Outdoor showers aren’t just for Texan towns, vacation homes, and pool houses. Anyone with some yard space could install one. Besides, a handheld shower head is a convenient way to keep the house clean, especially if you have kids and teens (or if you do a lot of yard work).
By showering outdoors, you reduce the amount of grass, sand, and mud that gets tracked indoors, which drastically cuts your house-cleaning expenses. Plus, the installation process is pretty simple. You only need a few basic tools, so let’s get started!
Step 1. Buy a shower kit
The word ‘kit’ makes shower construction seem easier than it is, so let’s dig a little deeper into outdoor shower kits. You can get something as cheap as Homewerks. It costs less than $50, and is made of chrome-plated brass. Or you could go for the high-end Southern Enterprises unit.
Outdoor shower kits contain pipes, shower heads, faucets, and sometimes a shower floor. You still have to connect the plumbing yourself, and you may have to build the shower walls and drainage system, depending on where you live. Talk to your local council to confirm the rules.
This is a crucial step, because some local governments require outdoor showers to drain into your public sewer system, which needs additional plumbing expertise. Other neighborhoods are less stringent, so you can pour gravel, drain your shower into the garden, or dig a drainage pit.
Local regulations are especially important in peri-urban areas, which may require a shower head for low water pressure, meaning you’ll need a specialized shower kit. If you don’t want to buy one, you can buy separate pieces and put the shower together yourself. You’ll need:
- PVC pipes for the water to flow through
- Elbow pipes or t-pipes to connect joints
- C-caps to hold the pipes in place
- A shower head and faucets
- Garden hose
- Leak-proof plumber’s tape
If you’d like to give your outdoor shower a bit of extra character, you can modify your fixtures. For example, you might use perforated garbage can lid or a vintage kettle as a shower head. You can also use faucet décor made from carved driftwood or household knickknacks.
Step 2. Get the right tools
Depending on your DIY skills, you could install a basic outdoor shower by duct-taping a garden hose to the wall and draping a shower curtain around it … or you can build the shower from scratch, with luxury elements like sliding doors and shower benches. Essential tools include:
- Circular power saw or hand saw
- Pole diggers (manual) or pole augurs (electric)
- Power drills, screw guns, or nail guns
You also need basic construction materials. Wood is the most popular choice, which may seem strange, because wood and water don’t go together. To reduce the risk of rot and pests, use pressure-treated wood. This wood has all its air forced out replaced with preservative chemicals.
Apart from wooden poles and panels, you’ll also need concrete or gravel for the shower floor, and curtains or corrugated sheets for the walls. These corrugated panels could be plastic-based products like TufTex or galvanized metal sheets that are resistant to the elements.
The tools and materials you buy will depend on the type of shower you want to build, so if you’re unsure, talk to your local hardware experts. They can guide you on what works best for your location and weather. You can also download outdoor shower plans from DIY websites.
Step 3. Pick a shower location
Outdoor showers can be freestanding, mounted on a pole, supported by a tree, or mounted on the outside walls of our house. The latter option is the most popular, because:
- It provides a solid supportive wall.
- It gives you access to internal plumbing.
If you position your outdoor shower on the outer wall of your washing machine, dishwasher, or even the indoor bathroom, then you can use your indoor water supply. This means your outdoor shower will have both hot and cold water, and it’s closer to your sewer system as well.
In some houses, this outer wall has its own faucet, spigot, and tray. It’s used for rinsing off your feet or washing your hands, so you can repurpose it for outdoor shower use. Whenever possible, build your shower around one of these outdoor taps.
Your first step is to install the piping itself. In some houses, these pipes are exposed. If not, locate them (your local plumber can help). Shut off your water and electricity, then saw through the drywall so you can see the pipes. Saw through these pipes and insert elbow pipes or t-pipes.
These pipes will link your internal water supply to your outdoor shower. Use the elbow pipes or t-pipes to connect your shower kit to your internal pipes, resting the outdoor shower piping against the wall. Be sure to secure all the connection points with the plumber’s tape.
Pro tip: Instead of using rigid pipes to link your internal and external piping, you can use a garden hose. It’s more flexible, so in case of strong wind and tremors, the pipes will bend rather than breaking and ruining the walls of your home. This is crucial in tornado-prone towns.
Many home-owners don’t like shower pipes exposed, so you can build a wood panel box or use wall brackets to hide the piping, making your shower finish neater and more professional. Install your shower arm and shower head, then run your faucets to test water flow and pressure.
Step 4. Finish the floors
You want something that’s sturdy enough to support your weight, solid enough not to sink when wet, and suitable for your local drainage rules. In peri-urban areas with permeable soil (for example, beach areas), you can simply line the ground with sand or gravel.
In stricter living areas, you may have to call in a plumber to connect underground drainage pipes to the main sewer. Once the plumbing is done, lay concrete on your shower floor. Install a wire mesh or rebar to reinforce the floor. This metal layer helps in two ways.
One, it offers added support so the floor doesn’t sink when you stand on it, or when it’s weighed down by shower water. Two, it reduces damage because if any part of the floor starts to crack, the wire stops the crack from spreading to the rest of the floor.
An alternative to rebar is to use concrete molds. They leave gaps between your concrete blocks, which can be filled grout. These gaps help in reducing the spread of cracks on your concrete floor. They also give you floor a nice aesthetic touch, with or without grout.
Step 5. Work on the walls
Your outdoor shower walls will be supported by poles or pillars, then covered in painted plywood, PVC panels, or metal sheets. If the poles collapse, your shower does too, so dig them about 3 feet into the ground, fix them in place with concrete, and leave them to dry for 24 hours.
If you’re using wood on the walls (and the panel box), stain, varnish, or paint the wood in multiple coats to keep your outdoor shower waterproof. There are lots of styling options. You could use wood frames for the edges, then fill the walls with corrugated metal or TufTex.
Or you could use wood throughout, sliding wooden panels into joints. This is helpful for ventilation, and it reduces the damage of expansion and contraction when temperatures are extreme. Some home-owners are content to just tie a curtain around the shower frame.
Whichever wall you select, raise the wall about a foot off the ground. This helps the shower dry faster, so there’s less likelihood of damp smells and moldy damage. Pro tip: Outdoor showers should be larger than indoor ones, for better air circulation. All metals should be weather-proof.
Step 6. Finishing touches
For your shower door, you could use a basic aluminum slider available from any hardware store, or you could use the same style as your shower walls. Some home-owners prefer circular shower hands that spiral from shower head to shower rod. This works well with shower curtains.
To add a little elegance to your outdoor shower, consider adding accessories like towel hooks, shower benches, or waterproof shelves. Chrome fixtures instantly elevate the look of your bathroom, or you could go with blackened brass for a more vintage result.
If your outdoor bathroom is big enough, you might want to sneak a bath tub in there. This shouldn’t be an afterthought, because tubs are heavy, which means they need reinforced shower floors. So if you want a free-standing claw-foot, make sure the concrete floor is thick enough.
Enjoy your shower
Once the construction is done, wash off your hard work with a nice, hot shower. But before you start your outdoor shower project, do a final checklist.
- If you want hot water, install the outdoor shower near indoor washing appliances.
- Alternatively, use a heater and a pump to pull pond or lake water.
- Make sure all your shower parts are resistant to water, weather, and corrosion.
- Find out what your local government says about outdoor shower drainage.
- If you’re not a trained plumber, call one for the tougher sections.
Have you installed your own outdoor shower? Show us some photos on the comments!