Showering under the stars

Showering under the stars

For added convenience and functionality in a backyard pool, spa, or garden area, outdoor showers are a relatively simple nicety to consider adding.

What could be more convenient than a ready spot to rinse off dirty feet, hose down the family dog, or clean off the chlorine after a dip in the pool?

At night time, some homeowners find an outdoor shower to be a luxury all its own, whether to rinse off after soaking in the hot tub or simply to shower outside for the sake of doing so under the glow of a full moon.

Outdoor showers range from functional to fashionable. Basic models might include a simple nozzle on an existing exterior wall for quick cleanups or spraying down before a swim, while especially elaborate setups might encourage reenactment of seductive shampoo commercials — music and special lighting included!

First and foremost, site selection is guided by desired aesthetics as much as drainage and plumbing needs, says Ashland Medford Plumbing, Inc. owner Jon Janakes.

"I've seen some backyards with these that are really high-end, really unique," says Janakes.

"But, the main thing is figuring out the right place to put it."

In terms of water supply, additional plumbing can be added by digging a hole and running new pipes, but costs and effort can be trimmed by situating the shower near hot and cold water lines from an existing bathroom or kitchen.

Drainage should be planned based on local building and planning laws. Some municipalities allow gray water to drain onto the ground while others require it be routed as wastewater into the sewer system. Either way, pooling of water can be avoided with landscaping and gravel to direct water away from the shower area, whether towards thirsty landscape or a well-planned drain.

During setup, even if the shower will see little use during certain parts of year, plan for year round exposure to the elements.

"The hardest part about doing an outdoor shower in Medford, Oregon is the freezing temperatures they have to go through when not in use," Janakes says. "You want to provide a way to drain down and shut down so you don't blow up the water lines in the wall. You've got to provide freeze protection or the whole project is a loss."

If more than an exposed shower nozzle is desired, an enclosure will need to be planned. Wood, metal, concrete, and stone all offer their own unique appeal. Give consideration, however, to necessary upkeep for various materials and ensuring floor surfaces are non-slip. Don't forget to plan for hooks and shelves that may need to be built within rock or tile enclosures to provide places to stash supplies or for hanging towels and wet swimsuits.

"It's always easier to plan beforehand than to add it later," says Janakes.

For surrounding landscape, consider how much privacy is wanted — or warranted. Keep in mind, if natural landscaping will provide part of the atmosphere, take note of the change in privacy and ambiance if deciduous trees that shed their leaves are part of your picturesque shower.

Hearty evergreen options, says Carleton Landscapes owner Bob Carleton, of the Medford area, are arborvitae or a tall holly variety, "Nelly R Stevens Holly," which have minimal water needs, are fast growing and grow to around 12 feet or more.

Bamboo is an attractive option if special measures are taken to discourage the fast-spreading grass from taking over.

"I would make the shower look as natural as possible. With the natural landscape, I would do a rock patio and, if privacy is needed, create a rock or planted wall the way they do at the resorts," Carleton says.

"There are certainly a lot of things you can do and a lot of different looks you can get."

Another option, part of the shower could be covered while a portion of the shower area could be exposed or non-covered. As for runoff, gray water is safe for irrigating plants, notes Carleton, why waste it?

In selecting plumbing fixtures, consider the elements. Shiny fixtures look great to start, but won't likely last. Consider bronze or copper, which develop a warm patina as they age. If opting for stainless steel, a 304 rating or higher is less likely to corrode.

With various types of plantings, natural rock and materials for an enclosure and creative ways to set up a shower area, the options are unlimited.

Adds Janakes, "There are really a lot of different ways to set one up to look just how you want. It's really a preference thing."

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