The summers here aren’t long, which makes them all the more cherished. But you needn’t be a surfer coming in from a sunrise run off Montauk to enjoy the casual luxury of an outdoor shower.
The simplest showers are plug-and-play versions you can get from any home improvement store for $250 to $500. These use a garden hose to supply water making them easy to set up and break down after the season, but they can’t provide hot water and they give little privacy. The least expensive options beyond that are made with eucalyptus and the more expensive ones are made of teak. Setting one up near a pool or outside a mudroom is a snap and since you simply disconnect it from the spigot after summer you’ll never have to worry about purging susceptible water lines before winter.
Building a permanent version requires punching through a wall to bring hot and cold water outside. The most practical location is off an exterior wall that already has water running through it, like outside a bathroom, laundry room or kitchen. Better still if there is room on the inside of the wall to include an access door to pipes heading outside, which makes them easier to drain before they freeze in the winter. A shower on the southern side of the house gets the most sun, which adds comfort and helps dry the area; northern-facing showers will remain damp and could become vulnerable to moss.
For one person to shower, plan for a footprint of at least 3×3-feet—though giving another foot adds a lot more elbow room. “A popular style is to have an eight-foot-long structure with four feet for a shower and four feet for a dressing room,” said Castrenze Balsano, principal and project manager of Accumanage in St. James. It adds additional cost, but designing a shower with four walls, instead of using the house’s siding as a wall, means you can skip the extra steps required to make the house watertight, which requires taking off the siding. According to Balsano, the shower’s walls should be made from a moisture-resistant wood like pressure-treated pine, cedar, ipe, redwood or teak. Vinyl fence panels are a nice option because they require little maintenance, though a solid wall of white can seem confining.
After a location is scouted, privacy is the next critical aspect to resolve because most guests won’t feel comfortable if neighbors can catch a glimpse. Take into account views from all angles of your yard, from neighbors’ yards and any second floor vantage points. If the neighbors have a raised deck or a terrace, consider topping the shower with a lattice roof or a pergola to block sightlines while allowing sunlight in and air to flow for drying.
Used shower water can tie back into the house’s drain system. A simpler and less expensive option is a permeable shower floor consisting of an excavated pit filled with a fast-draining aggregate topped off with smooth river rocks that feel comfortable underfoot. A flat square of bluestone surrounded by fast-draining gravel also works and provides sure footing.
The look of the shower should be designed to complement the house’s architecture or be a stark departure from it. Depending on how often the shower is used, it can be as basic as slinging a towel over the door to a structure that has dedicated spots for towels, scrub brushes and benches.