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Planning Your Sauna | Design, Heat Source, Vents, Door and Ambiance

Sauna Planning: Any project starts with good design

You don't need a lot, but it's important to know where a few things are going to lay. Clear cedar paneling looks amazing, so your sauna will look inviting no matter what, but still you'll want to plan these sauna areas. See our Sauna Heater FAQs area for more answers.

Planning Your Sauna: Main Considerations

We offer Do-It Yourself DIY precut home sauna kits — View some common sizes: 4x6, 5x7, 6x8. Also see How to Order a Precut Home Sauna Kit. Also view our Photo Gallery: Sauna Designs for ideas.

Planning Your Sauna: Your power source for your sauna heater

Are you going to power your sauna with electricity, gas, or even possibly wood? Having lived in all four, I enjoy turning my sauna switch "ON" at home. At other times, just as chefs prefer cooking with gas, it was nice to quickly adjust low to high heat on a commercial gas sauna heater. And at a remote sauna by the lake after starting a fire, I have enjoyed the smokey aroma and traditional soft heat of a wood-fired sauna stove. Finally, I enjoy the soothing and penetrating soft heat of infrared lights.

Consider for these power sources for sauna heaters:

  • GAS – Natural or Propane Gas sauna heaters are larger and are more expensive than wood or electric heaters. You must have a 7'x 8' room or larger and must install the heater on an outside wall.
  • WOOD-FIRED – Most wood burning sauna heaters are installed in an outdoor installation. You must install wood sauna heaters much like a fireplace or wood stove. Options for wood heaters include water jackets and shower plumb in options that heat water.
  • ELECTRIC HEATER – The majority of sauna heaters are electric (95% plus) and require only 20, 30 or 40 AMP dedicated circuits for residential applications. We estimate the cost per usage for an electric sauna heater at $0.75 per use. It's a good idea to set some horizontal brackets between the studs to more easily mount your sauna on the wall.
  • INFRAREDInfrared sauna therapy lights provide the full spectrum of light frequencies: near, middle and far infrared wave lengths. The entire infrared spectrum is compatible with cellular processes. Most importantly these lights produce no electromagnetic field!

Planning Your Sauna: Heater and Vents

Next, you will want to know where you are going to vent your sauna heater. All you really need is some cooler air entering from an adjoining room our outside. A sauna vent low on the wall will do. Some even just use cut the door short, so air comes under. But you may consider using a vent grill to cover the vent on both sides. Looks nice, too.  See our article, Sauna Venting and Framing Info for deep thoughts on the subject.

Planning Your Sauna: Where to put your Sauna Door?

Know where you want to set your sauna heater. Most place the sauna heater near the door. This is really to better use the rest of the room for benching. While you can set electrical wiring for your sauna, control panel, and light switch pretty much anywhere, you may have only a few routes to lay gas pipe, especially when permitting with the city.

FYI: Most small saunas do fine on a 120V circuit. However, mid-size and larger sauna rooms require a 240V stove to heat the room faster and efficiently, else you'll blow the circuit.

Also a word about wet/dry: There are dry and wet sauna heaters. Heaters designed for a splash of water over the rocks on the top. When splash, the water turns to steam, increasing the humidity in the sauna. You can use a hygrometer to measure sauna humidity, and a thermometer to measure temperature.

And, of course, we'll want to know where the door is hung and how wide. It's best if your door opens out of the sauna, when standing inside. It's safer and gives you more room. Just decide on a left or right swing.

Next important consideration is where your studs are in the walls. For most jobs, the standard 16" on center will work great. However, perhaps someone just gave you a pile of 2' cedar panel boards, and you want to use them up. So... when you go to actually nail you cedar to the walls, you will need a stud to attach it to, of course. In this case, you'd need studs set at 2' on center. This brings up seams... wherever the cedar boards meet, there will be a seam. We like to cover ours with a thin piece. If you're using 6' to 8' boards, then of course, you'll have a clean looking sauna.

Planning Your Sauna: Ceiling Height

Heat rises. No surprises there! Meaning... your ceiling should really be between 6'6" and 7'0". You don't need alot of head space, else you will need to mount your sauna heater and benches even higher. Or you'll be paying more in operating costs.

If you prefer, not to lower your ceiling height. Then, consider the DIY prefab modular sauna kits. These kits use 6'8" wall panels, and are often placed in a larger room, basement, cabin or sometimes under an outside shelter.

Planning Your Sauna: Set the ambiance

If your sauna door will be solid, with no window to allow in outside light - make sure there is an existing light fixture and switch, or wire them in. There are lots of sauna lighting choices: wet/dry recesssed lights (4" or 6"), salt lamps, rope lights, lights on a dimmer, wood lampshades, infrared lights etc. If you have a little extra money, lights can really set a great mood. Of course, candles work too! Read more about infrared on Dr. Larry Wilson's site.

With those considerations out of the way, we're ready to make a sketch of your sauna room. You might also consider where you want your sauna benches (low, high, double wide). And some other accoutrements, wall grab rails and a cedar guard rail around your heater.

Planning Your Sauna: Safety

When planning your sauna heater placement, consider keeping room for a guard rail around the sauna heater. Also, handles and grab rails in strategic places can add stability when sauna patrons are tired and clumsy. Some like a double wide lower bench, you'll have more room to maneuver when lying down [ the image shows how the lower bench runs all the way to the rear wall ].

Thanks so much for your time! Enjoy and let us sweat the details, since 1971. 


Cedarbrook Sauna + Steam

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