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Backyard Saunas

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The outdoor backyard authentic sauna experience is being enjoyed RIGHT now by many hundreds of people. How do I know this to be true? I have helped hundreds of people build their own authentic backyard saunas. But that’s not important. What IS important is that our own backyard outdoor free standing sauna buildings are significant structures. They don’t have steeples, but they are our churches. And our health clubs. And our doctors (both mental and/or physical).

Our Own Backyard Saunas are Health and Wellness Sanctuaries

It doesn’t matter who we are or what is going on. For some of us it is a bad day at work, or we can’t set down our cell phones, or we are back from a shitty war and are trying to get our life back together. We have made the commitment and we are enjoying a better life. We have our backyard sauna.

“Other than diet and exercise, I can’t think of anything else that will benefit your life in a more positive way. And, that’s not just sales talk. It’s the truth. Ask anyone that owns a sauna and uses it regularly. They’ll share the same sentiment. “ –Matt Bergstrom (builder of hundreds of saunas for hundreds of people who “get” sauna)

“You bring 100 people together and they are all strangers, but in the sauna, you open up because your body is opening up. And then your mind follows.”

“Heat and cold are our great teachers.” –Wim Hof (The “Iceman”)

“If you haven’t experienced the sauna, you have to do it, because it is a wonderful cleansing, spiritual way of life.” –Dave Pearson, A practicing Lutheran paster for over 50 years.

If you are tinkering around with an infrared light bulb closet or have an intuition that the sauna at your health club sauna could be much more awesome, then I welcome you to join our tribe. This website is a good place to start. I won’t try to sell you anything, but when you are ready, I have an ebook that will help you. And search “guest post” and you’ll see lots of folks who have created their own authentic saunas and are enjoying it.

I Went Big with My Backyard Sauna- You Can Too

It’s a garage, it’s an office, it’s a sauna, it’s a lounge. It is incremental real estate. It is 16 steps out the back door, and it offers an “up north backyard retreat.” No getting into the car. It’s right there when you want it. It is legal to build. It cost money to build but we only have to pay for it once. We use it forever.

Freeze Proof Faucets Help Backyard Sauna Enthusiasts Chill Out all Winter Long

In Northern climates, late fall is a busy time of year. Squirrels are as active as beer distributors, shifting from Oktoberfest to Winter Ale. Homeowners are doing their winter prep: leaf raking, the final grass cut, snow blower tuning, and putting away the garden hose for the pending winter.

We sauna enthusiasts are getting ready for winter too. Our woodpiles are packed solid. Our skis and ice skates are ready to go. For those of us with our own backyard sauna retreats, we are transitioning from our outdoor showers to the 5 gallon water bucket. But we don’t need to shut down our outdoor garden faucets. We can fill up our 5 gallon water buckets right under the outdoor faucet all winter long thanks to freeze proof faucets.

Freeze proof faucets are the bomb. The shut off is a foot upstream, inside your house. Freeze proof faucets are easy to install. They work all winter long. One of life’s simple pleasures is filling a 5 gallon water bucket in zero degree weather wearing only a towel between sauna rounds. We can say goodbye to our outdoor showers for the winter, and Wim Hof would be proud of our ability to dump cold water over our heads outside, all winter long.

Here are some easy instructions on how to install your own freeze proof faucet.

How to Turn a Neglected Corner of Your Backyard into an Authentic Sauna Retreat

More often than not, the worst spot on your property can become the best spot for an authentic Finnish sauna. The neglected corner filled with brush and scrap wood, the dead space behind the garage, or anywhere out of the way where you can stake out an 8’x12′ run of carpenter string. One of the key attributes of sauna is the retreat: an escape from everyday busy-ness and routine. The physical location of your authentic sauna should mirror this retreat.

