How To Build Your Own Steam Shower - featured image

How To Build Your Own Steam Shower

If you love the relaxing effects of a steamy spa treatment but dislike the idea of visiting a wellness facility or other nuisances associated with traveling, building your own home spa may be an excellent option!

Considered by many as the ultimate tropical bathing experience, a steam shower has many health benefits, and it can add value to your home more than any smart bathroom renovation.

Key Point: You may find the idea too complex at first, but if you give it a second look, you will discover that with the right planning and equipment, you can build your own steam shower!

What is a Steam Shower?

In simple terms, a steam shower is a sealed shower enclosure designed to produce steam to create a warm and humid environment to provide relaxation and comfort while you shower.

A steam shower works as an excellent upgrade for any smart bathroom (see our guide to smart homes for more information).

It has a steam generator that boils cold water and sends hot mist to the shower stall through an aperture.

A typical steam shower stall consists of a digital control panel that allows a user to adjust the temperature and duration of the steam and enjoy piped-in music, lighting, or aromas.

Like a typical do-it-yourself project, a steam shower installation consists of different stages. Here’s your straightforward guide on how to build your own steam shower. 

Planning

Size

  • Large steam showers require large steam-generating units to supply steam in the area.
  • Keep your steam room at least seven feet and not more than eight feet high. It will give you sufficient space and require less time for the mist to migrate downward to optimize the performance of your steam generator.
  • If your existing bathroom ceiling exceeds eight feet, you can bring it down to seven feet by constructing a roof above your shower stall and sealing it with polystyrene or insulation foam.
  • The recommended dimensions of typical steam showers are 3′ x 3′ x 7′. It should give enough space to allow you to move around freely and spend minimal cost on the steam generator itself and its energy consumption.
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Location

  • While it’s okay to make a steam shower a part of your bathroom, a steam shower should not be placed on an exterior or outside wall to protect it from extreme cold temperature and prevent its pipes from freezing during winter.
  • Installing a window is discouraged as it could allow steam to seep through cracks or gaps.
  • Should you insist on having a window installed, be sure to use insulating materials with a high R-value or the ability to resist high temperatures.

Design and Materials

Tile Selection

  • Longevity, safety, and better heat retention are the primary attributes of an excellent steam room.
    Porcelain and ceramic tiles are the best because they are durable, non-porous, have an aesthetic appeal, and can retain heat better than natural stone, shale, marble, or cement boards.
  • Seat: Your ultimate purpose for taking a steam bath is to relax. You can maximize this benefit by including a seating area in your steam room.
  • The ideal seating space is 18 inches high and 15 inches deep. These dimensions will provide bather comfort and allow you to sit snugly.
  • Just make sure not to place your seat near the steam head to avoid direct exposure to steam. Have your seat slightly sloped to allow moisture to drip down.
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Steam Outlet

  • Place your steam outlet six to twelve inches above the flooring and away from the door and the seat as it could emit mist with temperatures as high as 212℉.
  • Avoid placing the outlet close to the bench or shower seat; this practice is unsafe as it can possibly cause skin burning.

Controls

  • Make sure that your control panel is easily accessible even when you’re sitting on your shower seat or bench.
  • Because the control panel is sensitive to temperature, avoid placing the control panel close to the steam outlet. Allow it to regulate the temperature efficiently.
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Choosing A Steam Generator

To ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of your steam room, you should install a quality steam generating unit with sufficient power to generate heat.

To determine the power of the heat-generating set you will need, follow this mathematical procedure:

  1. Determine the size of your shower by multiplying its width, length, and height in feet. It will give you the volume of your steam room in cubic feet.
  2. If you’re using porous materials, multiply the volume by 2
  3. If you’re using non-porous materials, multiply the volume by 1.35. If your steam room is behind one exterior wall, add 10% to the result.
  4. If it is located between two exterior walls, add 20%.

