Picture of Wood Burning Sauna DIY
This is my first Instructable but I have used so many for ideas and love the community input!

I live in downstate Michigan and went to college in the UP met a whole crew of Finlanders and was introduced to the Sauna! and its pronounced SOuna not SAWNA but i still slip from time to time if you arnt a yooper it takes time.

I graduated and moved back downstate for work but my life was lacking because i no longer had access to the "poor mans medicine box" so naturally i want to fill that gap. Research began to see my options for having my own sauna. Student Loan debt is a mother sucker and takes up a large portion of my income so $$ was tight so building looked better than buying and of course is much more rewarding.

I searched the web and found a few things but nothing really helpful for building a finish style  wood burning sauna. I am getting into woodworking its becoming  my after work hobby and this was the largest project i have done and still have a few things ill get to at some point. So I winged it at times but at the end of the day the sucker works as intended.

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Step 1: Fall 2013 Update

Picture of Fall 2013 Update
The Sauna has been up and running for over a year now and been used about ~70 times. It has grayed from original yellow looking pine on the exterior and the cedar interior is still aromatic but less intense after time has gone on. The window that cracked has been replaced by an vinyl window picked up from Habitat for Humanity for $20 and a woodbox/bench has been built. Over the summer it didn't get used weekly but now that fall is here it is Sauna season!! I also improved the rock to stove pipe ratio by taking a section of steel wire rack and bending it to create a cylinder. The heat has been able to be held for a much longer time with these additions and looks pretty good with the flowers in bloom.
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Thanks for the inspiration. I have a bunch of old glass blocks laying around was thinking of using those as a window for light source, that will allow for privacy. Used to live in rural Alaska. Yupik Eskimos loved steam baths...most were the size of a large dog house. Your sauna would be top of the line in Western Alaska.

Tate19631 month ago

Hi jrytlews just an idea you may consider for more efficient wood burning and more heat capability. Make a rocket stove, Their a wealth of ideas on youtube. you can make it with a small barrel for your main heat source, takes up little room. also for good wood supply their are plenty of FREE pallets out there. just ask around. Most are made of oak and it burns clean and hot.

Amones4 months ago

I'll be saving a copy of this post of yours for when I retire and move to Maine, where there are also a lot of Finns, many related to me. I was little when I lived in the UP, and don't remember any saunas, but remember taking sauna every time we visited relatives in Maine while I was young, and lots of people had their own. My mom even grew up on a farm with a sauna near the lake. So you'd take sauna, jump in the lake, and back to the sauna. Can't wait to build my own, thanks!

PS!... you have inspired me to move! That is to do one for myself. I had been looking to do one big enough for the whole family if they came over, but after seeing yours I am going to check the building codes and move forward for my self. Plans, designs, purpose, frequency of use, time of use, and last but not least best location on my property for its use. Plus the little extras that make It my own. That would be the easy part. Convincing my wife its a good idea, now that's gona take some work! Once I finnish (a pun to say the least) my blue prints, I will share them on Instructables to be followed by the actual doing. Thank you for the time you took to share.
jrytlews (author)  CHIEFGR8TWOLF1 year ago
Good call on the advice! I have made a few adjustments to the stove and burning Oak and other hardwood has really increased how fast the sauna heats up and the new window holds heat much better. I used 1.5" foam insulation on all walls and the celling and that expanding foam spray to get the gaps. The next one I build I would change the size just slightly. 4x8 interior is just a little small I would go 5x8 next time. I look forward to seeing yours and glad to be a starting point for u. If you spend $1000 and take a sauna a week that's almost $20 per bath so good luck on convincing the wife. Sauna promotes healthy living, relaxation, Romance...
Like what you have done under the circumstances. I am sure you have read the comments and realized before anyone told you that the building should be insulated with reflective insulation in the roof as well. As to your stove I don't believe your problem is in the stove design itself. Stick with the horizontal design, ad dry sand to the bottom and place a layer of fire brick on top of it. as for the reason your losing so much heat from it, run the stove pipe one length up to a 90 degree elbow and out the side or rear wall keeping the draft valve in the first section before the elbow will cause a slower burn. (Not like a rocket stove) Third the wood that u burn should be mixed with a little green wood as the burn will last longer. Last but not least if you put cement board or just plane old adobe bricks in the corner behind the stove that will also improve its efficiency. (Just stack the brick no mortar on two or three sides depending on the placement of the stove. And a little help on the window, use two panes of plexi-glass with space between in your own premade frame.
HollyMann1 year ago
Looks amazing!
renni1 year ago
Nice job!

