Twenty years ago I generally encountered outdoor showers only when I went on a trip to a tropical or sub-tropical locale. Having been to a few, I started to notice some pros and cons of the various designs I experienced (who does that, except contractors?). In the last decade or so, I’ve built a lot of outdoor showers at beach houses and lakeside vacation homes, in warm climates and cooler climates. Taking an outdoor shower is something of a luxury when it’s very warm outside, and it’s almost a necessity with a beach or lake house. If you’ve always wanted an outdoor shower, but weren’t sure about the design, I’m here to show you the way. We’ll start with some of the things you’ll have to think about as you pick a privacy fence for an outdoor shower, like material, style, and special properties.
Considerations for Building an Outdoor Shower
While some outdoor showers are used only sporadically and are situated in mild climates, others are used frequently and some are exposed to rainy and even snowy weather conditions for much of the year. And that’s besides the regular wetting they get from being used. That’s why building your shower from materials that can stand up to the elements is essential for having the shower work smoothly in the summer months. Here are the characteristics you want to focus on when you look for a privacy fence for your outdoor shower:
- Moisture Resistance: With outdoor showers, water resistance is obviously an important consideration. With these structures, the most important part to waterproof is anything that is touching the ground near areas where water collects. Anything that easily molds or rusts is a bad idea for use as one of these structural elements. For instance, if using metal, it’s important to have an excellent coating or use a part made of stainless steel.
- UV Resistance: The sun dries materials out, fades colors, and paired with moisture, can work to quickly break down wooden components, causing them to crack and splinter.
- Sturdy in the Wind: With larger bodies of water, particularly the ocean, this really needs to be a consideration, as the winds can be fairly mighty. While I’ve seen many tiki-style bamboo showers unceremoniously sent crashing to the ground by wind, as long as the main structural posts are well anchored, there won’t be a problem.
- Salt and Sand Resistance: This is truly where the wind causes most of its problems. Day after day of salt and sand particles carried by the wind will erode just about anything. The only ways to approach this are to accept the erosion, replacing and repairing as needed, or to build using materials with sufficient protective surfaces.
Materials for a Privacy Fence for an Outdoor Shower
There are quite a few ways to build a beautiful and long-lasting outdoor shower, as long as you choose your materials wisely. These are some of the more common materials I’ve seen used:
- Concrete: Shower structures made of concrete are excellent choices for all-year-round exposure, but they don’t always fit the site location aesthetically and functionally. I’ve mainly seen these using the concrete wall of a house or backed into a high retaining wall at the edge of the property. With a good concrete sealer, these will last for a very, very long time, possess a beautiful natural texture, or can be given a range of finishes to create the right look. The main downside of concrete done well is the difficulty in removing it completely. Once you’ve poured the concrete or mortared the cinder blocks, you’re pretty much stuck with it.
- Stone: Like concrete, stone also has a certain permanence about it. It’s actually often paired with concrete, functioning as the facing element. One of the most beautiful stone shower walls I’ve seen utilized basalt stones, tightly bunched and mortared onto a concrete wall.
- Wood: There are too many different woods to list. When dealing with lots of moisture, you want to tread carefully with wood. Some of the most common woods are pressure treated (used often in a purely structural capacity), ipe, and cedar. A well-sealed cedar with a pressure-treated wood structure can actually last for quite some time, though with heavy use and heavier weather, the boards near the ground might start to rot out. You’ll also need to use high-quality, corrosion-resistant hardware if you go this route. Like any wooden structure that sits outdoors, you’ll likely need to do some maintenance as well, like re-staining, re-sealing, or even sanding. But if money and time aren’t too much of an issue, ipe and other rainforest hardwoods can create an elegant and refined-looking outdoor shower.
- Steel: Steel used structurally will create a shower that won’t topple, giving strength while not using as much material as stone and concrete. Steel would generally not be on my radar for this setting, as so many products are extremely quick to rust. However, some manufacturers are making galvanized steel fencing that is absolutely solid in the face of moisture. Unlike the steel fencing of decades past, this steel fencing is protected from the elements through a combination of an extra layer of zinc, an e-coat, and a premium powder coat. These protective materials keep the steel frame from taking in moisture and protect it from the sun, making it an amazingly good fence choice for a wet area.
Aesthetic Considerations: Choosing a Style
There are all sorts of ways to build an outdoor shower using the material you choose. Some people simply erect a few posts and then string shower curtains between them. There are brick enclosures, and beautifully crafted walls made of stone, concrete, and tile. There are simple structures made of pressure treated wood and walls made of bamboo. There are as many styles as there are aesthetic sensibilities and I’ve been able to help make a few these become a reality.
So much of the final choice comes down to the scene and the setting. A lot of the houses that I work on are either contemporary or old craftsman and Victorian homes. These housing styles don’t always vibe very well with outdoor structures made of concrete, faced with bamboo, or even lined with basalt stone, and pressure treated wood isn’t always refined enough for the situation. While a cedar enclosure can look good with just about anything, sometimes this style of enclosure is just too much maintenance for a homeowner looking to put in a structure at what is often a vacation home (who wants to be sanding and staining over vacation?). In these cases, I’ve found that the simple lines and classic appeal of a low maintenance iron and wood or composite security fence fill in this aesthetic gap rather nicely. These types of fences can be hard to find, but they use well-coated steel pickets to create a rust-resistant, sturdy frame for the fence, along with wooden or composite board infill for privacy and a unique look. The wooden or composite boards bring in an element of earthiness, and go well with nearly any style of house.
As I’ve already said, there are plenty of ways to build a fantastic outdoor shower. Different houses and landscapes call forth different materials and designs. If you decide that a galvanized steel and wooden infill fence is the perfect fit, then I can recommend the systems produced by Fortress Fence. With their tough, unique coating system that uses an e-coat for moisture resistance and a powder coat to protect against UV, they’re highly resistant to the water, sun, salt, and sand, and can provide classic beauty for years and years. And if you’re on the lookout for more durable and beautiful building products, Fortress’ full catalog has innovative items like durable, beautiful deck railings, super tough bamboo-based decking, and uniquely stylish ornamental hardware.