How To Build
 A Steam Room

Those that love steam baths should consider home installation. Installing a home unit is generally easier and cheaper than many think.

There are two initial choices when installing a home unit. The existing bath or shower can be converted to a steam bath, or a modular steam bath can be installed. There are several modals which are self-contained and simply need access to plumbing and electrical connections.

Conversion of an existing bath or shower unit is also quite easy. Simply install a steam proof door and steam generator to make the steam bath.

Preparation

Rooms used for steam baths must have proper preparation before installation occurs. If steam is allowed to escape and seeps into the infrastructure of the building it will cause serious structural damage.

If the building is under construction, it is a simple matter to have the builders use proper materials to steam proof the room where the steam bath will be held. For existing structures it must be verified that the room where the steam bath is to be housed can withstand steam.

The basic principles for safe steam bath installation include prevention of escaping steam, collection of condensed water before it drips on bathers, and water drainage. To achieve these goals, the steam room must be properly sealed, insulated, have a sloping ceiling, and have proper drainage.

All materials used in construction of the bath should be waterproof and have an underlying vapor barrier made of thick plastic, to keep steam from escaping. Sheetrock or plaster must be designed to withstand moisture or covered with a waterproof finish. The walls and ceilings should be covered with ceramic tile or glass. All joints and connections must be sealed with silicone to prevent moisture from escaping.

Once the underlying structure has been prepared, the ceiling height must be decided. To maximize steam build-up and to prevent cold spots, the ceiling should be lower than 8 feet high. It also must be slanted to allow condensation to collect in one area away from the bathers. A gradual slope of 2 inches per foot should be adequate.

To convert a tub or shower into a steam bath, it must be enclosed with a suitable door. Small steam areas such as this should have a small gap at the bottom of the door to allow for air flow. Larger rooms can be made airtight.

The bathroom must be constructed to contain steam even if a modular steam shower is installed. These units generally contain steam quite well but still release moisture into the surrounding area. Modular steam showers have the advantage of features such as extra shower heads, built in seating, lighting, and possibly even CD players and telephones.

Either system will still require the selection of a steam generator and all the connections necessary.

All steam baths require a proper sized generator. Most manufacturers provide guidelines to choose the proper size generator for the size and materials of the bath. Generators are generally rated by the number of cubic feet of the bath, but additional capacity must be added if the bath is constructed of a heat absorbing material such as glass, concrete, or marble.

Once the proper generator has been selected, installation location should be chosen. The generator needs to be installed in a low traffic area. Possible locations include vanities, closets, insulated attics or basements. The generator should not be installed outdoors or in any location with cold temperatures.

Most generators can be installed up to 20 or 40 feet from the bath, this allows options for location. The location needs to be insulated, and also have access to water and electrical connections. A drain also needs to be close by.

The electrical connection should be 240 volts the water supply can be either hot or cold. The line from the generator to the bath should have a slight slope to allow for adequate flow. The line should also be free of gullies as they will trap pockets of condensation and prevent proper steam flow resulting in a dangerous build up of pressure.

The generator must be easily accessed for service. Generally most units are dependable, however in the event of service it is best to have an accessible unit so walls will not have to be torn open.

Installation

Hot water is the best choice as it will create steam quickly. To connect the hot water heater and generator first turn the water heater off and completely drain it. Cut the pipe from the water heater in two places to install a tap. After the tap has been soldered in place, run a line from it to the generator.

When the generator is in place connect it to the hot water heater and solder it. The steam outlet is now connected to the bath with inch copper pipe. Run the pipe from the generator to the steam head in the bath. The head should be installed close to the floor between 6 and 24 inches from the floor.

The pipe must have a slight downward slant and must be free of gullies or turns that will trap condensation. Once in place and soldered the pipe should be wrapped with insulation.

When all connections have been properly soldered the water heater can be turned back on and allowed to fill. As the water is re heating, connect the controls to the generator. The control panel can be placed either in the bath or outside but it must be installed away from the steam head. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for making the connections between the generator and the control panel.

Plug the generator into an outlet and test it by using the control panel. If all is connected properly the unit should light up. The bath should not be used for 24 hours to allow time for all the connections to dry.

The installation of a generator can be handled by those with moderate plumbing skills. Those that have not done this type of work before should hire a licensed plumber to install the steam bath. Those that do choose to do the work themselves should have it inspected by a plumber before the bath is used.

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