Once the Area is Cleaned Out, Marking Off an 8’x12′ Area Helps a Shed Company, like Tuff Shed, Place Your 8’x12′ Shed

Tuff Shed Will Shell Up Your Sauna Structure in Half a Day

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33 Comments

33 thoughts on “Backyard Saunas”

  1. i have a showerhead hooked up at my sauna but need to run about 80′ of hose out to it. i coil it up after each use (to allow for lawn mowing, etc.). for the last couple seasons, i took the hose inside once freezing temps hit and relied on a bucket for water. this year, i’ve been draining/coiling the hose up after use and bringing inside to prevent freezing. then i roll it out when i want to use it, even in freezing temps. it can get as low as about 25 degrees before stuff starts freezing up while in the hot room. i’ll keep doing this until the snow gets too deep or the daily highs start staying below 25 and then it is bucket time until spring. i should be able to rock this method for another couple weeks.

  2. I just plowed 8″ of new snow and fired up the sauna. 160F in about 45 minutes but tonight I let er go about an hour 20 minutes before tes to 195F. Dragons breath, superheated loyly, a bit of eucalyptus, and complete utter relaxation; a person never feels so clean. Wood is the best!

  3. there’s lots of “variants” on this website. read more about electric sauna stoves by searching for it over to the right sidebar.

  4. It took me 45 minutes to install my frost free faucet. With a pipe wrench, I unscrewed the existing pipe in the basement, right at the shut off nozzle and brought the whole piece to Home Depot. There I was able to size up the exact length of frost free faucet to buy. Drove home, pipe taped the threads, screwed it on, et voila !

  5. I have officially began my build today. Made my first cuts and nailed together walls today. Hopefully be sitting on the bench in may.

  6. Glenn,

    I bought your book last year; read it carefully but just didn’t have time. Well, do to changing situations i now have time. We live in coastal Alaska (cold winters for us are +10F, and usually +15-25F).

    I’m repurposing an old greenhouse; have will be sauna and the other half will be covered sitting/eating area.

    My question: if I use a “deck floor”—wood with narrow spacing and no insulation to the ground, do you think we will have difficulty maintaining hot temperature? Of course we plan to insulate well, use foil bubble wrap, and have 6’6” ceilings. The idea is simplicity, and easy water drainage.

    Looking forward to your response.

  7. Hi Andrew:

    I have taken many saunas in similar climate, Northern MN, with the hot room floor as you describe: decking open to below.

    But these saunas are not year round saunas.

    Would I build a sauna with open decking floor? Maybe, if seasonal, but if winter use: probably not. You can get your hot room hot with this deck flooring system, yes, but it’ll take that much longer when it’s “f**’ing cold.” There’s something good about being able to envelope the whole space and being able to control the air flow, and lock in the heat, even down to the toes.

    Hope this helps, Andrew.

  8. Just started mine last week in NE Mpls! Framing it all up from scratch. The eBook is super helpful.

  9. Great Peter! Glad my ebook Sauna Build, Start to Finnish is helping you out. It’s comforting to know that many are engaging in their own sauna build projects right now. I was thinking this am about scarcity. Seems it’s either money or time. And with the corona lockdown, many of us have more time. So, we can think of our sauna builds like a really good stock. We invest the money now, and let it’s value increase over time! More chatter on this:

    https://www.saunatimes.com/building-a-sauna/amazing-house-cat-helps-write-4-letters-and-this-revealing-new-formula-may-change-your-life/

  10. Hi Glenn I came across your site, and was very pleased to see a knowledgeable person such as yourself, who is willing to help out others, with their ‘sauna’ related questions?!

    Glenn, when you have a moment, if you could answer a couple of questions regarding my outdoor sauna, I would greatly appreciate it!

    I reside in rural Canada, and had a fellow build me an outside wooden barrel sauna. It is heated by a Harvia wooden stove. To reduce the costs of building the sauna, he told me at the time, that he would build a sauna out of ‘pine’ wood rather then it being built from ‘cedar’ wood?!

    When he finished building the sauna, he told me that I would have many years of enjoyment from the sauna?!

