How to Build a Steam Shower [Everything You Need to Know]

A steam shower can offer you one of the most relaxing bathing experiences possible. It feels luxurious – like you’re at the spa receiving star treatment or away on holiday. It’s your own sanctuary found in your bathroom at home, which makes it all the more appealing. 

This vision sounds expensive and time-consuming, right? Wrong, actually. This vision of tranquillity is within your grasp, and it’s even something you can do yourself. 

In this guide we show you everything you need to know to build your own steam shower from the ground up, or if converting an existing shower enclosure.

Can a Steam Shower be Used as a Regular Shower?

Yes, absolutely. A steam shower can be used as a regular shower without an issue. The beauty of a steam shower is that you can choose whether or not you switch the steam generator on. In fact, many people will have a regular shower after they have enjoyed a steam. 

A regular shower washes away any sweat caused by the steam – leaving your skin soft and cleaner than ever thanks to the steam opening up your pores. It’s a great combination to have, and one that will massively enhance your showering experience. 

What is Required for a Steam Shower?

Before you can get started creating your own steam shower, you are going to need this ultimate checklist by your side. Here is everything you need to take into consideration as well as the tools you need to get the job done. 

How Big Should Your Steam Shower Be?

This is an important aspect, especially as steam shower enclosures can come in practically any size you like. But one thing that stands at the top of the list is the height of the enclosure.

Therefore, when determining what size your steam shower should be, you have to remember that the height is from floor to ceiling. However, there are also other factors you need to take into consideration:

  • Is the enclosure replacing an existing bath or shower? If yes, the base dimensions will need to match the current ones to avoid remodelling. 
  • Are you remodelling the bathroom? If yes, you have the freedom to play with the existing space, expanding or reducing it as you please. 
  • Is your steam shower going to be part of a new build? If yes, everything is completely up to you with regards to the dimensions.

The minimum size you can go with is 700mm x 700mm, and this will be extremely cosy at this size and isn’t really recommended unless you are very limited by space and you have a small body frame.

An ideal starting size would be 900mm x 900mm; this will give you sufficient space to actually move freely and not feel totally enclosed. After all this is meant to be a pleasurable experience right?

Your steam shower should be no taller than 2400mm internally – otherwise, you’re just wasting resources of the steam generator. 

What Size Steam Generator Will I Need?

Before we look at more specific examples, it is first important to know how to determine the size that you need. This is done by calculating the cubic footage of your shower enclosure. 

Step 1

Take the measurements and multiple them in this order – length x width x height (in feet). 

Step 2

Make adjustments depending on the finish of the walls of your enclosure.

  • Material. In the case of natural stone or marble/granite finish, multiply the total by 2. For ceramic, porcelain tile, and glass block, multiply by 1.35. For other materials, such as man-made wall panelling, use 1.25 to be on the safe side.
  • Exterior Walls. For one exterior wall add 10% and for two exterior walls add 20%

For example, if we choose a 5ft x 4ft x 8ft (LxWxH) with a ceramic tiled wall that has one side of the shower on an exterior wall, you would have 160 x 1.35 = 216 + 10% = 237.6

If you are still stumped on this one, just drop us a message with your dimensions and wall finish. We will be happy to assist.

Step 3 

Select the steam generator size that meets the final figure you have from step 2.

If you are on the high end of these figures, it’s advised to step up to the larger KW generator.

Generator SizeCubic Footage (Adjusted)
3kwUp to 125
6kwUp to 250
9kwUp to 350
12kwUp to 500
15kwUp to 675

There are a couple of extra things you will want to take note of. First is that if there is a skylight or a window leading outside, choose the next size up with regards to the generator. The glass of the window must also be double-paned and sealed internally. 

The voltage of your generator must match that of your current utilities; otherwise, you risk tripping the power. As a rule, the voltage in the UK will tend to be anywhere from 220v to 240v. 

As mentioned before, the maximum height of the ceiling should be around 8ft for your steam shower. However, this can be pushed to 10ft with a powerful enough generator. It cannot exceed this height as there is not a generator powerful enough for this. 

