be fooled by outrageous claims made by so-called sauna "experts" and
Contrary to claims seen on
some websites, radiant heat or traditional saunas will NOT cure the following ailments: cancer
and other serious diseases, lower your cholesterol
dramatically, or similar, spurious
claims like "losing 60 pounds in two weeks" or this
beauty...."burn 900+ calories in 30
minutes". Common sense will tell you losing 900 calories by sitting for a 1/2 hour is downright dangerous, let alone
Companies making these claims do the industry and you, the
consumer, no favors
with such boasts.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
#2 Western Red
Cedar is the wood of choice for saunas.
a- although less expensive, most woods with knots will
result in skin burns in a sauna. For this reason your
should source clear Cedar in your sauna.
b- cedar will not discolor
to the same degree as other woods...such as Redwood, etc.
but a sealant is still recommended to protect the wood in
c- another reason for
choosing cedar is it's inherent stability. Other woods
will swell and shrink in a sauna far more than kiln-dried,
western red cedar.
your own sauna is not hard.
Don't be intimidated with the thought of building your own
sauna. Whether you hire a carpenter, bribe a friend to
help, or undertake it yourself...it's quite easy to do.
Need some "hand-holding" on building
issues?....there are many sites on the Internet offering good framing
instruction along with pictures if you have no
are the real benefits of owning and
using a sauna?
Sauna users will reap real benefits from increased
circulation and the cleansing of impurities that rise to the skin
surface during the sauna as a result of sweating.
Consistent users usually sleep better,
have fewer respiratory problems, and have more energy after a sauna.
Relaxation is another benefit, along with an overall improved sense
Some owners have told us that
their "love-life" is better too, but we'll let you decide
that after you build one !!
Planning your room size:
Within reason, try to keep your room smaller rather than larger. The
upper and lower benches are the main components you will use to sit and lay down in the
sauna. After allowing for the depth of each bench, (typically 19" each) you should
then plan on space for your heater, plus an area of 4" around the front, and two
A smaller room will also permit using a smaller heater, smaller circuit breakers in your
panel, and provide more efficient heating.
TIP: remember that most sauna users like to stretch out on the upper and lower benches,
so try to have the main bench wall 6 feet or longer.
example: let's plan a room 6 ft x 5 ft. The 6 foot wall will
allow one upper and one lower bench, each 6 feet long, ideal for laying down. The 5 foot
(60") side wall space will be used up by: a)19" wide upper bench, and b)19"
wide lower bench, leaving 22" of space for the heater and safety clearance. ..."perfect"
(60" - 19" - 19" = 22")
Note: the ceiling height for a sauna can be from 6 1/2 to a maximum 7 feet high.
Because heat rises, you want the benefit of the warmer air in the sauna while you are
laying on the upper bench, so a ceiling height of 8 or 9 feet is going to defeat
this, plus your heater will not function properly.
Room size: once you have determined your room dimensions,
calculate the cubic area
(length x width x height) of your sauna and choose: a) the model of heater,
and b) the sauna control.
Tip: you can install two heaters if you need to service a very large
room in your home (i.e. over 450 cubic feet). Bear in mind this is unusual for
a residence. Larger, commercial sauna heaters usually require 208 volt, 3 phase power,
something not normally available in residences.
This picture shows an example of
the material typically required for a 7x4 sauna material package
Planning the Sauna Room Layout
1. Plan the size of your room -- saunas can be virtually any size or
Hint: If you enjoy lying down in your sauna, allow 6 feet in at least
2. Plan the door location and direction of its swing. A sauna door
MUST swing out of the room, not into the room. Hint: For a better layout
of the benches, put your door and heater on a long wall next to each
other, if possible.
3. Plan the location of your heater, preferably near the door wall.
Remember that cool air will be naturally drawn from the door, along the
floor to the heater where it will be heated and naturally rise to the
4. Plan the bench layout: normal sauna bench depth is
usually 19"; height
is either 38" ( for the upper bench) or 19" high (for the
Hint: You will either sit or lie down in your sauna so include maximum
benching as space permits; and note that the upper bench will be the
5. Some sauna companies offer a free service
to customers so you can send them your planned room sketch and they will
fax or email you a scale drawing done on a computer CAD system, showing the bench layouts and heater
here to view information on sauna material kits
Notes for preparing your sauna space...
