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Sauna FAQs

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How To Build a Sauna

I'm just starting to plan my sauna. Are there any sauna floor plans or guidelines?

Yes, see the help pages:

And watch our "How to Build a Sauna" videos at:

  • How to Build a Sauna | Converting a Room to a Sauna — This informational article and videos demonstrate how to tack up your sauna foil, attach cedar paneling to the interior of your studs, mount your sauna heater, install your sauna benches, hang your sauna door, and finish trim and entry walkway.
  • See our list of How to Videos.

Other important considerations are:

  • Type of sauna heater (gas, electrical, wood, infrared)
  • How many sauna bathers will use the sauna at once
  • Sauna room size to determine how powerful your sauna heater must be, and last
  • Where to put the heater, bench arrangement and venting for your layout

How are saunas built? | Explain Precut vs Prefab

At Cedarbrook Sauna + Steam, we build all our saunas with cedar. Cedar is the best on wood to absorb heat, but does not stay hot to the touch. There a couple ways to start a wood sauna.

  1. Finish the inside of a room with a precut sauna kit. In this scenario, you attaching tongue and groove cedar boards to the studs. We precut the boards to fit, so installation goes quickly. Of course, you build or convert an existing closet or room in your house or spa, or perhaps build or convert a shed into a sauna.
  2. You have open space and want a sauna room that assembles fairly quickly with very little construction. For this scenario we designed our prefab modular home sauna kits. Prefab Home Sauna Kits assemble easily with pre-built insulated walls and ceiling panels that screw together and sit on a base of your choice, yet are still portable.

The prefab sauna is a panelized sauna that comes in prebuilt, modular panels that interlock into freestanding sturdy sauna room. Ceiling panels are set atop to enclose the room. The prefab can also be relocated. Prefab saunas are installed inside or outdoors with the addition of the optional roof. See: How to Build a Sauna | Setting up the DIY Prefab Modular Sauna Kit  – shows you how quickly a sauna goes up.

The precut sauna is designed for new construction or situations where you have a small room already framed in. You frame and insulate your walls, ceiling, and door opening. Then add the door, cover the walls with tongue and groove, build sauna benches, finally trim it out. Precut saunas are permanent and cannot be relocated. See: How to Build a Sauna | Converting a Room to a Sauna – Article and videos demonstrate how to build a sauna in an extra room.

I'm converting a room in my house to a sauna, do you have any supporting articles to get me started?

Yes, since building saunas for 40 years, we've accumulated a bit of knowledge. See our list below:

Do I need a permit for my sauna?

Commonly, an outdoor sauna and structures of 120 sq ft or less do not require permits (in the U.S.). Some counties allow larger structures of up to 200 sq. ft. without permits. You may run into some problems if you put your sauna right on the property line you share with a neighbor, a parking strip or an access easement.

While adding a residential circuit is fairly straight-forward for any electrician, it may not be a bad idea to get an electrical permit for your indoor sauna. You can call your county permitting department to easily check. Most sauna installations require 220/240v power with a hard wire connection to a separate 30 or 40 amp breaker in your electrical panel. In some instances, a small tradional style sauna can be wired to 110/120v circuit, if the circuit to the panel with a #12 gauge wire.

I'm building my own sauna and I need to do it as cheaply as possible. Where can I save the most on my sauna?

  • Build your own benches. We can provide the wood and instructions
  • Use 1x material for your bench tops. Using residential 9/16" sauna bench tops instead of the commercial 1½" (2x2) saves and works well.
  • Two-piece wall construction. The savings are huge when you 2' or 3' pieces to span your studs vs longer 4', 6', or 8' T'n'G cedar. Also we do have a finger-joined product that's very green – a fantastic use of very short pieces.
  • Fit your sauna only two benches. Some saunas seem cluttered with 3 or 4 benches.
  • You can vent your sauna from under your door, thus sparing you a lower vent. You will still want to keep the upper though.
  • Work closely with your electrician and pull your own wire. Save the critical connections for the expert.
  • Order a sauna door made with tight knot cedar (no window). These are still great sauna doors, and the knots add a Ponderosa style. Choose your cladding width and direction.

How do I prepare the base for my outdoor modular sauna kit?

IMPORTANT: First note that the exterior size of our prefab modular saunas is 8" wider and deeper than the size in the title. For example, a 5'x7' outdoor home sauna kit (the title reads 5'x7') has an exterior measurement of 5'8' x 7'8" — thus, this is the minimum size of your sauna base. The outdoor modular sauna kit will sit well on any of these bases:

  • Pour a concrete slab. Leave concrete surface bare or lay tile over the top.
  • Tamp down gravel and lay patio pavers over.
  • Gravel with pressure treated wood works well also. In fact, if you know you will be relocating your sauna, it's even easier to bring your base with you. See step 1 of our How to Build a Sauna | Setting up the DIY Prefab Modular Sauna Kit.
  • Build a wood deck and install marine plywood on your joists, and then put tile or sheet vinyl on the plywood for a vapor proof surface.

Are the sauna walls of the prefab sauna kit shipped in just 4 units or do you make more than one piece per wall?

Our pre-built sauna walls form the walls and ceiling of your sauna room. Sauna wall panels are never wider than 5’ and the panels can be requested in two pieces if the quarters are tight. Generally, we make the prefab walls 4' to 5' wide. We understand you may be setting up your home sauna kit in your basement where perhaps maneuvering all the sauna parts may be difficult, up or down stairs, etc. So yes just let us know what panel width you require for your sauna scenario. And of course, our kits include a prefab ceiling panel or two depending on the sauna dimensions and your requirements.

