Oct 102009

If you’re wondering what the big deal is about steam showers, read Why Use a Steam Shower? But if you’re considering buying one, read below to find out more detail about these showers that create a spa-like experience in your bathroom.

Standalone Steam Shower

The standalone steam enclosure is a self-contained, all-in-one type unit. You buy it and install it as a unit. Usually constructed of acrylic and fiberglass, these units include a metal frame with side panels and doors made of glass. Different models come with various options such as aromatherapy, music, and special shower heads.

As part of its installation, the freestanding enclosure is then attached to your current plumbing and electrical systems. Depending on availability of pipes and electricity, you can even place this unit in the middle of your bathroom.

Built in Steam Shower

The other type of steam shower is the one you have built-in. Here, of course, what you get is limited only be your imagination and budget. You can determine location, how large you want it, and specific features. And you decide how it will coordinate with the design and look of your current bathroom.

Built-ins typically are more expensive than standalones because of the additional design and installation labor required.

Steam Shower Sizes and Shapes

There are a range of options when it comes to the size of your steam shower enclosure. You can get a single shower or cubicle that accommodates one person. You can also get a double shower.

These are bigger than the singles and usually have a shower bench on which two people can comfortable sit. This shower room allows you and a second person to benefit from both the steam as well as the company of each other.

There are additional options when it comes to steam enclosure shapes. As viewed from above, there are steam showers that are square, rectangle, and shaped such as a quarter circle or half moon. Then there are steam showers that can snugly fit into a corner of your bathroom.

You certainly want to be sure you have enough room in your bathroom for the steam shower. Carefully check the dimensions of the unit you are buying or having built against the available space in your bathroom. Typical standalone steam shower enclosures range from small (3 X 3 feet / 1.2 X 1.2 meters) to large (5 X 5 feet / 1.5 X 1.5 meters). Of course, if you’re having the steam shower built, you should be able to specify the dimensions that will help the unit blend in with your bathroom.

In terms of height, the steam shower should not be over eight feet (96 inches/2.5 meters). Steam rises so you want to be sure it won’t rise so high it can’t provide you with its health benefits.

Steam Shower Materials

When considering a steam shower, you should also carefully study the type of materials being used for the shower enclosure construction.

Acrylic is usually used for the shower floor to help prevent the growth the bacteria. The preferred type is continuous or cell cast acrylic – this is usually dull-colored and thick. Be wary of steam shower floors that use extruded acrylic. The materials used to make it often cause floors made from this material to look a bright white.

Also make sure the frames that hold the glass walls of the shower are made of sturdy aluminum. Because the glass walls are heavy, the aluminum frame should be at least 1.5 millimeters thick. The glass itself should be tempered safety glass.

In terms of fixtures, look for chrome plated metals that are made to handle the steam heat.
How does the steam shower produce steam?

The process begins with cold water being run through heating coils. The coils heat the water to boiling. Just like a tea kettle, this produces steam, which is them is released through a steam head or jet in the shower wall.

Obviously, the shower wall must be constructed of special material that can handle the extreme heat the steam produces. The shower enclosure should also fit tightly together so the steam isn’t released into the bathroom itself where it can damage the paint or wallpaper.

Most units will have controls that let you adjust the steam temperature and for how long you want the steam to come out.

What steam shower options are available?

A basic steam shower enclosure includes a traditional shower with normal shower heads and fixtures. Then special jets are added which the steam comes out of. There will usually be controls that let you adjust the steam temperature and time.

But steam showers allow you to add many options that can take your spa-like experience to another level. Here are just some of the possible options that various manufacturers let you add to your shower.

  • Fast Start. This is a quick start feature that lets the unit start producing steam in just a few minutes.
  • Remote controls. These allow you to adjust the steam time, temperature, and other options while sitting on the steam shower bench.
  • Aromatherapy. With this option, a scented oil of your choosing is held in a reservoir in the steam head. On your command, it can be released in with the steam providing you with a calming fragrance.
  • Music. Units are available that can pipe MP3s, CDs, and/or a radio station into the shower, usually through a high-quality speaker system.
  • Foot massage. This is usually achieved with additional jet sprays in the floor of the unit.

Other options include mood lighting, hands-free telephone, fog-free mirrors, and headrests. If you want a specific option, it’s likely that some manufacturer can supply it.

Water and electricity use

You might think that by producing steam, you will be using a lot of water. But steam showers actually use less water than regular showers. A typical 20-minute shower will use about 50 gallons of water. A similar steam shower will use just 2 gallons of water. This means that while you are enjoying your soothing steam shower in the comfort of your own home, you also get the satisfaction of knowing that you are helping the environment by saving water.

However, the unit used to generate the steam uses electricity, so although you might save on your water bill, your electric bill may increase.

Steam Shower Costs

Yes, a steam shower is going to cost more than a regular shower. A standalone, ready to install enclosure can cost from US$2,000 to $4000 dollars – plus the cost of getting the plumbing and wiring attached. Building a unit into your current bathroom can cost double that depending on size, installation, and the options you choose. However, when evaluating steam shower costs, be sure to compare them to the cost of spa membership with additional fees for stress-relieving massages.


Pregnant women and individuals with health problems (e.g. heart disease, epilepsy) should always talk to their health care provider before using a steam shower.