Steamy Content – What Exactly Is a Steam Shower?

Questions and issues that I intend to address in this series are: 1) What exactly is a steam shower? 2)

Can I create my own steam shower? 3)  Can frameless showers be steam showers?

In my daily and sometimes evening shower experiences, I have noticed an interesting phenomenon that others

may have noticed as well. When using hot water, as I typically do, my shower begins to fill up with – you

guessed it – STEAM! Does this mean I have a steam shower? I certainly have steam IN my shower.

The answer, technically, is no. I do not have a steam shower. I know this because I purchased and helped

install a frameless door, panel, and return shower with 3/8? glass. Having a frameless shower does not

mean that I do or do not have a steam shower. But the fact that steam develops in my shower when I turn on

the water is meant to illustrate a point. The generation of steam is a simple principle of physics and

will occur in ANY shower when the water is hot enough so that it reaches the point where it transforms

from a liquid to a gas.

So enough of the science. What then is a steam shower? By its strictest definition, a steam shower is one

where the steam is generated not just by water naturally turning to gas as it comes out of the shower

head, but where the steam is created by some type of special generator.

These generators are usually built into specially designed showers that seek to maximize your exposure to

the steam and minimize the loss of steam through openings in the shower. Depending on the features you

add, it looks like these units can get pretty pricey.

As mentioned previously, the true steam showers are designed with special seals and parts that minimize

the amount of steam that escapes. This most always leads to additional framing and components that detract

from any frameless look that you may desire. While a frameless shower may never technically be a true

steam shower, there are things that can be done to increase the “steaminess” of your frameless shower.

For the case where your shower opening requires more than just a single door, such as a door and panels,

consider the following approach. First, take your panels all the way to the ceiling. Second, use U-channel

to secure the panels at the bottoms, along the sides, and at the tops. Do not use clips. This essentially

creates a completely sealed enclosure, thus preventing steam from escaping. Typically, you don’t want to

take your door all the way to the ceiling because once you exceed about 80 inches, you begin to reach the

weight limitation of the hinges. Thus more glass = more weight = different more expensive hinges.

The most cost effective solution is to stick with a typical size door (72″ or 78″). At this point, there

are several areas that steam can escape from. Obviously steam can escape through the gap between the top

of the door and the ceiling. Steam can escape through the 3/16″ gap between the door and the panel

(unhinged side). Steam can also escape through the 3/16″ gap between the door and the panel where the

hinges are.

To address the gap at the top of the door, consider adding an operable transom. A transom will close most

of the open space in the gap. You’ll be left with a tiny gap between the top of the door and the bottom of

the transom as well as a tiny gap at the top of the transom. Since the transom is operable, you can

control how far it opens in order to control how much steam is vented out.

To address the gap between the door and panel on the unhinged side, consider adding a polycarbonate

strike. The door will rest against the strike when closed and will essentially seal the opening. You’ll be

left with the unsealed vertical gap where the door hinges to the panel.

So even if you follow my recommendations above, your frameless shower will not be completely steam proof

but it will be frameless and it will keep most of the steam in your shower. And even if you don’t have a

steam generator, in this author’s opinion, you DO have a beautiful all glass frameless steam shower.