Outdoor showers may seem like a luxury—something that only those with beach houses would need or be lucky enough to have. But if you have kids and pets that love to play in the yard, or if you’re an avid gardener, runner, or someone that enjoys the freedom of bathing in nature, you may want to consider an outdoor shower for your own home.
Lucky for you, an outdoor shower can be an accessible feature for just about anyone. It all depends on how simple or complex you want your shower to be. A simple outdoor shower with cold water costs approximately $1,000 or less. An outdoor shower with an enclosure and hot and cold water will run about $4,000–$8,000.
This is one of the most important considerations. It’s best to choose a spot that you use often. In most cases, anywhere near the back entrance to your home is a good choice—maybe adjacent to the back door or on the back deck. If you have a pool, situate the shower nearby for easy rinse-offs before and after swimming.
Another major consideration is plumbing access. Unless you’re installing the type of shower that attaches to a garden hose, you’ll need to install it close to existing plumbing.
Last but not least, go for a sunny spot. This will help keep mold and mildew at bay, and provide natural warmth while you rinse.
Privacy is a fairly important consideration, unless you think only swimsuit-clad people will use the outdoor shower. "I encourage people to build with the most modest person in mind," says Ethan Fierro, author of The Outdoor Shower. The trick is, you want the shower to feel private and far from prying eyes, but you also want to keep the natural feeling.
An easy and adjustable choice is a freestanding folding screen. These screens work particularly well on decks and patios, where it might be impractical to build any type of wall.
Another option is building corrugated metal wing walls to create a shower "corner" of sorts, where swimmers can rinse off after a dip. You can make this more private by adding a third wall to the design. Of course, there’s always the more elaborate option, which would be to surround the shower with wooden walls.
The simplest and most inexpensive plumbing option, and one that many people choose, is a shower connected to a garden hose, which is then hooked up to an outside faucet. This cold-water fixture is perfect for an outdoor shower that’s used only in the heat of summer, and mostly for cleaning off dirt and sand.
Next up is the hot-and-cold hose option. First, you’ll need a plumber to install an outdoor hot-water faucet next to the cold one. From there, it basically works in a similar fashion to the cold-water hose shower.
The most elaborate—and most expensive—is the plumbed-in outdoor shower. This is worth investing in if you anticipate consistent outdoor showers, and not just for cleaning up after a hot day in the sun. The only downside to this option: if you live in an area with freezing winters, you have to make sure you can fully drain and insulate the plumbing so it doesn’t burst.
The simplest and most common drainage system is letting the used water drain into your yard. If you don’t have very porous ground in your yard, or if the outdoor shower is close to your home, consider attaching the plumbing to your home’s drainage pipes or installing a French drain (essentially, a gravel-lined channel connected to a pipe that directs water to a drainage area).
The easiest thing to do, of course, is to go with the first option and recycle the water into your garden.
Add some affordable accessories that greatly increase the fun and pleasure of showering outdoors. A large rainfall showerhead enhances that outdoor feeling, and plants or flowers in the shower area or peeping through the enclosure add a whimsical touch.
Add some soft solar-powered lights for showering at dusk, install hooks for hanging towels and wet bathing suits, and maybe even add a chair to sit in. Most importantly, design your shower to take advantage of nature’s views, whether that’s the sky overhead or the splendor of your backyard garden.
With just a little planning and effort, you can install your own outdoor shower and stay cool during the rest of the warm summer months.
Written by Jane Drill for Zillow
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