Can I Use Marble in a Steam Shower?

Written by creatingyourspace on . Posted in Kitchen and Bath

Steam showers are a popular way to relax at the end of the day. And with those dramatic glass doors framing the shower area, it’s common to want to install something dramatic and beautiful on the walls of the shower as well. And while there are a number of different materials that work well in steam showers from porcelain to glass, marble and other natural stones should be avoided in this area whenever possible.

Porous Stone

Marble is a natural, metamorphic stone made up primarily of calcite. The stone is porous, and can therefore absorb moisture if it comes in contact with it. Because steam is just hot water vapor, it can easily penetrate the many pores on your marble.

At best, this can cause a temporary darkening of the stone as it absorbs the water, then dries out again returning to normal. Unfortunately, however, your water may contain other minerals and substances that over time could build up in and stain your stone, discoloring it.

Some stones also contain minerals and elements that react poorly with moisture over time. Bianco Carrara, for example, a popular white and gray stone, contains iron. In a steam shower, your white marble may begin to rust over time. Green marble, another popular type of stone, contains the mineral serpentine, which causes the marble to spall or to flake when it gets wet, ruining the surface texture of the stone.

Sealing the Stone

Most natural stone used in a shower area should be sealed with a silicone-based impregnating sealer against the moisture. And while this would certainly help in a steam shower, there are still some issues:

  • The sealer does break down over time, sometimes unevenly so you could never be sure your stone was 100% protected
  • The sealer can be unevenly applied, leaving to small gaps in the stone
  • Moisture can penetrate the stone through the grout joints, which can lead to similar problems as if the stone were not sealed at all

So while marble is a beautiful addition to many bathrooms, avoid using it in a steam shower and use a non-porous material instead.

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