Where to Locate the Steam Generator?

Now that you have figured out all of the dimensions and cubic footage, you can decide where to put your steam generator. There are quite a few options available, but you must also remember the following:

  • It will need access to mains electricity 
  • A cold water feed will be needed and an isolation valve fitted 
  • It should be fitted within 10ft of the steam head
  • It should not be installed in the shower itself 
  • It should never be exposed to freezing temperatures 

It is true that your steam generator can be fitted up to a maximum of 60ft away, but the closer it is the better the results. Additionally, having it closer to the steam head tends to mean that it is easier to access for maintenance and repairs. 

How big will the steam generator be? If you’re imagining a clunky giant, stop there. A steam generator is only about the size of a large briefcase, for example the larger 12KW models we supply are 390x150x360mm, making it incredibly compact and a lot easier to store away. This also means installation is a little simpler

So, where to install it? Here are some common choices:

  • Wall mounted 
  • Closet/Cupboard 
  • Loft/Attic
  • Utility room 
  • Basement 

If you decide to go with the loft or basement option, you must ensure that these spaces are heated. Otherwise, you run the risk of the generator freezing in winter which can cause significant damage. 

Always ensure you have 300mm space on all sides and top when locating your steam generator

Furthermore, the generator should have around 300mm of space on all sides and the top to make maintenance and repairs easier. Even with this addition, it does not take up a lot of space. 

What Materials Do You Need to Build a Steam Shower?

Now, the fun part – building the steam shower. You know your dimensions and where to install the actual steam generator, but what about the rest? Here are all the materials you need in order to achieve bathing bliss. 

Type of Shower Door

There are actually several different types of shower door that you can have on your enclosure, and choosing the right one for both your needs and aesthetic is pretty major. 

Hinged. These doors are ideal for accessibility because they have the widest openings, allowing more than enough space to get in and out effortlessly. They are also commonly referred to as pivot shower doors and offer great versatility. 

It should also be noted that some hinged doors leave a gap between them and the frame. While this might not seem like a big deal, it can lead to an excessive loss of steam that truly alters your experience – make sure they are sealed well. 

Sliding. These are an increasingly popular choice for showers, mounted on runners for smooth and effortless opening and closing. You have the option of one or two doors with this type, making it easier to fit them in tricky spaces. 

They tend to be sealed well, trapping steam and ensuring it doesn’t escape into the bathroom. 

Bifold. If you don’t have a great deal of space, bifold is the way to go. They fold inwards to save space in your bathroom while also retaining a very sleek and stylish look. It’s ideal for smaller steam showers that don’t have space for double doors. 

There is only one major hinge in a bifold door, and the size of the gap really depends on the manufacturer. Some won’t be an issue, others may need to be better sealed to prevent the escape of too much steam, but a small amount isn’t a big deal.

Curved. These are great for tight spaces and corners as a curved enclosure and door take up less space while also looking fantastic. 

Curved shower doors also don’t tend to have gaps, meaning they are sealed well to prevent the escape of steam and enhance your experience. The of off the shelf self-contained steam showers that you can purchase are curved

The Importance of Seals

The Seal on your shower door is important because it helps to trap the steam, meaning your generator is not overworking, as well as preventing it from saturating your bathroom – potentially leading to mould and mildew.

While having your doors 100% sealed is good, it isn’t always necessary. In cases where the room is well ventilated, or there is a good quality fan installed in the shower to release steam, you can get away with a few small gaps in the system. 

Waterproofing the Steam Shower Enclosure

The walls and the ceiling of your steam shower enclosure will need to be waterproofed. Otherwise, you risk water creeping behind the tiles (or other materials) and causing rot and mould in the wall. Similarly, it can lead to the ceiling peeling as well as mould growth. 

When too much water gets behind tiles, regardless of the material, it also weakens the adhesive that secures them to the wall. This will lead to the tiles falling from the wall, something you really do want to avoid.

