What Is a Steam Shower? (2024)

By Alex Hawkins Updated February 6, 2024

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If you’ve always wanted to relax in a steam room without leaving the house, consider adding one in your shower. Steam showers create hot, high-humidity environments perfect for getting ready for or finishing up a workout, clearing out your pores, or simply reducing stress after a long workday. A steam shower will increase the cost of a bathroom remodel, but it may be worth it for the added relaxation and spa-like feel. We’ve detailed the benefits of a steam shower, the average installation cost, and other crucial information below.


What Is a Steam Shower and How Does It Work?

A steam shower is typically a stand-alone shower stall that can produce steam without running the hot water. The shower enclosure is sealed off from the rest of the bathroom, creating a self-contained humid environment that can also be used for bathing. Some homeowners use their steam showers purely for relaxation, while others like the mild health benefits of steam, which can provide temporary relief for dry skin, clogged sinuses, sore muscles, and other issues.

A steam shower works by attaching a steam generator to a glass enclosure. Most of these showers have digital controls that allow users to turn on the generator and control the amount of heat and steam. The steam shower generator, which is typically enclosed in the wall, fills with cold water and heats it like an electric kettle. When the water boils, the water vapor travels through a pipe to a steam head in the shower. Sensors in the shower itself prevent the temperature from exceeding about 118 degrees Fahrenheit, maintaining a safe, relaxing space.

You can use the steam feature before, during, or after taking a regular shower. Most steam showers are designed to provide a luxurious experience, so they include features such as benches and internal control panels. Some may also have aromatherapy systems with essential oils or chromatherapy systems with colored lights. Steam showers can fit many contemporary bathroom shower designs.



Saunas vs. Steam Showers

A steam shower is similar to a sauna in that it promotes relaxation with heat, but these two amenities require different equipment. A sauna—even a wet sauna—begins with dry heat from a stove or rocks. Users can choose to add some humidity with steam, but it rarely passes 60%, whereas steam rooms provide close to 100% humidity. Saunas also aren’t equipped to handle running water like steam showers are. Saunas get substantially hotter than steam showers do, but because steam inhibits your sweat response, you feel the effects of the heat more quickly and intensely in a steam shower

A home steam shower costs about as much to install as a home sauna. Both provide similar health and relaxation benefits, though steam offers more relief for dry skin and respiratory issues. If you’re considering including a sauna or steam shower as part of a bathroom remodel, the difference may come down to personal preference and available space.



Benefits of a Steam Shower

A steam shower can help to relieve stress and boost your health. We’ve detailed these and other benefits below.

Health Benefits

Some vendors may exaggerate steam’s ability to treat medical conditions, but it has some legitimate wellness benefits. A hot environment improves circulation, so a steam shower can lower blood pressure and reduce muscle and joint pain. Steam can temporarily soothe dry skin and relieve both nasal and chest congestion, making breathing easier.

Note that steam showers aren’t recommended for people with certain health conditions, such as pregnancy, immune deficiencies, or heart conditions. If you have concerns, talk to your doctor before installing a steam shower

Stress Relief

A steam shower is an excellent place to relax and unwind. In addition to the physical effect of lowering blood pressure, the spa-like experience promotes mental relaxation and stress relief. You can even add custom lighting or a sound system.

Reduced Water Usage

A steam shower uses far less water than a regular shower over the same amount of time. A steam shower uses about 2 gallons of water in 20 minutes, whereas even a low-flow shower head uses about 40. To conserve water, you can relax in the steam as long as you want and then clean off quickly afterward. However, be aware that running a steam shower will increase your electric bill.

Increased Home Value

A steam shower is more luxurious than a standard shower, making it a great bathroom remodeling idea to increase your home’s value. The exact return on your investment depends on current design trends and the real estate market in your area, but installing a steam shower is likely to make your home more desirable.



How to Install a Steam Shower in Your Home

There are two options to install a steam shower: a prefabricated kit or custom. You can install a prefabricated kit yourself, though you’ll still need to hire a plumber ($100 to $300* per hour) to hook up the pipes and an electrician ($50 to $100 per hour) to connect the controls to your home’s wiring.

Popular vendors such as Steamist and Mr. Steam sell steam shower system components á la carte or as part of a package. The generators are often priced based on how many cubic feet of steam they can produce. A basic steam shower kit contains the steam generator, steam head, and controls. An all-inclusive kit also supplies a shower door, pan, surrounds, pipes, and fittings.

A kit is the best option to save money on your bathroom remodel, but you may be limited in terms of the shower’s features and appearance. The materials typically cost $2,300 to $6,500. If you choose professional installation, labor will add another $500 to $600 for a total of $2,800 to $7,100.

Your other option is a custom steam shower, which can have nonstandard dimensions and higher-end materials to fit your tastes. Whereas most prefabricated kits are made of acrylic, a custom shower can be made with ceramic tile or natural stone. The steam generator typically costs $500 to $2,000, and the materials will cost at least $2,500 to $6,200. Labor to install them will add $1,000 to $6,000 for a total cost of $4,000 to $14,200. This is more than the cost of tub-to-shower conversion and comparable to the cost to install a walk-in shower.

*Cost data via Home Advisor.



Our Recommendation

A steam shower is a luxurious addition to any bathroom, providing the relaxation and health benefits of a steam room within the space and privacy of a shower. A prefabricated kit is the most cost-effective option, but you can also opt to install a custom steam shower with all the features and premium materials you want. Unless you have substantial do-it-yourself (DIY) experience, we recommend hiring a professional bathroom remodeler to install a steam shower. Get estimates from at least three installers to accurately compare pricing and services.



Steam Shower FAQ

What is the purpose of a steam shower?

Most homeowners who install a steam shower do so for the relaxation and mild health benefits it can provide. A steam shower can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure, improve circulation, and relieve joint and muscle pain.

How long can you sit in a steam shower?

As with any heated environment, a steam shower is best enjoyed in moderation. If you’re new to using a steam shower, limit yourself to 10 minutes. Once you know how you’ll react, you can safely relax in the steam for 15 to 20 minutes.

What is the difference between a regular shower and a steam shower?

Steam showers are shower stalls that have a steam head in addition to a showerhead. A nearby steam generator heats water vapor and distributes it in the shower, creating a spa-like experience. Steam showers must also be more carefully sealed than regular showers to prevent steam from escaping.

What are the disadvantages of a steam shower?

Though steam showers have many benefits, they also have some drawbacks. They’ll only help you save water if you replace or shorten your usual shower time, and they’ll increase your electricity bill. Additionally, they’re more expensive and complex to install and require regular cleaning to prevent mold.

Are steam showers high-maintenance?

Steam showers are high-maintenance compared to regular showers. Warm, damp environments can encourage bacteria and mold, so you’ll likely need to wipe your steam shower down with disinfectant after every use. You’ll also need to have the steam generator cleaned internally every few years to keep it in working order.