Homeowner’s Guide to Outdoor Showers
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Outdoor showers can be rustic or luxurious, enclosed or open. We discuss the different types, the installation costs and what it takes to maintain them.
With more people spending more time outdoors as they practice social distancing, many homeowners are beginning to see the value in an outdoor shower. This attainable amenity is ideal for washing off outdoor grime, rinsing off before a dip in a pool, or simply cooling off from the summer heat. It’s also a perfect place to rinse off your dog!
And an outdoor shower can increase a home’s value. According to a report from Realtor Magazine, “those trying to get the biggest return on their investment should have an outdoor shower installed ASAP.”
What Is an Outdoor Shower?
No tricks here — it’s a shower outside your house. The plumbing consists of a showerhead, water pipes and valves. The water source can be a garden hose or your home’s main water supply. An outdoor shower can be enclosed or not, and may feature a floor, shelves, bench and other amenities.
Pros and Cons of an Outdoor Shower
- Many styles to choose from, ranging from luxurious to rustic;
- Available in a range of prices to satisfy practically any budget;
- Adds value to your home;
- Helps you cool off in the summer;
- Helps to keep your pool clean;
- Great for cleaning off pets and children.
- Requires regular cleaning;
- May not be usable year-round;
- Some can be expensive to purchase and install;
- Possible lack of privacy.
Types of Outdoor Showers
There are two main types of outdoor showers: wall-mounted and freestanding.
Wall-mounted outdoor showers
These outdoor showers are stationary fixtures usually attached to the main house. They are usually more affordable than stationary standalone units. They’re also often cheaper to install if they’re located near a home’s existing plumbing lines, like on the other side of the kitchen or a bathroom.
Freestanding outdoor showers
These outdoor showers can be stationary fixtures or free-standing portables. Stationary fixtures are usually more expensive to purchase and install because they use dedicated water lines from underground water pipes or above-ground water faucets. Portable showers are often the cheapest because they cost little or nothing to install, hook up to an existing outdoor water supply (like a garden hose) and can be placed anywhere a water hose can reach.
Outdoor Shower Cost and Installation
The cost of purchasing and installing an outdoor shower can range from about $250 to several thousand dollars. Expect to pay between $100 and $500 for a wall-mounted outdoor shower, between $500 and $2,000 for a standalone and $50 to $300 for portable showers.
Installation cost also differs considerably and can range from $500 and $8,000. Naturally, outdoor showers that require more complicated plumbing and incorporate added features (like an enclosure and drainage) will be more expensive to install. Fortunately, experienced DIYers can do most, if not all of the installation.
When selecting a site for your outdoor shower, consider its primary function. If you want people to rinse off before going in the pool, install the shower near the pool. For privacy’s sake, install it out of sight from neighbors and passers-by. If that’s not possible, you’ll need outdoor curtains or walls.
Another tip: Select a site that receives direct sunlight. That will help keep you warm on brisk days and will dry the area to prevent mold formation.
For a wall-mounted outdoor shower, using a shared wall with the kitchen or bathroom can reduce the effort and expense because the water pipes are already present.
A stationary freestanding (or standalone) shower is more complex. You will likely have to run an underground water pipe to the shower, which involves excavation. However, it’s also possible to connect standalone fixtures to existing outdoor water faucets. Install an outdoor hot water faucet next to the existing faucet to supply the shower with hot water. This option is usually more affordable, but the above-ground lines may be an eyesore.
If you choose a portable freestanding outdoor shower, your plumbing considerations are as simple as determining how far your garden hose can reach.
Outdoor Shower Drainage
In most cases, drainage for an outdoor shower simply involves allowing the water runoff to drain naturally into the ground. However, building codes in some areas require a drain for gray water disposal, or if the extra groundwater saturation might compromise your home’s foundation. You may also want to install a drain if you’re concerned about shower water entering your house, or if the ground under the shower isn’t porous enough for natural drainage.
Common drainage options for outdoor showers include:
Similar to a shower pan used for indoor showers, an outdoor shower drain pan collects water and directs it to a drainpipe inlet. The shower pan is often connected to a flexible hose that acts as the drain. It directs the water to the home’s septic or sewage drain, a french drain, dry well or porous ground away from the home.
These consist of a perforated pipe installed in a trench and surrounded by gravel or other porous aggregates. The french drain can capture water through a single drainage inlet (like a shower pan drain), or water that soaks into the ground through the perforated pipe. The water can be naturally dispersed into the ground as it travels through the length of the perforated pipe, or directed to an existing drainage system like a dry well.
A dry well consists of an underground “catch basin” (usually a perforated barrel or landscape fabric) that’s surrounded by a porous aggregate like gravel. The basin collects the shower water through a drainpipe after it enters a drainpipe inlet underneath the shower. The basin slowly and naturally disperses the collected shower water into the surrounding ground. Dry wells are usually used in conjunction with a french drain or shower pan.
Outdoor Shower Maintenance and Cleaning
Maintaining an outdoor shower is important and simple.
- Keep it dry. Wet areas are breeding grounds for mold and mildew, so keep the shower area as dry as possible. Installing your outdoor shower where it receives direct sunlight can help. Otherwise, dry it off by hand.
- Keep it clean. Because it’s outdoors, expect dust, dirt and debris in your shower. These elements can clog a drain if you’re not careful. Keep the area clean with a broom or leaf blower. Use household cleaning products for a more thorough cleaning, and to prevent mold and mildew formation.
- Protect the pipes from freezing. If the temperature dips below freezing, exposed water pipes can freeze and break. This can result in expensive plumbing repairs or water damage. Protect any exposed pipes by draining the water before winter and wrapping them with an electric heat cable.