We recommend using Schlüter®-KERDI-BOARD as it can be used in both curved and flat spaces, but also due to the fact that it is simple to install and offers exceptional waterproofing for your shower enclosure. It’s fairly inexpensive and easy to fit. It is also fully approved by the EU and carries a CE rating.

Do I Need to Use a Special Type of Silicone Sealant?

“Generally speaking, you will need to use a waterproof caulk or silicone sealant that is able to withstand temperatures up to 45C or 110F. This is because of the varying temperatures experienced within the shower, and the fact that the steam can become incredibly hot.”

Regardless of the caulk or silicone sealant you pick, you must ensure it is good quality. Don’t skimp out on a cheaper alternative as you will likely find it doesn’t last as long or chips easily. Higher quality means better sealing as well as longer-lasting results.

As already mentioned, If you have an exterior window in the steam shower that is not double-paned and needs to be properly sealed, you will need to use the silicone sealant on this as well.

Do I Need to Insulate the Walls of My Steam Shower?

If your shower is built against interior walls, insulation is completely optional. However, exterior walls are a different kettle of fish and you will need to invest in insulation. 

Exterior walls that lack insulation are also going to cost you more with regards to your energy bill. All that escaped heat from the steam? That’s what’s happening with any heat from your radiators or heating system – ultimately leading to you needing more energy to heat the home. 

It is fairly easy to add insulation to exterior walls, and can be used in addition to the Kerdi Board. The insulation can be installed behind the board, providing that essential protective layer alongside the waterproofing offered by the board. 

Can You Use Wall Panels in a Steam Shower?

Yes, you can use wall panels. However, you must make sure they are waterproof. Furthermore, they must be able to withstand temperatures up to 45C or 110F since the steam and the water can get very hot. 

As previously discussed, they must also be fixed to a waterproof backing. Additionally, you should ensure the wall panels are properly sealed to keep them waterproof and also prevent heat from escaping through the panels. 

What Type of Tiles Can I Use in my Steam Shower?

The key thing to remember here is that you need to use non-porous tiles. Porous tiles are covered in little holes (like a sponge) that will soak up liquid. 

The best materials to use are ceramic tile, acrylic, glass tile, and porcelain. Marble and stone are also available, and while they are slightly porous, they don’t pose a risk to the integrity of your shower. 

Using stone and marble may also lead to the heat dissipating faster instead of retaining it. As per the table earlier in this guide, some materials will also impact the size of the steam generator needed to keep those lovely plumes of steam coming. 

Do You Need to Slope the Ceiling?

You don’t have to slope the ceiling in your steam shower, but it can be useful to help prevent water dripping. This is because the water travels down the slope, running normally. The only thing is that if you tile it, it may run along the tile edge instead and end up dripping.

Usually, the peak of the slope is located just above the bench/seat or at the centre of the shower. You do have to keep in mind that sloping the ceiling can massively impact the overall height. As a rule, you should ensure there is no more than one inch of slope per foot of ceiling. 

Does the Shower Need to be Airtight? 

No, your steam shower doesn’t have to be airtight – only waterproof. Losing a little air won’t have an impact on the plumes of steam being produced. In fact, a little air being allowed in can actually improve the visibility of those puffy steam clouds. 

When your shower is completely water-tight, that’s how the puffy white steam is produced in the first place. You want to ensure your shower doors are completely sealed, keep the water in and really make the most out of the vapour. 

Where Do I Place the Steam Shower Control Panel? 

First and foremost, do not install the control panel above the steam outlet. Many thermostats are built into the control panel and wont give a true reading

The ideal position for the steam control panel is by the bench/seat aprox 4ft-5ft off floor level.

While you are sitting and enjoying the steam, you have the option to adjust the settings according to your needs without getting up or being disturbed. It adds an extra note of quiet luxury to your steam shower. 

Your control panel will give you power over the temperature, power, and duration, as well as any personal settings such as music and lighting(more on this later).. 

Where Do I Place the Steam Outlet?

The steam outlet is very simple to position, which is good news for you. Ideally, it should be placed 150mm  above the floor of the steam shower. It should be on the opposite end of the seating area (so that you are not blasted with boiling steam), and away from the entrance. 

