I’d like to tell you about a do-it-yourself outdoor shower project I did myself a couple of summers ago. We had recently returned from stays at the Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur and the Calistoga Ranch in the Napa Valley and enjoyed outdoor showers at our rooms at both hotels. We enjoyed them so much we figured, “Hey, we can do that. We REALLY NEED one of those.” Besides, there is much satisfaction to be gained from the planning and relatively unskilled work involved in such a project.
The space is just outside the exterior door from the ground-floor master bathroom. Cross River Design had already designed and installed a peaceful pocket garden in what was otherwise an awkward and unloved alcove between two recent additions to the home. The focal point of the 18’ x 18’ space is a lovely fountain. Tony sourced the 30” millstone and set it on a circular bed of river stone. We love the look of it. We love the sound of it. The exterior wall opposite the shower bears a trellis covered in chocolate vine while vinca ground cover, a hosta, white peonies and a bluestone walkway grace the remaining area.
Tony provided general guidance and suggestions for really wonderful outdoor showers such as this rustic, granite spa.
I’m a surfer so Tony thought something like this surfboard shower would be a way to transport myself to the beach while in Somerset County. Ultimately, memory lane won out. I wanted something that reconnected with the outdoor shower I remember from my childhood at my grandparents’ summer home in Belmar. So I went with simple copper pipes and basic, hardware store spigot valves mounted on the wall. The rain head shower head was an upgrade insisted upon by my wife and three daughters and proved to be an excellent idea.
It’s really important to consider exposure (pun intended) when deciding where to locate an outdoor shower. Ours faces east and it gets full morning sun. This makes it a very pleasant spot between 6 am and 8 am, which is generally when we use it. We get to use the outdoor shower from May through October here in central New Jersey. The east-facing, protected corner warms up nicely in the morning. If it were facing north or west it would not be nearly as pleasant. However, if you think you’ll be using the shower more often in the afternoon or evening, something facing southwest or west would be in order. It’s something to consider carefully before going ahead with your project. Don’t worry about walking around a corner further away from the nearest door to find sunshine when choosing a site. It’ll be worth the walk.
Now to the work. A licensed plumber did the installation of the copper pipes, spigots and shower head. The crawlspace just inside the walls is plumbed with temperature regulating valves, Pex plastic lines and couplings.
After clearing away the ground vegetation, I: 1) installed some weed fabric, 2) placed plastic garden border edging in a curve around the shower bed, 3) dumped two 50 lb. bags of sand sloped to encourage drainage away from the house, 4) ferried ten wheelbarrow loads of 2-3” river rocks from the pickup in the driveway to the back of the house, 5) drove some rebar fence posts into the ground – inexpensive and a color match for the bamboo fencing, 6) attached 48” tall bamboo fencing (sourced very inexpensively from the web) with zip-ties to the rebar, 7) laid two teak shower mats on the stones.
The whole thing took only a few hours and required very little skill on my part. The fencing is somewhat see-through from close up (like a screen door) but from a distance the bamboo provides adequate obscurity while keeping the shower space open to the elements If you need more privacy, there are any number of options that will work for you. In any event, our yard is very private and nobody is looking in at us.
The return on investment is enormous in terms of the amount of pleasure realized on a regular basis from such a simple and relatively inexpensive project. Cross River Design would be happy to plan and install something similar for you and save you the need to purchase a pickup truck (for the stone base) and the two days worth of Advil needed after shoveling and moving two 50 lbs. of sand and ten wheelbarrow loads of river stone.
If you at all interested in an outdoor shower, start looking around your house for a spot where it might work, even if you don’t have a ground floor master bath with easy access to a well-situated outdoor space. Let your imagination run wild – there are no rules here. So, do whatever inspires you.
Our kids and houseguests regularly ask to use the shower and nobody minds walking a short distance from the other bedrooms to get out there. It’s just incredibly refreshing to shower in the sunshine and the morning breeze with the sounds of the birds and the fountain and the smell of the grass and gardens. You’ll feel like you’re on vacation right in your own yard.
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