You might want to put some insulation in the walls and roof.
You might also want some draining for water on the floor.
Glass window is no problem in a sauna, it just has to be a double window.
Good you have plenty of snow there, nothing nicer than go rolling in the snow directly from sauna.
sousap1 year ago
congrats, it will be one of my next projects, I already have an electric stove (got it for free) now I must make a construction plan and start working. I need some info about vapour barrier... I still don't know how to do it.
cg50711 year ago
Permies is a great site. Love the idea of the propane tank/stove. Deffinately a mass rocket stove would be a good addition ad you can prob just use the tank you have ;)
Henge1 year ago
Awesome instructable, will be building one in my future. Not only poor mans medicine box, but also his shower. From my experience with backyard saunas, it seems like a good idea to rig up a stove that is loaded from the outside. For one, it reduces the mess inside; and two, saying your structure is airtight, increases the draft. I've also heard warnings about asphyxiation from the stove drawing out the breathable air, but that could easily be an old-wives tale. I've used many saunas not so different from yours and have yet to die. Job well done!
jrytlews (author)  Henge1 year ago
Dude nice tent greenhouse set up that's a project. I agree the sauna gets u so clean
pkien1 year ago
A minor point, my reading of sauna literature has informed me that the first vowel in the "sauna" is a three-sound vowel, ah-oh-uu. So the proper Finnish pronunciation would be sa-oh-uu-na, sort of a rippled sounding word.
AuntTumia1 year ago
You need a Massrocket stove in here! Look it up on Permies. it would use less wood heat faster and the heat last longer.
ebennett21 year ago
gave me some great ideas i have always wanted one at the house. just did a job at an old farm house and ended up with a wood stove and was not sure what to do with it and now I know what our spring project is to be.. Keep up the great work... one mans trash is another mans treasure..
Great ideas! Thanks. I have been thinking of building a sauna for a few years now. I was planning on using propane and some old barbecue grill burners and regulators. Has anyone ever build a sauna using gas heat? I would love to get some opinions on it, good or bad please!
graet job and great construction!
Great idea and great construction!
rabbott21 year ago
Onneksi olkoon, well done! <3
Ericc8151 year ago
Thanks for the memories... I spent many years enjoying suna before I moved to Mexico. The finest was a 2 room log cabin with an imported enamel finished cast iron stove fired from outside the wall under the wide eaves which also sheltered the years wood supply. It had a 5 ft. pipe into the firebox that was buried under a 4 ft mound of rock. The chimney was 3 wall stainless and all built on lakeside waterline elevation - direct access stair into lake water. Cut the ice away in the lake with a chainsaw.
Harhama1 year ago
Great job :)
Look the "official Sauna-site":
Cool... I mean Hot...
What about glass block for a window? I know I see some at ReStore now and then...
Oh, I sure would like to try that out... sigh... what a great looking sauna. Thanks for sharing.
samanen1 year ago
Great project! Seems like any other sauna here in Finland - just a bit smaller though but seems to do its job well!

One thing I'd suppose you to do is to try warming up the sauna door(s) open. This way its not the actual sauna that is hot - its just the stove thats burning hot and it works much better in my opinion! It obviously takes more time to heat up, but as yours is one very tiny sauna I dont think that would be a problem for you.

