Outdoor showers are becoming increasingly popular - and why not? Their benefits are numerous! Outdoor showers are great for getting dirty kids and pets clean BEFORE they come in the house (tracking mud, pool water, and goodness knows what else all over your floors and furniture). They also come in handy for washing down gardening or lawn care equipment, toys, and patio furniture. And let's face it: the refreshing feeling of bathing outdoors and communing with nature - if only for a few minutes - is a luxury we all crave in our modern, urban world. If you're considering having one of your own, there are some things you need to consider before scheduling an install.
Plumbing & Privacy Considerations for Outdoor Showers
Location and Water Supply
The absolute most important issue with outdoor showers is location, location, location. Most people's first concern is privacy. You want to ensure the shower is open enough for easy access and you don't want to lose that outdoorsy fresh air feeling by being too closed in, but you probably don't want to show your birthday suit to all your family members, neighbors, or party guests either. While we completely understand this, it's best to choose your location based on water supply and THEN consider privacy options. It is much easier and more cost-effective to install an outdoor shower on a wall adjoining a kitchen, bathroom, or laundry room since you already have hot and cold pipes there. If you have to pipe your water supply to another area of your home or to a freestanding shower, things can get pricey very quickly.
Another thing to consider with regards to the plumbing is drainage. Many municipalities regulate outdoor showers to manage the disposal of graywater (water contaminated by soaps and shampoos) and require you to install an appropriate drainage system rather than allowing this water to go into the soil, possibly contaminating groundwater. If you're close to your home's plumbing already, chances are you can drain the graywater into an existing line without much trouble.
Once you've considered your plumbing options, then you can start to planning for privacy. Some people choose to build an entire shower enclosure while others like to leave one side open or opt for no enclosure at all. This will largely depend on your level of comfort and where your chosen location is situated. And keep in mind that your enclosure doesn't have to be a fixed structure - many people choose to hang up a U-shaped or curved shower rod and use an extra large shower curtain so those who want to feel the sun on their skin can while other family members who may be a bit more modest can use the shower comfortably too.
However, be sure to actually go stand in the spot you're considering and take a good look around before you make your final decision. If you can see your neighbors' windows, they can most likely see you - and don't forget to look up and check out any second story windows or balconies that might be a problem. Additionally, think about typical weather patterns for your region and try to choose a location that will be comfortable for most of the time you intend to use the shower. For instance, some parts of your yard will be windier than others, some get more or less sun (and sunscreen isn't very effective in the shower!), and certain spots will have more debris from trees and shrubs that could affect drainage or cleanliness of your showering area.
Selecting Your Shower
After you've selected the perfect location for your shower and decided the placement of any walls, doors, or other enclosure elements, you can start picking out your actual shower unit. We strongly recommend choosing a stainless steel outdoor shower as it will stand up to the elements better than brass or other metals and is suitable for coastal applications where there is a lot of salt in the water and air. In addition, stainless steel showers are typically easy to winterize if desired, just remove the valves (which are usually chrome-plated brass even though the rest of the unit is stainless) and drain the lines. Stainless steel is also fairly lightweight and easier to keep clean and pretty-looking.
Some things to look for when you're shopping for an outdoor shower are whether it features one or two inlets, how it mounts, and what accessories might be included. Some outdoor showers have only one inlet - meaning you have the option of using only cold water or installing a mixing valve to utilize hot and cold water in much the same way a single handle faucet mixes the water prior to use. Other showers come with mixing valves built-in, while a different kind comes with two inlets so you can control the hot and cold water separately. The majority of dual inlet showers will be wall mounted as it is easier to hook these up directly to the hot and cold pipes in your home's existing plumbing.
Wall-Mounted vs. Freestanding
While it is more convenient plumbing-wise to hook a wall-mounted shower up to your home, it also adds a level of stability to the unit and makes it easier to construct enclosures or manage privacy concerns. Wall mounted outdoor showers are usually more sheltered from the elements and are less likely to experience damage from strong winds, storms, or other weather-related incidents. Freestanding models can also be mounted close to the exterior of your home so less plumbing is required, and many of them feature sturdy bases with anchoring hardware, but there is still the risk of the unit falling over or becoming damaged by weather. Where freestanding outdoor showers really shine though is when you want a shower that isn't right by the house. If your chosen location is in a more remote spot on your property, right by the pool, or just not against any walls, a freestanding shower usually makes more sense than building a whole wall just for the shower.
It's a good idea to look at what accessories might be included with your shower. For instance, what kind of shower head does it have and is there an option to upgrade (or downgrade) if you don't like the one it comes with? Is a handshower included? Many people love having the handshower for rinsing kids or pets. What about a foot shower? Are the water supply lines included? Be sure you know exactly what comes with your shower so there are no surprises during installation. On a side note, we recommend waiting until you actually have the shower and are sure it has all the correct components and mounting hardware to set your installation appointment since most plumbers or contractors will still charge you for the visit even if the installation isn't completed.
Aesthetics & Accessories
Clearly, you want to choose an outdoor shower you like the look of, that will complement your home or garden. Everyone wants their home to be comfortable and stylish indoors and out, and there are a wide range of outdoor shower styles to choose from. Remember that your shower enclosure and accessories can also help create the feel and overall design you're going for.