Know the Types of Outdoor Shower Drainage

Outdoor showers are practical, enjoyable, and attractive additions to a home. However, there are two issues concerning water that you had better face–piping water to the outdoor shower, and the wastewater. Outdoor showers do not generally need complex drainage systems, especially if you locate it at a distance from the house, or if the natural inclination of the terrain directs water away from the house’s structure.

However, there are important considerations that will determine the type of drainage that you are going to install in your outdoor shower. Depending on the location, type of soil, and local regulations, there are several drainage possibilities. However, each of them has benefits and limitations that you should take into consideration. The matters that we cover in this post are, where the water should go, and how it will get there.


Before installing an outdoor shower system, you should take into account different factors. For instance, type of soil, the volume of wastewater produced, and proximity to existing structures. If you install the shower on a wall of your house or nearby, you need to keep water away from the foundation.

Local building codes vary about the disposal of wastewater; thus, you would better consult with the local authorities the regulations regarding the drainage system design used for your outdoor shower. Additionally, ask the utility providers before digging to avoid coming into contact with any buried utilities. Poor drainage can flood buildings, cause damage to landscapes or structures, and contaminate ground or surface water.

Natural Drainage

The gray water from the outdoor shower usually drains to the garden or the grass. It is the most common way to drain your outdoor shower because it is eco-friendly. You save the water you used from showering for watering your plants.

You should build your shower’s base a little above the ground level so that you can run a pipe from the bottom to a flowerbed or your grass with an inclination. This setup allows the wastewater to flow freely from your base to the garden.

Under certain conditions, it may be suitable to let wastewater fall onto the ground. It would be the appropriate option where the soils are permeable, and water can percolate quickly without build-up. Likewise, when you do not use the shower too often, or it is not located close to your house’s foundation.

You can test how quickly water percolates into the soil of the future shower site by dumping a large bucket of water and timing how long it takes to disappear. If the water remains on the surface for five or more minutes, you may want to consider connecting it to the house’s drain system to a dry well or French drain.

Shower Pan

A shower pan is a shower drainage option that involves catching and directing shower wastewater. The location of the shower pans is below the floor. It can be made of plastic, fiberglass, rubber-lined, or metal. The pan drains trough a tube that either connects to the wastewater system or with pipes that irrigate plants or food crops.

Hook it to the Drainage System

In areas near lakes, streams, or other bodies of water, local authorities require or recommend that wastewater enters directly into septic or municipal sewer lines rather than to drain freely.

The process of installing the pipes simplifies if an outlet for drainage is easily accessible from the shower’s location. Nevertheless, you will need to know your city’s regulations regarding wastewater. If you can not access your house’s drainage system for cost or legal reasons, you have other options.

Dry Well

Dry wells are standard drainage options where the soil is not porous enough to withstand direct runoff. A dry well is a layer of gravel through which the wastewater must percolate and filter. Local ordinances specify the construction of dry wells. Still, a recommended size is an area that extends about 16 inches beyond the shower perimeter on all sides to a depth of about 4 feet.

French Drain

A French drain is a trench dug with a slope in the direction you want the water to go. The general rule for a French drain is a slope of one inch for every eight feet in length. The trench contains drainpipes wrapped in landscaping fabric, perforated on the downside, lying on a layer of gravel. Above the pipes, there is another layer of gravel and a final cover of soil and grass.

The water runs out from the shower, passes through the tubes, and percolates to the grounds below. Although covering the pipe complicates future maintenance efforts, doing so conceals the French drain from view. Another alternative is to let the gravel to form part of decorating landscape design.


There are important considerations that will determine the type of drainage that you are going to install in your outdoor shower. For instance, type of soil, the volume of wastewater produced, and proximity to existing structures. Depending on those conditions, the wastewater that runs off the outdoor shower can percolate directly into the soil, hook-up to the house’s drainage system, or drain through a dry well or French drain. If you need assistance with the adequate installation of your outdoor shower, ask here.

Sources: Gardenista, Bob Vila

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