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Custom Steam Shower VS Pre-Made Steam Shower Units - Which Is Better?

Updated on September 1, 2010

Steam Bathing History

Steam showers are an ancient tradition that have been slowly adapted into a modern luxury over the years. Thanks to advancements in technology, steam showers are now being installed into residential homes at a cost of only a few thousand.

Decades ago, enjoying a steam shower meant you had to go to a public area such as a gym or a spa. Today there are a variety of products to bring the luxury and benefits of steam into the comfort and privacy of your home. Steam bathing today has evolved beyond the outdated images of royal luxury. Steam has become affordable and many people are beginning to realize the many health benefits of steam bathing.

Custom Steam Shower Room VS Pre-made Steam Shower Unit

When it comes to home installations, there are 2 types of steam showers:

  • Custom home built steam shower
  • Modular pre-built steam shower

1) Custom Steam Showers

Custom-built steam showers are really the only way to go if you want the enjoy the same full steam shower experience that you get at a spa or health club. Building a custom steam shower is definitely well worth the effort in extra time and costs. You not only enjoy a better steam bath, but have one that is longer-lasting, better quality, perfectly sized, and looks great in your existing bathroom.

Higher Quality Parts

As with many other home projects, you get higher quality parts when you do it yourself. Custom built steam shower parts have quality you can see and feel. You are not buying a convenient cookie-cutter all-in-one unit. You are shopping for the right shade of glass, the properly sized steam generator, and the full-featured shower head. The process is not often so manual and painstaking. Manufacturers usually have all the critical components sold together in different packages varying in price and features.

Hotter Steam

This is probably the biggest key advantage of a custom home steam shower room. The generators are high quality able to generate and withstand higher steam temperatures. This leads to more enjoyment and ensures you receive the full benefits of steam bathing.

Simple Repairs

The parts can be seen, understood, and easily repaired under manufacturer warranty should something happen. Instead of having to take apart an entire pre-built single unit when something goes wrong, you only have to replace a specific part. Often, the manufacture will send someone over to do this for you in your own home.

Perfect Sizing

The custom steam shower is sized perfectly to your needs. You can build a large one to accommodate more people and fit chairs as well as other items into the space. Size is definitely a contributing factor to the comfort and feel of your steam bathing environment.

Better Appearance

Custom steam shower rooms are beautiful! There is nothing more luxurious in a bathroom than to see a carefully designed and custom-fitted steam bath enclosure. Steam bathing is wonderful relaxing experience of your day and you should take every chance to customize the atmosphere to tastes. Hands down, custom steam rooms are so much more attractive in the home when compared to a modular steam shower units that look like giant microwaves. A custom built steam room is usually bigger, has more glass, and truly feels like part of your bathroom. You feel relaxed and free to enjoy your environment instead of feeling caged away in a cramped little box.

Custom Steam Shower Room
Custom Steam Shower Room
Pre-Made Steam Shower Unit
Pre-Made Steam Shower Unit

2) Pre-Made Steam Shower Units

These are factory manufactured that are self-contained and come packaged together. Ideally, they are cheap and offer a quick & easy no-fuss steam shower installation. Because everything arrives in one simple package, you don't have to worry about the planning, measuring, and constructing process of installing your own steam shower. These modular units are supposed to be the plug-&-play solution to home steam showers. In reality, they are usually made of cheap components, expensive to repair (sometimes irreparable), and don't fit well into existing bathrooms.

Cooler Steam (BAD)

When it comes to steam showers, you definitely want HOTTER steam not colder steam. The problem with these standalone steam shower units is that the steam never gets hot enough like a real steam shower room. Part of the reason is that the generator is low quality and undersized for cost-savings to the manufacturer. The other part is that the cheap acrylic enclosure can't handle the hot steam like a real steam room. This one critical difference alone is probably the reason why pre-made steam showers don't sell very well. If you want to enjoy a real steam shower room, custom built is the way to go!

Poor Quality

Because the unit is already built together in one piece, it is very hard for the average consumer to tell the difference between one steam shower from another. This is where manufacturers put their time into designing a high quality appearance while taking shortcuts on the actual unseen machinery and working components, that is hidden inside. Unsuspecting consumers don't realize that they're paying for foreign-made products that will break down very fast and the manufacturer probably has fine print warranty relieving them of any responsibility.

Hidden Costs

Many people don't realize that a modular single-piece steam shower is not cheap. The unit itself may appear to be the less expensive option when compared to having to spend time and labor to build a custom steam shower. Repairing a self-built unit is not easy because numerous parts are pre-molded into simpler pieces. There is no single piece that you can easily replace or contact the manufacturer to repair for you. Quite often, there are many smaller parts of the steam shower such as the enclosure seals and vinyl coating on the floor that will wearoff rapidly under normal use and aren't covered by manufacturer warranty since it isn't considered critical to the steam function. You also have to consider the cost of having a unit repaired with unmatching parts and home-made remedies put in place to keep it running. Aside from the cost of expensive repairs because of a cheaply made malfunctioning unit, you have to factor in the cost of stress, headaches, and decreased quality of relaxation.

Hard To Install

Many people purchase a single one-piece steam shower unit thinking it will plug & play in 5 minutes but this is not always the case! Quite often, it arrives in multiple parts and still requires a complicated setup and some handyman work. A long instruction manual and poor translation makes it easy for to miss a step and risk setting up the unit incorrectly. It only takes for you to make a minor mistake to damage your unit or inadvertently void the warranty.

Won't Match Your Bathroom

They look great in stock photos but rarely does a single piece steam shower truly blend into your bathroom aesthetically as it does in the magazine advertisement. Their sizing, shaping, color, and design are usually limited so the steam shower unit will always be the one sore thumb that sticks out in your beautifully designed bathroom.

The Verdict? The Custom Steam Shower Wins Hands Down

The custom built steam shower will most likely be (if not always) the better choice when you're trying to build a steam shower at home. There are so many downsides to modular steam showers that you shouldn't really consider them as a serious option. Not surprisingly, they don't sell very well here in America and many people opt to choose for the home built do-it-yourself steam shower once they fully educate themselves on the process. A steam shower is a longterm investment, requiring careful planning and decision-making in order to maximize your enjoyment, health benefits, and financial investment for years to come.

Shopping For A Custom Steam Shower?

Please let me recommend the best custom steam shower brand out there: Thermasol Steam Showers

  • Thermasol's founder, David Altman invented the first minielectric steam bath for home use in the 1950s. Referenced on Wikipedia's page for "Steam Shower"
  • Thermasol remains today as the preferred choice of professional plumbers, top designers, architects, builders, and homeowners.
  • Thermasol is STILL the only 100% digital, fully networked steam system in the world.
  • Thermasol offers a Lifetime Warranty on all their steam generators.


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    • dras profile image

      dras 7 years ago from Los Angeles

      Hi Gissim,

      What steam room construction advice were you looking for? Materials to use? Sizing? Layout of the steam system components? Waterproofing? Design?

    • profile image

      gissim0 7 years ago

      While this article is very interesting it leaves out one topic. Construction of your steam room. I is so difficult to build a steam room that doesn't require constant maintainence, that not one manufacturer of steam equipment will even give you any advice for construction! If you ask why, they will tell you due to the liability! So it is kind of tough. Either hire a construction company that hasn't built more than 3 of these steam rooms, and has no track record (I guess unless you live in NYC or LA), do it yourself and plan on spending hours each month working on it, or buy a stand alone unit.