The Benefits of an Outdoor Shower and Steps For Easy DIY Installation
Benefits of Installing a Shower Outside Your Home
Before I begin on the how-to, let me first explain the many benefits of adding an outdoor shower to your home. After that, I’ll help you organize your outdoor shower ideas into a plan, then detail the steps for two easy installation methods. Finally, you can start enjoying amazing outdoor showers under the sun or stars!
Once you install an outdoor showering space, you’ll start to wonder how you ever got along without one. Expanding the functionality of your home such as with an outdoor shower area only increases its value. An exterior shower also brings these benefits:
It’s an extremely refreshing change of pace. There is nothing quite like a soft breeze blowing against freshly washed, damp skin to perk up your mental and physical state. Showering outside creates a level of excitement you’ll never feel when taking your typical hum-drum indoor shower.
Outdoors, the atmosphere is constantly changing. Some days may be hot and sunny, while other days may be cooler. Sometimes, there will be a full moon or the wonderful sounds of birds or crickets. Each and every shower feels like an adventure that makes you stop and appreciate the moment.
It’s practical. Did you spend all day working around the garden or yard? Before tracking dirt and debris inside your home, which will require extra cleaning on your part, wash off of the sweaty grime and change into clean clothes outside.
The same goes for cleaning off salt and sand from your skin and gear after a trip to the beach. An outdoor shower is also ideal for removing chlorine from your body and swimsuit after a dip in the pool.
Do you have kids who love to get dirty when playing outside? Keep the dirt outside by cleaning them up in the backyard shower instead of bringing them in the house.
You can also use the shower to wash your dog or other pets without creating a mess in your bathtub. Outdoor shower fixtures like a detachable sprayer head makes washing your pet even easier.
It’s a convenient option when bathrooms are full. If you have a large family or a house full of guests, an extra shower space is super convenient. No one will have to wait for an open bathroom to freshen up.
It can repurpose grey water to nourish your plants. I intentionally put my outdoor shower near a hard-to-maintain section of the yard full of thirsty plants. Now, they are thriving from the additional moisture they receive almost daily during the hot summer months. The best part is this requires no extra effort on my part.
TIP: Only use ecologically-safe soaps and shampoos like this one by Joshua Tree in your outside shower, so the drain water will not harm your lawn or plants.
It’s an unusual feature that adds interest to your home. Even the most basic outdoor showers bring a “coolness” factor to your home that will impress your family and friends.
Increase the interest by adding a theme to the design from sleek and modern to tropical or beachy. Extra features like benches, storage, and shelves only increase the functionality and overall value.
Planning and Designing the Perfect Outdoor Shower
The beauty of a DIY outdoor shower is the ability to go super basic or as extravagant as you want. If you have the skills, you can easily go full-board with plumbing, lighting, and design including tile, wood, stone, or cement walls. Beginner DIYers can create a functional shower with only a few steps, and later add to the look of it with personal touches.
Start your project by saving outdoor shower ideas you love or by coming up with your own unique plans. You can find inspiration from books like The Outdoor Shower, by Ethan Fierro, or purchase a prefabricated outdoor shower kit. Some even come complete with walls and fixtures.
Visualize your ideas, and walk through how you want to use the space to determine if you will:
- Need a roof, walls, or door for privacy
- Want extra space to change clothes or sit down
- Expect your shower to provide hot water
- Need to supply a power source for lighting
- Want the floor to be wood slats, concrete, grass, or stones
Once you have a solid design plan in mind, you can set a budget and tweak the technical aspects to meet that budget. You will want to consider aspects such as the type of materials for the build, how to run the water line, create drainage, or provide lighting to suit your needs.
If you plan to enclose your DIY outdoor shower (highly recommended if you plan to get naked in it), you’ll want allow enough space for full range of motion while showering, getting undressed, and re-dressed.
A four-foot by four-foot shower-only area is fairly compact but spacious enough for two adults or a parent and child to move about. You will want to expand the space by an equal amount or more if you want a separate dressing area with benches and storage for towels and toiletries.
Hot water and lighting considerations
Most plumbing for outdoor shower kit set-ups requires only a cold-water line. During the summer months, when most people use their outside shower, the water flowing from this line tends to be more temperate, so comfort isn’t impaired.
For those who live in colder regions and only plan to use the shower for quick rinse-offs, a minute or two under chilly water will not be too bothersome. However, if you plan to use the shower for longer periods, you may want to splurge on the luxury of hot water.
If you are unable to directly tap from your home’s main water heating unit, you’ll need a separate heating system to provide hot water. You can use solar powered or a propane heating unit made for camping, which could reduce the hot-water-delivery hassles associated with installation, maintenance, and costs of a standard water-heating tank.
Consider the pros (hot water) and cons (extra cost, permit issues, electrical demands) before choosing to install hot water in your shower.
