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Converting a sauna from an electric sauna stove heater to a wood fired sauna heater

Thinking of converting your electric sauna stove heater to wood?

The two major steps for converting electric sauna stove heater to wood are cutting and installing for chimney, second is non combustibles to surround.:

From the mailbag: Hi, I saw you were willing to give advice and had a question. I am contemplating purchasing an electric sauna. It is a 6′ 10″ x 10′ sauna with 4 benches and for the price it is a steal. However, the only thing is.. electric saunas suck!  So, I was wondering if you have ever seen or have advice for trying to convert an electric sauna to a wood powered one? Thanks! -Josh

Here’s the process: converting electric sauna stove heater to wood

Converting an electric sauna heater to wood heater involves cutting and installing for chimney. Secondly, we need to install non combustibles to the heater surround. I once converted a wood fired sauna for a couple who insisted on an electric stove.  Despite my pleading to the contrary, it was easy enough to do, but it was a sad experience. It reminded me of painting over original molding or maybe putting down our family cat (not quite that bad!).  Anyhow, there was a bonus: I was able to reuse the awesome wood burning sauna stove for another sauna build.  In your case, Josh, converting an electric stove sauna to a wood stove sauna is more work but very doable.

  • I’m assuming this is a free standing structure?
  • Will you need to alter benches?
  • Where do you live?

Choosing your wood fired sauna heater

As you probably know, i’m a big fan of the Kuuma Stove from Tower MN.  He’s the microbrewer of sauna stoves.  More information on the Kuuma here.

Make a template of your sauna wood fired sauna heater

On a piece of cardboard, measure and draw out a footprint of your sauna stove.  This may sound like kid stuff, but it is very effective.  (Thanks Mike!).  Within your template, include the location opening for the stove chimney pipe and center point for chimney pipe.  As a bonus, Kuuma templates are available here.is here.

Mark and cut out sauna ceiling

Do some detective work locating hot room ceiling joists.  Look for finish nails in tongue.  Joists should be 16″ on center and hopefully you will be able to cut out and frame a 12″x12″ box opening within two existing ceiling joists.  Mark carefully by extending a string with a weight from center of stove pipe opening on your stove template up to ceiling.  Next, cut out with a skill saw.  And, if you have to cut a joist, you will need to get up there and reframe.  Tricky, but doable.

Mark and cut out roof

Locate rafters.  You can stick your head up through your 12×12 ceiling opening and mark center point, like you did with ceiling.  At center point, set a screw through roof sheeting and roofing material, so you can locate it (but not step on it) from up on the roof.  Rafters generally, run 24″ on center.  Cutting out for Chimney on a slope roof takes careful measuring.  The process is detailed in my ebook Click here,.  You need to make four marks from center point.  To left and right of slope is easy.  Then, just measure and mark (5″ I believe for a 6″ stove pipe).  To measure for opening up and down the slope of the roof, you need a level and mark the opening with a horizontal mark.  Because your chimney pipe goes through the roof vertically, and your roof is on a pitch, your opening will be an oval, not a circle.

Screw in cement board in hot room

  • Walls:  32″ from each corner and up to the ceiling.
  • Ceiling: 31 1/2″ square.  Mark and cut out 12″ square for chimney opening.
  • Add a second layer of cement board with 1″ spacers, 52″ up from the floor, including a 4″ air gap off the floor for air flow.

Purchase and install stove and chimney components for converting electric sauna stove heater to wood

I’ve always used the Selkerk brand, available at Menards (yea, save big money, but don’t try to return anything without a receipt).  There is an order to installing stove pipe and chimney components.  For example, stove pipe adapter goes above the ceiling support kit. Complete materials list here.

Set wood sauna heater

Sauna stoves need to cure.  The Kuuma, specifically, burns off some really yucky paint smell with the first couple firings.  I build bigger and bigger fires over the course of 12 hours to properly cure a new sauna stove.  It’s an agonizing test of patience, especially on a winter day while wearing a bathrobe and sandals and sipping from a nICE mug.

Sauna

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3 thoughts on “Converting a sauna from an electric sauna stove heater to a wood fired sauna heater”

  1. I have had no problems with the electric saunas at the health clubs, but now that I live in the woods I have a wood burning sauna. All of a sudden smoke is coming out the rocks. Can you come up with a few ideas as to what could be wrong.
    Thank you
    Marty

  2. Marty, take out all your sauna rocks. Inspect. Odds are that you’ll find a crack or erosion in your sauna stove such that you have a leak down into your heat chamber. Find a buddy with a welding torch and put in a new plate. Add rocks. Make a nICE mug. Sauna.

  3. Hi Glen, I love the E book! I’ve been planning for a sauna that I’m going to build this summer, based on your building design. I want the wood stove for so many reasons you’ve clearly laid out, and more, but I also know that if I can turn on the sauna with my phone, I will be doing more sauna, more often; thus more health benefit. While weighing the pros and cons of both electric and wood, I can’t help but try to get the best of both worlds. I’m picturing a Lamppa Kuuma wood stove with electrical coils in the rock area, so I can turn it on remotely for when time is the restriction, or fire up the wood stove for the full sensation, or warm up with electric and then fire up the wood burner, beginning at a higher temp. Do you know anyone who has something like this? Of course it may be cost prohibitive. And of course I wouldn’t try this without consulting an electrician first.

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