Steam showers the hot new thing

Inspired by the recent bathroom reveals on melodrama The Block, Australians have added yet another item to their wish lists – steam showers.

Scott Campbell, owner of Australian Sauna & Steam Rooms, says he’s had a flood of enquiries about steam showers since the blow-up on The Block over exactly who had the bright idea of adding steam into their his-n-hers ensuites.

The spike in interest is proving a boon for an industry that was established in Australia more than 20 years ago but has struggled to break into the mainstream.

“In the steam and sauna world there’s been nothing like this ever in Australia,” says Campbell.

Home steam and sauna rooms are popular in other countries – for example, says Campbell, Finland has 3 million saunas. However, they have failed to capture the imagination of Australian home owners.

“We’re the biggest company and we have two employees,” Campbell says.

Until a few weeks ago, Campbell was dealing nearly exclusively with designers and architects employed by upmarket hotels and owners of multi-million dollar homes.

“Now there’s people ringing us and saying ‘I’ve just bought a brand new unit and I want to put steam into my shower area,’” Campbell says.

How it’s createdAdding a steam function usually has to be done during a renovation or new build.

“It’s not something you can really retrofit … it’s a bit awkward because you have plumbing and electrical, so you have to take tiles off,” says Campbell.

A steam room should be fully waterproofed.

“It’s called tanking,” says Campbell. “[That includes] the walls, the ceiling, over the benches, down to the floor, so it’s completely tanked.”

Once the ceiling has been waterproofed, Campbell recommends a finish be put over the top.

“The waterproofing is not a nice smooth finish so you need to put something over that to finish your ceiling off.

“Your ceiling finish could be tiles, it could be a powdered aluminium sheet (favoured by boxers and jockeys who are interested in building steam rooms so they can drop weight fast and aren’t concerned about aesthetics).”

Although he has seen painted ceilings work in steam rooms, Campbell says there is a risk the steam will make the paint peel.

Glass finishes and tiles are most popular: “Five years ago I used to say to people ‘you could tile your ceiling’ and it was like ‘no way’. They were thinking about tiles falling on your head, whereas now everyone says ‘yep, no worries, we’ll tile the ceiling.’”

The ceiling height should not exceed about 2.3 metres. In commercial settings and larger steam rooms, a raked or sloping ceiling is recommended.

“The reason for the sloped ceiling or the raked ceiling is to reduce the drips,” says Campbell. “In a commercial situation if it’s running all day you get some big droplets on the ceiling and if they fall on you, you feel quite cold and it’s uncomfortable.

“In a lot of homes  … I wouldn’t go to the bother of raking the ceiling because it’s not going to bead up and roll off there that dramatically. For those beads to start falling from the ceiling, usually you’ve left the room anyway.”

The steam shower is finished with a full glass front, usually comprising of two fixed panels and a frameless glass door. Campbell says an 8mm thick glass is fine for the panels and door but many home owners opt for 10mm as there are a wider range of fixtures available for that thickness.

The costCampbell sells steam generators and all the associated fittings from about $3500, supply only. He advises customers to allow up to $1000 for trades to install the plumbing and electrical components – although he says it can often be a lot less.

Top-end bathroom retailer Roger Sellers also stocks steam showers. A spokeswoman said they range from $4500 to $10,000 for all the bells and whistles including music connections, colour therapy lighting and aromatherapy containers for essential oils.

Have you got a steam shower? Or do you think the concept is a bit over the top?

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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