Home Project: Outdoor Shower

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Outdoor Shower


Erik Rank


Guests who get a chance to use the outdoor shower at the Block Island home of Larry Breakstone and his wife, Karen Levey, come away impressed. And for good reason: For starters, it’s got hot water, but the 4×8-foot structure is also spacious, offers a pleasant view of Block Island Sound, and is extremely private, thanks to an array of hydrangeas, lilacs, rosebushes, and other flowering plants that have grown up around the shower’s 5-foot walls. But its creation didn’t come about without careful planning.

Larry and Karen were especially concerned with making sure the small building didn’t interrupt the lines of their recently constructed post-and-beam house. So, they set it off on its own on the southwest corner of the property, where it receives full afternoon sun. A short fieldstone path connects it to the house. “We’ll shower out there until November,” Karen quips.

To create a durable “superstructure,” Larry, who did all of the work himself, drove five nontoxic, pressure-treated 4×4-inch posts 2 feet into the ground to demarcate the corners and the door. Then he connected them with a series of lateral posts top and bottom. The lower crosspieces are a few feet aboveground to block out leaves and other debris; Larry filled the gap with a loose-fitting collection of beach stones. For sheathing, he decided against plywood and went for a barn-board look, running 1×12-inch rough-cut pine vertically. Why? “We knew they’d age and color to match our gray cedar-sided home,” he says. “Plus, plywood deteriorates faster.”

To avert water from getting into the siding’s end grain and rotting it out, Larry capped the top with a 4-inch-wide pine board. But his preventive measures didn’t stop there. Worried that soapy water might find its way into the home’s nearby well, he poured a shallow, square cement foundation with catch basin, from which a buried PVC pipe runs to a French drain 30 feet away. (The shower’s flooring — 1×3-inch oak, spaced a quarter-inch apart — lets discharged water seep into the basin.) Design elements include a whitewashed shed door the couple picked up at a recycling center, and, mounted on a 4×10-inch post, a brass gooseneck showerhead and matching knobs that a friend had saved during renovation of a nearby hospital.

Construction materials, including lumber and antique fixtures, totaled $250. Larry estimates that he put in about eight hours of work.

What do you like most?
“It’s just a nice way to end a day at the beach,” Larry says. “It’s big, it’s open, you’re surrounded by all these wonderful plants, and sand doesn’t get tracked inside.”

Thompson Lumber
385 Woodville Road
Hopkinton, RI


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  • Being a Block Island home owner as well I can agree with Larry’s comments about the perfect way to end a day at the beach. My guests were thrilled when we installed one. Ours overlooks a pond and is very serene.

  • i’ve had my outdoor shower for years- and wouldn’t live without it- i’ve even put a solar powered light (very low diffused light- just enough to see the shower knobs) so i can run out after dark- or in my case before dawn..Also use it until the fear of frozen pipes presents itself.. you haven’t lived until you’ve showered in all seasons outside..

  • Charlie

    The article states, “… The lower crosspieces are a few feet above ground to block out leaves and other debris; …” Are you sure about this measurement, Mr. Aldrich?

  • Angela

    Looks inviting! I also like the simple design elements and attention to detail, not to mention the price to build it.


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