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Building an Outdoor Shower, continued

For an outdoor shower, I wouldn't build anything smaller than 4 feet square. Underfoot, a free-draining wood platform, typically 1x4 mahogany or quarter-sawn fir deck boards, provides a clean, elevated base.

I build the platform frame with a 2x8 pressure-treated perimeter, mitered at the corners. A 3/4-inch-square rabbet in the upper edge of the rim joists creates an integral border for the decking, which is installed on recessed, 2x6 intermediate joists (Figure 3). I use stainless-steel screws to fasten the decking -- nails tend to back out, or pop, under repeated wetting and drying cycles.

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Figure 3.A raised wood platform prevents muddy feet. A rabbetted and mitered rim joist and recessed framing make a built-in border around the decking edge. Stainless-steel decking screws eliminate potentially painful nail pops.

To support the frame, I bury a double stack of dry-laid concrete block under each corner. I set the blocks with a torpedo level and true the piers to each other. It takes a little scraping, filling, and compacting to get all the piers aligned, but it's still a quick process. I make sure to pitch the surrounding grade to drain away from the adjacent house foundation.

Overhead Frame

Building the enclosure directly against a wall of the house, preferably right outside a kitchen or bathroom for plumbing economy, provides good, rack-proof panel support. But it's the front of the enclosure, where the door goes, that can be tricky to brace properly. I tie everything together overhead with an open-framed, pergola roof (Figure 4). The pergola is both decorative and structural, as it braces the door gap and provides side-to-side stability between panels. It can also support an overhead, "rain" spray head and a well-watered creeping vine, like clematis or wisteria, all enhancements to the outdoor shower experience. I screw a simple cedar lattice to the outside end panel to give the vine a leg up.

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Figure 4.Overhead framing braces panels and maintains a fixed door opening (top). A decorative pergola can support semiconcealed piping and a rainshower head (bottom).

The vertical 2x4 panel "stiles" run long, about 7 feet overall, above and below the panel sections. Panel corners could be butted together, but I miter them for better appearance. A 2x4 frame overhead, mitered at the corners and assembled on the flat, ties the tops together. I use self-drilling Fastap screws (Faspac, 800/847-4714, www.fastapscrews.com) to tie most components together. This overhead frame supports the pergola members, made from treated 2-bys installed on edge at regular intervals and screwed from below. Ogee-profiled ends are cut with a saber saw, requiring little extra effort and adding style.

Plumbing

It's important to provide dedicated shutoffs, or stops, as well as a means to drain the lines between stop and shower, for winter shutdown. I run the supply lines out through the rim joist from the basement, and install stop-and-waste valves inside to drain standing water out of the lines.

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Figure 5.In this shower, the original exposed plumbing, with separate hot and cold stops, was inexpensive, but it was also prone to damage and presented a scald hazard.

Outdoor shower plumbing is commonly installed on the surface of the wall, with exposed tubing and individual hot and cold valves. It's a fast, economical method, and split pipes are easier to repair after an accidental freeze-up. But it isn't fancy, or particularly safe. Even if you leave everything exposed, use a pressure-balancing anti-scald valve instead of single stops. For better appearance, I like to build the valve into the wall whenever possible. The Symmons valve I install (Symmons Industries, 800/796-6667, www.symmons.com) has a secondary takeoff at the bottom of the valve, so I had to provide a way to make it easily accessible for draining. My solution was to connect a hand-held shower hose with a diverter valve in the wand (Figure 6). It's a nice-looking amenity, even if it's used only to drain the valve.

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Figure 6.The author replaced the original plumbing with frost-protected lines from the basement and a flush-mounted Symmons pressure-balancing valve. The valve body must be drained to protect it during the winter season, a task made simpler by tying in a hand-held spray.