Chance of showers
Our love of outdoor showers is fuelled by more than just practicalities. “In the last couple of years, we’ve seen their popularity grow, even in urban areas,” says Steve Warner, principal landscape designer at Outhouse Design. “People want to recreate that holiday feeling at home but, more importantly, I think we are enjoying more connection with nature and the outdoor experience.”
From basic hose-plus-tap to more elaborate set-ups, outdoor showers can be designed to fit any garden style. “The pleasure of wandering down a garden path to an outdoor shower appeals to people,” says Steve. At the other end of the spectrum, an outdoor shower can be the centrepiece of a large, private structure that almost gives you an extra bathroom in summer.
Hot or cold water?
“Cold water showers are very economical and you have lots of options when deciding on location,” says Ben Harrison, business manager at plumbing company Mr Drains. “Hot and cold showers usually connect to your existing water pipes, so the closer your shower is to these, the easier and more cost-effective it is to install. This is why an outside wall of the house is a popular location.”
Solar showers offer a low-cost warm water alternative, without the hassle of connecting to pipes. For example, attach to a garden hose and use the sun to heat water up to 40 degrees.
To withstand the elements, outdoor showers require corrosion-resistant fixtures; think structural or marine-grade stainless steel. Also consider the elements when choosing a location – it should have airflow and sunlight, and not just for comfort. “Choose somewhere that will dry out well,” says Steve. “You don’t want moss or mould gathering on the surface because it will be unpleasant to use and present potential safety issues.”
An ideal base will be a sturdy, level surface that can withstand water. “It could be an existing surface, such as bricks, stone, gravel or decking – treated timber or a composite decking material works well, but note that untreated timber can rot,” says Steve. “Your base needs to be slip-resistant and, while we’re ticking the safety box, also think about appropriate lighting and access.”
No drain, no gain
Most significantly, you need to consider where the water will drain. “It’s important to get advice from a professional plumber,” says Steve. “You need to consider drainage and mitigate any potential water damage to buildings and the impact on ground surfaces. The shower also needs to meet building codes and any local council regulations.”
Allowing grey water to seep into the garden is the simplest drainage system, as long as you take a few precautions. “If the shower is close to a building, make sure the ground slopes away from it and check how well your soil drains,” says Ben. “You may need to dig a pit and fill it with pebbles to distribute water slowly into the surrounding soil.” Ensuring you don’t contaminate stormwater drains or introduce nasties to the soil is critical. Use eco-friendly soap products and seek expert advice (from your local water authority) if planning to use grey water on the garden. It is possible to connect your shower to your current sewer system, but it’s not an easy fix. “Doing this involves extensive work, digging and adding pipes underground,” explains Ben.
Have we convinced you on installing an outdoor shower? Head into your local Bunnings store to pick up what you need to get this project underway.
Photo credit: TI Media, Gap Interiors/Tria Giovan, Getty Images.