    Well, unfortunately, after I had paid him a lot of money to construct the sauna, just a few months in, I noticed that there were several water leaks that were inside the sauna, and looking more closely, also noticed that there were a few of the wooden panels (in the shape of a barrel) that were coming apart a little?!

    I naturally was very disappointed with all of this, and had tried to track down the person who built the sauna, to let him know, how disappointed I was, yet, decided, instead, to try and enlist a friend who is a contractor, for his advice as to what to do next?!

    My friend recommended sealing the outside of the sauna, so I had went to the local hardware store near my township, and the manager there recommended to me, to use a ‘high temperature’ silicone sealant?!

    I bought several containers of this ‘high temperature’ silicone sealant, and my friend sealed the entire outside portion of the sauna.

    However, after a few days, of relaxing in the sauna, I noticed that a few of the wooden panels had stretched again, (coming apart a little) perhaps due from the heating inside of the sauna, yet, shouldn’t the wooden panels have been fused together better, and not to have come apart, no matter how hot the sauna would get inside?!

    Glenn, another concern, or question I have, is that while relaxing in the sauna, once it is being heated up, I noticed several knots on the inside of the pine wood, that the sap was coming out, and dripping down, and had to be careful not to have the hot sap drip on me?!

    Glenn, is there a way I can either sand down the sap, and or, should I just apply a putty knife to try and smooth out the sap, so as for next time, when I’m trying to relax inside the sauna, won’t have to worry about the sap dripping again from the knots of the pine wood?!

    Finally, Glenn, what is your recommendation of adding either shingles, or, a sheet metal to cover the roof of the sauna, to prevent future rain, or snow possibly penetrating into the sauna again, even though it is now properly sealed?

    Thanks Glenn, looking forward to your response.

  11. Hi Lawrence: Well, lesson learned that though Pine is less expensive it isn’t the right or optimal species for sauna. But it is what it is and you can do exactly what you’re thinking and do some kind of shingle work outside your barrel sauna to keep out the rain and snow. See, Pine expands and contracts more than cedar, especially given the temperature and moisture extremes. But this is a good workaround covering the barrel sauna outside. I’d be looking for a really cool shingle, They make these aluminum scallop style and i’d be maybe thinking along these lines.

    As far as the sap dripping, maybe it’s a matter of it will drip less and less as you use the sauna more? Hope so.

    thanks for the kind words, and I am pleased that saunatimes is helping you along.

  12. Loved all the inspiration from everyone that contributes to Sauna times. Just finished my backyard sauna build! Enjoying the bench tremendously!!

  13. Hi Glenn, thanks for your prompt reply for my question(s) regarding my outdoor sauna. I very much appreciated your response!

    You will be pleased to know, that with regards to the sap problem dripping from the inside of the sauna, that has stopped thank goodness, as per your recommendation of using the sauna more. Thank you for that as well!

    With regards to the roof covering, you mentioned that you came across the ‘aluminum scallop style’ shingle? Glenn, could you please send me a link for that type, as I have not found any matching your description up here in Canada?!

    Is it possible, if they might sell those type of ‘shingles’ or metals at home depot? If so, I will look to see if they might be willing to cut the pieces, to fit a 8 foot barrel sauna roof?!

    Glenn, with the covering of the sauna roof in mind, have you heard of this company (Aleko) making shingles for the roofs of outdoor saunas?! Here is there link: https://www.alekoproducts.ca/ALEKO-SB6SHINGLERF-Shingle-Bitumen-Sauna-Roof-Set-p/sb6shinglerf-ac.htm

    Although, they claim online that there outdoor shingle set presently is out of stock, I’d be curious as to your outlook with regards to these shingle type coverings?

    Finally, Glenn, if I go into Home depot, or another construction type store, and look into purchasing some shingles for the sauna, what is your view on covering the sauna first, with a type of ice shield, or type of underlay to seal completely the sauna, before any shingles are applied to it? Or, do you think rather then shingles being applied, for me to try to get the ‘metal’ type of coverings you had suggested?!

