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PHCPros recently shared insights from the 2017 U.S. Houzz Bathroom Trends Study, which showed showers are the most common splurge during master bathroom renovations. Of the 81 percent of renovating homeowners making master shower updates, more than half increase its size. In fact, one in four remove the master bathtub with 91 percent doing so to make room for a larger shower. In addition to an increase in shower size, the study showed a significant uptick in the number of new showers that have high-end and high-tech features.
With this trend toward larger showers with high-tech features comes numerous opportunities that can be advantageous to the plumbing contractor to deliver customer solutions that also help to increase their bottom line.
Although installations of residential steam showers have been on the rise in recent years, many homeowners are still unaware that steam can be added to their new master bath without a significant increase to their investment or extensive construction. As homeowners are expanding the footprint of their shower space, introducing technology and adding luxury features, steam is a logical addition to complete the full master bathroom renovation. As a contractor, here’s what you need to know to make this trend work for you:
Installing a steam shower as part of a renovation or during new construction is often a seamless addition to the project. The most important design element is that the shower be totally enclosed with a glass door, so the steam does not escape from above. One option is to leave a 3/8-inch gap at the bottom of the shower door to allow cooler air to enter the shower for a denser steam experience.
Another design consideration is the wall material. It should be glass block, ceramic or porcelain tile, natural stone or marble with steam. And it is also recommended that the ceiling height not exceed nine feet.
The steam generator, which is about the size of a briefcase, can be installed preferably up to 25 feet away from the shower in a vanity, closet, insulated attic or basement. And the installation requirements are relatively simple with connections similar to that of a water heater with 240-volt electricity, water supply to the generator and a steam line to the shower.
Steamist offers an online selection guide to help make it simple to determine the right size generator for each homeowner’s space, and the virtual steam shower provides an overview of the installation of the various components.
While the total cost depends on variables such as shower size, construction materials, spa options, etc., a basic Steamist system starts at around $2,000, and a complete package with all spa options is closer to $4,500. Add in your installation costs, and there’s your initial estimate.
Also, since contractors and homeowners both want to know the product will stand the test of time, it is important to check that the steam generator has a stainless-steel tank, making it maintenance-free, and that it is covered by a long-term warranty for added peace-of-mind.
And in terms of ongoing usage costs, a steam shower requires minimal amounts of water and energy. In fact, the average 20-minute steam shower uses less than one gallon of water — compared to a whirlpool tub that holds a minimum of 40 gallons of pre-heated water.
One key to an optimal steam bathing experience is consistently controlling the temperature to match the user’s personal preference. When choosing the steam shower to install, be sure to utilize a system that is designed to ensure temperatures do not rise and fall numerous times during a steam session, which will adversely affect the user’s experience.
For example, Steamist offers a system with patent-pending dual temperature sensors that deliver SteadySteam technology. This feature ensures the steam shower temperature stays steady at the user’s setpoint and cruises consistently within their comfort zone.
The 2017 Houzz Bathroom Trends Study reported that demand for high-tech features such as digital controls and mood lights is on the rise in master bathrooms, which aligns with the trends we’re seeing in sales as well. And a growing number of homeowners admit to using mobile devices in their bathrooms (64 percent in 2017 vs. 58 percent in 2016) for activities such as emailing, texting, talking and catching up on social media.
As technology continues to infiltrate our lives, our homes and even our bathrooms, new opportunities continue to evolve for the industry as manufacturers introduce high-tech options for the shower that plumbing professionals can offer their customers. Here’s a quick rundown of some of today’s top high-tech shower trends:
Digital showers: Less is more for most homeowners, particularly those who are seeking a minimalist design and modern aesthetic in their master bath renovation. Digital showers not only streamline operation but also add sleek style by eliminating the clutter of multiple controls.
For example, Steamist offers an award-winning digital shower option for steam as well as a standalone system that combines a thermostatically controlled and pressure-balanced shower valve with a single digital control to operate up to three shower outlets (e.g. showerhead, rain shower, body spray, waterfall or hand shower, from a single control). As you can imagine, this approach means less installation time and fewer parts as illustrated here.
State-of-the-art controls: While most homeowners admit to bringing their phones into the bathroom, they inevitably tear themselves away from their mobile device while taking a shower or steam. However, today’s steam and shower controls can mitigate cellular separation anxiety by offering a familiar interface. For example, our Digital 550 Control has a large, high-definition touchscreen display that can be installed in portrait (vertical) or landscape (horizontal) orientation and offers multiple-language capabilities as well as adjustable font sizes. It’s very much like installing an iPad in the steam shower.
Built-in Wi-Fi: Another option some manufacturers currently offer is built-in Wi-Fi, though it’s important to check the fine print to see if it’s free. Especially with all the apps that make time spent in the bathroom more entertaining and efficient — even allowing you to turn on a steam shower from another room in the house!
Bluetooth audio: It’s easier than ever to sing in the shower with controls that sync up with Bluetooth-enabled devices and even link directly to Pandora, Spotify or iHeart music streaming services. Just be sure the shower control and speaker system work together and withstand the steam and moisture in the shower.
Mood lights: Mood lighting was one of the tech trends specifically mentioned in the Houzz study, and we aren’t surprised. Lighting in the shower can completely change the experience. Be sure to seek out a variety of lighting options for shower installs and consider options like Steamist’s ChromaSense, which allows the homeowner to choose from white light or six color effects such as Soulful, Creative, Bliss, Energize, Relax and Harmony.
As homeowners continue to splurge on showers as a focal point of their master bathroom renovations, they will be looking to industry professionals to guide them throughout the process. In fact, 86 percent of renovating homeowners hire a home professional for their master bathroom renovation, which comes as no surprise since extensive projects require the expertise and experience that only a pro can offer.
Staying up to date on the high-end, high-tech options homeowners are gravitating towards can help clients achieve an end result that exceeds expectations, while also adding to your bottom line and growing your business through referrals.