Installation and Costs

Installing one of these at home requires the services of a few pros. First, you'll need a dealer; you can find one locally through the websites of major steam-generator makers, such as Mr. Steam, Steamist, and Thermasol. The dealer will find the best spot to hide the generator, which needs to be within 25 or so feet from the shower stall. (A linen or walk-in closet will do nicely, as long as the equipment is easily accessible for maintenance.) Then you'll need a tiling contractor and shower-door installer to build you a steamproof enclosure (see "A Stall for Steam" on page 4). When that's ready, the dealer can bring in a plumber to connect all the pipes and an electrician to hook up the generator's 220-volt electric cable and digital controls. All told, the system should run you about $2,500, installed, plus the cost of the new stall and door. Or for about $2,000 to $4,000, you can get a stand-alone, steam-ready enclosure that just needs to have the wiring and plumbing hooked up, though the space-capsule look of such units might be a bit out of place in your elegant master bath.

Steam-shower makers are betting their products will eventually nudge out the tub—claw-foot, jetted, or otherwise—as the preferred place to luxuriate in the American bathroom. There's some evidence to support the claim: A 2004 survey by the National Association of Home Builders found that more home buyers wanted separate shower enclosures with temperature controls and multiple showerheads than whirlpool tubs. At that rate, it may not be long before steam rises to the top.
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