Installing a Seat

A seat is a perfect way to relax and really enjoy your steam shower. You can have a permanent fixture, or a removable/foldable seat – the choice is yours. Regardless of your choice, each of them provides you with a place to sit back and let the steam surround you. Talk about tranquil. 

Permanent. These can be made of stone, tiled, whatever you like. Most of the time, they are made of the same material as the shower walls to create a streamlined effect that’s aesthetically pleasing. It usually takes up one side or corner and can be used as a shower shelf for versatility. 

Foldable. These come in a wide range of colours, sizes, and materials for your convenience. They are usually attached to the shower wall and are on hinges so that you can fold it up when you are finished with it. Despite being hinged, they can take a fair amount of weight. 

Removable – If you are going with a smaller sized steam shower, such as a 800mm or 900mm corner shower, then a removable seat is the way to go, this will free up space when using as a regular shower, and can be simply put in when you want to relax and wind down.

If you are struggling to choose between which, there is an easier way to look at it. Permanent benches take up a lot of space and are suited to large enclosures. Foldable and removable models require a lot less space and are ideal for smaller enclosures. 

What Lighting Can I Add to the Shower Room?

Lighting can be a really nice touch in a steam shower. It’s aesthetically pleasing and also adds to the relaxing ambience you were looking for in the first place. One fantastic option is to go with a soothing assortment of lights – a display that slowly glides through multiple colours. 

These are known as colour changing spots, and you can have them cycle through their preset colours, or you can keep them on one of your choice. Usually, there are several different settings so that you can find your ideal colour selection and mood lighting. 

You can get recessed spots as well. The actual bulb in these is pushed back, creating a soft light that is soothing and relaxing. They are a popular choice for bathrooms, and tend to be quite small which makes them ideal for installation in baths, showers, and steam showers. 

The most important thing is that you make sure your chosen lights are vapour sealed as well as water-tight. This means that they will not be damaged by the steam and are safe for use with water. 

Do You Need to Install a Fan or Vent? 

You will need to ventilate your steam shower to prevent mould and mildew from forming over time. Before we go any further, it is important to remember that you must never install heating, venting, or air conditioning devices inside the shower.

You don’t have to install a fan or vent in the shower area, but they can be useful for releasing steam quickly so that the room is ventilated after use. While opening a window is an effective way to release the steam, there are better methods. 

First, you can install an exhaust fan. This should be located outside of the steam shower in the main bathroom and, when turned on, will remove the steam from the room once you have finished. Quickest way to disperse steam? Flick on the cold water for 30 seconds. 

Secondly, After using the steam shower, always leave the doors to it open, this will ensure air flow from the bathroom circulates around the enclosure.

Do You Need a Special Type of Tray for a Steam Shower

No you don’t need any specific tray for a steam shower. Any regular tray will do the job, but you must choose a Non-Slip Shower Tray

Regardless of the type or size of the shower tray, you need to make sure that it is a non-slip model. It’s essential for your safety, and also helps you stay relaxed as you have one less thing to worry about. 

You can buy trays that come with non-slip properties built into them, or you can add special strips or mats to the shower floor that will help you stay upright. Both options are fantastic, and even those with non-slip trays have been known to add strips and mats for extra safety. 

What Plumbing Connections are Required For a Steam Shower? 

You will need to ensure that there is a continuous cold water feed fitted for the steam generator. This also needs to have an isolation valve in-line. The fittings should be standard  ½” BSP. 

Secondly, the steam outlet pipe needs to be covered with pipe lagging and insulation. This will also come with a ½” BSP connection – keeping things simple for you. 

Finally, there should be a steam overflow drain, which helps to keep water moving and prevents the drain backing up. 

What Electrical Requirements are Needed for a Steam Shower? 

Once again, this is a job for the experts. You should never undertake electrical work yourself when you are not qualified to do the job, it is now a legal requirement to hold a Part P certificate if electrical work is being undertaken in the home. 

