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How to Choose the Perfect Tiles for Your Steam Bathroom?

To relax in warm steam, try a generator inside a shower. This setup needs a steam mechanism, a sloped roof, and an enclosed area to keep the heat. Steam showers are suitable for small homes and bathrooms because they are smaller than saunas.

Though building a steam shower may seem simple, it requires careful planning. Steam, being hotter and wetter than water, means you need to choose tiles for your steam shower with extra care.

To assist you, we’ve put together key tips for selecting durable tiles for your home steam shower.

Related: How to Steam Clean Tiles and Grouts? | Tips for Choosing Bathroom Tiles

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Steam Room vs. Sauna

Steam rooms use humid heat from water vapor, while saunas provide dry heat, typically from infrared light, electric heaters, or hot stones.

Sweating Benefits

  • Balances skin’s natural pH.
  • Hydrates skin.
  • Improves circulation.
  • May remove toxins like arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury.

Anti-Aging Benefits

  • Provides a youthful glow to the skin.
  • Helps in flushing out toxins.
  • Boosts collagen production.
  • Moisturizes and nourishes hair, reducing frizz.
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Muscle Recovery and Pain Relief

  • Steam therapy widens small blood vessels.
  • Enhances blood flow.
  • Provides relief after workouts.
  • Increases beta-endorphins, leading to feelings of happiness.

In steam shower construction, not every material is suitable. Suppliers or manufacturers test materials to see if they can withstand high moisture. Tests follow ASTM standards. They check water absorption, density, porosity, and specific gravity. Only materials that meet these standards are fit for steam showers.

For wall and floor cladding with mesh backing, you must use the right setting materials.

The choice should depend on more than just their absorption rate. Aesthetics are key, too.

Porcelain Tile

  • Exceptional Water Resistance: According to ANSI, porcelain is impervious with a less than 0.5% water absorption rate. The very low rate makes it highly resistant to moisture, a crucial feature for materials used in steam showers.
  • Superior Heat Retention and Insulation: One of the standout qualities of porcelain tiles is their ability to retain heat. It improves the comfort and warmth of the steam shower and also serves as an insulator. This insulation helps the overall efficiency of the steam room and is suitable for electricity savings.
  • Aesthetically Pleasing with Diverse Designs: Porcelain tiles are renowned for their aesthetic versatility. They have various magnificent colors, patterns, and textures, some of which are designed to resemble natural stone closely. All these options allow homeowners to achieve the authentic look and feel of natural stone, providing the desired aesthetic without giving up on functionality.
steam shower porcelain tile
  • Durability and Safety: For steam showers, porcelain tiles stand out for their non-porous nature and robustness, so they are safe and durable. They are particularly suited for environments where durability and safety are essential, like steam showers.
  • Various Designs: Porcelain tiles offer lots of design possibilities. They can create a sleek, smooth marble effect or mimic the warm, organic feel of natural wood. It allows various interior design themes, from luxurious and elegant to rustic and natural.
  • Various Styles: Porcelain tiles are incredibly adaptable, fitting seamlessly into different design aesthetics. For example, they can create a Scandinavian-style sauna ambiance in a bathroom, where the warm appearance of wood grain porcelain tile adds to the shower’s design while maintaining functionality.
  • Easy Maintenance: One of the most significant advantages of porcelain tiles in steam showers is their low maintenance nature. These tiles combine excellent performance with a sophisticated appearance, all without the need for the intensive care, upkeep, or weathering that other materials might demand, which makes them a practical and stylish choice for modern steam showers.

Natural Stone

  • Suitable for Steam Rooms: While natural stone is admired for its beauty, there are better choices for frequently used steam rooms. Many types of natural stone are prone to damage due to their higher absorption rate.
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  • Risk of Damage: Using the wrong type of natural stone can lead to discoloration, debonding, or decomposition. This happens because the minerals in the stone can expand.
  • Luxurious Appeal: Despite these concerns, natural stone tiles, like marble, can create a luxurious and timeless appeal in showers. They are popular in both traditional and contemporary bathroom designs.
  • Dry Environment Needed: Maintaining a dry environment is crucial when the steam shower is not in use. Natural stones are porous and may not be the best option for steam shower enclosures.
  • Heat Retention and Steam Absorption: Natural stone tiles absorb steam and retain moisture. They also release heat rather than retaining it, which can lead to the need for more electricity or a larger steam generator.
  • Choosing the Right Stone: If you prefer natural stone tiles for your steam shower, consult the manufacturer to ensure they suit your needs.
  • Maintenance Needed: Be prepared for regular maintenance, such as yearly sealing of the tiles and checking for mildew. This is necessary to maintain the long-term beauty of your marble or stone tiles.

