Installing a Steam Bath - Part One
Do you love steam baths? Feel that you can't survive without them? If you are one of those who live for steam, consider getting a steam bath installed in your home. Having your own is the ultimate for many steam bath lovers and getting one may be easier (and less expensive) than you think.
There are two basic choices when installing a steam bath in your home. You can convert your existing bathtub or shower or you can install a modular steam bath. There are several steam bath designs which are self-contained and simply need appropriate plumbing and electrical connections.
Converting an existing bathtub is also fairly easy. A steam proof door must be installed and a steam generator must be connected to the bathtub enclosure.
Steam is a highly penetrating form of moisture, so any room that has a steam bath (steam room) must be properly prepared to prevent moisture damage. If steam gets into the infrastructure of your house it can cause serious structural damage.
If you are in the process of constructing a new house, it is a simple matter to have the builders use the proper materials to steam proof your bathroom in order to provide a steam room. If you are installing a steam bath in an existing house, you must verify that the bathroom can withstand steam.
The basic principals in safe steam bath installation are to 1) prevent the steam from escaping, 2) collect the condensed water without dripping on the bathers, and 3) allow the water to drain. To achieve these three goals, the steam room must be completely sealed and insulated, it must have a sloping ceiling, and it must have proper drains.
To prevent steam from escaping beyond the steam bath, the structural materials should be waterproof and have an underlying vapor barrier of thick plastic. Sheetrock or plaster must be designed to withstand moisture or covered with a waterproof finish.
The walls and ceilings of the steam room must be covered in a impervious material like ceramic tile or glass. All the joints and connections must be sealed with silicone to prevent any moisture from escaping.
Once the underlying structure has been prepared, the next thing to consider is the height of the ceilings. In order to maximize steam build-up and prevent cold spots, the ceiling should be lower than 8 feet high. It should also be slanted to allow condensation to slide down the ceiling rather than drip on the bathers. A slope of 2 inches per foot is appropriate for a steam bath.
If you are converting a bathtub into a steam bath, you need to enclose it with a suitable door. Small steam areas (the size of the bathtub) should have a narrow gap at the bottom of the door to allow for airflow. Larger steam rooms can be made airtight.
The bathroom should still be constructed to contain steam even if you are installing a modular steam shower. These units contain steam pretty well but still release moisture into the surrounding bathroom area. Modular steam showers have the advantage of having extra features such as multiple shower heads, built-in seating, lighting, and even CD players and telephones.
But no matter whether you are installing a modular steam shower or converting a bathtub into a steam bath, you still need to select and install a steam generator and all the connectors and make sure that everything is working correctly. That is the topic of our next article.
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