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An Outdoor Shower Is More Doable (& Enjoyable) Than You Think

Ideas right this way...

June  1, 2021
Photo by Botanica Cayman

The dog days of summer are quickly approaching; bringing with them the hot, sticky heat and humidity that makes us want to strip down and dive head first into every sprinkler or body of water we see. Don’t get us wrong, we love summer (and we love a good heat wave to really put an exclamation point on the season), but sometimes we find ourselves praying for a good downpour to break the soaring temperatures. A much more reliable (and practical) solution to this need for an immediate soaking? An outdoor shower.

We know what you’re thinking—easier said than done. But think again. Outdoor showers can be as simple (read: inexpensive and refreshingly cold) or as lavish and elaborate as you and your budget want them to be. There are a few different options that make all the difference, says Asher Lipman, founder of NYC Renovation Coach. Your outdoor shower can be free-standing, with hot water and an enclosed structure around it, attached to the side of your home, or connected to the same plumbing as your garden hose for quick and cool bits of relief from the heat.

He walked us through these options and everything that comes with them to help us choose the best possible way to get our outdoor shower on, below.

Some like it hot (or cold)

Your water temperature preference is going to come into play in a huge way here. That’s what Lipman says is going to be a driving factor in where your shower ends up living and how much it’s going to cost you. If you just want to be able to rinse off and don’t mind dealing with a cold-only option (which sounds great in the middle of a 90-degree August), then your overall cost is going to be much lower. If you’d like to luxuriate in hot water while breathing in some fresh air, it’s going to cost you.

“You’re basically choosing between a hose hookup and a more permanent, nicer hookup,” he says. “You can buy a standard adapter and just hook it up to your hose outside, which would only give you cold water. Or, you can tie [your outdoor shower’s plumbing] into your current house plumbing, which is a more substantial, permanent installation. It’s nicer and more elegant, but with the caveat that you’ll have to winterize it if you’re in a cold climate.”

Choose your location

There are a number of different places where your shower can stand based on the many different ways our homes and properties are built. Lipman says that your shower can be built basically anywhere you’d like it, but if it’s going to be a freestanding structure away from your house, then it’s going to be more expensive.

“If you’re going to build it further from your house, you’ll need more underground piping and might have to repair your lawn,” which makes prices go up. But, “if you put it on the side of your house opposite a bathroom, it’s much easier,” he adds, noting that direct access to a plumbing source is the easier way to go. “It’s very site specific, no matter what.”

Gather your materials

There are a ton of different customization options here for your new outdoor shower, regardless of how you hook it up or where you decide to install it. You can opt for frosted glass, pressure-treated wooden walls, tiles, stone, shelving for plants, a bench, towel storage—truly, the design features are unlimited. But there are several things you will definitely need for a working shower if you decide to tackle this project on your own.

“They make some specific showerheads and knobs out of stainless steel that will hold up well outside, but you could also use ones made for interior showers,” Lipman says. “If you’re by the ocean and exposed to salt, you’re going to want something a bit more durable.”

Tools you'll need to have on-hand include: a circular saw, cordless drill, drill bits, a ladder, tape measure, manual jab saw, stud finder, a shovel, level, drainage rocks or another drainage system plan, concrete, construction screws, joist hangers, plumbing tees, pipes appropriate for your existing plumbing, plumbing adapters, PEX pipe, shower head and knobs, and caulk.

Assess your skills

Now that we have a general understanding of what building an outdoor shower entails, it’s time to do a little self assessment. If you’re a relatively handy person who has some working understanding of basic plumbing, there are instructional videos and “how to build an outdoor shower” blueprints to be found across the internet (on outdoor showers simple and complex) for installing and building your own shower—we believe in you!

But if you know this is something you’d rather leave to the professionals, there’s certainly no shame in that—especially considering going at it alone means navigating the world of your local municipality’s rules and codes to make sure you’re building a legal structure.

“If you’re hooking it up to your plumbing, you will need permits and likely a licensed plumber,” Lipman advises. “If you’re hooking it up to your existing hose, then it’s much more simple and anyone could probably figure it out if they wanted to.” You got this!

Dream Big

Now that you've got the information, the know-how, and the drive to build it, here are some of the most beautiful (and doable!) outdoor showers we've seen.

1. Geometric Tile

This outdoor shower area has good bones, thanks to the arched backdrop, but is made even more stately with eye-catching tile in a cross shape. The contrasting white and black pair perfectly with the plants peeking in, too.

2. Surfboard Chic

A surfboard shower? But of course. There's simply no better way to rinse off after a day of surfing (or just splashing) than with an outdoor shower made from a gorgeous custom board.

3. Pop of Blue

Sure, any shower would look beautifully neutral with a white subway tile backsplash, but this pop of bright blue is infinitely more interesting. Plus, the best place to experiment with color is definitely the outdoors.

4. Stenciled Wall

A much more affordable option than custom tile? Stenciling a pattern onto an existing wall. This trick would work perfectly for a shower mounted to the outside of a house, and would only take an afternoon to complete.

5. Sweet & Simple

As we've mentioned, outdoor showers can be as elaborate or simple as you choose, and this one errs on the side of delightfully simple. A pared-back copper pipe fixture blends in with the existing fence and yard.

Would you consider building your own outdoor shower? Tell us below!

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Ariel Scotti

Written by: Ariel Scotti

Writer who’s never met a book, pasta or pup she didn’t love.