Glazed Ceramics & Glass Tiles

steam shower glazed tile

Glazed ceramics and glass tiles are suitable for steam showers. They absorb little water, a key feature for materials used in such environments. Their appearance is quite attractive, and their ability to reflect light can make a steam room feel more spacious and open.

These tiles are non-porous and resist stains, making them practical choices for steam showers. However, selecting the appropriate type of glass tile for a steam shower is essential. Colored glass is preferable over clear glass, as it can show moisture trapped beneath it. Additionally, be aware that glass tiles may appear less shiny when in contact with steam.

Consider the Tile Size

The size of the tiles you choose depends on several factors:

  • Bathroom Size: The size of your bathroom plays a significant role in determining the tile size. A larger bathroom can accommodate larger tiles, while a smaller one may benefit from smaller tiles.
  • Personal Taste: Your taste also influences tile selection. Some homeowners prefer the classic look of plain white subway tiles, while others lean towards the elegance of patterned large-format tiles.
  • Budget: Your budget is a practical factor to consider. Different tile sizes come with varying price tags, so choosing a size that fits your budget is essential.
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  • Current Trends: Staying up-to-date with current tile trends can provide inspiration. You can explore these trends by visiting tile stores or browsing online to refine your preferences.
  • Size and Layout of the Bathroom: The size and layout of your bathroom should guide your decision. Large tiles can create a sense of spaciousness, while smaller tiles can lend a more streamlined appearance.

When choosing tile size for your bathroom, consider factors such as bathroom size, personal preference, budget, and current trends. Larger tiles can create a sense of spaciousness, while smaller ones offer a streamlined look. Common tile sizes include 12×12, 16×16, 12×24, and 3×6 subway tiles.

If it’s a DIY project, consider the practicality of working with the chosen tile size. Large-format tiles pose challenges on walls; smaller tiles require extra grouting and cutting.

Get creative with tile layouts, such as a running bond, offset, herringbone, or diagonal patterns for smaller subway tiles. You can also use mosaics or smaller tiles as feature elements.

Designing shower walls can be difficult due to interconnected walls and built-in elements like a shower niche. Accurate measurements and consideration of your bathroom’s size and layout are essential before finishing your tile choice.

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Ensure Proper Insulation

It’s crucial to have adequate insulation beneath the tiles. A good installation not only keeps your tiles durable but also protects your walls and ceilings. Water condensation can create wall cavities, potentially leading to mold growth and structural harm.

Fortunately, advancements in waterproofing techniques have made it possible to prevent moisture from seeping into walls or foundations in most steam showers. Therefore, before tiling any part of your steam shower, ensure that you have the proper insulation in place, regardless of the tile type you select.

Slanted Ceilings and Smaller Tiles

When designing a steam shower, consider the importance of a slanted ceiling. It allows condensation to drain effectively and prevents large droplets from falling on you during relaxation.

For curved ceilings, opt for smaller tiles as they create more visually appealing slopes. Ensure you use mosaic tiles with a mesh backing, ensuring at least 95% contact between the tile and the backer board. This contact is essential for proper tile adhesion to the wall.

Q: Should I be concerned about slipping in the steam shower?

A: For the walls, large-format porcelain tiles work well, but it’s better to use small-format porcelain tiles for the floor, along with steam shower grout. You can also consider larger tiles with textured surfaces for added safety. A honed or brushed floor finish provides grip, but remember that honed surfaces may not resist water as effectively as brushed ones, so ensure you have a proper drainage system.

Q: Does the color or shade of the stone or tile matter?

A: If you’re using non-porous materials, you don’t need to worry much about color or shade. However, you should avoid darker stones as they can develop efflorescence, where minerals in the stone create a white haze on the surface. This effect is more noticeable on darker stones.

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