DIY a Steam Room

Steam Room in a Bathroom

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If you've ever enjoyed lingering a bit too long in a hot shower, you already have a sense of the pleasures and benefits of steam rooms. Steam rooms extend the idea of a long, hot shower into a dedicated space that's engineered just for steam bathing. Steam rooms produce consistent and dependable steam while giving you a safe, comfortable place to sit and relax.

Steam rooms ease sore muscles, hydrate the skin, and relieve stress. When combined with some oils, a steam rooms moist heat can alleviate the symptoms of colds and flus.

What Is a Steam Room?

A steam room is a small enclosure with a unit that produces steam for steam-bathing as its primary purpose. The room is surfaced in waterproof materials like tile or stone, though it may include some wood elements.

Steam is produced by a generator located outside of the enclosure. Due to the vast amount of condensed water, steam enclosures have sloped floors and drains, much like showers do.

Steam Rooms vs. Saunas

Steam rooms and saunas both generate heat in a small space. Otherwise, they are different rooms that address different needs.

Steam rooms give the user a moist and hot experience. Saunas are more of a dry, hot experience. Steam rooms are not as hot as saunas. The high heat factor is why saunas are built of wood. Wood is cooler to the touch than tile or stone.

  Steam Room Sauna
Experience Wet heat Dry heat
Temperature 110 to 115 F 150 to 175 F
Humidity Up to 100% 10% to 20%
Materials Tile, stone, and some wood Wood

Types of Steam Rooms

For residential use, there are two main types of steam rooms: dedicated steam rooms and steam showers.

Steam Rooms

Dedicated steam rooms produce steam but not running water. They are either rooms designed to the specifications of the homeowner or they are pre-built steam room units that are assembled on-site. Steam rooms have plenty of seating, shelving, and accessories.

A professionally installed steam room can cost upwards of $5,000 to $10,000, and even more. The steam generator unit itself can cost between $1,500 and $3,000.

Steam Showers

A steam shower is a shower with working controls that also has a steam function. Because the size of the steam shower is fairly limited, the steam generator usually remains in the 4 to 8 kW range. Even so, the steam shower should fill with a soft steam within a minute or two.

Steam showers will have the usual ledges and shelves expected in a regular shower, plus one or two small seats. Steam shower units cost between $3,000 and $5,000.

Where to Build a Steam Room

  • Shower Stall: An existing shower stall can be converted into a steam shower since water and drainage are already present at that spot.
  • Extra Bathroom: An entire extra bathroom can be converted into a steam room. As with the shower stall conversion, this project is aided by the water lines that run to the room.
  • Converted Room: For an even larger steam room, you may want to consider transforming an extra bedroom. While bedrooms do not have water supply and drainage, it helps if there is a bathroom on the other side of the bedroom's shared wall. Water supply can be accessed through the wall.
  • Add-On: The priciest option is to create a small room addition that is dedicated as a steam room. While this is expensive, it does allow you to design the steam room in any way you wish. Plus, this type of steam room will add value to your home since space is added.
  • Outdoors: For the feeling of a vacation on your own property, build your steam room as an outbuilding separate from the main house.

Sizing and Spacing the Steam Room

Steam rooms need to be located close to their steam generators, usually up to 25 feet away but preferably closer. A dedicated 240V electrical connection is required for most steam room units. Many steam shower units require a dedicated cable with a 20 amp GFCI breaker.

Smaller steam rooms are usually best because they heat faster and use less energy. Keeping the ceiling to 7 feet high, instead of 8 feet or higher, helps to conserve heat, too. For steam showers, 86 inches is a standard length.

Steam room size also affects the type of steam generator you will need to buy.

Generator Size Room Size (Adjusted Cubic Feet) Estimated Cost
 7kW  100-250  $1,500 to $1,700
 10kW  250-450  $1,700 to $2,000
 12kW  450-550  $2,000 to $2,500
 15kW  550-675  $2,500 to $3,000