Can I vent my sauna heat back into my house? Or do I have to vent the sauna to the outside?

It is best to vent the sauna back inside the house rather than to the outdoors. The main reason is that the barometric pressure outside is often different than indoors and this can create reverse flow bringing air from the outside in. Also, you always want to minimize penetrations to the outdoors. Though it might seem like a great way to add heat to your house, but a sauna will add very little positive heat to your home as by design; it is meant to heat a small enclosed space. Also FYI, the sauna will not add any significant moisture to the adjoining air space. Even when you ladle water over the sauna heater rocks you add very little actual humidity to the air. Saunas provide very dry air. The humidity of a sauna ranges from 10-35%.

Most importantly, the air coming into the sauna through the intake opening should be fresh and cooler than the heated sauna air. Fresh air also affects the sauna heater's thermostat and hi limit sensors. Otherwise, the sauna heater may sense that the room is prematurely hot and thus shut the heater down before the desired temperature is reached. Also the fresh air air will have slightly higher oxygen levels but do not be concerned with oxygen levels as the sauna rooms are no where near near air tight. Many saunas do just fine with a wide crack at the bottom of the door serving as the intake vent. See more information relating to this subject under our accessories: sauna vents and grills. Also see our full article on this topic: Sauna Venting and Framing Info.

What's should interior ceiling height of a sauna be?

We recommend between 6'4" and 7'. A shorter ceiling means your sauna heating costs are lower. Of course, consult the manufacturer's specs, but generally most sauna heaters are engineered for ceilings no higher than 8'. Ceilings higher than this might adversely affect the sauna heater's sensors, thus overworking the sauna heater. The adage "form follows function" very much applies in the realm of sauna construction.

What insulation should be used in a home sauna?

Indoor saunas with 2"x4" studs do just fine with R13 insulation. Any exterior walls with 2"x6" studs should still have R19 insulation. Ceiling insulation should be R26 or greater.

Also VERY IMPORTANT, and a step never to be skipped is covering your studs with the Sauna Foil Vapor Barrior. It reflects heat back into the sauna and keeps moisture from seaping behind your cedar.

How much space is required for a sauna room?

We offer cedar sauna kits as small as 4'x4'. Indeed, we also offer a 1 person canvas sauna tent heated by infrared lights.

Do saunas require a floor drain?

No, a floor drain is not common in a sauna. Of course, if you are planning to take a cold quick rinse in your sauna, then yes, you will want one. Some of our customers have installed indoor sinks with a drain in the wall though. See the sauna gallery photos. A little splashing in the sauna is fine. If you're concerned about moisture remaining, then leave the sauna heater on an extra 20 minutes.

What kind of floor is appropriate for a traditional sauna?

Most outdoor saunas are set on a concrete slab, pavers, tile, or a deck, or pressure-treated wood. A wood base does make relocating your sauna to another location much easier.

Indoor sauna are built on concrete, tile, vinyls, or any non-permeable surface, ie, anything that will not absorb water. While obvious to us, it deserves to said, "never put a sauna on carpet."

What's the easiest way to determine the power requirement of the sauna heater?

Our rule of thumb: Multiply your sauna Length x Width x Height (in feet) to calculate the cubic footage of your heat sauna, and then divide by 50. E.g. a 5' x 8' x 6'6" sauna is 260 cubic feet / 50 = 5.2 and then round up to the next best heater . So the minimum is 5.2 kW to heat this sauna. So, an economical choice here would be the Polar HMR 60 (6kW).

What type of circuit breaker should be used in a home sauna?

We recommend a 240 volt breaker in nearly all home sauna installations. Of course, the sauna heater's manufacturer's spec should be adhered to as well as consult your local union electrician and permitting code for your situation.

Are there saunas I can just plug-in or use on standard 120 volt power supply (as is standard in most homes except for the dryer and the stove)?

Yes, see our 4x4 modular sauna, 4x4 modular infrared sauna, Infrared light tent heat therapy room, and the 2 Piece Polar modular sauna.

What should I cover my sauna floor with?

We prefer to walk on cedar sauna duckboard or grated flooring in our saunas. Cedar is soft to the feet, but not cold. Concrete or tile sauna floors feel very cool after taking a sauna. Also our duckboard kits are built in 18"x48" rectangles that are easily removable for washing or sweeping. Also take a look at the Sauna Rubber Flooring Squares, an interlocking rubber floor tile for the sauna or steam rooms to help you keep your footing.

Should I insulate the concrete floor in the traditional dry sauna?

No, this is not necessary. Since of course, all sauna bathers are not sitting on the floor. Additionally, sauna air flows best with cool area coming in at the bottom and some hot sauna air leaving at the top. This ensures proper air flow and fresh oxygen to the sauna bathers. Generally, there is no significant heat loss through the floor.

Should I enclose the space under the sauna benches to make the sauna easier to heat?

No this is not necessary and best to leave accessible. We do like the style of adding bench facing to our sauna benches, and lighting them from underneath. Bench facing does not enclose the air space though. It's more of an ambiance choice, and also adds a back rest to the lower sauna bench.

Cedarbrook Sauna + Steam

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