SaunaTime® blog


Getting Personal: Journey with Me Through Bathroom Remodel with a Steam Shower

Fourteen years ago, my wife and I purchased our home.  It wasn’t big, but it was cute and everything that we needed at the tender age of 23.  Since it was still in the 1990s, décor from the late 80s to early 90s didn’t seem too far out of place; however, some looks were starting to become a little dated.  Through the years, we made minor cosmetic changes to the bathroom, but as we saw water damage developing from a leaky shower, we knew a larger project was due.  When planning our vacations and summer plans, we decided this was the year to spend vacation time and money on a proper bathroom remodel, complete with a steam shower.

Peach Tiled Shower Identifying the Challenge

Today, we will look at the early stage of the project: design and planning.  As mentioned before, over the years, we had made some minor changes to the bathroom.  When we first purchased the home, the bathroom walls were wallpapered, and the floor had been carpeted.  Since this bathroom was in the lower level of a tri-level, the bathroom floor was a concrete slab, which was poured unevenly, thus carpet was the easiest solution (though not ideal for a bathroom).  To address these issues, we removed the wallpaper and painted the walls, and we tried laying vinyl "peel and stick” tiles to the concrete floor, but because of the uneven floor, the tiles looked horrible, so we went back to interlocking carpet tiles.  The design features we could not easily address were the peach shower tiles and vanity top and the leaky shower door.
Where to Begin

While the goal was to create a beautiful bathroom retreat, the reality was a limited budget, which meant the first decision we had to make was to make this a Do-It-Yourself project.  A veteran of watching countless hours of HGTV and DIY, particularly shows like Bath Crashers and I Hate My Bath, I determined I had acquired the skills and knowledge necessary to undertake the project (for any contractor or DIY homeowner, you know how laughable that assumption is).  Having determined I could tackle demolition, tile, drywall, electrical, and possibly plumbing (with the help of my father and father-in-law), we needed a design, so we could begin selecting materials.  A simple CAD layout helped us calculate the square footage of tile needed for the shower, the bathroom floor, and the vanity top.  Though I have been reading plans and specifications for building projects for over 12 years, I was surprised at how little I knew about my own space. How big is my shower? How many square feet is the floor? Exactly how big is the vanity top, and where is the plumbing access for the sink located (side or back of cabinet)?
Lahti Bathroom Remodel

Home Improvement Aisle The Joy of Shopping

Armed with the knowledge of the bathroom dimensions, plumbing access, and construction irregularities (uneven floor & walls that were not square), material selection began.  Keeping budget in mind, we visited one of the most ubiquitous home improvement stores to review their selection of tiles and vanities.  The product that first capture my attention was a product called Swanstone, which is available in a variety of colors and finishes and can resist prolonged temperatures of 450°F for prolonged periods (perfect for steam showers), but we thought we wanted the look of tile rather than a single slab, so we continued our search for vanities and tile.

The Vanity of Bathroom Remodeling

For the vanity, my wife wanted a piece that looked like an antique piece of furniture to stand where the current vanity is installed; however, after hours of searching in-stores and on-line, we learned that because of the side access required by our existing plumbing, the pieces she preferred would not work without considerable expense of moving water lines, drains, and vents.  This brought our design to plan B: re-stain the vanity cabinet using a cabinet restoration system and tile the vanity top.  Knowing that our project now included three styles of tile, we moved our tile search from a big box "all-in-one” store to a specialty tile shop with offerings ranging from very affordable to luxuriously expensive.  With room sketch in hand, we visited The Tile Shop for an education on tiles for walls and floor and to get an idea of sizes, styles, and colors, and we attended a class on "how to tile,” which is offered every Saturday morning.  Having selected the size tile we preferred for the shower walls and the bathroom floor, we went back home and used CAD to layout the tiles, so we would know how much material we would require, including products like self-leveling concrete (to even the floor), shower pan mud (to build our shower pan), shower curb mold (to build our shower curb without using wood), shower pan membrane, thinset, grout, grout sealer, and color matched silicone caulk.  Since most stores marketing to DIYers offer their best deals (discounts coupled with extended terms) during major holidays with three-day weekends, we made our purchase over Memorial Day weekend. 

Our Dream Vanity (wouldn't work with existing plumbing layout)
Our Dream Vanity
Our Tile Selections
Bathroom Floor Tile selection Shower Wall Tile Selection Vanity Top Granite Tile
AT5 Generator with T100 Control and Chromatherapy Lights With a few hours left and great deals to be had, we knew the color selection for our tiles, so we could move forward with the selection of plumbing fixtures and accessories from another home improvement store.  My wife loved the look of oil rubbed bronze, but she felt a little dismay when she learned oil rubbed bronze was not a universal color and finish, even by the same manufacturer.  After much deliberation, we decided on the shower and sink fixtures, matched the accessories, and settled on a shower door that had polished chrome, since oil rubbed bronze was not available.  Using the Amerec Sizing Calculator, the easiest decision to make was the steam generator, an Amerec AT5 with T100 Touch Screen Control with oil rubbed bronze Comfort Flo steam head and Chromatherapy lights.  Besides extremely simple wiring for the control and sensor (if you can connect your computer to an internet cable, then you can wire the control and sensor), I knew the features of the T100 would enhance our steam bathing experience by allowing us to schedule the start time and temperature for our steam shower, as well as a large, beautiful display that could be seen from the shower seat or from outside the shower through the clear, glass door.

Having completed the design, planning, and selection process, we waited for the school year to end before the next step in the process: demolition, to be covered in the next post.  As a sneak peak to the demolition post, a sauna (traditional or infraredgreatly assists in the recovery of sore muscles from swinging sledge hammers and hauling debris.

To learn more about planning for a steam shower, request a brochure and tell us about your project.  We are excited to hear about your project and would love to see photos or floor plans, which can be uploaded on the contact form.  To find your local dealer for Amerec generators, click here.

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Brad Thomas ( wrote:
The story of your bathroom remodel reads like a "how to" guide on renovating a bathroom. Most people are not so calculating in terms of identifying challenges and weighing options. I’m sure there were some hiccups along the way but your planning, especially around the demo, shows a lot of foresight. People don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan- you did it right Brad Thomas Classic Clawfoot Tubs