the spade drill bit into your drill. Measure where you want your supports to be. If you are doing 3 supports like I did, mark holes 15 inches apart from each other on both long sides of the frame, one inch down from the top. Drill out the holes where you marked, and insert the PVC pipe into the holes to make sure they fit.
Step Six: Attach Hardware Cloth
Hardware cloth is a sturdy steel fencing material that is great for this type of project. You could also use pet screen (like for screen doors) if your pet weighs under 20 lbs, but it does cost more than hardware cloth.
I made a slight mistake when purchasing my hardware cloth, in that I bought the wrong size, but I didn't realize it until I had already attached it to the frame and gone to the store to get another sheet. I thought my only option was 2 ft x 5 ft hardware cloth, but they do sell it in 3 ft x 5 ft, which means if you pay attention to the size you only need to buy one roll.
This step is very simple - unroll your hardware cloth, and attach to the top of the box using your staple gun.
Step Seven: Attach the Top Frame (To Hide the Edges)
Pull out your 1x4 wood pieces and 1-5/8 inch construction screws. Starting with the short sides first, attach the framing pieces with a screw on both ends. The measurements should allow all four sides to sit flush with each other, and measure up exactly with the 2x6's underneath. These framing pieces help hide the edges of the hardware cloth, and also make the box look more polished.
Step Eight: Place the Sod or Astroturf
This is the easiest step of all: place your sod or astroturf onto the hardware screen. If you chose astroturf, you will need a piece that is 32 in x 56 in. If you choose sod that is sold in 2.6 square foot pieces like mine, you will need to buy 5 pieces. 4 of them will be applied directly and the other one will need to be cut up to fit the last 4-5 inches of the screen.
Proper Turf Care
If you choose the sod route, you will have to replace the sod or sprinkle new grass seed every couple of months to keep it fresh. The length of time that your sod stays fresh depends on the number of times the potty is being used and by how many pets. To extend the life of the grass as long as possible, rinse the grass at a minimum of every other day with clean water, and pick up any poop immediately. Make sure the potty is located in a place with at least some sunlight as well. If you choose astroturf, you should still rinse it frequently to keep it from getting smelly and gross.
There you have it folks, you've now built your very own patio potty. If you decide to build this yourself, please share pictures of your patio potty with me! I would love to see how it's turned out for you!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2018 ToriM
Marie on May 07, 2020:
Hi, I would like to build something similar for my dog on our second floor apartment balcony. Has this held up over time for you? How often do you have to replace the sod? Anything you would change if you did it again? Thanks!!