When planning out the bathroom of your tiny house, bathtubs are rarely a good option because it consumes more water and floor space than it should. Showers are the best choice if you want to save on water consumption and open up the room significantly. However, building a shower for your tiny home can be more complicated than simply finding a small, claw-foot tub.
So how do you set up a tiny house shower? You can either purchase a shower insert or have a custom stall built, then figure out the plumbing system for your tiny house. Planning out a layout design for your bathroom will also ensure all your bathroom fixtures and accessories will fit and look aesthetically pleasing.
Tiny House Plumbing 101: What You Need To Know
As there are hundreds of concerns to remember when planning out your tiny house, you may forget about plumbing, which is essential for cooking, bathing, and using the toilet. In general, setting up the plumbing system of a small house is going to be fairly easy. The difficult part is the planning and arranging of all the different components.
Before discussing how plumbing works, here are a few terms that should be defined:
- On-grid: Your tiny house is “on-grid” if it is connected to water and drainage facilities. Directing a clean supply of pressurized water won’t be complicated.
- Off-grid: An “off-grid” tiny house is when it’s situated away from water and sewage infrastructure so you can’t simply plug into a water supply.
- Fresh water: Fresh water is treated and purified water that is safe to drink and safe to bathe in. It’s usually taken from the main water supply while you’re on-grid.
- Rainwater: Rainwater is literally the rainwater that falls from the sky. It’s safe for showers but isn’t safe to drink until it has been disinfected.
- Greywater: Greywater is the water that doesn’t not pose a health risk but has been ‘used’ like the water used for showering or washing the dishes.
- Black water: Black water is water that has been soiled and should be safely disposed of through the sewage system. Water that passes through toilets is considered black water.
Plumbing for On-Grid Tiny Houses
If you’re on-grid, you’re either on a piece of land connected to the main infrastructure or parked somewhere with access to plumbing. As long as you have access to the grid, your plumbing situation will be similar to a standard house and you’ll have pressurized water for showering. There are two ways to get water inside on-grid tiny homes:
- Hook-up to the main grid: The most natural option is to hook-up your tiny home to the main grid managed by the city’s water supplier. It’s ideal if your tiny house is built on a foundation or if you’re planning to stay in the area for a long time.
- Plug in a RV-style water hose: When your tiny house is mobile, you should have an external spigot or tap point which you can connect to an outdoor tap using a special hose. Once you’ve plugged-in your hose to an external water source, your home plumbing will draw water from this source.
Disposing water from tiny homes will rely on a similar concept. If you’re on-grid and connected to the main infrastructure, you can arrange for access to the main sewer through a draining point -- the same way as a traditional house. If you’re off-grid at an RV park or a campsite, they usually provide full-service water-hookups to drain used water out as well. You can hook up to a sewer opening using a dipped sewer hose.
Plumbing for Off-Grid Tiny Houses
Going off-grid presents many challenges because there is no guarantee that you’ll be close enough to a water source you can hook up to. Unlike tiny homes built on a foundation, you won’t have permanent access to water so you have to think about where you will get clean water from, as well as how you’ll pressurize the water to move through your plumbing.
There are a few ways you can get water into your tiny house, two of which are:
- Using a tank and pump: A practical option is to install a tank into your tiny home and use a pump to circulate and pressurize the water. It will allow you to enjoy the functionality of a normal home and give you the freedom to go off-grid. You will need to make room for the tanks in your tiny house and the water will affect the house’s weight. Filling up your tanks will also take a lot of daily effort.
- Investing in a hybrid system: It is possible to use both a tank and pump along with the conventional hookup system for on-grid houses. When your tiny house is stationary, you can connect your plumbing to the city’s grid but when you’re mobile, you would have a regular water supply. A hybrid system essentially gives you the best of both worlds.
Drainage for off-grid tiny houses is another story altogether because greywater and black water have to be handled differently. Greywater is technically ‘clean’ but cannot be dumped into the street because it could enter storm drains and pollute local water sources. If you’re disposing of greywater, it’s best to throw it into a dump station or empty it into the ground where grass can soak it up.
Black water is toxic and should only be dumped at a registered dump station, where you can empty out your black water tank by hooking it up to their pump attachments.
How to Layout Shower Space In Tiny Homes
On average, a tiny house is around 200 square feet or less, so you can expect your bathroom to be quite small. Even though the area where you shower and do your business is necessary, you spend 1 - 2 hours there at most per day. Planning your tiny house shower ahead of time will save you a lot of problems in the long run.
