Best Materials for a Steam Shower

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While there are many relaxing benefits to a steam shower, it is not always easy to know what materials are required to set this up in your home which is why we reached out to Kim Bernard, Executive Director of Facilities Design at Walker Zanger, the leading source of tile and stone in North America, for some tips on the best tile and materials to create your at-home wellness sanctuary.

What Type of Material is Best for a Steam Shower?

A steam shower typically requires non-porous material, such as porcelain, but it can also be designed with natural stone that is routinely sealed as a regular maintenance procedure, according to Kim. Be careful to avoid harsh chemicals when cleaning so as to not wear away the sealant.

Natural stone needs some assistance to dry to prevent mildew, which is why it is recommended to seal stone steam showers at least once a year. Walls, ceilings and floors should be checked periodically for mildew, which a professional steam treatment can fix. When choosing stone for your steam shower, Kim advises to “check with your stone supplier” as they can help you with the decision process.

Is Size an Important Consideration?

While it is not necessary for a steam shower, Kim recommends large-format stone or tile inside the shower enclosure to decrease the amount of grout lines which will help prevent buildup of moisture. Choosing the right type of grout is also important, Kim says. “Typically the best types of grout are an epoxy or modified grout, but always use a grout manufacturer’s recommendation.” It is also a good idea to have a sloped ceiling to help drain condensation. A quality drain system also prevents standing water, mold and mildew.

Should You Be Concerned About Slipping?

While large format is great for the walls as we’ve said above, Kim recommends small format porcelain tile for the floor in conjunction with a grout recommended for a steam shower application. Larger formats with a textured finish are possible, Kim says. A honed or brushed finish for the floor provides traction and safety, though honed surfaces don’t repel water as well which is another reason why a good drainage system is important.

Does the Color or Shade of the Stone or Tile Matter?

For non-porous materials, there is no need to be concerned about the color or shade, but some darker stones should be avoided, Kim says, because they can effloresce, meaning minerals in the stone make their way to the surface and leave a white haze. “This hazing is far more visible on dark stones,” Kim says.

Additional Points

Porcelain is the easiest material to use for a steam shower, but if you do choose to use stone, your stone supplier is the best reference. “Stone is very idiosyncratic—each stone has its own properties,” Kim says. “Careful planning is important, as well as the use of a licensed qualified contractor who is very well-versed in installing steam showers. It’s important to be sure that the installation has proper waterproofing.”

Thanks for your help, Kim!

We are proud to say that we have been pioneers of steam showers since 1958 and can help with all your steam shower needs. Reach out to us if you are interested in creating an at-home steam and wellness experience. Check out these tips on how to retrofit your space for a steam shower (which is much easier than you might expect!). You can also learn more about steam showers with our Steam Shower Q and A blog.