How to Build a Home Sauna
by: C.J. Gustafson
Three Important Questions to Answer Before Building
Considering that home saunas are believed to produce
numerous health benefits and provide a relaxing spa experience,
it’s no wonder than more and more people want to know how to
build a home sauna. The answer to this question depends on
several factors, including your budget, the space available,
and how handy you are. There are three important questions to
answer before you begin building your home sauna.
What Will You Use For Heat?
The first factor to evaluate when planning how to build a
sauna is your heat source. Will you use electricity, gas, wood
or some other type of energy? Many people consider the
wood-burning sauna to be the top choice, especially if you have
easy access to wood and no hesitations about burning it.
Wood provides a pleasant aroma and a traditional atmosphere,
but obtaining the wood can be quite labor intensive unless you
buy it already cut. Before choosing this heating method, it is
also important to know if local building regulations will allow
a wood stove, and if your home owner’s insurance will cover
Electric stoves are most popular with people who don’t have
a wood supply available or who don’t want to spend time and
money cutting and hauling wood or dealing with ash disposal.
Nearly all homes have electricity available already, so it is a
convenient heat source for both indoor and outdoor saunas. In
addition, electricity is the standard power source for infrared
saunas, which produce radiant heat with special electric
heaters. If you are interested in infrared saunas, electricity
will likely be your heating source.
Gas is usually cheaper than electric and provides a
practical choice for those concerned about budgets. It is a
clean fuel source and relatively easy to obtain no matter where
you live. When using gas as a heating source, it is important
to test for carbon monoxide.
Often times, your heat source will determine whether you
build an indoor sauna or an outdoor structure. If you use wood
for heat, it may be inconvenient and messy to haul wood into
the house. And insurance policy may only allow wood heat in a
separate, outdoor building. Also, an electric heater requires
wiring that may not be available for a large model or outdoor
sauna without an expensive bill to an electrician.
Where Will You Put Your Sauna?
Once you have decided how you will generate heat in your
home sauna, the next step is to decide where you will put the
sauna. As has been mentioned, your heat source may impact where
you decide to locate your sauna.
For example, if you intend to heat with electricity, you may
not be able to put your sauna down on the edge of the lake
without special wiring brought in. If you plan to cut your own
wood, you may want to place your sauna close to the
In addition, for steam saunas, a water supply is an
important consideration when deciding on a location. Indoor
saunas may need to have plumbing and drains installed. Outdoor
saunas will also need plumbing unless you intend to collect
water or haul if from a faucet or nearby pond.
But many of these choices are purely for convenience or
budgetary reasons. In reality, your choices for a sauna
location are limited only by your imagination, and people have
come up with some very creative sauna locations and
In addition to more traditional home saunas built in
bathrooms, basements or in separate sauna buildings, people
have put saunas on floating platforms in a pond or lake; they
have built them on trailer beds, and even in a van or the back
of a pickup. Of course these unique plans may require a bit
more adaptation or special materials, but the Internet is
filled with design plans for all types of saunas from standard
What Design Features Do You Want?
Choosing your design is the next step in building a sauna.
Do you want something simple that is prefabricated and ready to
put together? Or do you want to cut the wood and collect the
stones yourself? Are you handy with tools or at least willing
to learn? Or would you prefer to hire someone who knows how to
build a sauna?
Another design aspect is the size of the sauna. How many
people do you plan to accommodate? How big do you want your
stove or heater to be and how much are you willing to spend for
heat and materials? Do you want a shower area included? How
about a room for changing or cooling off? All of these
questions will help you determine the size of your sauna, which
in turn will impact your overall design.
Infrared saunas and some smaller, standard saunas come as
precut kits with the wood, heaters, rocks, or other materials
all included. These kits can often be assembled in just a few
hours. Many manufacturers will take your dimensions and cut the
materials to fit, often including benches and pre-hung
Maybe you want to use an existing design or create one of
your own. Brochures from sauna manufacturers and retailers
provide good ideas, and staff usually are willing to answer
questions. In addition, there are numerous Internet sites that
are devoted purely to saunas and related information. Many
include design plans and instructions as well as discussion
forums to ask questions and learn from others’ experiences. A
simple search will bring up both personal Web sites and those
When deciding how to build a sauna, the wide variety of
choices in designs, locations, materials and heat sources make
the planning fun, yet essential, to the overall success of the
project. The nearly limitless options available in saunas make
it easy to find a home sauna to fit any budget, location, and
About The Author
C.J. Gustafson is a professional writer with
providing consumer information on
traditional Finnish designs, infrared saunas
and portable saunas. She has first-hand
experience with the health benefits of home
saunas and uses them as an effective
treatment for sore, achy muscles after
sitting at the computer all day.
Copyright 2005 Saunas-N-Sauna-Kits.com