Turns out it's not a Steam error. It's just the price you pay for having such a unified service on a platform as disparate as the personal computer.
Valve say that because of the way DirectX is used for individual titles, and because of the way Microsoft has configured the code to install itself, it's incredibly difficult to pack only the files a game actually needs inside its installer. So Steam just installs/reinstalls the necessary version every time you first play a new game.
That's of course the abridged reason; for the full technical rundown on why it's so, check out Valve's explanation at the link below.
Steam Forums [Steam]