Saunas are not usually the type of things people build themselves, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try. It’s doable, according to some of the DIY projects we found on the internet. Of course, simply starting such a project require a certain amount of dedication so consider all the details and requirements before you start planning the design and try to assess whether or not this is something you want or if you want to turn it into a DIY project rather than buying a ready-made hot tub or sauna.
Building your sauna without a kit can prove to be very challenging. The nuts and bolts of it are understandably complex, which is a large part of the reason why homeowners turn towards DIY sauna kits and similar assemblies.
Although estimates can vary, to build a proper stand-alone sauna without any assistance from kits, you’re looking at a cost four to five times the amount of kit – possibly a little less or possibly more.
Assuming you don’t want a completely stand-alone room and want to re-develop an existing room into a sauna, that’s another option that might be cheaper, but it comes with many challenges. You will need to remove any drywall and get down to the bare studs of the room alongside bare joists on the ceiling. A non-permeable floor is also required – so think plywood or tile, anything similar.
You’ll essentially have to re-design the entirety of the room from top to bottom, which includes wiring for a light, light switch, sauna heater wire conduit, and any controls you want to be included. If you’ve decided to use a gas sauna heater, congratulations – that’s more complicated! You’ll have to use a gas pipe and consider the thickness you want, likely consulting with a contractor for safety. Looking for Sauna Melbourne? Look no further, Portable Sauna has you covered.
There are few things more relaxing than sitting in the balmy ambience of a sauna, letting the dry heat soak all of the impurities out of your pores. Sauna users can lose up to a pint of sweat each use, and the purifying effects of saunas have been known to remedy ailments like pain, asthma and psoriasis. Luckily, you don’t need to shell out big bucks for a spa day regularly. You can bring the benefits of a sauna right to your home.
Where Can You Build Your Sauna?
Home saunas can be situated outside your house as a separate outbuilding or converted shed, or inside your home. You can repurpose a spare room into a spa or build one into your bathroom. Saunas can provide just steam or can incorporate a shower, steam bath and/or massage components. While in-home saunas are pretty much limited to whatever the shape of the room is, the possibilities are limitless with outdoor saunas. Saunas can be shaped like little sheds or houses, barrel-shaped or even attached to a bike wheel for added mobility. You can use a variety of power sources when building your sauna, but note that not all power sources are appropriate for all sauna locations. Saunas can be powered by wood, gas or radiate heat in a manner similar to the sun, a type known as an infrared sauna (the latter best built outside to make them more environmentally friendly).
What Will You Need to Build a Sauna?
Once you decide on whether to make an indoor or outdoor sauna, the next step is preparing the construction area. If you’re building your sauna indoors, you’ll need to remove all of the drywall in the room and make sure you have an impenetrable or non-permeable floor made of either tile or cement. For an outdoor sauna, you’ll also need some solid foundation on which you’ll build a frame out of cedarwood—this structure must-have points for ventilation in the floor, ceiling and above the heater. Check out our range of Portable Sauna Melbourne to help with your problem.
Wiring is necessary to install lights in the sauna, and you’ll also need a drain to direct moisture out of the room. You should hire an electrician as well as a plumber if you don’t have experience in those areas.
Temperature regulation is also crucial when building a sauna, both as a way to manage operating costs and to ensure that your sauna doesn’t infringe upon the rest of your home is a comfortable temperature. Because heat is necessary for saunas, you will want to have foil installed on all walls for insulation. This retains heat, so you don’t have to use more than you need. Sauna rocks and a central heater are also part of controlling the interior temperature of your sauna and drying any moisture. Vapour absorbers can prevent humidity from escaping the sauna and being absorbed into the rest of your house.
Installing cedar (or other soft-wood) panelling, benches, trim, flooring and a door should be among your last steps. Cedar panelling also helps keep your sauna dry in between uses. The door should be flush with the sauna opening to trap heat and moisture. Benches should be sturdy and able to support the weight of whoever is using them. Flooring can be added anywhere in your sauna, and many sauna building kits feature removable floorboards that offer users and builders the flexibility for cleaning.
Much of this advice is also the same for outdoor saunas. Of course, however, you will need to prioritize the structure of the sauna first so that it has a solid frame and a strong foundation.
