What Is a Steam Shower?

steam shower in neutral bathroom

Design by One of One Build Co / Photo by Eymeric Wilding

If you've been curious about the possibility of incorporating a steam shower into your home and are wondering what exactly this process will entail, you'll want to keep reading. Below, we detail all you need to know about how a steam shower functions, what makes it different than a regular shower, what factors you'll need to consider before incorporating one in your home, and more.

What Is a Steam Shower?

Steam showers are enclosed shower stalls that expel steam — which many people find to be relaxing and spa-like — rather than a bathing stream of water. Oftentimes, steam showers are located next to a traditional shower in the bathroom and operate as steam rooms.

How Do Steam Showers Work?

In a steam shower, a humidifying steam generator releases hot vapors that create a humid atmosphere. Steam showers must be fully enclosed, a concept that is described in further detail in the next section.

steam shower with subway tile

@49interiors / Instagram

How Do Steam Showers Differ From Regular Showers?

Steam showers must be fully enclosed and waterproof. "Every surface must be tiled or clad with a solid surface to handle the moisture," explains Kara Kersten, the owner and principal designer of Kara Kersten Design.

Regular showers with a glass door will feature an opening between the door and the ceiling or may not have a door at all and use a shower curtain for privacy instead. Steam showers require a glass door and will require another piece of glass installed above the door to conceal all moisture, the designer explains.

There are many ways to customize steam showers, explains Kevin Harris, the founder of Kevin Harris Architect. Homeowners can customize their steam showers to include aromatherapy, music, and mood lighting to enhance the experience.

Pros and Cons of Steam Showers

The main cons of steam showers are their price point and the potential for the excess steam to create a mold issue, but this is offset by the pro of having a luxurious and relaxing spa experience in your home.

Steam showers can be much pricier than standard showers, so homeowners must determine whether they are willing to pay a premium for this feature. A steam shower may run an additional $2,000 to $5,000, according to Harris.

Overall square footage is another factor to consider when determining whether or not to incorporate a steam shower into your bathroom. Steam showers are fully enclosed, and being able to add a bench inside is also ideal. Additionally, steam showers require a sloped ceiling. "By sloping the ceiling, it guides the moisture droplets forming to slide down toward one end and away from your head," Kersten says.

Steam showers should also receive frequent maintenance so that they perform at their highest quality; this involves cleaning and descaling the steam generator.

Lastly, it is important to note that if the vapor isn't removed after a steam shower is used, mold and mildew may appear. However, this issue can be mitigated with the right approach. Harris recommends installing an exhaust fan controlled by an internal humidistat either in or adjacent to the steam shower. "This ensures that the fan stays on until all excess moisture has been removed," Harris says.

Diana Melichar, the president of Melichar Architects, notes that installing a steam shower is not a job for the DIYer; it is important to hire a professional to prevent any leaks that might cause moisture damage down the line. "The up-front cost can be substantial, but if you are building your shower from scratch, then it makes a lot of sense to add this luxurious amenity to your home," she says. "Ultimately it will save on outsourcing this amenity to health clubs, et. cetera."

steam shower in blue and white bathroom

@michelegratchinteriorsllc / Instagram

Should Homeowners Consider Having a Steam Shower?

When determining whether a steam shower is worthwhile, homeowners should first and foremost examine key factors such as budget and the amount of bathroom square footage available. Then, they should determine whether or not they are willing to manage the maintenance of a steam shower should any issues arise.

As with any home improvement project, conducting sufficient research ahead of time will be an important component in the decision-making process.