A tiny house bathroom would take around 25 to 50 square feet of space. Considering that half of your bathroom will be taken up with a toilet, you would need a small shower stall -- which can feel limiting. One option you could go for is a one-piece fiberglass corner shower unit. Since it will be tucked away in the corner, it’s less obtrusive and the glass helps extend your line of sight.
Of course, your shower is going to be whatever you can get locally. Ideally, you find a one-piece unit over a panelized system so you can prevent water from leaking out of the seams. And while a prefabricated shower base is convenient, cheap, and quick to install, you could consider building a wet bath instead.
A wet bath is a curbless shower -- your flooring continues right into the showers, lined with a custom pan and drain. Instead of waterproofing just the shower, you’re essentially waterproofing the entire bathroom. A wet bath is easier to clean and achieves a sleek, seamless look. You can simply separate the toilet from the actual shower space with some plexiglass or a shower curtain.
Some tiny home dwellers prefer to build their small bathroom on the same end of the house as their kitchens or entry vestibules. This is a good practice because it makes the plumbing and drain lines easier to manage. Proper ventilation and a solid bathroom door keeps the odors separate.
Q: How do I layout everything else alongside my tiny house’s shower space?
A: The other elements you need to focus on are the sink, toilet, and storage. When it comes to these components, you have to choose accessories or appliances that serve their function and take up less room.
- Sink: Many tiny houses don’t feature a sink inside their bathroom anymore, especially if the kitchen and the bathroom are next to each other. A sink designed for tiny homes will be too small to do anything more than brushing your teeth, so it’s important to choose a versatile kitchen sink instead.
- Toilet: Composting toilets are the most popular choice for a tiny house bathroom as they are compact and built specifically for a tiny house on-the-go. However, if you’re going for a flushing toilet, try to choose a wall-mounted one to save more floor space and keep the bathroom looking open. There are also dual-purpose toilets with a sink top which could also work well for tiny homes.
- Storage: Storage is often sacrificed in a tiny home bathroom, even if there are so many toiletries, products, and gadgets people keep inside their shower area. Without floor space, it’s best to go vertical and build cabinets or racks in all the empty voids along the walls.
5 Creative Design Ideas for Tiny House Showers
Even though your tiny house shower might not have a lot of space, it doesn’t mean you should sacrifice the overall look. Countless small homeowners have stretched their creativity and artistic vision to design a shower that looks and feels luxurious. Here are several ideas you could incorporate into your small bathroom to amp up its aesthetics:
- Instead of installing swinging doors, why not try a pocket or sliding door? Not only will you have an extra 9 square-foot space, but you also have more freedom to move more fixtures around without hitting anything.
- Tiles are not a good material for tiny houses on wheels since they’re heavy and prone to damage when you’re on the move. However, if you don’t plan on travelling with your tiny home, you can create cool patterns or mosaics using tile materials to achieve a unique look.
- Mixing natural wood pieces with metal accents can bring out that rustic look many small homeowners want. Stainless steel is the best option for metals while you can try teak, cedar or other water-resistant woods. Be sure to seal your wood and maintain them well to extend their lifespan.
- Galvanized steel is another material you can use to create your shower walls as it is covered with a protective zinc coating to prevent it from rusting. Tiny house owners also like to combine galvanized steel with wood planks to create a functional but stylish shower area.
- If you have extra space along your wall, you can fill it with a wall-to-wall mirror and give your bathroom the illusion of spaciousness. Mirrors can also brighten the room by reflecting the lights, even if there is little natural lighting.
- Strategize with your wall color choices. Dark-colored walls can make rooms look smaller while light, neutral tones reflect more light and open up the room. You can also match your walls and your floor for a continuous look that draws the eyes away from the size of the bathroom.
Create Your Dream Tiny House Shower
There really is no right or wrong way to create the tiny house shower of your dreams. As long as you and your family can use it comfortably, it is the perfect choice. When you balance out your needs with your wants, your tiny house shower project can’t go wrong.
Hey, there! We're Ivan and Manuela from Croatia, and we're crazy about tiny houses. We don't own one (yet).
This website is a result of our passion to share all the knowledge, photos, tips and tricks that we were able to learn while studying everything possible about the tiny house movement.