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How to Install an Outdoor Shower

Ed Del Grande from Ed the Plumber, demonstrates how to install an outdoor shower complete with a solar water heater.

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Step 1: Choose the Pipe and the Valve

Pipe is the first thing to consider when it comes to planning an outdoor shower. If the area temperature goes below freezing, assume that the pipe will freeze, and design the shower so the lines can be blown out or drained. Usually a combination of piping is used for an outdoor shower.

Next, decide the type of shower valve to use. Most of the time, an outdoor shower is going to have cold water running to it, so although a traditional indoor shower mixing valve can be used, this is necessary only if hot and cold water will be used in outdoor shower.

Step 2: Dig a Trench

Starting at the water supply side of the pipe, dig down at least 6". Make sure the depth stays consistent; any big dips in the line may create a freezing potential in cold weather. When the trench is complete, remove any rocks or other sharp objects that could puncture the line. Roll the pipe into the trench, being careful not to kink any part of it.

Step 3: Leave Extra Pipe

Because it's fairly inexpensive, leave plenty of extra pipe on the front and back side of the trench. When you backfill pipe, it will pull in, but with extra in place, you won't come up short. If any is left over, cut it down to size when making the final connections (image 1).

Ed's tip: Place yellow caution tape on top of the pipe before backfilling the trench with soil (image 2). In the future, if you're digging in the same area and expose the tape, you'll know where the water line runs and avoid a potential mishap.

Step 4: Backfill the Trench

Stabilize the ends of the pipe so there are no sharp bends or kinks where it comes out of the ground. Lay caution tape on top of the pip; use clumps of dirt to hold the pipe and tape in place as you backfill the trench.

Step 5: Add the Hose Connector Fittings

With the pipe buried, add the hose connector fittings. The same process used to attach the fitting to one side of the pipe is also used to connect it to the sillcock side of the pipe.

To connect the fitting to a piece of copper, use a compression fitting or a transition fitting.

Slide the nut from the compression fitting over the copper pipe. Next, slide the ferrell into place. Connect the fitting body to the pipe and hand tighten the nut. Use pliers to tighten down the connections securely.

Step 6: Measure and Cut the Copper Pipe

To run the copper line, measure the pipe and cut to length with a pipe cutter.

Continue to assemble the run, using copper pipe and compression fittings, sized to fit the installation.

Step 7: Mount the Unit

Next, mount the unit by drilling into the wall with a 3/16" masonry bit; make sure the holes properly align with the pipe clip. When the holes for the first pipe clamp are in place, tap in a plastic anchor; screw the clamp into the anchors to secure it to the wall.

Before continuing, check to make sure the pipe is running slightly up hill in the direction of the shower; this will help ensure that water isn't left in the pipe when it comes time to winterize the lines.

Continue mounting the pipe to the wall, making sure it always runs up hill.

Step 8: Install the Shower Unit

With the water line prepped and in place, it's time to install the shower unit. Keep in mind, at this point, this is a cold water shower. To have warm or tepid water going to the shower, build a solar water heater.

Step 9: Install a Solar Water Heater

Using two tees, set up a simple mixer to blend cold water with heated water.

Starting with a 25' roll of black sprinkler pipe, secure the roll together with a zip tie. When installing the unit, position it to collect the most solar heat possible.

Step 10: Run a Cold Water Line

To let the cold water mix with the heated water, run another line that bypasses the water heater. This line will not be exposed to any sun and will remain cold. At the end where the water comes in, install a solderless tee, secured with a worm clamp, to direct water into both pipes.

Step 11: Hook the Lines Together

Hook the two ends together using another solderless tee; connect the unit into the water line using a barbed compression fitting; secure it down with a worm clamp. When the water heater is connected, the hot and cold water will mix in the tee and send warm water to the shower.

Connect the shower unit to the prepped water line. Remember, the shower unit will be all copper; compression fittings apply to these connections as well.

Step 12: Assemble the Shower Components

The shower will have three main components. First, there will be a sillcock, approximately 1' off the ground. The next component will be the spring-loaded valve, which will mount approximately 3' above the sillcock. It has a pull chain that activates the shower. The last component will be the showerhead. Assemble everything on the ground, then attach it to the wall as one unit.

Step 13: Make the Tee

Use Teflon tape when making the connections into the brass tee that holds the sillcock. Screw compression fittings to threaded fittings on both sides of the tee and secure them with a wrench. Use Teflon tape on the sillcock before screwing it into place on the tee.

Step 14: Assemble the Valve

Insert the cut lengths of copper pipe into either end of the tee and tighten down the fitting. Make sure all of the connections are secure before moving to the spring valve. Follow the same procedure, using threaded compression fittings to install the valve (make sure not to scratch the chrome when tightening down). When the valve is assembled, slide the copper pipe from the sillcock unit into the compression fitting on the valve. When the valve is in the proper position, it pulls down toward the sillcock.

Install the last piece of copper into the top side of the valve and tighten down the compression fitting.

Step 15: Angle the Water

Compression fittings come in many sizes, shapes and adaptors, letting you design a custom shower. Compression adaptors let you angle the direction of the water. For a 90-degree angle, we'll use a 1/2" adaptor threaded to a compression fitting. It screws into the showerhead, and when it's in place, you'll actually be able to put it into places with a short piece of pipe attached to the 90 and it'll shoot straight down and give you a good shower.

Step 16: Screw the Fitting Into the Showerhead

Apply several layers of Teflon tape on the threaded end of the compression fitting that goes into the showerhead; screw the fitting into the showerhead, using pliers to make sure it's tightly in place.

Next, slide the short piece of copper pipe into the compression end of the fitting; use a pair of wrenches to make sure the nut is tightly in place.

Step 17: Tighten the Fittings, and Connect the Water

Install the compression 90 onto the other side of the copper pipe. The final step is to slide the copper pipe from the shower valve assembly into the compression fitting on the showerhead unit and tighten down the fittings. Mount the entire unit to the wall with the same procedure as before, using anchors and pipe clamps.

Connect the water line to the bottom of the shower unit and turn on the water.

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