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Home / Home / Gardening

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, itís 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 ownerís insurance will cover it.

Electric stoves are most popular with people who donít have a wood supply available or who donít 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 woodpile.

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 designs.

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 to sensational.

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 doors.

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 othersí experiences. A simple search will bring up both personal Web sites and those from manufacturers.

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 lifestyle.

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

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