The next time you step into the shower, consider this: a shower can be much more than a place to wash your body.
Transform an ordinary shower into a steam shower and you’ll experience the benefits immediately.
A. What is a steam shower?
It’s a shower and steam room all in one designed for homes. Many fitness facilities and hotels have dedicated steam rooms which emit steam creating a warm, wet environment that gets you perspiring and clearing out your lungs. A steam shower is a small steam room with a shower head. Read the technical details here.
A steam shower can be your go-to place for mental and physical relaxation after workouts and/or the workday. It’s also a really nice way to start the day.
It’s the place where your skin can receive the best moisturizing and hydration treatment available. Just 10 minutes in the steam shower will relax tense and aching muscles and clear congested lungs and sinuses. Turning a regular bathroom into a home spa also increases your home’s resale value.
Editor’s note: I’m a huge steam room fan and go frequently. It’s the ideal way to finish a workout or end the workday. If you’re thinking of getting a steam shower in your home, I can’t overstate how relaxing it is. It’s like starting the day over… that’s how refreshing it is.
The question isn’t whether or not to install a steam shower. The question is really which one to choose. There are several types of steam showers with different features, and deciding which one will work best in your home and for your family will depend on the size of the bathroom and how you plan to use it.
B. Key Design Features
Diagram Source: SteamSaunaBath.com (very cool photo).
The steam shower will obviously have steam spouts and a shower head. Other features you might want are:
Seating: If you’re taking a steam, sitting is important. I’d want one with space for two benches if possible. If, however, your space is too small for this, you could use a flip-down (plane-style) shower stool or a portable shower stool.
The steam spout: Some steam showers and rooms shoot out steam forcefully which can be dangerous in small spaces. Others have a series of spouts that let the steam billow out. The forceful type can be great because it really heats the space up fast. However, this type turns on and off as the maximum temperature is reached quickly. The billowing style heats up slower and so the steam continues for longer periods of time. The billowing style is less likely to cause any burning injuries.
Here’s an example of billowing steam:
Temperature controls: Some like it hot and some not. You want the ability to control temperature. I prefer it scalding, but most don’t. A steam room heats up when steam is emitted. It comes in spurts and then stops once the thermostat is triggered at the set temperature. As the steam dissipates, the temperature drops and triggers the steam to emit again.
Music: Some showers include the option to listen to music. That might be something you want. If showers include the option to listen to music they will have speakers that are powerful enough to work while you’re actually using the shower.
They will also have a radio and/or Bluetooth connectivity. Bluetooth connectivity allows you to link your shower with another device. This is usually a phone, tablet or Bluetooth speaker. You can keep this device well away from the steam and still enjoy your favorite tunes.
Fog-Free Mirror: If you shave in the shower, this can be a convenient feature.
Vapor-Proof Door: If you buy a full contained steam shower this isn’t an issue. However, if you have one built you need to make sure steam doesn’t escape other wise you’ll have to run the steam continuously to maintain sufficient steam and heat.
Aroma Control: This is huge. I love it when eucalyptus oil is used in steam rooms. It elevates the experience considerably. An aroma control feature makes it possible to dispense oils within the steam.
Slip-resistant floor: Steam and water can make plenty of surfaces slippery. Ensure the floor is slip-resistant to avoid injury.
Ambient lighting: You don’t want it brightly lit, but you want some light. Check out the lighting options and get what you like. I probably like it brighter than most people. Keep in mind that when there’s plenty of steam, you can’t see much. You can get colored lights if you find chromatherapy helpful.
If chromotherapy is important to you, make sure you check the exact details of the lights. Firstly, check which colors they support. Then see what lighting options they offer. Ideally, you want lights that can rotate through a sequence but also be set to stay on the color of your choice.
C. 7 Main Types
Modular, or pre-fabricated, steam showers are among the most popular. The shower basically comes in a box. All you need to do is put the panels together and hook up the plumbing and the wiring. As ready-made as these units are, we still recommend you hire a professional and qualified plumber and electrician to hook it up. They come in a range of sizes, styles, and with a range of amenities. (See Luxury below for details.) These are the perfect choice for anyone who wants a home spa experience without the expense of extensive renovations.
If you’ve decided that it’s time to completely renovate and upgrade your bathroom, then this is the perfect time to install a custom steam shower. You will need to hire a plumber, electrician, a general contractor, and perhaps a designer. Creating a custom home spa complete with a steam shower means that you will need to choose every component from the floor tiles to the color of paint to the fixtures. Everything will reflect your own unique taste and personality. Building a custom bathroom from the bottom up ensures that you will also be able to completely customize the steam shower features, too.
