ARTICLE Jason Burgess
Having an outdoor shower can reconnect you with the elements. It is invigorating and can ultimately be liberating, even in an urban setting.
Sure, with a bit of number eight wire ingenuity, an outdoor shower setup could be as simple as rigging a showerhead to a tree and connecting it to the garden hose via an on/off valve. While this may be suitable for cleaning dirty feet or a sweaty dog, it will never really be a place to linger. Upgrading with a shower curtain and a solar heated water bag gets you something that may suffice on safari or at the bach.
But taking it to the next level - a dedicated, full functional outdoor wet space that integrates with your home and surrounds - will ensure you a happy place to stand in all seasons.
For most fresh-air bathers, privacy is paramount. This could be achieved by locating your shower niche in a quiet corner of the yard, on the exterior of your house, the interior of a backyard fence, or by designing a secret spot within your landscape. You may wish to compliment your pool or spa space with a freestanding shower stand or an ultimate changing pavilion.
If you are going to shower after football or the beach, get as close to the garage, or yard gate as possible, to avoid traipsing the outdoors through to the inside of your house. Wherever the shower is located, always consider access. An outdoor shower should be an easy, all-weather, go-to destination within your garden.
If you are building a shower enclosure, then style-wise anything goes; think Bali resort, cutting edge or even whimsical. Whatever form your shower takes, be sure it ties in with the rest of your garden. Showers can blend into your landscape with rock, tiles or timber wall focal points with planted shrubbery or a raised garden for screening. If you have a view, then three-quarter walls will ensure both discretion and a vantage point.
Build a pergola to shield for privacy from above or design a shower stall in weatherboards, concrete or other construction materials that tie in with the home. For an eye-catching contrast, try fencing-timber, corrugated iron, framed bamboo blinds, mosaic tiles or timber slats. Simple screening could mean anything from a semi-circular curtain rail with a designer shower curtain, to freestanding screens, rails suspended from eaves or a wooden stall with a hinged door. For those more risqué by nature, you would be hard pressed to top the glamour of a hollow sphere, ‘loop shower.’
Look and feel
Get creative inside the stall and make a centrepiece shower stand. Summon up tones and textures with river stones, mosaics and marine-ply. Say something about your lifestyle and setup by using a vintage surfboard as a focal point or old window shutters for a swing door. You may want to channel your inner Hundertwasser, by upcycling tiles, bright paint and vintage bottles.
Add a sitting bench, a lower tap for feet washing, a place to hang and store your towels and an alcove for your soap dish. If you prefer music to the sound of your own whistling, build in some outdoor speakers and heighten the evening mood with coloured LED lighting in the shower and surrounds. Add some extra spice to the air by surrounding your shower with lush, scented plants, like frangipani, star jasmine and gardenia.
Plumbing and fixtures
Make a highlight of architectural plumbing fixtures. There are some great purpose-built outdoor shower columns and mixers available – freestanding and wall-mounted – all made from 316 marine-grade stainless steel. No matter how low-key or high-end your outdoor shower design is, try to locate your shower in a sunny position for bathing comfort and to help lessen the likelihood of mould and rot. Any enclosed wet area must have good air circulation to allow for quick drying.
Ideally, an outdoor shower should be accessible to existing plumbing, where you can tap into your home’s hot water supply. The easiest way is to have a plumber install an outdoor hot-water outlet next to your existing garden tap. Then you can attach two hoses easily and quickly to the outdoor fixture. In this situation, consider using the plumbing as an aesthetic feature.
For greater durability use heavy-duty hoses, like braided stainless steel washing machine hoses. This will be less costly than installing permanent water lines. You can also hook up to the fixed water lines within your home. Pipes can be run a short distance up the side of the house and attached to a shower fixture that is mounted onto the façade. Water supply to a shower positioned away from the house should be buried underground.
An outdoor shower base will require a firm and level surface that can withstand water and foot traffic. Some decks may be suitable (if water can drain away), also lawns, patios and stone paths. The base should be stable to stand on, water resistant yet permeable or built with run off angles for drainage. If an outdoor shower is installed in a location with a slippery or uncomfortable surface, like a stony platform, set a duckboard or similar removable standing base on top of that surface.
In the right situations, the easiest and most eco-friendly drainage for an outdoor shower is to direct grey water into a Pumice wick, swale rain garden or grey water tank system. Otherwise, position your shower to take advantage of the property’s existing drainage or the home’s wastewater system. Otherwise position your shower to take advantage of the property’s existing drainage or the home’s wastewater system.
Alternatively, you can install a simple dry well or “French drain”. Outdoor showers may require any or all the following services; excavation, slab work, electrics, plumbing and alterations to the existing walls of the home.
Check first with your landscape specialist to see if consents are required in your area.
As mentioned in the article, pergolas and decks are a unique addition to your renovation project. Check out How much does a basic deck and pergola cost in New Zealand.
If you would like to discuss options and ideas for your outdoor shower or landscaping project, please use the enquiry form on this page to provide us with your contact details. We will get in touch with you at a time that suits you to discuss your landscaping design and build. If you would like to provide us with more information about your project, we have a more comprehensive enquiry form on our "Get in touch" page too.
*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.