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 The window that cracked has been replaced by an vinyl window picked up from Habitat for Humanity for $20 and a woodbox/bench has been built.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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Philipd12 months ago

Well done... a project I have always wanted to take on but local zoning has made it questionable. I like your resourcefulness in building, planning and cost control. For the next sauna many big city municipalities are banning wood stoves in certain provinces like Quebec thus giving an opportunity to pick up a wood stove for scrap metal cost. See a dealer and put in a request now and store the stove for future use thus giving time to pick and choose. They store easily outside covered. They will likely give you the address with the clients permission and you can pick up a wood stove for the $100 or less. It is picking it up. Check online to see which municipalities are banning. Nice project.

Just putting this out there, but wood dries really fast in a 150 degree sauna. Just sayin'.

kmarie222 months ago

I love this idea of a back yard sauna. Thank you for posting your project. It is years away for me but I like knowing that the plans are out there.

Nice job! I really miss our sauna. We moved from Chicago to Nairobi, Kenya. Though the evenings can get chilly here, it wouldn't be quite as satisfying to build a sauna -- at least not compared to the crazy cold and snow of the Midwest. After seeing the kit prices, I built mine from scratch in my house's old root cellar. Excellent location if any of you have one and aren't really using it. The thick cement walls and partially underground location is ideal for insulation. Being inside without access to a flue, I bought a new electric sauna stove. Not as nice as a wood burner, for sure, but necessary. Also worked with a great lumber mill (in N Michigan) for cedar. They were great. While not a kit, they did use my drawings to cut sizes to just over my dimensions, making for very little waste.

One thought on anyone wanting to build one... you might want to invest in foil-faced insulation. In addition to a vapor barrier, I covered all of the framing with this, sealing it with foil tape, and it not only insulates but bounces back the heat into the room.

Though I'll never complain about the temperate climate here, I would love to teleport back for a weekly sauna during a Chicago winter, complete with some cycles of jumping in the snow and dumping buckets of water over our heads out in the backyard. Good times.

superlite2 months ago

I have built a number of sauna/ Bania stoves and buildings, the first thing to remember as a previous contributor mentioned the stove is best when fed from the outside with the chimney running horizontal going out above the stove. The stoves i have built have been made from steel pilling cut offs with a bock and a door welded on along with the chimney adapter welded on the top. My home sauna is built from logs with one large double glazed window the room is 10' by 12' and heats up to 180+ if anybody would like pictures I would gladly provide such.

As far as the mention of the temperature measurement system is concerned......deg Fahrenheit are quite simple and it does not take much imagination or intelligence to deduce the nature of the scale being used. The arbitrary use of the boiling point and freezing point of water as the basis of the system of measure has a few problems related in it's own right, along with the arbitrary use of inconsistent standards for measure that are employed in the same system.

SKall2 months ago

Nice project! A few years back I (well, mostly my dad) we did a backyard restoration; refinished the pool, built a deck + a woodburning sauna. Unlike yours mine was done with bought material including the kiuas (stove).

Pictures of the whole project:

1) Insulating the walls would help greatly since the wood used is quite thin:

2) Adding a brick firewall around the stove would be a good security feature:

3) Fire-proofing the pipe exit hole should be done with extra care:

Enjoying the fin(n)ished product in Texas winter:

I have since moved to Florida and in the next few months I will start building an electric sauna inside the house.

Yeah, you'betcha, dis' here is a nice instructable. Holy wah!

mneal.gibby2 months ago
I failed to mention in my previous comment that lining the propane tank with fire brick will increase the thermal mass of the stove and help it stay hot longer.
mneal.gibby2 months ago
Nicely done!

The propane tank stove and black stove pipe definitely don't meet clearance to combustibles, but being a shed out back, who cares really. You could get 4" inner, 6" outer double wall flue pipe to decrease the necessary clearance around that flue. That would also lessen the chance of someone being burned. Another added benefit of the smaller inner flue pipe is a bit slower burn time. Adding another offset may also increase your burn time. I'm sure you already know, but choking down the air intake or closing up the baffle will slow the burn.

For the leak take a 2" piece of thin sheet metal wrap it around the flue and attach it to the roof with screws or rivets so you have a 2" vertical wall that mimics the flue, but a bit wider than the flue pipe. That is called a spin collar. Seal that piece to the roof with NP-1 and then take another piece of sheet metal and wrap it around the flue above the spin collar. It will make a skirt over the spin collar, called a storm collar. The storm collar can be screwed to itself. Seal that piece to the flue with high temp silicone and you will no longer have leaks. This apparently is a bit difficult to explain, but I can send you pictures to illustrate if you would like. Depending on your Google-Fu, you may be able to search out an illustration.

1/2" or thicker acrylic could be used for your window to mitigate heat loss.

Source: I am a home builder and certified chimney sweep.
hemi12342 months ago
I used an old stove and moved the pipe from back to front, then put a baffle inside. Essentially, the door and pipe are outside the sauna, the only thing in the sauna is about 2 feet of stove(the rear). It heats to over 170 degrees in an hour and sits 6-8 people.

Great job ! How I like it!!!

Rapturee2 months ago

Great Job! :{)

nickern2 months ago

very inspiring! Thanks for posting this!

jammaki2 months ago

Hey dare jrytlews. Greeting from da UP. Great sauna project. I'd suggest using aspen or popular for benches (no knots to weep sap like pine). You were right to use cedar on the walls. It has much better moisture resistance than other species of wood. This one should last you for some time to come. Again, great job!

Invention12 months ago

RE: Exploding rocks. This is a big risk but a little basic geology knowledge will help you out. We have built a lot of native-American style sweatlodges using hot rocks for heating, just like a sauna except made out of tarps and blankets. Chert, which is commonly found associated with limestone, will explode when heated. Shoots hot splinters all over the place, one time right through one of my tents. Many other kinds of rocks will not, (this is based on experience) including granite (might be common in Michigan?) limestone without chert nodules, sandstone. Most igneous rock (basalt, granite, etc) should be OK. I'd probably stay away from Shale, Coal (this could burn!), and anything crumbly (might hold water which could explode).

Keep this in mind: Some rocks are Gneiss-er than others, but you can take it for Granite that these should be fine. Your sauna will be hot, not Coal, if you follow these instructions. If you can't keep this list straight, put it into a checklist on a clipboard and keep it as a Chert on the wall. Never Basalt your food before tasting it. Now the judge has finally banged the Gravel.

Tate19634 months 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.

Edgar Tate19632 months ago

My thoughts exactly, rocket stoves are great, it freaks me out to learn that "smoke" was nothing but unused additional Fuel! :)

harold Paine2 months ago

Basic but very very do-able

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.

Amones7 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!
renni2 years 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.
sousap2 years 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.
cg50712 years 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 ;)
Henge2 years 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)  Henge2 years ago
Dude nice tent greenhouse set up that's a project. I agree the sauna gets u so clean
pkien2 years 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.
AuntTumia2 years 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.
ebennett22 years 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..
DragonFired2 years ago
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!
rabbott22 years ago
Onneksi olkoon, well done! <3
Ericc8152 years 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.
Harhama2 years 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...
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