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Steam Shower: Make Your Life a Little Steamy

Steam shower in home's master bathroomInstall a home steam shower and feel the tension melt away every day.

A fiberglass, self-contained steam shower can be installed in one to five days.

Installing a home steam shower unclogs the sinuses in the morning and relaxes the muscles at night. While a sauna produces dry heat, a steam shower produces a penetrating humid heat that typically reaches 90 to 130 degrees. It’s a luxury upgrade—costs up to $10,000 to install—but only costs about $16 in extra electricity per year to run. Want to put some steam in your life? Here’s how.

Bring on the steam

A steam generator heats water over an electrical element, which produces steam that is piped into the shower. The generator, about the size of a microwave oven, can be installed next to the shower or tucked away in a nearby closet, connected with water and electrical lines. Generators generally range from $800 to $1,000.

Make your own steam shower

You can transform your existing shower/tub into a steamy spa, or build a new steam room by framing a shower and installing waterproof drywall or cement backer board and tile. (You will likely need a permit—check your local building codes.)

The key: The shower must be completely sealed and waterproof. That means tiling the entire space, including the ceiling, and installing a tight-fitting glass door. Make sure the space is large enough for a bench to relax upon, ideally 3-by-5 feet; If you are tight on space, try a corner bench. (Cost: $7,000 to $10,000, including the steam generator.)

Fiberglass shower

Install a modular fiberglass, self-contained steam shower. They are cheaper than wood-framed showers, and can be installed in one to five days. The unit comes with a flexible, braided line to hook up to hot and cold water. To run the generator, connect electrical wiring (usually 220 volts). If you’re really handy, install the unit yourself, or hire professionals for $500 to $1000. Units, including steam generators, range $1,000 (3-by-3 feet) to $5,000 (6-by-3 feet unit).

Using the shower

Although steam is a healthful choice for most people, steam showers can adversely affect people with heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes; as well as pregnant women, young children, and the frail elderly. Kids five years old and older may take the steam under parental supervision.

Maintaining steam

Hot, damp areas are perfect incubators for mold and mildew. After using your steam shower, open the door to dry out the unit, and run the bathroom fan to suck out the steam.

Every few months, flush the unit to get rid of calcium deposits.

Caralee Adams is a veteran journalist. Her work as appeared in national publications, including Better Homes & Gardens, Parents, and The Washington Post.

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