Installing a shower on deck is easily within the ability of the average do-it-yourselfer. Here's how to do it.
Boating in and of itself is a great time, but everyone knows the fun really begins after arriving at that favorite anchorage. The kids want to go kayaking, the dog wants to swim, and hairy Uncle Joe visiting from Jersey wants to go snorkeling (while hopefully avoiding last year's backward thong fiasco). The downside to all this fun is the salt, sand, and/or muck tracked onboard at the end of the day — unless of course you have a transom shower. Here's how to install one yourself.
For boats equipped with a pressurized potable water system (the focus of this article), cockpit showers are normally plumbed into the existing freshwater system. This allows you to utilize your vessel's existing freshwater pump and water supply, as well as provide both cold and hot water (if a water heater is installed).
Cockpit showers can also be plumbed to use "raw water," i.e., whatever your boat is floating in. An initial saltwater shower followed by a final freshwater rinse is an excellent option for boats with limited freshwater reserves. The simplest way to do this is by tapping into an existing raw-water system, such as the anchor or deck washdown. Otherwise you'll need to add a dedicated raw-water pump and possibly install a thru-hull and seacock (depending on what's available for your installation).
Although you can cobble a system together, the simplest way to install a cockpit shower is by purchasing a kit. The parts provided may vary slightly, but at a minimum, most will contain a recessed enclosure, a shower head or nozzle (fitted with a length of retractable hose), and valves for hot and cold water control. The installation itself is pretty straightforward. However, as with any project, you'll want to thoroughly plan out and visualize it prior to beginning. Start by gathering a few basic tools as well as the materials you'll need.
Difficulty: ModerateTools and Materials:
- Screwdriver and drill
- Tape measure
- Marker or pencil
- Jigsaw or Rotozip router tool
- Knife or hose cutter
- Channel lock pliers
- Shower kit
- Hot and cold water hose (length and size depends on installation)
- Stainless steel hose clamps
- 2 barbed hose "T" fittings
- Marine-grade silicone sealant
Time: 3 hours
Cost: Around $150 for a hot and cold water shower kit
1. Decide where to locate the shower. Look for a flat surface near the swim platform, transom, or cockpit — one with enough depth behind it to accept the shower enclosure and plumbing, and enough room in front to allow the shower enclosure's lid (if so equipped) to swing open. Double check behind the selected location to make sure you won't be cutting or drilling into anything unexpected, such as wiring or hoses.
2. Choose a location that allows the shower to reach a convenient height for ease of use. (You can verify this by using a piece of line cut the same length as the shower hose.) Avoid areas above electrical equipment or other such items that could be damaged by leaks or drips should they occur. Accessibility to the area (in order to run the hoses) is another consideration. Part of this initial assessment should also include the best place to tap into the vessel's hot and cold water system via the shortest, straightest run possible.
3. Cut the hole. Most shower kits include a template to assist with cutting the hole. However, you can also make your own if needed by tracing the outline of the enclosure (noting the location of the mounting holes to assist with drilling).
Place the template where you want to mount the enclosure, tape it in place, then cut the hole. When cutting and mounting in solid fiberglass, you'll simply be applying a bead of sealant around the inside flange of the enclosure where it meets the hull to seal out water. If the area is of cored construction (such as balsa or plywood), you'll want to seal the edges of the hole as well to prevent water intrusion into the coring and the possibility of rot or other core-related issues down the road. Thickened epoxy works well for this. The same holds true for the mounting hardware holes in cored panels, which should also be sealed for the same reason.
4. Dry fit the enclosure, drill the mounting holes, and install the mounting hardware to ensure everything fits properly, then remove. If adequate access exists behind the enclosure, you can mount it now and connect the water system hoses afterward. If not, you'll have to plumb the shower prior to mounting. For our purposes, let's assume you have plenty of access and want to mount the enclosure first.
5. Apply a liberal bead of caulking along the mounting flange. Carefully install the enclosure and tighten the mounting hardware until caulking begins to ooze out, then stop. Most folks want to crank down until whatever they're mounting is tight. However, this approach squeezes most (if not all) of the caulking out. A better approach is to snug it up then let the caulking cure, allowing it to form a gasket, which provides a better seal. As a final touch, remove the mounting bolts or screws one at a time and coat the threads liberally with sealant prior to that final tightening.
6. Connect the shower head to the hose, which is then run into the port in the enclosure and screwed into the shower hose outlet plumbing fitting.
7. Plumb the system. Turn off and secure power to the water pressure pump and depressurize the system by turning on a sink faucet. Next, cut the hoses and install the "T" fittings at the locations you chose earlier to tap into the freshwater system. Secure each with stainless steel clamps, then run the respective hoses back to the shower, supporting each hose with wire ties and mounts or cushioned stainless-steel clamps every 12 to 16 inches.
8. Power up the water pressure pump and inspect the system for leaks. Now you're ready to hose down the kids, dog, and even Uncle Joe!