Steam Shower vs. Soaking Tub: Which One Makes More of a Splash in a Home Remodel?

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Steam showers and soaking tubs are two of the most popular bathroom upgrades. Both offer a luxurious spa experience from the comfort of the home and can increase the value of a remodel. But what makes them so different from each other? Which one is the better investment, and which one is the better choice, overall?

What is a soaking tub?

Soaking tubs are deep bath basins – usually crafted in slightly different dimensions than traditional tubs. In addition to the greater depth, soaking tubs typically feature a narrow taper, and can come in an oval or circular shape. They’re usually free-standing, which means they’re rarely connected to a shower hookup. And they range from simple, basic varieties, sporting only a faucet and spigot, to more luxe versions with jets and/or built-in lighting. Soaking tubs can be relaxing and spa-like, but don’t provide many more benefits than a traditional bathtub, beyond that of size and proportion.

What is a steam shower?

A steam shower is a combination of a steam room and a shower, but with many more features than the standard shower, bathtub or soaking tub. It consists of a humidifying steam generator that produces water vapor in order to deliver a luxurious stream of steam that envelops the stall and invigorates the body. Steam showers are available in a variety of materials, and provide additional features to customize your own shower, such as high-precision temperature maintenance, lights, duration, volume and even popular video and music apps.

How much is a soaking tub?

A portable, inflatable plastic soaking tub can be purchased for as low as $50, while a natural mahogany Japanese soaking tub with a stool and a shelf can cost as much as $11,000. The average soaking tub runs about $1,500 with installation, yet while a soaking tub itself requires little maintenance, it requires more space than a steam shower. For smaller areas, wedging a soaking tub in a tiny bath not only limits utility of the basin and the bathroom as a whole, it isn’t ideal for resale. Soaking tubs also consume more time, energy and water. Because soaking tubs are deeper than traditional bathtub vessels, regularly filling a soaking tub will take more time to fill, which also means more water usage and higher costs.

How much is a steam shower?

Steam showers are a different story when it comes to the quality of the investment. With a steam shower, the initial overhead is a little higher than that of a soaking tub. If the bath already has a stall shower, any modifications needed to make it steam shower-friendly are usually minor. Steam shower components – typically a steam generator, shower head and controller – are available around $5,000. So while the cost may be more at the outset, post-installation, there are very few lingering costs. Water usage for a 20 minute steam shower can be as low as just one gallon, which means steam showers have a significantly lower impact on the utility bills, too.

The spa-nalysis

In the short term and the long run, the more cost effective option is a steam shower. The slightly-higher initial cost is well worth the return. In fact, a new report from Zillow recently found that home listings that mentioned steam showers sold for 31% more than their expected value. (Soaking tubs didn’t even rank!)

A steam shower is also an upgrade that provides unique health and wellness benefits versus a soaking tub, which has such limited advantages over an already-existing bathtub. A steam shower is a space-conscious luxury add-on that’s proven to be a hot resale amenity, and is eco-friendly because it saves water, which saves money as a result.

With a steam shower, there are also a lot more available options than with a soaking tub. ThermaSol’s Digital Shower enables the personalization of every component of the steam shower, and when used with the SteamVection Steamhead, it offers consistent and even temperature zones instead of variable heat ranges that typically occur in steam showers. The whisper-quiet unit also features self-powered Bluetooth speakers and accommodates essential oils for aromatherapy.

The Serenity Light, Sound Rainhead, meanwhile, features a gradually changing mood lighting mode that generates a calming spectrum of color, while other chromotherapy settings correspond to different chakras for an added sense of balance and wellbeing. Voice response feedback and a built-in, high-performance audio system further contribute to a truly soothing shower experience. The features are activated via the SignaTouch Control or the ThermaTouch Control LCD in-shower touchscreens. The clean, minimalist look of ThermaSol’s Digital Shower eliminates exposed valves and trims, bringing the multi-sensory powers of water, sound, steam and light under complete control.

Our take: join Team Steam!