    Thanks Glenn, look forward to your response.

    Lawrence

  14. Hi Glenn:

    Thank you very much for your prompt reply with regards to answering my question(s) about my outdoor sauna?

    I had wrote a thank you note moments ago, yet, did not see it on your site, so am writing a ‘thank you’ reply again?!

    Glenn, you will be pleased to know that the sap dripping had stopped, thank goodness, as per your recommendation of continuing to use the sauna, thanks for this?

    With regards to permanently sealing the outside portion of the sauna roof, I could not find an ‘aluminum scalloped style’ shingle as you had suggested. Is there a link for these types of shingles? Would you know if Home Depot would carry these, or would I have to try a sheet metal company for this?

    If I opt for regular shingles, what is your view on putting an underlay first, like a type of ice shield, before the actual shingles are applied?

    Thank you Glenn,

    Look forward to your response.

  15. I am in the process of building an outdoor sauna. The sauna is being constructed inside of a garage stall that was converted into a 24×14 insulated room. I am more than happy to answer any questions as to how I’m doing this. One question I have is, where do I purchase led strips that can handle the conditions of an outdoor sauna? I plan to put them behind the lumbar supports as illustrated in Glen’s book. Also, where would you recommend shopping for t and g cedar? Thanks to Glen and everyone else who builds saunas and supports this site.

    Joel D

  16. LED lights: The rope lighting sold in big box has worked fine for me for many builds. Any splicing, etc. is best done outside the hot room wall.

    T&G cedar: not always easy, depending upon where you live. Product is very expensive at Lowes/Depot and often better quality and less price via shopping around to more specialty lumber yards.

  17. Is there a particular type of thinset that is recommended when placing tile behind the wood sauna stove?

    As always, I really appreciate everything from everyone 😉

  18. Hello Glenn,

    I am at the point in the sauna build where I’ll be putting up the durock and tile on the walls, pad and maybe ceiling. According to the stove specs I am supposed to put a heat shield with 1″ of air space on the wall behind and the ceiling above the stove. There is a 52″ gap between the top of the stove and the ceiling. Currently, the position of the stove leaves 8-1/2″ between the back of the stove (with heat shield) and the back wall.

    I haven’t seen this particular topic come up in all of my googling. Do you use heat shields when you build with Kuuma wood stoves? I have the Kuuma heat shields on the back and side with the water tank on the other side.

    In your experience, what is actually neccesary at this stage?

    Thank you, Glenn!!!!

  19. Much respect to all of you tackling the build yourselves and of course to Glenn for his generosity hosting the site and promoting sauna culture. I’m blessed to have married into a family with lakeside sauna up north and it was love at first steam. The problem of course is that a 6 hour round trip keeps us from using it even remotely as much as we’d like, and so we’re ready for a backyard build here in south Minneapolis. As much as I’d like to do it myself, I think I’d really benefit from (need) an experienced hand assisting or more likely just stay out of the way and let someone else do it altogether.

    With that in mind, I’ve already starting looking into some of the local sauna builders, but the first quote I got for a standard design (8×12 w/changing room, nice kuuma stove) was about twice what I was hoping (20k). Am I unrealistic in hoping that I can buy Glenn’s book and have a contractor build it for half that without cutting many corners? Does anyone have recommendations for contractors they’ve used or know of – ideally with some sauna building experience? Again, I’d be glad to wield a hammer (watch out!) or just keep the cold beers coming but now that the bee is in my bonnet, I’d really like to be taking a backyard sauna when the crisp fall air arrives.

    Thanks much for any advice/recommendations!

  20. Hi Andrew…

    “love at first steam” Tremendous. Deserves its own blog post… beware (and you help me write it please).!

