I built a wood fired sauna at the beginning of my junior year of college. Having never built a standalone structure before, it was a huge learning process. I was pretty proud that it worked, and I didn’t lose any fingers in the preocess! My days of having a lot of available project space were quickly coming to a close, and I was eager to get back the money I invested in sauna building materials.
I wanted the sauna to go to a similarly minded owner – the DIY type, so I listed it in all of its glory on the Hanover listserve and waited. It wasn’t too long before I found a buyer who was willing to pick up the sauna.
By ‘picking’ up the sauna, I actually mean bringing a come along, a bunch of rollers and a good sense of humor. We spent three hours in the sprinkling rain muscling, pleading and wishing the sauna into the bed of a trailer.
Once we finally loaded the sauna we drove it out from behind the house; the trailer missed hitting the eaves of the house by two pine needles. Mission accomplished – with only 4 hours of dragging, and kicking a giant chunk of wood! Now about that wood fired hot tub…
The walls went up. The paint was on. The window was set. And so ended my weekend, but I couldn’t let it sit there without finishing the sauna. So I woke up at 6, ready to saw at 7. I figured people were waking up around that time. Or at least they would be now! From then on, I worked during the 2 hours before work and until 9 a night. To say I slept well would be the understatement of the century.
The insulation went in pretty easily if not “itchily” – I swear I will be old before all the fiberglass fibers come out of my jacket. Then I tacked the vapor barrier over the insulation. I can’t tell you how blinding it is to be in a room working with a headlamp staring down a mirrored surface.
With the sauna looking like a 1970’s attempt to make a room look larger, I started working on the floor and stove, putting in heat shields where the stove would sit and marking out where the pipe would poke through the ceiling. Sensing the end, I took a day off work, recruited some friends and hammered on the white pine siding for the inside of the sauna. The reason for white pine over cedar was mostly based on cost; pine was 4 times cheaper than cedar and just as mildew resistant. With each section, we were a little closer to firing her up. By 10:30 at night, I had the stove in, the paneling up and the last piece of the bench installed. I couldn’t even sneak in a sauna before I fell asleep.
I had a project itch; this happens every so often. Usually it is correlated with an unfinished project sitting in my garage. This time though the source was an unstarted project and its potential. The potential was killing me. You see, I had a wood stove sitting in my garage. Just a stove, but with that stove I envisioned an amazing project. I imagined an escape from sore skiing muscles, from NE cold, from stress. I saw a sauna. Not just any sauna – a wood burning sauna made from scratch – designs and all, ready to be moved out when I graduate in three years.
So I got to work measuring, drawing and creating specs. Drawn out, priced and ready to start in a week, It was the most prepped I have ever felt before starting a project. With time ticking, I ordered parts and recruited help. On a beautiful Saturday, with five friends, we started the sauna. My goal was to get the frame up.
The foundation was set with cinderblock porch supports. The floor was insulated with foam, and protected from critters with hardware cloth. My design idea was to minimize cost and weight, so I could jack up the floor and pull a trailer underneath to move the sauna when I graduate.
The walls went together with room for a window and a simple galvanized shed roof.
Then the osb siding went on, with a final coat of brown paint so my neighbors wouldn’t notice our new addition to the culdesac. By the end of the day we had a shed! I guess this completes step 1, and by the time the sauna is ready, I will sorely need a sauna!