Consider these examples:

For a porcelain-tiled enclosure that measures 3′ x 3′ x 7′ and is built behind one exterior wall, the computation would be: 

  • 3’ x 3’ x 7 ‘ = 63 cubic ft.
  • 63 x 1.35 = 85.05
  • 85.05 + 10% = 93.555 cubic ft.

For a marble-tiled shower that measures 4’ x 5’ x 8’ and built between two exterior walls, the computation would be: 

  • 4’ x 5’ x 8’ = 160 cubit ft.
  • 160 x 2 = 320 Cubic ft.
  • 320 cu.ft. + 20% = 384 cubic ft.

Use the adjusted dimension in cubic feet to determine the size or power of the steam generating set you need based on the table below. If your shower has a window, install the next bigger generator.

generator sizes for shower steam

Steam Generator Location

  • Your steam generator can be placed anywhere inside your house.
  • The recommended distance between your generator and steam shower is 25 feet or less.
  • Whether it is in an attic, a nearby closet, or a basement, it doesn’t really matter as long as it has ample space.
  • It must be protected from extreme temperatures and accessible for regular maintenance and repair services.
  • Do not place your steam generators inside the steam room. Before making any moves or decisions, read the installation manual that goes with your steam-generating unit.
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Execution

Electrical

  • You will need a single-phase, 240V household electric power supply and a dedicated circuit breaker for your home spa to work.
  • Mount the generating set based on the recommendations in the installation manual.
  • Determine the best location for your control panel and set up the wiring to allow it to function normally.
  • Ideally, the steam shower control is placed four to five inches above the ground and near the seat or bench for easy access. Place it opposite the steam head to keep it away from direct heat that could affect its normal reading functions.
  • If you choose to include light in your steam room, be sure to vapor-seal it and make it water-tight to protect it from damage triggered by water and hot fumes.
  • Unless you are an advanced DIYer, you need to hire a professional electrician to work on the electrical connections and other electrical aspects of the project.

Plumbing

  • You will need to review the plumbing requirements of your steam-generating set to determine its ideal placement.
  • Unless you’re a skilled plumber yourself, you’ll need to hire a professional to help you install a water line from the water supply to the steam-generating unit and setting the steam outlet in place.
  • Don’t forget to include a drain and add anti-skid strips on the floor to allow water to flow through and prevent accidents.

Walls, Floor, and Ceiling

  • If your steam room is used by multiple users or running for more than 45 minutes at a time, you will need to slope your ceiling to allow moisture to run down the walls and prevent it from dripping onto your head.
  • Since it takes about 30 minutes for condensation to take place, small, domestic use steam showers used for less than 30 minutes may not need sloped ceilings.
  • Should your ceiling require a slope, have its peak located above the bench or at the center of the shower stall. A typical slope is 1/4″ per foot or one inch per four feet.
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  • To prevent warm mist from escaping and keep your electric bill to a minimum, it is crucial to seal or apply a waterproof membrane on the surfaces of your steam showers to a permeability rating of less than 0.5. These surfaces include the  floor, wall, and ceiling of your steam room.
  • Apply your vapor-proofing material or vapor barrier starting from the ground moving upward until the entire area, including the bench or seat is vapor-proofed.
  • Once you’re done, you are now ready to tile and grout. If there are any fixtures that penetrate the tiles, you should also seal them.

Shower Door

  • Unlike regular bathroom and shower doors, a spa door needs to prevent heat from seeping through, although they don’t need to be air-tight.
  • A typical spa door is vapor-proof and sealed on both sides and at the top.
  • There are different types of steam room doors in the market. All have pros and cons, but the most important aspect you should consider is it should be water-tight.
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Finishing Touches

  • Install the trim or decorative parts of your shower room, apply touch-up paint if necessary.
  • Allow three days for the caulk and sealant to dry.
  • Clean it regularly to prevent mildew and molds from growing due to high moisture and humidity.

Jack Kelle

Jack is an entrepreneur, outdoorist, and animal lover with a background in philosophy, psychology, and business. He enjoys music, friends, and family. At RAVE, Jack works as the manager of marketing and content development.