If you dont have your own electrician you can find one at Ratedpeople.com 

The steam generator will need to be connected to a fused spur on a dedicated circuit(smaller 3KW models are be ok on an existing circuit thats not heavily loaded already). It will need an RCD circuit breaker to keep it running smoothly and prevent power shortages from occurring.

Most steam generators will come pre-fitted with a UK plug and RCD, these are fitted for testing purposes only and should both be removed and connected to a fused spur.

Steam generators that are 12kw or 15kw will require a 3 phase connection, though most models sold at steamshowerparts.co.uk come with the kit required. You will need to consult with your electrician to confirm if the equipment in your propery is ready for 3 phase, or if any upgrades are required.

What if You Have a Window Inside the Steam Shower Area?

If you have a window inside the shower area, don’t panic. There are simple ways to make sure the shower remains sealed so that you can enjoy the full benefits of steam without worrying about losing it through the glass. 

A window inside the enclosure that leads to the outside can cause a loss of heat and vapour, so how do you fix this? Well, the solution is actually very simple – you just need to make sure the windows are properly sealed.

First things first, you should ensure your outside window is made of double-paned glass (think double glazing). This helps to keep the heat inside and also reduces your energy bills.

Your best friend when sealing windows is a high-quality silicone caulk that can be used to fill in gaps in the frame as well as create a better barrier between the window and the outside world. You can also install a waterproof membrane on the frame to further improve the seal. 

Furthermore, you can cover the window in vinyl for further protection from moisture as well as the cold. It’s less maintenance, and it can help with both the sealing and insulation to offer better protection. 

Should You Install a Water Softener with a Steam Shower?

If you are in a hard water area, your pipes and showerhead may suffer as a result. Hard water is filled with dissolved minerals like calcium and magnesium that build up over time and lead to blockages as well as corrosion. 

Much of England is a hard water area because the groundwater pipes run through limestone and similar materials, allowing them to pick up these deposits. Calcium turns into limescale, the enemy of kitchen and bathroom appliances everywhere. 

If left to deal with hard water, your steam generator will suffer from a reduced lifespan, as will your showerhead. A good quality water softener helps by removing these mineral deposits and essentially purifying the water so that you are left with a gentle liquid that won’t cause damage. 

A water softener is also beneficial to your skin and hair, leaving it soft and nourished without leaving nasty mineral deposits all over your body after each shower. 

Other Considerations

There are some additional luxury considerations you can take into account as well. These are fun additions that enhance the relaxation experience and create a more luxurious effect. 

Music

There are many models that come with a radio feature built into the control panel. Additionally, you will find that there is often an option to add a speaker into the ceiling for a surround sound effect.

There are also Bluetooth enabled models, which means you have the choice of listening to your favourite station or streaming that relaxing playlist you made especially for your steam experience. 

Essential Oils

There is a common option across many models of steam generator that allows you to add essential oils for dispersal. As the steam flows into the enclosure, you also get the gentle aroma of your chosen oil. This helps you to relax and also creates a more tranquil atmosphere. 

Overhead Monsoon Showers

These are incredibly luxurious, but they don’t have to be expensive either. Monsoon showers create the illusion of rainfall, making you feel as though you are standing in an actual monsoon or under a tropical waterfall (depending on the setting). 

What better accompaniment to a steam generator than a showerhead that enhances these tropical and relaxing feelings. Most of the time, they can just be installed in place of your usual head and even with low water pressure they work like a charm for spectacular results. 

Type. There are two main types of monsoon shower head – wall mounted and ceiling mounted. You can have yours installed in either place, but it is usually easiest to go with the existing plumbing fixtures and work with those (as well as a lot cheaper). 

Size. While rainfall showerheads come in a whole range of sizes, there are three that are industry standard. These are 8”, 10”, and 12”. Choose that one that fits the size and style of your enclosure best.

Final Thoughts

The steam shower installation process can feel a little daunting at first, and when you first look at the instructions you might feel like giving up. In reality, once you’ve gone over what to do and gathered your ultimate list of tools for the job – you’re on easy street. 

If you have any questions that we haven’t answered here, please feel free to drop us a message here. We will be happy to help.