You really don’t need a whole lot of bells and whistles to have a fantastic steam shower experience. But, if you’re going to go to the time, effort, and expense of buying and installing a steam shower, you might as well treat yourself to the ultimate in spa treatments. Add a remote controlled Bluetooth speaker so that you can relax to your favorite playlists. You can connect a hands-free telephone, too. We highly recommend purchasing a steam shower unit that has an aromatherapy dispenser. Chromatherapy lights are also popular. Opt for a bench so that you can sit or stretch out while you relax.
Walk-in showers have become hugely popular in recent years. These showers are, as their name suggests, shower units you can simply walk straight into. They typically feature floor to ceiling glass doors. Walk-in steam showers not only provide a home spa experience, they give any bathroom a designer look and feel, too.
NB: Remember that there is a difference between walk-in and roll-in. Walk-in showers are not necessarily suitable for wheelchair use. It may, however, be possible to adapt them for wheelchair use. If this is important to you, check with your vendor/contractor before you commit.
5. Combo 1: Whirlpool/Steam Shower Hybrid
Despite the fact that so many people are tossing out their regular bathtubs in favor of a stand-alone shower unit, whirlpool bathtubs are actually increasing in popularity. The reason is that they offer all the health and comfort benefits of a steam shower. Most bathrooms just aren’t large enough to accommodate a bathtub and a separate shower unit. If that sounds like your bathroom, the answer is to install a combo whirlpool bathtub-steam shower unit. These offer the best of both worlds in one compact space.
There’s just one point you need to remember. Regular baths can often be split up into different parts and assembled in your bathroom. Whirlpool baths, on the other hand, always come in one piece.
This means that you need to be a bit careful about what size of whirlpool bath you buy. It needs to be able to get from the delivery truck to your door in one piece. That includes getting through gates and doors, up any stairs and round all corners.
6. Combo 2: Steam Shower / Sauna Hybrid
Editor’s note: I’m also an avid sauna user. For years I’ve enjoyed multiple sauna and steam room sessions each week. While both are heated spaces, they are quite different.
Basically, as humans we can tolerate a high temperature or high humidity but not both. Saunas raise the temperature.
A traditional sauna will operate at anything from 150°F to 195°F) but much lower humidity. At the lower end of this scale, the humidity may be as high as 60%. As the heat increases, however, the humidity drops to as low as 10%.
Steam rooms have close to 100% humidity so their maximum safe temperature is about 120°F. Many people prefer them at lower temperatures.
That means, with a sauna, the main benefit comes from the heat. The steam is just a nice bonus. With a steam room, it’s the opposite. If you have both together than you can choose which you want to use according to your needs and your preference on any given day.
You can learn more about the health benefits of steam rooms by checking out this article. You can learn more about the health benefits of saunas in this article.
If you’re like me and you like both experiences, consider a steam shower/sauna combination unit.
Corner steam shower units are perfect for small bathrooms. They fit neatly into a corner of the room while still allowing plenty of elbowroom when you’re using the steam shower. You won’t need to skimp on features either. All of the luxury steam shower components mentioned above can be accommodated in a corner steam shower unit.
There are 3 main steam shower shapes unless you get one custom built. The 3 shapes are square, rectangle and curved. Here are examples.
One other consideration is door style. The 2 most popular options are hinged and sliding. However, there are a few pivot door models, but that’s pretty rare. Here are examples.
1. Hinged Doors
Hinged doors tend to be the default option. The main benefits of hinged doors are:
- It’s easy to hide their hardware for a clean, uncluttered look.
- The openings are wide so they’ve very safe for people with mobility issues.
- They’re easy to clean and maintain.
The main downsides of hinged doors are:
- They need space to swing so they may not be a practical option in small bathrooms.
- They can allow water to spill out (although this can be addressed with sealant).
Sliding doors tend to be the next most popular option. This may be due to the shrinking sizes of bathrooms. The main benefits of sliding doors are:
- They don’t need any extra space to open.
- Usually their handles add extra functionality e.g. they hold towels.
- Allows people to reach in or out of showers easily (e.g. to assist someone else).
The main disadvantages of sliding doors are:
- They are more challenging to clean and maintain (particularly the bottom tracks).
- The openings they create are smaller than equivalent hinged doors.
3. Pivot Doors
Pivot doors are essentially a variation of hinged doors. They just use pivot hinges that allow them to turn 180°. Pivot hinges tend to be used when it’s not practical to use a regular hinged door. This is usually because there are no available studs to attach the door to the shower wall.
Now, if you’ve got this far, choosing the right door for your steam shower might seem like a minor issue. In a sense it is but it can actually make a lot of difference to how much you enjoy your steam shower.
Gone are the days when a small bathroom limited your choice of shower or bathtub. No matter the challenges your bathroom offers, there’s a steam shower unit that will work in the space and fit your lifestyle.
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