How to Build Your Own Whimsical Sauna for $5600: A DIY Guide

5 DIY Sauna Design Pro Tips aka Lessons I Learned

1. Place windows to maximize views. We currently have a nice big window behind the seating area, it’s still quite lovely to look out back, but if it’s a full sauna, we just stare outside through the door. If I were to do it over again, I would reconsider my layout and would have had our bigger window in front of the sauna bench, so that we could enjoy the view a little more.

2. Beware of dead space! Instead of my peaked roof, I should have made a single pitch roof with a lower ceiling height. I really wanted to build something with a curved whimsical roof, so that’s what I did, but it honestly doesn’t make a ton of sense for a sauna. In all structures, warm air rises and collects at the top. In an A-frame style roof, warm air collects at the ridge and that’s generally sort of no-man’s land. There can be a delta of about 15 degrees Celsius between where we’re sitting and the ridge. That heat just isn’t being used effectively.

3. Insulate the outside as well as in. In most modern day builds, adding exterior insulation is pretty key and prevents thermal bridging. In this build I ended up using rockwool insulation on the inside only. Mind you it’s still way more insulated than a barrel sauna, but on my next build, I’ll also be creating that external thermal envelope that should help a ton too.

4. The floor is a canvas, too. For the interior floor of my sauna I built a custom sloped concrete floor to allow for natural draining, which has worked great, but it’s sort of boring. I would have loved to have used tiles instead. A bit of colorful or unique tile, in my opinion, would make things more fun and match the whimsicalness of the outside and overall concept.

5. Purchase a real sauna door. Instead of building a wonky arched door myself out of several sheets of baltic birch ply, I probably should have bought one. I had to go through a few iterations to make my handmade door fully air tight and if I were to do it over again, picking up a traditional sauna door made of cedar, with a proper door jam, would be a good idea.

BONUS. Don’t forget your essential oils! My partner Amber loves her essential oils, and brought in some eucalyptus, lavender, and peppermint oils. A drop or two on the water ladle just before going onto the rocks is a game changer!