Lighting is a much easier aspect to control. Oftentimes, ambient lighting from the house or street lights is sufficient to light your backyard shower. Additionally, you can find a huge array of solar-power lighting options that help eliminate your fears of mixing water and electricity. They also eliminate the need to run electricity to a far-off spot in the yard.
For showers going in near a power source, go ahead and wire up appropriate lighting. Be sure you are in line with safety codes and use fixtures rated for outdoor use.
Steps for Installing an Easy DIY Outdoor Shower
Let’s get into the nitty gritty of installing that outdoor shower from a quick-install to a more permanent build.
STEP, NO-NONSENSE OUTDOOR SHOWER
It doesn’t get more basic than this:
Step 1. Take a shower head with a u-shaped feed pipe, and use screws to clamp it about six-feet high onto a post, tree, or side of your shed, house, or garage. You could also wedge a normal shower head into the crook of a tree branch of the right height.
Step 2. Drag out a garden hose long enough to reach the shower head. Using appropriate adapters, screw the hose to the pipe. For the utmost convenience, add a hose attachment that lets you turn water flow on and off at the shower site.
Step 3. Turn on the water to your hose and enjoy your shower!
It sounds a bit silly, but this is a very low-budget way to have an outside shower in a matter of minutes. If the water runoff creates mud, elevate your feet by putting down some landscape blocks or even wooden pallets.
The bonus of shower installs like these is that they are easy to remove when you’re ready to commit to a more permanent structure. You can attach low-cost, in-line water filters between the hose and shower pipe if you want to remove minerals from your well or tap water before showering.
What about privacy? You can pop up some trellis-style walls, hang a curtain, or make a perimeter with potted plants to block your neighbor’s view if you feel uncomfortable.
If you can’t hide the hose running to your shower location, you can bury it underground. This not only looks better, but reduces the tripping hazard of an exposed garden hose.
PERMANENT OUTSIDE SHOWER BUILD
Step 1. Select and grade your location. If the shower is near your home or other structure and the ground is relatively flat, create a slight grade so water runs away from the building.
Step 2. Run the water line. For the easiest water supply, lay out or bury a hose to your location. If you are tapping water from an existing house line, lay out and bury the piping to the location of your shower. PEX piping is ideal for its flexibility, and high tolerance for pressure, heat, and cold.
Don’t forget to add in a cut-off valve by the shower to stop water flow for shower head installation, repairs, or winterizing. Pay attention to frost line depths if you live in a cold region to prevent lines from bursting during the off-season.
Step 3. Build the shower base. For wooden bases, leave 1/4-inch or so spacing between slat boards for drainage. Use pressure-treated pine, cypress, cedar, or teak wood for their water and weather-resistance. Use thin landscaping blocks on the downward side of the grade to level up the top of the base.
For concrete block bases, start with a gravel layer so you can set the blocks level and still allow for water to drain in an appropriate direction.
Step 4. Install the outdoor shower fixtures and attach the water line. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installing a store-bought outdoor shower kit to a wall or post.
You may decide to add to the theme of your outdoor shower by making your own shower head. Great ideas are:
- Using an old metal watering can set on an angle
- Drilling holes along the bottom of a coil of copper pipe
- Letting water fall through a hollow section of bamboo pole
- Drilling holes in the bottom of a sturdy beach pail hung from a hook
Your imagination is the only thing holding you back from devising a clever shower head.
My current beach-bar-themed outdoor shower head is a large plastic shark toy I got at a thrift store. I drilled some holes in it and hung it by its tail on a rope that connects to a hook on a post. The “rope” is actually hiding the water line so the shark looks just like those pictures of fishermen showing off their big catch. The water sprays from his open mouth.
TIP: You’ll have to figure out how to mount a DIY shower head securely, because it can get heavy as it fills with water.
Step 5. Add walls or screening panels for privacy. Walls not only protect you from prying eyes, but allow you to add hooks or shelving to hold clothing and toiletries, adding to the functionality of the space.
Step 6. Pop in some lighting. Unless there’s a full moon, you might find it difficult to find your toiletries when you shower at night. I suggest avoiding harsh, bright lighting, because it can ruin the nighttime showering experience.
Opt for the soft glow of low-voltage string lights or use one or two solar spotlight-style lights. Make sure lights illuminate the location of the water on/off valve and the pathway to and from the shower to avoid injury in the dark.
Step 7. Decorate! Start decorating with functional pieces like a mirror, hooks, and shelving. A sturdy bench is another great feature to add to your backyard shower. You could add a little something extra by staining or painting the walls, adding plants, or hanging themed decor.
Step 8. Stand back, pop open a cold one, and toast to a job well done!
As you can see, any level of DIYer can put in an outdoor shower. You can build a stunning shower that showcases your skills and personality or stick with a simple design that is all about function and convenience.
Once you test out your outdoor shower-building creativity by following the steps in this guide, you’ll probably find yourself upgrading your design every few years until it’s perfectly suited to your needs.
Don’t be afraid to try out cool and useful ways to make your backyard uniquely you. If nothing else, you will have made loads of summertime memories.