Showering Outside – It’s About MORE Than Rinsing The Sand Off

 In Better Built, Coastal Life
carolina designs outdoor showers

Top: A home managed by Carolina Designs Realty that has a double outdoor shower with repurposed sailboat sail material for curtains. Bottom: Another Carolina Designs Realty home adorning a cute barn door outdoor shower with mini surfboard hooks.

day at the beach is fun and exciting whether it’s spent surfing, swimming or playing in the sand. But, as the old saying goes, the beach would be perfect except for the sand…. and beachgoers often carry a lot of it home with them. No one wants all of that gritty stuff tracked through the house.

People have sought to counter this scourge in their beach houses by installing inexpensive hoses or showerheads to rinse off before coming inside. Early outdoor showers were very simple structures built at the shore so that sunbathers could rinse off before leaving for the day. Now those utilitarian items are taking an upscale turn as homeowners are adding more frills and personal touches to the traditional outdoor shower.

Todd Coyle of TCC Contracting builds homes from Rodanthe to Corolla and said the current trends include rain showerheads, benches, and towel racks. Most people are asking that they be nicer than the traditional outdoor shower and include privacy features like lattice siding and roofing. Some of the larger houses he builds may have two showers to accommodate more people. He estimates that the costs can run from $2,000 to $3,000.

For those who prefer to go the DIY route, owners can choose to personalize their outdoor showers by creating a theme. Pinterest is a wonderful source of creative ideas for personalizing your own outdoor shower. There are hundreds of ideas on Pinterest boards showing great ways to convert existing spaces into outdoor showers. There are also boards explaining how to build a solar shower instead of purchasing one for those who want to save a little money.

“Outdoor showers rock,” said owner Becky Rockis. She and Mark Moore decided to give their shower a surfer theme since he likes to surf. A carpenter by trade, he added a longboard behind the plumbing to make it fun.

Becky Rockis’s surf-themed shower, which also lights up at night.

“The shower had been there for 30 years,” Rockis said, “but doing this makes it more fun.” She also said it saves the septic system because the sand just washes away. “We have people who come every summer to hang and stay with us and this gives us a fun outdoor area.

The surfer theme is found frequently along the Outer Banks in the customized outdoor showers that people install. Not only are surf boards hung next to the showers or as the plumbing support, but the motif can also be found on door handles and wall hangings.

A bright and spacious outdoor shower with a half bathroom that Southern Shores resident Gray Berryman constructed himself.

Gray Berryman said the three outdoor showers at his Southern Shores house are about the size of a small car wash but added that it is very important since his house is often “packed to the gills in the summer.” He welded copper to hold the board racks and curtains in his shower. He estimated that materials cost less than $100 and it took a few hours to complete the job.

As a realtor, Berryman sees many different designs along the beach. He said the scope of the project depends on the amount each owner wants to spend. “With a little bit of thought, design and money, you can make it a work of art which makes their beach experience unique. It makes this place special and gives a better experience to the visitors. Most people don’t have outdoor showers at home, so this becomes something else they can talk about after their vacation.”

When Jane Plante and her husband bought their Nags Head home, it didn’t have an outdoor shower, but it had what the city called a “non-conforming structure” on the lot. Their 800-square-foot house is on a cottage court, a single lot with two two-bedroom/one bath cottages, which means it falls under different zoning requirements.

Jane Plante and her husband, Danny, decided that their Nags Head renovation called for an outdoor shower.

“You can’t do anything different than the existing structure,” she said. There was a shed in front and they applied for permission to convert it into a shower. Once they had the permit, Plante’s husband Danny built the new structure from scratch and the design blends in well with the house. She said her guests just love the design.

While it can be easy to add personal touches to these highly functional amenities, there are a number of things that homeowners should keep in mind:

A rain shower head with hidden piping is a nice design option.

Where will the shower be located? It is best to locate it close to existing hot- and cold-water lines to save plumbing installation costs and to make it easier to winterize. Drainage is also a consideration since this is outdoors. Coyle of TCC Contracting estimates that 80 to 90 percent of Outer Banks homes are on septic systems which can cost anywhere from $3,500 for an average four-bedroom cottage to $50,000 for a 12-bedroom house. The outdoor shower reduces the amount of water going into the septic tank, but it needs to have proper drainage nearby.

Owners also must carefully consider the materials they are going to use to construct the showers. Prior to construction, the exterior of the house may need additional waterproofing to prevent rot and mildew. Just as the construction materials for the rest of the house have to be durable and able to withstand storms that affect the Outer Banks, these structures need to be both functional and sturdy.

Finally, while people know they are showering outside, they also want a degree of privacy. They want the open feel of the shower and a nice view of the ocean, sound and sky, but Coyle said he finds more homeowners wanting roofs and lattice work to give them a feeling of privacy. Landscaping features can also be added to give privacy as well as shade on hot days.

So whether you have an outdoor shower you want to spruce up, or are looking to start from scratch, creating that magical space outdoors – which allows you to keep the sand there too – may be the perfect spring project before those beautiful summer days arrive. ♦

Jane Elfring

Jane Elfring, a freelance writer and photographer, lives in Elizabeth City. She writes about the history and life in Northeastern North Carolina. 

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