There is nothing so sweet as an outdoor shower when the weather is warm. But redirecting plumbing and building stalls can be a complicated (and expensive) affair. Luckily, there is a very easy way to build your own that only needs a little rain in order to work. Here’s how to do it, in just a few (very) easy steps.
Grasp the concept.
Rainwater catchment is simply the act of containing rain runoff in holding tanks for later use. Before everyone had their own well or was hooked to a public water supply, homes were equipped with cisterns that did the exact same thing—and many people still use cisterns today.
Gather your materials.
To catch rainwater, you need four main things: a roofline, gutter, downspout, and container for all the water with a spigot attached. And for it to work for a shower without utilizing an electric pump to draw the water from, you’ll need your catchment basin at a higher level than your head so the water falls down over you.
A basic rainwater harvesting system can be created using totally upcycled materials, like an old gutter and downspout that was discarded, and any sized drum—but you’ll want at least a 50-gallon drum for showers so you don’t feel rushed while you’re enjoying your outdoor shower. Everything referenced in this piece can be modified to be as simple or intricate as you like. Here’s the gist of what you’ll need:
- Plastic rainwater barrel (a dark color is best to help heat the water)
- Gutter cut to the length of the roofline you’ll be using
- Downspout sized from your gutter to barrel, along with connectors to attach downspout to gutter
- Platform for your barrel to sit on
- Spigot that you can screw into the barrel
- Hand-held shower attachment
- 4 x 4 inch treated lumber
- Stone slab for underfoot
- Tarp (or tapestry, shower curtain, or burlap), 8 x 6 feet
- Concrete stands that can hold 4x4s
If you don’t have all these materials on hand or prefer to buy new, the National Tank Outlet has a great selection of tanks. You can get any gutter system from your local hardware store. If you're not much for DIY work but would really like to get involved, Loomis Tank sells full systems; just make sure you check with your local zoning officer before you invest money in something that might not be allowed in your town.
Lay everything out.
You know the old adage “measure twice, cut once”? That’s a great mantra to keep in mind as you get everything ready. It’s awfully hard to uncut a piece of gutter or bring your platform for your barrel higher.
First things first: figure out where everything is going to go. Find a level place that isn’t in direct view of traffic and that you don’t mind having a shadow cast. As nice as it might seem to set your outdoor shower up next to a garden plot, remember that you’ll be blocking the ground from sun throughout different parts of the day. You’ll want to set everything up next to a roof line so you can catch the water. Garages, sheds, roof lines on your house, tool sheds, or any other roof line will do.
Set your gutters up.
If you already have gutters on the roof you’ll be using, you only need to add a downspout. You can save several steps if you set up your outdoor shower at a downspout already on your house.
Set your barrel up.
Your barrel needs to sit higher than your head. You can build a shelf that attaches to your house or shed that is strong enough to hold the water weight (each gallon of water is just over 8 pounds). Ladders can easily be reappropriated as barrel stands, or you can build a high platform.
You’ll need to drill a hole in the top of your barrel for your downspout to fit into, and screw a shower head with an on/off valve onto the front of the barrel, about four inches up from the bottom.
Get your frame together.
Cut your 4 x 4s into four 8-foot pieces, along with 11 30-inch pieces that you’ll use as connectors. The long pieces will be the vertical corners of your shower. The fourth side will serve as the entrance to the shower, so you can just put connectors at a foot high, and across the top.
Stand your frame up so the vertical posts sit in the concrete stands, and put your stone slab in the middle of the floor inside the frame. Make sure the shower head is poking in either over top of the frame or through the “wall.”
Hang your privacy screen.
Starting at the left side of your entrance way, wrap the frame with your tarp. Cut a hole for your shower head, if need be!
Make it rain.
Do a rain dance. Wait for some gorgeous summertime showers. Then head outside and bask in the fruits of your labors.
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