Outdoor bathers clean up with a great view - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

Outdoor bathers clean up with a great view

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Posted: Saturday, July 5, 2003 4:15 am | Updated: 2:26 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

Night swimming is different. The water feels softer and sounds are muted. It’s as if the tactile and audio world has been blanketed. Swimming at night is soothing. So is showering outside.

If your eyebrows shot off the top of your forehead at the idea of au naturel in the back yard, read no further. You are too modest to contemplate the sybaritic pleasures of showering under the stars. Shoot, even showering in the early morning is pleasurable, accompanied by the sounds of the birds and basking in the heat of the sun. And if you have to ask, the answer is ‘‘yes,’’ there are usually privacy walls surrounding an outdoor shower.

Gregg Howard of Fort Worth, Texas, starts his mornings with an outside shower. When he worked at a bank, showering outdoors provided relief from his strait-laced work life. ‘‘I always felt like I had an edge on everyone else. It’s so freeing,’’ he says.

Howard, now a real estate developer, and his partner, Todd Edson, installed an outside shower as a practical measure that morphed into a daily indulgence. ‘‘We’d get filthy working outside, so we used it like a mudroom so we wouldn’t track up the house,’’ Edson says.

Their shower, with both hot and cold water, is used at least seven months of the year, they say.

East Texas jewelry artists Zeke Zewick and Marty Flanagan say they use their outdoor shower almost 10 months of the year. The three-sided structure is larger than many tract-house bathrooms and is artistically decorated. It was installed because the bathroom inside their house has only a bathtub.

The secret pleasure of bathing al fresco is apparently not such a great secret. Resorts are finding private outdoor showers to be a positive selling point. Hotels in places as farflung as Fiji, the British Virgin Islands, Mexico and the Maldives are onto the trend. And these are not economyrate places. The Four Seasons Resort at Kuda Huraa in the Maldives charges $325 to $1,700 a night for its rooms with outdoor showers — and they expect a seven-night minimum.

Naturally, this phenomenon has not gone without a retail response, with outdoor shower structures readily available at all price levels, from freestanding plumbing units ready to be connected to the house’s water supply to simpler units that connect to the garden hose. This summer, Target is selling a one-piece nyatoh wood unit with a shower head, vertical water pipe and small platform for $90.

The Sharper Image catalog, www.sharperimage.com, sells a solar-heated outdoor shower for $299. The unit can be placed just about anywhere the garden hose goes and provides 5 1 /2 gallons of sunwarmed water.

The plumbing components to make your own outdoor shower can be gathered piecemeal at plumbing and homesupply stores. Or there are components — shower heads, pipes and fixtures — made especially for outdoor use that prohibit rust, but they are extremely expensive. Using them can run up the cost to close to $800 or more, especially if you want a separate shower head that sprays down your feet as well.

Landscape architect Michael Eagan says that stainless-steel or solid-brass fixtures do last longer but that they aren’t necessary. You could replace a basic shower head eight times for the price of a single outdoor shower head, he says.

Eagan works for the national architecture firm Carter Burgess, and his outdoor showers are confined to commercial projects such as camps and resorts, but in a former job, he often incorporated outdoor showers in residential landscaping plans for clients in Phoenix and Palm Springs.

Eagan says outdoor showers could be as inexpensive as $1,500 or as high as $10,000. ‘‘It depended on the elements — such as materials — and the owner’s intent,’’ he says.

There are many considerations to be addressed when installing an outdoor shower, Eagan says. Among them is frequency of use. That, he says, ‘‘will determine whether the runoff should drain into a dry well, back into the sewer system or be reused in the landscape.’’

The runoff from Howard and Edson’s outdoor shower in Fort Worth and Zewick and Flanagan’s in East Texas benefits the surrounding landscape. But again, there’s another consideration — the landscaping. ‘‘You don’t want to create a place for bees,’’ says Eagan.

And you don’t want to use desert plants with spines for the obvious prickly reason and because the shower area will stay moist. Trailing ground covers are good, says Eagan, ‘‘I’ve used trailing rosemary, something that has an herbal scent and smells nice when you brush by,’’ he says.

‘‘Most of our houseplants spend the summer around the shower,’’ says Flanagan. They get all the humidity they want, and she gets a respite from cleaning the bathtub. With an outdoor shower, she says, all you have to do is ‘‘sweep away the pine needles and enjoy the great scenery and the birds singing.’’

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