"Water, moisture, heat," says Mike Fleming, a senior principal with Denver-based Ohlson Lavoie Collaborative, listing the conditions that contribute to deterioration in a sauna or steam room.
"They're a high-maintenance thing."
Saunas and steam rooms can continue to be a desirable amenity long after the novelty has worn off, provided operators are willing to invest the time into keeping them up.
Even for facilities that currently have amenities in need of revitalization, the work necessary to return them to a condition appealing to patrons can be minimal.
"They're pretty simple rooms to renovate," Fleming
"There are different wood species that the sauna manufacturer will recommend, but you shouldn't go outside of those recommendations," says Fleming
A range of wood types hold up particularly well in a sauna environment, but the final choice tends to be one of aesthetics.
"Western red cedar is the most common," Fleming
"We're seeing now that any area in the sauna that you have to touch - the benches, the back - we do with wood, but areas that aren't touched, we might go in with tile or stone," says Fleming
"Those materials can hold up better than wood, and if you ever have to renovate again, those materials can stay.
"You have to make sure you specify the right tile and stone finishes," he
"A sauna manufacturer will often recommend the door be wood," Fleming
"But we'll often go with aluminum doors and windows and use a solid plastic that holds up to the heat for the handle.
Outside the sauna, the door looks like everything else in the shower or wet area."
For steam rooms in particular, it's imperative that the right materials are chosen to begin with to prevent a more costly repair down the road.
"We'll hear about wall and ceiling failure in steam rooms," Fleming
"How you deal with lighting is one thing we're seeing," says Fleming
"There are not very many light fixtures you can select that would withstand that environment."
describes the typical light fixture used in the sauna or steam room as a jelly jar enclosed in a small cage.