All Wet

shower 0219Main Street in Gunnison is really state Highway 135, and Tomichi Avenue is in reality U.S. Highway 50. This matters, because maintenance and management of these roads is the responsibility of the state, rather than the city.

One city manager ago, the state Department of Local Affairs (DOLA), mandated that a certain kind of curb cut would be installed at every intersection in downtown Gunnison. Our city manager, who had spent much of his career in our city’s Public Works department, argued until he was blue in the face, and then some — to no avail. It wasn’t that he was anti-ADA; it was that he knew the streets of Gunnison better than anyone from DOLA.

(There are many people who live in Denver who are completely ignorant about the rest of the state. When my mom was on the state board of Social Services and Western Then State hosted a meeting, a couple of her fellow board members kept exclaiming how “modern” the buildings on campus were. And at the newspaper, we once unexpectedly hosted Denver Post reporters who thought they were in Grand Junction and seemed quite startled to learn that we had first-run movies in town. Of course, we don’t anymore, but that was back in the good old days. And let’s not forget the High School Activities Association, which looks at flat maps in Denver and sees no reason why Gunnison and Aspen can’t be in the same league. They’re only 85 miles apart, after all — who cares if it takes nearly four hours to get from one to the other if you’re not a bird?)

So now, thanks to DOLA, we have these ADA-compliant curb cuts that spend all winter filled with brackish brown water that then freezes to sheets of blackened ice and generally makes sidewalk access darn near impassable, no matter how ADA or not you are. Because Pat’s Screen Printing sits on a corner, I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to makes these access points accessible.

And because one of our sidewalks runs along the north side of the building, we have issues keeping it clear, particularly after three efforts to cut back on the snow load on the roof.

Which is all a very long way around to say that I have been chipping a lot of snow and ice, and my back is really feeling it. Which is why I still think — despite never having tried one — that I want a steam shower in my No Longer Tiny Bathroom at the Some Day Ranch.

I was supposed to have made my tub/shower selection a few Fridays ago. At some point before that, I dutifully called up “shower with tub” in Firefox, and got a lot of ugly-looking options and a very blingy, eye-catching option that turned out to be a steam shower enclosure. And then the internet told me that steam showers are a great in-home option for people with sore muscles — and they aid in sinus issues as well. Plus, Lynn’s co-worker who has a steam shower loves hers.

So now I really wanted one. But the few articles I could find that speak in generic terms suggest these units should run $2,000-5,000. Most of the units I’m finding are in the $1,500-2,500 range. These are ubiquitous units, too: they’re on Amazon, and WalMart, and Houzz, and Home Depot. And this is how the reviews run: there will be five or six, and five of them read: “I love this! I’ll report back once it’s installed,” which is a useless waste of electrons. And the sixth says, “This is an awful piece of crap, and customer service was really unhelpful.” A lot of reviews complain about installation, and very poorly written instructions.

Trying to find unbiased reviews of an assortment of units is even harder, and most of them are written in such poor English that no native speaker can be responsible. When you follow the links, they all go to Amazon, where every unit in the review is “currently unavailable.” One of our many friends named Bob let Lynn use his Consumer Reports password, but they don’t review anything “steam” except irons.

There is one kitchen-and-bath showroom in the valley, near Crested Butte, but I didn’t attempt to call them because every other word on their website is “luxury,” and I’ve made the inference that their clientele is People of Money. Also, they’re not open on Saturdays, when it would be easiest to call or go there. Neither is the one place in Montrose that appears to offer any sort of showroom, and while it mentions steam generators, it doesn’t have anything on its website about steam shower enclosures.

So it isn’t that I’m not making an effort, but I’m really no further along in being able to tell Dusty what sort of shower/tub I want. And he’s given me an absolute deadline of Monday to tell him.

It turns out, the “allowance” from the plumber for my shower/tub unit is $450, which seems a pittance. The very cheapest one-piece tub-shower installation I can find on the internet is $399. It seems stupid to be building a nice and — to us — expensive house and put the cheapest bathroom fixture on the market in there. And perhaps I could do that as a placeholder, but then that sounds like a waste of $450 — not to mention that the plumbing requirements and electrical would have to be redone at a later date anyway.

In a fervor of indecision I left this blog posting and pored (not poured, like showers) over the many, many tabs I have open on two different browsers regarding steam showers, and then I went to search engines, and I just alighted on this very helpful information, in native English, from

“At the entry level, there are some prefabricated systems that contain everything you need in a single unit. This can be an option if these systems match the size of your space and the look and feel of your space. Some of these systems end up not being the value they seem at first, but they can be a viable option.”

But then, while they carefully and thoughtfully review several companies who sell component pieces, there appears to be no further review of prefab enclosures and which of the many might be “viable options.”

On my original Tub Decision Deadline Day, I wrote and asked Dusty if the plumbers had any suggestions, but he never read my e-mail. He skimmed it while standing in the Then Tiny Bathroom with me, and asked Ben the plumber, who seemed more focused on his trip to Colombia, and all he said was, “I’ve installed a couple” of steam showers, which is where he lost interest in the conversation.

Building a house is not for the faint of heart. And now I have to apportion my weekend appropriately: shovel snow off the roof here at home, leading to more of a need for a steam shower, or drive myself into an endless tizzy sitting in front of the computer, trying to turn it into a bath showroom? Neither sounds like a great option if you ask me.

Photo: This is Lynn’s shower area, with insulating foam. She’s had her shower picked out for months. I didn’t take a picture of my shower area — I think it was too dark to do so.


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