Here's How: Make a Room-Size Steam Room in Your Bathroom
Dear James: I like sitting in the steam room after a workout at my health club. I know where to buy a small steam generator. Will I need to replace my bathtub, or can I just add some new glass doors? -- Justin H.
Dear Justin: A steam bath can be both relaxing and therapeutic. Although you would think steam baths are used more often during the winter, they are used year-round. The summer can actually be a more stressful time for parents with all the children's activities, so a relaxing steam bath will be welcomed.
Depending on the materials and construction of your bathtub area, you may be able to add tight-sealing glass doors and install a small steam generator. But in most cases, it would be much better to convert the bathtub area to a steam room with new materials or build an entirely new room for it.
The problem with a steam room is the high level of warm moisture vapor. If the room or bathtub area was not designed for it, this moisture can penetrate the walls and any gaps and slowly destroy the building materials inside the walls and ceiling.
You may be able to find special steam room doors at your local home center store. If not, try a professional building supply outlet or a custom bathroom/kitchen shop. The steam room doors look similar to standard shower doors, but they cover the entire opening, and they are well sealed.
A personal home steam room does not have to be large. A 4-by-5-foot room is adequate. If you can get by with a small room like this, you should be able to install a tiny steam generator, which uses standard 120-volt current. This eliminates the need to run new, 240-volt wiring to it.
Tile is one of the best wall coverings for a steam room. The tile is impervious to the warm water vapor and easy to wipe down and clean. The thinset mortar on the walls, which the tile is placed over, will seal reasonably well. By selecting various tile colors, you can create attractive, relaxing patterns on the walls.
The steam generator manufacturers and dealers can advise as to the proper size of steam generator required for various sizes of steam rooms. If space is limited, the steam generator can be located up to 20 feet away from the steam room and connected with a long pipe. If possible, though, locate the generator closer to the steam room for better efficiency.
When installing tile, place backer boards over the wall and ceiling lumber. For a steam room, always use cement backer board. Although it is more difficult to work with, it is much more resistant to moisture than drywall. Don't try to fit the backer board perfectly. Leave gaps at the mating edges, and fill them with caulk. This will seal well and allow the boards to move slightly without breaking the seal.
Even with a tile steam room, it is best to cover the walls with plastic vapor barrier film first, before applying the tile. Use a heavier film on the floor, and run it several inches up the walls underneath the film on the walls. If any vapor does get through the tile, it will condense and end up in the drain on the floor.
Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com. To find out more about James Dulley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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