When building a sauna, incorporating certain design elements that will make the experience much more enjoyable. Here are some things to remember:
Ceiling Height. Heat leveling is extremely important in a sauna. A common mistake is to make the ceiling too high. 7′ is ideal and our packages default to this height. Of course we can design whatever you want. If you choose to increase ceiling height to 8′ you should probably consider raising your benching (or at least your upper bench) an additional 12″. The main reason for this is because of the difference in temperature a mere 12″ can make. Heat hangs mostly in the top half of the sauna, so it is important to make sure you get to where the heat is. If you want to exceed the recommended 7′ ceiling height, let one of our design consultants help you figure out the best way to accomplish this. Here is a diagram of how the heat levels work in a sauna:
Venting. Contrary to popular belief, vents in saunas primarily serve as a fresh air supply and exhaust. They have little to do with moisture. While preferable, it is not necessary to have a vent in a sauna. When installing, the air intake vent is installed down low, ideally under the sauna heater. The exhaust vent is then best located either in the ceiling or high on a wall at the farthest point from the intake vent. When there are no good venting options, it is also an option to leave an air space at the base of your sauna’s door when installing. All of our saunas except for our prebuilt outdoor include intake and exhaust vent grills. With outdoor saunas, it is common practice to eliminate the venting altogether, as they contribute to heat-loss.
Floor Drain. In most saunas a floor drain is not necessary. It’s a matter of preference, but in saunas that require heavy cleaning it may be a good idea. Commercial saunas are usually better candidates for this. It may be important to consult your local building codes, as in some locations this may be a requirement.
Water Spigots inside sauna. Water spigots are not recommended inside the sauna. They can sometimes create an unsafe condition depending on their proximity to the wiring inside the sauna and are against code in many areas.
Flooring. Sauna flooring can be any type of surface impermeable to water (i.e. concrete, tile, linoleum). Depending on the type of sauna you purchase, Cedar-slat “duckboard” or rubberized anti-bacterial flooring is then provided for the walk-area to go over the top of this. While both types are popular with our customers, rubberized anti-bacterial flooring is suggested in commercial saunas. Two main reasons for this are sanitation and the fact that the rubberized flooring is designed to allow water to drain out to a drain installed beneath. Just ask us what the flooring options are for your sauna.
Electrical. Always have electrical work done by a licensed electrician. They are familiar with local and national codes and can ensure everything is installed safely and neatly.
Choosing and sizing your sauna heater. The sauna heater is the heart of your sauna. When choosing the right heater, it’s important to decide what your priorities are. We have everything from basic sauna heaters to those with larger rock capacities, those that heat instantly (like the Finlandia Ever Ready AV) or those that incorporate a full steam generator (like the Tylo Combi-U) and even authentic wood-fired models. Another preference to consider is whether you want wall-mount controls which generally locate outside of your sauna door (never inside of your sauna), or heater mount controls which are adjusted inside of your sauna. Each manufacturer varies slightly, but as a general rule you generally need 1 kw of sauna heater size for every 50 cubic feet (length x width x height). If you are heating an outdoor sauna, you generally need some extra “horsepower”. Commercial saunas often use wall-mount controls with optional 24 hour timers. If you are unsure what you need let one of our sauna experts fit you with the right heater to get the job done.
Insulation. It’s important to insulate your sauna as well as you can, as this can drastically affect the heat-up time and efficiency of your sauna. R-19 is recommended for walls and R-30 for ceilings. Ceilings are where most heat is lost in a sauna so don’t be stingy. At minimum make sure your sauna has R-12 throughout. Paper-backed fiberglass batt insulation is ideal. It’s also important to staple foil vapor barrier to the interior of your wall framing after the insulation added and before you add the tongue and groove wall boards. Foil vapor barrier is provided with all of our precut sauna kits. Of course all of our pre-built saunas come with complete wall sections that are insulated and ready to go.
Lighting. All of our saunas come with lighting appropriate for the dampness and heat of a sauna. You can choose from a number of wall-mount or ceiling-mount options.
Benching. Benching and bathing capacity often dictates the size sauna you choose. As a general rule, allow 2′ – 3′ of upper bench per person. If you have the space, it’s also popular to have at least 5′ – 6′ to allow the bather to lay down.
Sauna Location. The beauty of saunas is that they can be located almost anywhere. This includes in bathrooms, unused closets, attics, garages, basements, etc. They can also be located outdoors either with our free-standing pre-built units or with our pre-cut sauna kits built under covered porches or in outdoor storage buildings. We do not recommend that you connect them directly to a shower or steam shower however. This can create a hazard, and may warp your sauna door, voiding the warranty. Wood doors cannot withstand heavy humidity on one side (from shower) and hot dry air on the other (from sauna). Let our sauna experts help you figure-out what works best. You are only limited by your imagination!