How to build a sauna – and how I did it with no prior experience!

How to build a sauna

When having decided to build a sauna, I didn’t really know where to start. I had no experience with larger renovation or building projects, but supposedly building a sauna wasn’t too hard. A quick Google search gave me some input on where to start. With a thorough plan you can avoid expensive leftover materials and it allows you to be more effective when working. Thus, saving you both time and money!

Build a sauna with no prior experience interior details bench

My project

After acquiring the needed knowledge on how to build a sauna, I decided to work after the following sequence: tiling, insulation, paneling, base boarding and bench building.  In addition to all this you have the electrics work, which of course have to be done by an electrician. Make sure to get this done before you insulate and panel to make the job easier for the electrician and cheaper for you.

Tiling

If you start out with a concrete floor I’ll urge you to go for tiles on the floor. This gives a nice looking result, which is easy to keep clean, and tiling is actually not that hard! Despite what many believe, a sauna is not considered a wet room and therefore you don’t have to lay a waterproof membrane. I had never done tiling before, but my good friend YouTube helped me with everything I needed to know. I borrowed a saw for cutting tiles and adjusting the tiles along the edge to fit the room was surprisingly easy. It was a bit tedious to saw the corners of the four tiles around the drain, but that makes a good end result taste even better.

Build a sauna with no prior experience tiling
Tiling is easier than you might think (learn how to do it on YouTube).

Insulation

Before I started building, I tore down the old panel. One of the walls was an outer wall and was already insulated. For the rest of the walls the process was pretty straight forward – filling the framework behind the panel with glass wool. This part was easy and caused no trouble.

Paneling

At this step in the process you really start to see the progress. Even though the paneling process is repetitive and pretty easy, it is satisfying to see how the room slowly takes shape. This is all about measuring, sawing and nailing. I don’t know about you, but I prefer not to lean up against a nail head measuring 80°C (180°F)… Using a punch on the nails effectively solves the problem.

Base boarding and details

When the baseboards are in place the room suddenly goes from being a worksite to looking like a finished product. It hides the small gap between the panel and the floor and the panel and the ceiling and everything looks seamless and nice. You have to be accurate when measuring and cutting the baseboards at an angle to avoid gaps where the boards meet in the corners. To make the room look even more professional, you can buy shutters for the ventilation at your local hardware store.

Build a sauna with no prior experience shutters details
You can buy shutters at regular hardware stores.

Bench building

To position the heater and arrange the benches caused some headache… There are a lot of factors to take into account when deciding the layout. While you want as many seats as possible, you have to make sure there’s enough room to safely move around the heater. The positioning of the heater also puts restrictions on where to install ventilation. The two ventilation ducts should ideally lead out to the same room. All of this is decisive for the look of your finished result, so be creative and make sure to use the sketch book for what it is worth!

How to build a sauna - sketches
The sketches show the ideas for the benches both in terms of the frame and the arrangement.

Since hot air rises, make sure to build the benches as high as possible, while still leaving room to sit straight without bumping your head on the ceiling. This will save power as the part of the room you use will heat faster. Choose a material for the benches with low heat capacity so you don’t get bunt when you sit down. I used alder and it works great.

A couple of smart solutions

As you can see from the pictures, I chose to make an inclined backrest for the top row. I built a section of the top row out in the full depth of the bench so you can stretch your legs with full support. This is by far the most popular seat, and I recommend this feature. This also allowed for a backrest for the lowest level. The possibilities  are endless, so be creative!

How to build a sauna
How to build a sauna. The finished result. Turn up the heat!

So now you know how to build a sauna. I hope this post can motivate you to get going on one of your own projects. I can assure you that the relaxed feeling you get in a sauna you have built yourself is absolutely priceless. It is worth the effort!

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Andreas Written by:

Adventurer, engineer and self-proclaimed handyman

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