Once limited to spas and health clubs, steam showers are the latest in home upgrades that are trendy yet affordable. What follows are tips on having one installed in an existing bathroom:
1. Call the experts
"First, make sure a plumber comes in to determine the location and size you'll need for a steam generator," says Anthony DeVictoria of DeVictoria Plumbing & Heating in Massapequa. "An electrician must also assess the feasibility of getting a wire from the main circuit box to the actual unit and to make sure your house can handle the voltage."
A steam generator is usually placed as close as possible to the shower in a closet or vanity, says DeVictoria. "There must be enough ventilation to prevent overheating, but it also must be protected against freezing. So if, for example, the steam generator is placed in an attic, it must be a heated attic."
A water feed is installed to the unit and a pipe for the steam, he says. "The safety relief valve on many generators is piped to a safe location for drainage," he says. "Finally, a control panel is mounted inside the shower."
2. Tiling is next
Once the plumbing and electricity are complete, you'll need to have a cement wallboard installed to prevent seepage before the tiling is laid down, says David Baskam, owner of Baskam-Sotera Co., residential remodelers in Huntington. Ceramic, marble or porcelain tiles are acceptable materials, says Baskam. "Keep in mind that steam clings to everything, so you must tile all surfaces within the enclosure - including the ceiling - to make sure that everything is completely waterproof. Be sure to also use a nonporous epoxy grout versus a standard grout."
The flooring needs to be textured to prevent falls.
A simple slab of marble or metal can become a bench seat once it is covered with tile, says Baskam. Make sure the bench is placed as far from the steam vent as possible to prevent burns, he advises.
3. The plumber comes back
After the tiling is complete, the plumber will return to set up the generator and control panel and install decorative plumbing finishes such as shower heads, handheld heads and body sprays, says DeVictoria.
4. The door
"A steam shower door must be ordered specifically for steam application and custom-made to fit your shower opening," says Jack Goodman, owner of Trio East Wholesalers Inc. in Deer Park. Make sure the door swings outward to allow access in case of an emergency. "The door must be sealed so that little or no vapor can escape," he says. "If it's not made to the exact specs of your shower, you're going to have moisture escaping. This will defeat the purpose of a steam shower and cause mold and mildew. I also suggest buying a door with a transom - a small panel located on the top of door that allows moisture out."
Baskam recommends an exhaust fan, especially useful during the summer to keep excess moisture out of the house. Some steam units have reservoirs for scented oils to give your shower a eucalyptus or lavender fragrance.
"A steam shower can be installed in most existing showers for about $2,500," says Baskam, "assuming that you are already renovating your bathroom. That should cover a plumber, electrician, general contractor and purchasing a door.
If the bathroom is not undergoing a renovation and there is easy access to electricity and plumbing, the cost would be about the same, says Ron Benkin, director of sales for Alure Designs Inc.