    Contractor build: Typically with sauna i’m glass mostly full, yet contractors are generally quite busy these days and those that aren’t (and no offense) are the ones apt to say “you don’t need a vapor barrier” or use some poly or poly bi-product and you’ll end up with yahoo results.

    Here’s some thoughts:
    1) review your family connection – maybe there’s a handy person within your tribe who could be tapped to help build.
    2) review your neighbor tribe – maybe there’s a handy person within your neighborhood who would enjoy the project within stumbling distance. (Next Door ad?).
    3) listen to Steve, Sauna Talk episode, who says “you can always use wider trim.”
    https://www.saunatimes.com/sauna-talk-podcast/sauna-talk-steve-friedrichs-walks-us-through-all-it-takes-to-build-your-own-backyard-sauna-and-how-it-has-enhanced-the-lives-of-he-and-his-family/

  21. Hi Bret.

    You can run drip edge above your sleepers. What’s important is a break from wall to floor. Drip edge gives us this. The vinyl cement skim coat is a great product in that when mixed well, and troweled against the drip edge, we get a nICE seal. please search “vinyl cement” top right search bar on this website and you’ll see me on my knees troweling and advising. Hope this helps!

  22. I purchased your ebook and I’m currently in the process of sloping the floors with sleepers. Is the drip edge absolutely necessary? Also can the drip edge sit on top of the sleepers? We ran the sleepers first and ran them all the way from the drain to the bottom plate. Also, if we do have a drip edge, how do we make sure that drip edge isn’t exposed? Will the cedar floor cover it?

    Thanks in advance for your input!

  23. It’s not finished although it’s operational. Here’s the progress. The vast majority of everything I did was guided by the principles in Glenn’s eBook.

    Here is a link to pictures that show process and progress.

    https://imgur.com/a/TL67mni

    Happy Thanksgiving.

  24. Hello Glenn the sauna master!
    I’m curious about your thoughts on building a small DIY water feature (stone) the corner of a mobile sauna. Listening to your podcast episode with Dan Baruch and him commenting about wanting to do something like this in a stationary sauna to run your feet under water during a session. I can’t help but consider it in my upcoming mobile build. It just sounds too awesome, and practical nevermind peacefull. Let me know your thoughts and if this was discussed already in another thread.
    Thanks for your time, your truely a legend and are definitely pleasing the sauna gods 🙂

  25. Right on to this Luc!

    I’m totally into your idea. If you type “double dose of negative ions” into search bar above, you’ll see how long I’ve been resonating with the idea of water – running water – as a complement to the sauna experience.

    So, i’m right with you on this. Here’s a few thoughts to help get you thinking:
    1. Source an aquarium pump and tubing. The pump is best to have a dial to control the water flow. Strong enough pump to push water up 6′ or so. But not a mega pump as you don’t need to push a lot of water to make it happen.
    2. Consider that the tubing can run behind your stone work, in the wall cavity. Keep it so you can feed the tubing, maybe with a pvc conduit, in case you have to replace or service the pump system.
    3. A simple reservoir at the base of the wall to collect the water and house the submersible pump.
    4. How do you de-splashify? A vertical wall will be more apt to splash water all over. I’d be thinking of framing out the water feature corner with maybe 2x6s that you run through the table saw to make long triangles, so the base is a full 5 1/2″ and it tapers down to nothing. Sloping the wall will be an art.
    5. Cultured stone. Easy to work with, when applied over cement board.
    6. Hot room vs. Changing room. I think the water feature will be best in the cool down room, for reasons of humidity control.

    Matter of fact, you can build your MVP as a stand alone, messing around with getting the material and angles right. You can search off the shelf products on Amazon or Pinterest as inspiration.

    Luc:
    Promise me one thing: let’s document this project! Just typing above has me wanting to do this, myself. Please take some photos and email me along the way. Better yet, if you’re cool with it, i’ve started a new blog post, entitled, “is it time for a small DIY water feature (stone) in the corner of your sauna?” and let’s talk over there.

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