Outdoor bathroom mistakes: 5 problems to avoid when designing your own

The experts give their advice on outdoor bathroom mistakes to help make your DIY project a success

outdoor bathroom mistakes: Victoria + Albert Baths taizu bathtub outdoors
(Image credit: Victoria + Albert Baths)

It's wise to be wary of common outdoor bathroom mistakes if you fancy adding one of these on-trend features to your backyard. That way, you're more likely to end up with a space that's practical, stylish, and long-lasting, rather than an eyesore that rarely gets used.

If you've already perused our outdoor shower ideas, you'll know that there are lots of different styles to choose from. But it's not just showers that you can bring into your garden. From bathtubs to sinks and even toilets, there is a multitude of options, depending on your individual needs. So whether you want something functional or spa-like, affordable or lavish, you can bet that there's an outdoor bathroom that's perfect for your plot.

But, before you get started, it's crucial to know what to avoid. This can save you from stress down the line (as well as the costs of having things replaced). We've brought together info on outdoor bathroom mistakes to stay clear of below, plus advice on what to do instead.

5 outdoor bathroom mistakes that can turn your dream project into a disaster

As James Roberts, Director of Sanctuary Bathrooms (opens in new tab) says, 'Many people seek to have a stunning, biophilic, nature-inspired outdoor bathroom for the ultimate luxe experience. However, there are many practical and logistical considerations when planning such a space.'

Avoid making these common outdoor bathroom mistakes though, and you can ensure your project plans match up to reality.

1. Putting it in the wrong place

First things first – you need to find the right location for your outdoor bathroom ideas. There are many elements which need to be considered when making this decision, so be sure to think about it carefully.

As Thomas Goodman, a construction expert at MyJobQuote.co.uk (opens in new tab) advises, the location of your bathroom features will be influenced in part by the amount of space available in your garden. But you'll need to factor in plumbing too, particularly if you want to hook it up to hot water or to the main household waste drain. 'If you need to connect it to utilities, keep it close to the house,' he says. Otherwise, the cost of connecting it is likely to be higher. 

Speaking of drainage, some people choose to situate their outdoor shower or bath on a slightly higher level of their plot, to encourage gray water to naturally drain away into the garden. If you're putting your bathroom near an exterior wall of your house, you may need to plan a more controlled drainage system to prevent the water from soaking into the foundations of your home.

You'll also need to consider how easy the area is to access and how you plan to use it. For instance, if you want to take a quick shower before an outdoor swim, it makes sense to install your outdoor bathroom near where your pool ideas are. Or, if you want to have a luxurious space for soothing open-air baths, you probably don't want to position it right next to your BBQ zone. Likewise, Thomas suggests not situating it too far away. Otherwise, you may be less inclined to use it. Think about what's practical for you.

outdoor shower at wildwood spa

A stunning shower at the Wildwood Spa (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Wayfair/Ravendere Retreats)

You may also wish to bring in some sort of overhead cover (you can find plenty of patio cover ideas in our feature). 'Compared to many overseas locations that have better climates, weather can be quite temperamental here in the UK,' says James Roberts of Sanctuary Bathrooms. But, a shelter means you can use the zone come rain or shine. Just be sure to use fixtures and fittings that can withstand any inclement conditions.

And if you're adding a door to an enclosed outdoor bathroom, be sure that it's positioned to maximize interior space while also being conveniently accessible from the outside, as Thomas suggests. 'This will necessitate consideration of nearby walkways and potentially obnoxious flora.'

outdoor shower with wooden enclosure

We love the slatted screens for boosting the privacy for this outdoor shower, and the back wall, painted in 'Lamp Black 228' Intelligent Masonry Paint from Little Greene (opens in new tab), adds to the contemporary vibe

(Image credit: Little Greene)

2. Picking the wrong materials

'Choice of material is critical,' says Emma Joyce of House of Rohl (opens in new tab). 'Anything residing outside will be exposed to the elements year-round.'

She suggests opting for UV-resistant composite for outdoor bathtubs, which won't go yellow in the sun and will withstand seasonal temperature changes without cracking.

There are other options for outdoor bathtub ideas, however. James Roberts of Sanctuary Bathrooms says, 'While you can look to use heavy-duty stone tubs, metallic baths such as steel or tin can help retain heat. 

'This needs to be built on a solidly built foundation that allows pipework to be laid under, along with both waterproof and anti-slip flooring,' he says. Thomas Goodman adds: 'be sure the floor can handle a full tub without collapsing.' Remember to opt for waterproof materials if you're building an enclosure around your outdoor bathroom, too.

bath outdoors near tree

Choose materials that will withstand the outdoor elements

(Image credit: Eisenlohr/iStock/Getty Images)

If you're going for metal for your outdoor bathroom features – for instance, for your shower fittings – Paul McFadyen, Managing Director at metals4U (opens in new tab) suggests opting for 304-grade stainless steel. '304-grade stainless steel is the perfect metal for outdoors, especially alongside heavy water usage,' he says. 'Due to its excellent corrosion resistance, it can withstand most oxidizing acids that the outdoor weather produces.'

