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 occurrence that others may have noticed in addition. When using hot water, as I typically do, my shower begins to fill up with – you guessed it – STEAM! Does this average 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 average 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 rule 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 produced by some kind 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 by openings in the shower. Depending on the features you add, it looks like these units can get pretty pricey.
As mentioned before, 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 elements 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 obtain the panels at the bottoms, along the sides, and at the tops. Do not use clips. This essentially creates a completely sealed surrounding, consequently preventing steam from escaping. Typically, you don’t want to take your door all the way to the ceiling because once you go beyond about 80 inches, you begin to reach the weight limitation of the hinges. consequently 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. clearly steam can escape by the gap between the top of the door and the ceiling. Steam can escape by the 3/16″ gap between the door and the panel (unhinged side). Steam can also escape by 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 in addition 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 already 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 already if you don’t have a steam generator, in this author’s opinion, you DO have a beautiful all glass frameless steam shower.
Personally, I prefer a typical shower with minimal hardware, all glass, and beautiful tile. I’d rather not see digital readouts and control panels that join many modern steam showers. What do you think?