Have a good time with your great looking sauna! Greetings from Finland.
Dude good job !
I have been thinking pretty much the same thing ! 8x4' floorplan.
I need the medicine and meditation. Well done mate - I'm inspired to make it a reality !
nunkey1 year ago
Love it - brilliant!
4RB41 year ago
Yes, glass window in sauna is not the best choise. Usually it is small sliding woden window for some fresh air or postsauna ventilation. Also I prefer bricks, not steel, for stove, but that's probably another story. Anyway, your sauna looks lovely and produces required heat, instructions are helpfull and clear. Respect.
John Sphar1 year ago
Good job, nice Instructable! Instead of penetrating the roof for the chimney, you could have used two "90's" and route your stove pipe out a side wall and up avoiding the leaks from the roof. I'm going to be building a sauna this summer, so I appreciate your effort here.
jrytlews (author)  John Sphar1 year ago
Yes very true but the stove pipe gets hot hot and thru wall fittings are made more so for double wall pipe so i figured steel roof least likley to burn down...and more fittings more $

U can see i didnt build a floor for it and it is sitting on patio pavers so what water does end up on the ground just makes its way out, but a drain would be nice then i could wash out the ash a little easier. The lack of floor deffiently takes some heat out of the building in the winter but an extra log 2 takes care of that

John Sphar1 year ago
I should add that when penetrating a wood wall or wooden ceiling/roof, you should use a triple wall fitting that has an air gap so as not to burn the wall and is designed for that type of penetration. There also used to be an asbestos-like material wall or ceiling penetration fittings available for stove pipe. Happy Sauna! P.S. - My son is currently living in Helsinki and I am told that I must have a sauna here in California.
Lowriderpr1 year ago
Looks great you did a great job!
Eh Lie Us!1 year ago
Always a fan of your type of re-use. This type of mentality will get us thru a lot of tough times. I wish my area would allow open burning. I'm in urban California. Thanks for telling me about the pronunciation of 'sauna' Now I know! Just don't be an btthead and force people to say it the 'correct'' way. Offer but don't force. Great work and good health to you man.
hpirinen1 year ago
Awesome looking Sauna!
I have been playing around with saunas in more than few occasions, first wooden heater for a sauna I welded when I was around 16 years old( yes, I'm a Finn), so here's few thoughts on the heater:
Yes, the heat escapes from the smokestack, but you should not try to constrict it.
If you want to make the heater more efficient, you should figure out a way for the stones to cover the first portions of the smokestack, so the heat would transfer from the smokestack walls to the stones. Another trick would be to pull two extra pipes from the front to the bottom of the smokestack, so there would be more surface area for the heat to dissipate to the stones.

Also, by regulating the air intake for the stove you can adjust how hard the wood is burning. Easiest way is to cut a 4x10 inch slot to the bottom of the heater chamber, fabricate a heavy duty steel "grill" that sits on top of the hole and a "drawer" underneath it. pulling the drawer more open it will let more air in -> air circulation gets better and wood burns hotter. Close it and it works the opposite. Also, drawer works as a catcher for the ash: pull it out and just throw the ash out and put the drawer back, instead of shoveling the ash out.

And its pronounced SAUNA ;)

