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Steam Showers - Buy or Build - Which is Better

2013-2-21 16:03:26

Whirlpool tubs were at the forefront of luxury bathroom design for years, but these days the focus is all on showers. Multi-sprayer custom showers and sprawling steam showers are more conductive to a busy lifestyle, and steam showers especially come with a whole host of health benefits one can enjoy in quick 15 minute chunks. But plumbing, tiling, and constructing a custom shower – or especially a steam shower – from scratch can be expensive and time consuming. We introduced a few tips to help homeowners decide which would work better for them – a custom made steam shower, or a pre-made one.
1. Appearance
A big, sprawling custom shower in a magazine or on TV is almost always a big, beautifully tiled space, maybe built to fit ten or so. This is sort of the presented ideal of a custom steam shower – a lovely, enclosed space that echoes the Roman baths, the most iconic originator of the steam bath. But while some pre-made steam showers have the clunky, slightly cheap acrylic look of a shower/tub combo, this isn’t always the case. In fact, many pre-made steam showers, like the gorgeous built-in Wooden Floor Shower from Ariel, for example, are made of highly modern glass and brushed steel. It isn’t quite the classic look of tile, but it has it’s own modern elegance, which might actually work better depending on the bathroom design.
2. Water Tightness
One of the biggest challenges in building a steam shower from the ground up is ensuring that the enclosure is entirely water tight. One definitely wouldn’t want the steam in the shower to get out, as it can wreak havoc on the rest of the bathroom. But that means that instead of having an elegant frameless shower door that just goes so high, or even one that simply clicks into place might not be enough. One would need to enclose the shower door completely (which can mean building the shower all the way up to the ceiling), and ensure all the edges are water tight. Pre-made steam showers have the distinct advantage of being water-tight from the get-go, meaning that something like the corner Steam Shower Enclosure by Ariel can be installed freestanding rather than in the recessed niche required by a more traditional steam bath.
3. Cost
The price of a custom steam shower can vary widely depending on the existing bathroom layout, the size of the shower, the tile, shower door, and fixtures, as well as the individual contractor. It’s really one of those projects one can make as big as one wants, but it’s also a project that won’t ever be small. Conversely, a built-in steam shower, like Ariel’s Shower For Two for example,has one flat, up-front cost for all the parts, and aside from installation (which is usually fairly simple also, as the unit is entirely self-contained), there aren’t any additional or hidden costs. For those who want the steam shower to be the focal point of the bathroom, it makes sense to bend the budget for tile, but if the spending is already limited, it might be worth the predictability of a built-in.

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