You’ve probably heard the term “steam shower”, but what is it? And more importantly, how do you properly install tile in your steam shower? We will first look at what exactly makes a shower a steam shower, then go over the various installation products that you’ll need to ensure proper installation of tile and waterproofing.
What is a Steam Shower?
As the name implies, what sets a steam shower apart from a standard shower is… the steam. Steam showers use a small steam generator to turn your shower into your own personal steam room. Digital controls in the shower allow you to control the generator, which boils water to create the steam that comes through the steam head.
Steam showers have many benefits in both the commercial application and in a home. Steam showers create a great place to relax, the steam can be good for your skin and muscles, and even help clear stuffy nasal passages.
The Basics of Steam Shower Design
The first, and most basic, thing to remember when designing your steam shower is that it should be completely enclosed. This ensures that the steam being pumped into the shower stays in the shower. You’ll need vapor tight light fixtures, watertight shower doors, and double-pane windows to help prevent the steam from escaping the shower.
The next thing to consider is size. The purpose of most steam showers is to give you a place to relax, so you obviously want it large enough for you to sit in and unwind. But, you don’t want to too large that it uses too much power to generate the required steam. Because steam rises, a lower ceiling is usually best. A good rule of thumb is to not exceed a ceiling height of 8 feet.
If a steam shower is place for relaxation, you’ll likely want a place to sit while in the shower. You can use either a built-in bench, if you’ve got the space, or a folding seat option. If you go with a built-in bench, you’ll want to make sure that it is slightly sloped to allow the water to run off.
The TCNA has guildelines for installing tile in steam showers, which should always be followed. For steam showers that will see continuous use, both commercial and residential, follow SR 613. For a residential steam shower that will receive intermittent use, refer to SR614.
Choosing Tile for Your Steam Shower
Before installing any tile in a steam shower application, you’ll want to check with the manufacturer to ensure the product is recommended for steam shower applications. Remember that a steam shower created more vapor than a standard shower, so just because a tile is recommended for a shower doesn’t necessarily mean it can be used in a steam shower.
As a general rule, natural stones are not a great choice for steam showers. Natural stones are very porous, which makes them unable to handle the added moisture and vapor created in a steam shower. They will absorb the steam, which can create problem with the stone and even darken the appearance. So while natural stone may still be a great option for other areas of your bathroom, you’ll want to avoid it when choosing a tile for your steam shower.
A lot of porcelain and ceramic tile options are perfectly suited for steam shower installations. They are more durable and less porous than natural stone, which means they can stand up to the added moisture. There are so many options and looks available in porcelain and ceramic tile that you are sure to find something you’ll love. Take a look at our GO2 collection to see what tiles we have in stock and ready to be installed in your steam shower! Or, schedule an appointment with a designer and they can help design the perfect relaxation space for you.
Steam Shower Membranes
Choosing the right membrane for your steam shower installation is crucial. While the glazed tile is vapor impermeable, the grout is not. In fact, cementitious grout easily transmits water and vapor. It is highly likely in a steam shower assembly, that vapor can pass through the grout, making a membrane a necessity.
It is important that that the waterproof membrane you use has a perm rating of 0.5 or less. Louisville Tile recommends:
Laticrete: Hydro Ban (requires use of vapor barrier behind the substrate),
TEC: Hydra Flex (requires use of vapor barrier behind the substrate),
Steam Shower Thinset
When choosing a thinset for your steam shower installation, it is important that the product you use meets or exceeds ANSI 118.15. These “Improved Modified Dry-Set Cement Mortars” offer a higher 28 day shear bond strength, making them ideal for steam shower installations. Louisville Tile offers many compliant thinsets for several manufacturers:
Schluter: All Set
Steam Shower Grout
The cement grout used for steam shower installation should meet or exceed ANSI 118.6 standards. These standards establish minimum performance levels for compressive strength, flexural strength, shrinkage, and water absorption. Louisville Tile recommends the following grouts:
TEC: Power Grout
Steam Shower Sealant/Caulk
To seal/caulk your steam shower, you’ll want to use a 100% silicone sealant. Louisville Tile recommends:
Laticrete: Latisil 100% Silicone Sealant