Shower Power

Cooling down outside is the hottest thing in coastal home design. Consider these ideas when planning your outdoor shower.

Text by Michael Haigley

Examine the conditions.
Natural elements can do a number on an outdoor shower, so look for fixtures that will stand up to salt, sand, and sun. Use mildew- and rot-resistant materials, such as pressure-treated lumber or synthetic decking, and carefully seal the area where the shower joins house walls. If temperatures in your area drop below freezing, prepare for the off-season by closing supply lines to the shower and draining water in the pipes.

Evaluate the function.
Is your outdoor shower for bathing sandy kids or for full-fledged relaxation? If all you want is a quick rinse, you can get away with the barest of plumbing, but if you want to bring the conveniences of the indoors out, you'll have a bigger project on your hands. Consider upgrading your hot-water system if guests linger under the spray. And get serious about privacy: If you're planning romantic showers under the stars, build a door.

Design the drain.
When you build over sandy soil, you may need only an opening in the pressure-treated flooring, but soils that drain slowly will require more elaborate systems, such as a French drain, which directs water underground into drain fields or dry wells. Soap and shampoo residue can clog drainage systems, in addition to threatening the natural vegetation, so use eco-friendly products.

Remember the plumbing.
If you're constructing a new home, run plumbing in the wall that the outdoor shower shares with the house. But if you have to retrofit a shower, consider hiding exposed pipes behind a wall built for this purpose.

Get the Outside Scoop.
Pick up a copy of Ethan Fierro's The Outdoor Shower: Creative Design Ideas for Backyard Living, from the Functional to the Fantastic (Storey, 2006).