Nice job! I have an old shed I might convert someday, but I'll install an electric heater, as the shed had a line ran out to it.
Virtech11 year ago
Your instructable caught my attention immediately. Saunas have always been a part of my life. My father was born in one (This was not unusual on a farm in Finland in the 20's - it was the most sanitary place on the farm; apparently my grandmother came in from working in the field, gave birth, and was back out in the field the next day.) I was a late starter - 3 weeks old before I had my first one! My father has built 70+ saunas and I have a couple of comments. First, all of these saunas had a through the wall firebox - that way outside air fueled the fire and then went out the chimney and back outside. Second - all of these saunas had a glass window , but most could not be opened. The secret was to have frame with a deep slot for the glass so that the glass was held; not too tightly; by the surfaces, and had room to move a little side to side and up and down (room for thermal expansion). Most of these saunas had small 'dressing room' adjoining and the door and firebox were accessed from here. In laying out the interior you should plan for the convection flow of air - hot air will rise around the firebox and stones, cross the interior at the ceiling, and descend, ideally over the top bench. Therefore the top bench should be built with a gap (~2") between it and the wall, and moderate spaces (~1/2") left between the boards. The fronts of the benches should be left open. My father has built log cabin style saunas using pine logs, but with the sauna room lined with cedar. The design he built most of (more than 50) was a 'barrel' sauna using tongue and grooved western red cedar. He started by framing a 7' X 16' floor and planking it. Three vertical walls were built - for the back, front and an interior dividing wall between the sauna and the dressing room. These walls started with a 7' base and the sides angled out, widening to 8' three feet above the floor. The top of the wall was a 4' radius semicircle. These 3 walls were propped in position and 16' tongue and groove planks were laid, joining them, starting at the floor on both sides (tongue up) and working up to the center of the roof. The last two planks at the top were trimmed to fit. The radiused part of the planking was shingled, starting with a horizontal row of shingles the length of the building along both sides and working up to the top. The front and interior walls had doors, with an opening window on the front wall and a small non-opening window in the interior wall. The firebox was adjacent to the interior wall with its' door accessed from the dressing room. Leaving the front wall window open a bit ensured a good draft as the fire consumed air from the dressing room. The result was exceptionally nice sauna that functioned very well and was contained in an 8' X 16' building that could be loaded onto a flatbed trailer and moved anywhere.
All this said, your sauna reminds me a bit of the sauna my father built out at the hunt camp - rustic and low budget, but functional. Thank you for a nice instructable.
From an old Finlander, now in Texas. PS: Down here in the summertime, you don't have to worry about a heater for your sauna - just build a corrugated galvanized shed and leave it in the sun!
jrytlews (author)  Virtech11 year ago
Glad to see support from Finland and all other that believe in the power of Sauna! I love the Finish culture and the pretty blonde girls you produce!

70 saunas! I would take that job in a heart beat! Eventually i plan to build a Cord Wood Sauna any one ever done that??

Yes the window is just for a little light and doesn’t need to open. I have a battery powered LED light that i use at night. Toss a little peppermint or Eucalyptus on there mhmmm cleans you out and breathing deep.

x4junk1 year ago
Sweet Sauna - just the right amount of rustic. Creative use of pavers on floor, but a bit cold on the feet, no?

I am half Finn (1/2 finished?) and was raised around authentic Finn saunas in Michigan. Grandfather's in Iron River, UP was log construction, custom welded stove with hot water via the stove - this was the primary way we took showers - sauna every night when visiting.

Also had a wood burner, stove-heated water at our cottage on Lake Orion, SE MI and later built one at my parent's home in Frankfort, MI on Lake Michigan. (Unfortunately the last one was electric, but with water on rocks due to zoning/permit issues. Did use rough cedar harvested from our property in a authentic attempt.)

I found 180 degrees was just right for a lots of water on the rocks, 20-30 minute sit on the top bench. Miss it very much and thanks to you, now dreaming of plans for a new sauna in the future.  Thanks for showing yours!
kooter1 year ago
Great job on the Sauna! Looks like some real thought and creativity went into this. We are long time sauna users ourselves. If you are looking for a window or glass pane to use to let in a bit of light you might consider the glass from the oven door of an old kitchen range. The glass is tempered, so not easy to cut, but is suited to the temperatures that sauna will produce. The sauna I built had a piece of this glass with a frame made to fit the glass. Ours had (we moved and don't have room here) a change room with a glass panel in the dividing wall. The change room light was on a dimmer and could be adjusted to provide some soft light, enough to see but not glaring. Good stuff, keep it up.
Happy Sauna,
rcoelho1 year ago
I just thought you were crazy, or building an oven, until I realized that your degrees are Fahrenheit, not Celsius. International Site, International System. Think about it.
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