Other Things to Remember
While building a sauna involves a lot of steps, it can be an easy build for a savvy DIYer if you know what you’re doing. It’s worth remembering that saunas are expensive. Easy building kits start at approximately $2,000, and the more customized your sauna is, the more it will cost. Also, a sauna is meant for relaxation, so it is best to build one in an area where there isn’t a lot of foot traffic or noise. You should also consider your heat tolerance when deciding between an infrared and traditional sauna: Infrared saunas typically emit a lower temperature.
How to Build a Sauna
Wiring for Light
Wire your room for a light, light switch, sauna heater wire conduit, and perhaps controls outside the room. If preparing for a gas sauna heater, then you’re using gas pipe and you’ll have to consider the thickness of the pipe and how many other appliances share the gas line. Consult your gas professional. Also Portable Sauna Melbourne page which has everything Portable Sauna related that you might need
Insulation to Lower Operating Costs
Insulate your walls with R-11 insulation for interior walls, and R-19 for exterior walls. Fibreglass insulation is available in either 16 inches or 24 inch wide rolls. Insulation lowers your operating costs by keeping your sauna heat in the sauna, so don’t skip this step. And sauna insulation will also provide a sound barrier, so you relax more deeply, which is what it is all about, as well as a good healthy sweat.
The foil to Reflect the Heat
The sauna foil vapour barrier adds an R-1 value to your insulation factor and acts as a vapour barrier. Staple the foil vapour barrier to all interior surfaces, i.e. the wall and ceiling. Generally, we overlap the foil by 3 inches eliminating the need for the foil tape. Also, don’t substitute another product for the foil. The foil will never melt and is odourless.
A vapour barrier protects your walls from absorbing vapour. Some steam in a sauna room is great to help bring on a sweat, but it creates humidity that should be isolated from the rest of your house (or spa).
You want that steam to exit through the vent, some are absorbed by the cedar and will dry out eventually. Of course, leaving your heater on longer will dry your sauna interior more quickly. Some sauna bathers keep their sauna heater on longer for this reason.
Begin on one side of your ceiling and nail your cedar panel boards perpendicular to the joists. Move across the ceiling until covered. As needed, cut a hole around the lightbox. Best if your light and switch are wet-rated.
Next, nail the clear cedar panelling boards over the insulation and foil barrier. Nail your first row of tongue and groove wall boards to your studs horizontally, tongue up, groove down. Start from the bottom and move up. Generally, you only need to nail the tongue after fitting it snugly over the prior row. This way, the nail is hidden by the groove covering it. Vertical panelling is possible but requires either plywood sheeting over the studs or some strategically spaced horizontal studs over the vertical studs.
Add your cedar panel boards in rows, checking for level every 4th board or so. Fit the grooves over the tongues and continue up the wall. Along the way, you may need to cut for electrical junction boxes for lights, switches, etc. That’s the beauty of cedar, it’s soft to work with and cuts easily. Continue installing your panel boards until your insulated walls are covered. At the last row butting the ceiling, remember you need not be perfect. If you’re within a quarter-inch, you’re fine. The trim pieces will cover any gaps.
Centring the Sauna Heater on the Wall
The heater comes with four screws to secure it to the wall two long and two short. Always use the longer screws at the top. They have more tension on them and will secure the sauna heater to the wall.
I’ve marked my holes and will put in the two top screws. Don’t seat these yet. Additionally, don’t screw in your short screws for the bottom keyhole brackets yet.
We have 6″ of clearance from the floor for this model according to the manufacturer’s installation manual. Once the sauna heater is hung on the wall, we add our 2nd pair of lower screws.
Finally, have your electrician wire the unit to the power source.
Mount the Sauna Heater
Adding the sauna rocks to the electric sauna heater
Mount or set your sauna heater per the manufacturer’s installation guide. While some obsess over venting, it’s important to remember that you only need cooler air than your sauna. Thus, even 100 degrees is fine. Outdoor air is fine, but not necessary. Two vents are optimal, but one behind the heater is fine. Some even use a wide gap under the sauna door.
All sauna heaters come with instructions and a template describing how high above the floor your sauna heater needs to be off the floor. Also, make sure you plan for some mounting brackets in the wall and a vent under the sauna heater. Consider space for a sauna heater guard rail, if you plan for a lot of foot traffic, or if the sauna heater is too near the door, a guard rail will prevent any burns or accidents.