Your sauna can be anywhere -- in a basement, garage, bathroom. attic or
under a staircase.
Recommended inside height is 6'-6" to 7'. Heated air is
wasted above that height. If you are building a drop ceiling, use 2X4
studs on 16" centers.
Build any new walls with 2X4 studs on 16" centers, including
against cement walls. Optionally, 2X6 walls can also be used for
increased energy efficiency, especially if building an outdoor sauna, or
if you are located in a colder part of the country.
Use insulation with a minimum R-factor of R-11 in walls and R-19
in ceiling. Use fiberglass bats, not polystyrene foam board! the use of foams
is not recommended in any sauna. Our information
is, while foam boards are chemically stable under normal temperatures,
other gasses such as formaldehydes, etc. will be given off by foams
when exposed to higher sauna temperatures.
here for more extensive sauna building information
Aluminum Foil Vapor Barrier:
A sauna is basically a dry heat with
the addition of moisture to the air when water is sprinkled on the
rocks. You want to use aluminum foil vapor barrier, NOT
polyethylene as used in regular residential construction. Good
results have been achieved by sealing the aluminum vapor barrier
joints with aluminum foil adhesive duct tape or red
tape made by "3M".
HINT: when installing the aluminum
foil, drape it loosely especially in the corners. Aluminum foil
will shrink somewhat with heating and cooling. Don't stretch it
tight as commonly done when installing "poly" in
In most residential situations, a
drain is not necessary. If water is pooling on the floor you are
using too much water! Some plan on installing a drain in
commercial saunas if the sauna is going to be washed down often.
Door Opening: (refer to the sauna door
page for more information)
Sauna doors are usually smaller than
normal residential doors. This is intentional to preserve as much
heat in the sauna as possible when people enter or leave the room.
Insulated doors usually measure
24" x 76" o.s.m. plus the cedar frame. This requires a 26" x 78" rough opening for your door.
Custom size doors are usually available if needed.
(without window glass) are often supplied with an adjustable exhaust
vent in the upper portion of the door.
NOTE: at the present time, most
commercial saunas require wider doors and additional floor space
to permit access by wheelchairs and "mobility-impaired"
sauna patrons. Check with your local authorities and/or architect
to confirm the necessary space and clearances if building a
commercial sauna. Also remember that most government regulations
require a commercial sauna have a door with glass in it to allow
the occupants to be viewed from outside. Again, check your local
Remember, the door swings out, NOT
into the room.
Proper venting is necessary for fresh
oxygen and to create air flow for efficient operation of your
heater. Fresh air can be supplied through a) a non-adjustable vent
installed in the wall under the heater position, or b) by leaving
an air space (up to 1") between the threshold and the bottom
of the door panel.
An adjustable exhaust wall vent on the
opposite wall to the incoming air allows air to circulate and
distributes the heat more evenly throughout the room. Any exhaust wall vent
should have sliding doors controlling the volume of air allowed
into the room. The exhaust vent is normally installed 48" to
54" from the floor. Installing the exhaust vent higher than
this can mean too much of the heated air that "pools"
near the ceiling will be leaving the room.
Locating your exhaust vent within
arm's reach of the upper bench is good, this way you can adjust
air circulation from the upper bench where you will spend most of
your sauna time.
Sauna lights are specially certified
for sauna use in high-heat, high-moisture environments. Do NOT use any conventional fixtures in your
Many saunas built today include a
second or even a third sauna light. These additional light fixtures
are usually mounted on the main bench wall, but about 3 inches
below where the upper bench meets the wall. This way they are
hidden from casual view, yet illuminate the traditionally dark
area below the benching, plus they shine upwards through the slats
in the benching creating a wonderful reflected lighting effect in
Sauna lights are often operated by
dimmer switches which offer the option of adjusting each light as
the "mood" warrants.
Here's a finished pine sauna showing the additional lighting
that's found in many modern saunas, installed under the upper
Also note the use of horizontal bench supports attached to the
wall (instead of vertical supports). If you decide to go this route
you can use these on any bench up to 6 ft long. In this 4 foot deep
sauna, the lower bench supports are about 38 inches long so the
lower bench can slide in or out to suit the user.
picture shown without mandatory heater guard for illustration