|There is nothing like a sauna to ease
stress and make you relax. Saunas will cleanse your body of
impurities with heat and steam. As the temperature rises,
perspiration occurs and blood circulation increases. Muscles
and organs are stimulated and toxic waste (heavy metals,
fat, and other toxic materials) are released. Your skin will
be smooth and soft, and it is great for anyone with acne.
Before you begin, check your local building
codes. You may need a licensed electrician and a good
plumber and carpenter if you are not handy.
There are a few decisions you must make
before you begin. The first is whether to build your sauna
in your home or as an outbuilding. If you are building in
your home, there are heat and humidity factors to consider.
There are kits that you can buy to build a sauna in your
home. Talk to the manufacturers about possible problems from
heat and humidity, and also a good location to build your
sauna in your home.
If you have a pool, or access to a body of
water such as a lake or pond, consider an outbuilding. There
is no greater feeling than jumping in the water to cool off
after a sauna. A shower after a sauna is nice, but you
cannot even compare the refreshing feeling of a dip in the
water. We have an outbuilding for our sauna and love it. We
have 2 doors in our steam room. One goes to the change room
and one goes directly outside. I love this plan, as you
don't have to run through the change room to get to the
water. It also keeps the change room from filling with too
much steam. One other thing we did was to put a ceiling
panel vent right above the change room door so all the steam
goes up and out the roof instead of collecting in the change
room. We also have a small electric fan vent directly over
our sauna stove door in our change room and turn it on
whenever we put wood in the fire. This keeps the smoke out
of the change room and also keeps the wall above the stove
Whatever option you choose, you may want
to build a change room off the steam room. This works
great for all the wet suits and towels and keeps the mess
out of your home. Build a few benches to sit on while you
cool down, and don't forget to hang some hooks. We also have
a small sink and mirror we use for shaving. You will
never get a closer shave than one during a sauna. We stoke
our wood stove from the change room, but if you have an
outbuilding you may choose to have access to your wood stove
from the outside. The great thing about this option is it
keeps your change room cleaner. However, you may
regret it on a rainy day unless you put a small roof over
the area. One thing we did not do that I often wish we would
have was to put a small drain in the change room floor to
allow for drainage. If you have a lot of traffic in your
change room, you will be surprised by how much water
collects during a busy day.
Your next choice will be the heat source.
Wood is considered the best source by sauna purists.
However, if you are building a sauna in your home, your
insurance or building code may not allow a wood stove.
Another thing to consider is access to wood, storage for a
wood pile, and it can be messy. Wood stoves usually cost
from $500 to $1000. If you choose a wood stove, you
will have to surround it with stone or some other material
to prevent someone getting burned off the hot surfaces. You
can make a cement form, use large stone, or any other heat
resistant material. If you use a cement form, it can be
prone to cracking with the heat and cold. We just bought
some landscaping decorative blocks that were about 4" wide
and 15" square and placed them around the stove. These
blocks were not solid; the inside was shaped like a flower
and allowed air to circulate through. We placed the block
about 3" from the stove and surrounded it on all sides.
Electric heat is a popular choice for most
folks. An electric stove will cost anywhere from $500 to
$1000 and up. The heat is not the same as a wood stove, so
be sure you buy one with enough power to heat your room.
Electric heat is clean and relatively inexpensive to use.
Gas stoves will provide a heat similar to
wood. The cost of a gas stove can run from $1000 to $3000 or
more. You must have access to natural gas or a propane tank
for this option.
A newer option is infrared heat. The cost
of infrared starts at about $2000. Manufacturers say
infrared heat penetrates your body differently than
conventional stoves. Most saunas transfer heat by
circulating hot air and steam, warming your body from the
outside of your skin. Infrared penetrates your body
directly, allowing more in depth heating at lower
temperatures of 110 to 150 degrees. Infrared heat can
penetrate the body up to 45mm. I don't know of anyone who
has this system, but before I spent that kind of money, I
would want to try it out and see how it compared to a
conventional sauna. It may be a totally different
experience. This system uses electricity as a power source.
Your steam room should be made of cedar.
Choose boards in smaller widths, no wider than 3" tongue and
groove. We made a mistake in choosing 5" widths, and they
shrunk and buckled a little from the heat and humidity. The
smaller width will give you some room for expansion and
contraction. Do not seal the cedar. You want the cedar to
absorb the water and release it in moisture. You really
don't have to worry about mold in a sauna because the heat
will dry out the wood every time you use it. The steam
dissipates and your sauna will dry out overnight. Use
cedar for the benches in your steam room also. We have
a large steam room; about 9x14 feet. Most people don't need
this large a room, but we love it and can fit a lot of
people in the sauna at the same time. Remember the larger
the steam room, the larger the stove you will need. Most
people are content with a 6 to 8 foot bench and a
steam room measuring 6x8 feet. Be sure and insulate your
walls and cover them with plastic before you put up the
tongue and groove paneling.
Even if you have access to a body of
water, you will want a shower in your steam room to clean up
with. Do not make a separate shower stall that you will have
to clean. Simply plumb the shower head right off the wall.
We have a simple hook on our door to allow for privacy.
The flooring of your sauna can be
concrete. Do not make the floor too smooth or it will be
slippery when wet. If you choose a tile floor, be sure it
has a rougher surface or you will slip easily. There are
mats you can buy to prevent slippage, but they have to be
cleaned periodically. My advice would be to stick to a
concrete floor with a rougher surface, but not so rough that
it collects dirt and grime. You will want a good drain in
the sauna floor. If you have an out building, it must be
attached to your septic system.
One last thing we put in our steam room
that we love is a small garden hose. Plumb in an outdoor
faucet into one wall and connect a garden hose to it. We use
this to wet the walls for more steam and it is also great
for cleaning the sauna. Once a year a take a bucket of soapy
water with some bleach in it and use a scrub brush to clean
the benches and walls. I just hose down the walls to rinse
and I'm done. I use the same solution on our cement floor
and use a broom to wash it down.
We use a 15 watt yellow appliance bulb for
our light source in our steam room. It is covered with a
plastic screw -in cap for moisture protection. You don't
want a lot of light in the steam room because # 1 you want
this to be a soothing experience and harsh lights can hamper
that feeling and # 2, do you really want to be seen in
harsh lights when you are sweating and in a swimsuit or in
the nude? Another option is to put a small window between
the change room and the steam room and to install a small
light in the change room so it glows into the steam room.
This allows you to be electric free in the steam room.
The best advice you can get is from fellow
sauna owners and sauna manufacturers and installers.
Research before you build and consider your wants and needs