Adding Rocks to the Sauna Heater
We recommend that you wash your sauna heater rocks before placing the rocks inside. There may be dust on them which, when burned, can create an unpleasant smell. If your rocks are washed and clean, you are ready to put the rocks in. It’s important to place your sauna rocks behind the heater element, else the sauna’s sensors may falsely indicate the sauna room has reached the set temperature prematurely.
We often get asked, Is it OK to have the vulcanite sauna rocks in direct contact with the sauna heater element? And yes you do, by design.
While you want a good amount of rocks placed around the heater element, do know to place them too tightly as in a puzzle. Too much heat kept in the sauna heater can also set off a premature signal to the sauna heater telling the unit it is hotter than it is.
The sauna rocks are ideal for the sauna experience. They give off radiant heat which is the long low-level wave that penetrates the body and feels like soft permeating heat. Finally set your rocks on top but test that your sauna heater’s grill still fits on top.
Run your heater for a good hour with your sauna door open before your first use because of the preservative on the elements. These can create a bit of smoke when heated. Finally, secure the sauna heater’s grill to the top of the unit.
Set Your Sauna Benches
Next, build or assemble your sauna benches. Generally, there is a low bench and high bench. Some make the low bench double-wide, so it reaches the wall.
If building your own, sauna benches are usually 18″ or deeper. While it’s always better to make your benches stronger than you’ll need, you can get buy with 2×2 supports and 1×4 tops (where you sit).
Some sauna bathers and designers enjoy adding lights under the sauna benches. If you add the facing to the sauna bench, it shines a wonderful ambient light onto the surrounding sauna walls and floors, lighting your walkway.
Install Sauna Door
Install a pre-built pre-hung cedar sauna door. You’ll be glad you did. These come with a frame, and the swing is already set. We build cedar sauna doors with windows of all sizes and etched glass—view sample sauna doors.
The standard rough opening for our factory door is 24 “x82” RO (rough opening). This seems a little narrow to some, but the idea with a sauna is a small sauna door keeps the heat in.
Hanging the sauna door handles and setting the self-closing hinges
The rough opening here requires some shim strips to square our door. Get a helper to hold your sauna door and frame in place while you screw in the frame. We like to use the 2.5″ galvanized deck screws to mount the sauna door. The same ones we use for the sauna benches. Of course, place the screws where the closed-door hides them.
Put in 2 screws to hold the door in place and test it by opening and closing the door. Make sure your reveal is correct. The reveal here means making the frame flush with your outer wall, so your moulding closes all gaps.
Once you get the door jamb with hinges set, check your reveal on the top and the sides. You can fill any gaps with shims and screw the rest of the door tight.
Once the door is hung and plumb, you can put your handle on at comfortable height for you. I usually place it about 2 inches from the side.
Finish with Trim
Attaching the interior trim to cover corner seams
Last, add the trim to the sauna corners. Some prefer not to add corner trim. If your corner seams look good, then leave as is. You can make that choice at home.
We provide a packet of 1 “x1” corner trim pieces. Choose the best face of the board and nail them down with your finish trim nailer. Be careful that your compressor is not set too high, 80 lbs is probably about right. Or if you have a small hammer, you can do it by hand too.
You may consider supplementing the angle of your comfort with a sauna headrest, leg rest or backrest, as well as other accessories for the sauna bathing enthusiast.
We also offer cedar sauna grab rails to steady yourself when getting up or down off a high bench, and it never hurts to have a little extra help if floors get slippery.
And don’t forget to attach the sauna door handle.
Buying a DIY sauna, everything has been laid out for you, and you don’t need to worry about necessarily doing anything wrong. All materials and instruction are right there, and beyond that, customized to your exact specifications. Converting an existing room to a sauna or building a stand-alone sauna, let’s say in your backyard is costly, frustrating, and there’s no reason to do it. You’re much better off purchasing a DIY sauna kit where you know what to expect and everything you’re getting. Check out Portable Sauna Melbourne specialists in providing solutions to your problem.
We love searching for DIY ideas online because it always reminds us how creative people can be. As you can see, there are many options for you to try if you want to build your sauna at home – and maybe some of these plans can inspire you to try.