Stainless steel pipe is also easy to clean in comparison to other metals that corrode over time, he says, so it's ideal if you're after low-maintenance garden ideas. 'All you need is some baking soda mixed with water to form a paste to remove any dirt – this also has the advantage of being chemical-free and non-toxic. Be sure to rinse the area well after treating it, and buff it dry with a microfiber cloth.'

Galvanized steel pipes are a good choice to support water flow and drainage, as Paul advises. 'Steel pipes are commonly used to support the water flow from the shower to the garden. Galvanized pipes are usually pre-cut and have a nice appearance, so they are great if you care about your garden styling. You could cut the cost of the piping by using PVC, but it may need to be painted to be less visible.'

Paul also advises against using copper. 'Copper showers look great, but they aren't really for outdoor use. Copper doesn't contain the same properties that steel does, and therefore, after some time the natural elements throughout the seasons will cause the metal to oxidize and that's when you get the green-colored speckles of patina beginning to appear.'

outdoor shower

Tile and stone can be good picks for placing around a shower

(Image credit: Alan Myers/Alamy Stock Photo)

3. Not providing privacy

When it comes to outdoor bathroom mistakes that can spoil the experience of your new feature, forgetting about privacy can be a big one. As Thomas of MyJobQuote.co.uk says in regards to using outdoor showers, 'you should feel completely at ease away from prying eyes.' And that applies if you're bathing or using an outdoor toilet, too. 

The location itself can play a part in this, but there are plenty of ways to boost the feeling of exclusivity no matter where it's positioned. From built-in enclosures and overhead covers to chic garden screening ideas or even planters filled with tall shrubs or grasses – think about how much privacy you need as well as what will work with the style of your space.

Victoria + Albert Baths taizu bathtub outdoors

(Image credit: Victoria + Albert Baths)

4. Overlooking comfort

You want your outdoor bathroom to be comfortable when you're using it. So, if you're adding a tub, be sure to sit (and lie) in it before you buy it, as Emma Joyce from House of Rohl suggests.

'An outside bath is likely to be a regular treat rather than a daily event, so you'll want to indulge in a long soak when you do use it,' she says. And, if you fancy having romantic baths for two, be sure to invest in a design that's big enough. As mentioned above, be careful that the flooring beneath is strong enough to support the weight.

Ensuring comfort can also include considerations such as making enclosures large enough so that they don't feel claustrophobic or too small to use the features properly. Think about materials underfoot, too – you might find some of the best composite decking to be better for standing on with bare feet as opposed to gravel, for instance.

And, if you fancy using your outdoor bathroom after dark, you'll need to include some outdoor lighting ideas nearby so you can see what you're doing clearly (or simply to elevate the ambiance). These will need to be safely installed by a qualified professional, however, to prevent hazards.

outdoor bathroom with tub

Make sure your outdoor bathroom is comfortable to use

(Image credit: by Alfian Widiantono/Moment/Getty Images)

5. Forgetting about storage

Another practical feature that is a must-have for outdoor bathrooms is storage. After all, you'll need somewhere to put your towel, toiletries, and maybe a scrubbing brush or two.

This can be as straightforward as a few hooks added to the wall nearby, or perhaps a vintage stepladder, but it can also include built-in niches, benches, or other garden storage ideas.

They don't all have to be permanent fixtures, however. Emma suggests adding a bath rack to complete your outdoor tub 'which will hold your wine glass while you lay back and gaze at the cosmos.'

Sadolin outdoor shower

We love this smart shower and storage solution, decorated with Sadolin (opens in new tab) paints

(Image credit: Sadolin)

More tips for designing an outdoor bathroom

Now you know some of the most common outdoor bathroom mistakes and how to avoid them. But, there are some more top tips to bear in mind for the ultimate alfresco scheme:

  • 'Remember that potted or planted trees and plants will provide the perfect outdoor ambiance,' says Thomas Goodman. Opt for some container gardening ideas to give your space a splash of greenery and transport it to a tropical paradise.
  • Thomas also suggests choosing a style that complements your existing outdoor setting for a sense of harmony. This could be by matching colors, materials, or forms.
  • 'With a project of this kind, it is always worth seeking professional help both from qualified trades people including builders, plumbers, and electricians in order to get the best advice,' says James Roberts of Sanctuary Bathrooms. 'Alongside this, if looking to build extensions or outdoor areas it is always worth consulting local councils and building regulations, since it may require planning permission, as well as working with local water companies.'
Holly Crossley
Holly Crossley

The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then. She's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator – plants are her passion. But, she loves all things digital too. She joined the team at Gardeningetc after working as a freelance content creator for a web agency, whilst studying for her M.Sc. in Marketing. Now she feels lucky enough to combine both digital and botanical worlds, every day.