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Could cedar dog ear fence pickets be the sauna builders’ cost effective work around?

As of this writing, Cedar dog ear fence pickets cost $0.61/lineal foot. 1×6 tongue and groove Western red cedar is running $1.55/lineal foot. (Source: Menards.) With some resourceful digging via Craigslist, etc. we often are able to find #3 grade tongue and groove at lower price.

As a sauna builder with a commercial account at a lumber wholesaler, I am able to purchase 1×6 Western Red Cedar at about $1.15/lineal foot. This is about the same price that one can find the product on Craigslist, via discount suppliers.

With this pricing, it costs about $800 to panel a typical sauna hot room with 1×6 Western red cedar. #2 grade knotty. It would cost about $400, maybe less, to panel a hot room with Cedar dog ear fence pickets.

We are talking about apples and oranges in these respects. Cedar dog ear fence pickets are:

  1. Thinner. About 1/2″ thick.
  2. Not tongue and grooved. Something to consider.
  3. Advertised as “Japanese Cedar.”

I have found no detailed information on Japanese Cedar via the Googlator.

Japanese Cedar fence pickets have performed really well for me. I have noted no weirdness.

I have had great results using cedar fence panels for trim and cedar duck boards. Matter of fact, I prefer this stock for trim. Cedar fence panels are thin. I like thin trim as it has a lower profile. Lower profile means that trim doesn’t stick out as far. This means there is less chance of rubbing against trim.

For those looking for money saving tips for building their saunas, I encourage you to look into Cedar dog ear fence pickets.

For those who have already built their saunas, looking to build duck boards, fix trim, enhance their saunas with additional features, I encourage you to look into Cedar dog ear fence pickets.

When I purchased Cedar dog ear fence pickets, I spend the extra time to dig through the pile, grabbing pieces with as few knots as possible.

Caution: If using cedar dog ear fence pickets to panel a sauna, it is super important to:

  1. foil vapor barrier your hot room well.
  2. let product dry before nailing in place.

We want to avoid shrinking as much as we can, otherwise gaps will look janky.

Cedar dog eared fencing: a frugal sauna builders hack?

Want to see Cedar dog ear fence pickets in action? Check out how Steve used and adapted Cedar dog ear fence pickets for his changing room via this recent Sauna Talk podcast (Steve Sauna Talk here).

Steve and Glenn between rounds (note the cedar fence paneling in Steve’s changing room).

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11 Comments on This Post

  1. Probably worth it to mention if one already has the tools, it is fairly easy to make tongues and grooves on boards. Router and a couple of bits. And maybe a third bit if you want to be fancy and bevel the edge a bit.

  2. Glenn, thanks for pointing this out. I used recycled versions of these cedar pickets, which had already been used as fence and rustic paneling in an apartment. It is now on its third use, and needed a little sanding, but worked just fine. Probably 75% were warped a little or not very straight. One can just rip them lengthwise on the table saw to straighten them out. You may lose 1/4″ or so, but not really significant. I also ripped them at a beveled angle of about 5 degrees to give the effect of overlap for any remaining straightness imperfections.

    The best ones were saved for bench materials. Though I will admit that I was too cheap even to use the recycled cedar for the duck boards. Sanded boards from old pallets work great for this because they are generally water tolerant and you don’t mind when they get cruddy or ruined. Once sanded and trimmed to fit your space, they don’t look like pallets at all.


  3. I have not build my sauna yet, still in the planning stages. I have given thought to this idea though of using fence panels. It would be pretty easy to run them through a table saw to make a form of ship lap. You will have to face nail the boards, this is the draw back. However it would be wise to use stainless steel brad nails to mitigate the dark staining that will develop with standard brad nails.

    Thanks for this post Glenn!

  4. whether you cut the boards or buy you need T&G boards in hot room. you will see the foil wrap if you dont use T&G.
    The changing room is a great place to save $ and use the fencing.
    spend $ wisely.

  5. Would dog eared pickers need to be planed to be smooth enough for the hit room? Just thinking aloud. I like this thrifty idea!

  6. About to build my first sauna and this is the route I’m taking. I found a pallet of 140 WRC planks 1″x 8″x 6′ for 300 bucks. Best I found in my search so I went for it. The plan is to sand them down then stainless Brad nail them and then wood putty the holes to avoid any exposed metal.

    Without that T&G overlap there could be a gap that may expose the foil – maybe running some wood grain tape over the foil between each seam would eliminate that.

    I also thought about just beveling each plank at 45 along both edges to make an overlap.

    Any suggestions or insight is appreciated.

  7. Cody: I think it’s great. After foil wrap and taping the seams and everywhere, I would season the wood in my sauna for a few sessions, just lay out the boards with air gaps and sauna with the wood as if the planks were your best friends.

    Then nail the wood up. If over time the wood separates a bit and you can see the foil behind, well, them’s the breaks, because you’ve done something unique and cost effective and it’s just part of the character. That’s how I see it.

    But someone else could argue that for about the same time invested messing around with your $300 planks, instead, you could, say, do a little landscaping moonlight work over a weekend and earn enough cash to purchase pretty high grade tongue and groove cedar.

    So it’s all about how we pronounce potato. We are doers and take satisfaction in doing. What we enjoy, how we value our time, and apply the formula: WIT/M = :). https://www.saunatimes.com/building-a-sauna/amazing-house-cat-helps-write-4-letters-and-this-revealing-new-formula-may-change-your-life/

  8. The T&G cedar in our sauna was grown and available here in Maine. The smell when heated up was over powering for us. Just mentioning this as we had to take it out. Ouch!

  9. Eastern Red Cedar is a whole new animal, as you experienced, Steve. For gerbil cages and cedar clothes closets.

  10. How has the Japanese cedar been performing for you with sustained use? i.e. smell, structural, signs of warping.
    I have the option to buy it in New Zealand for much cheaper than Western Red but as you say, the googlator isn’t revealing any answers!

  11. Mitch:

    Japanese cedar: thumbs up! The smell is familiar, like victory in the morning. It is prone towards curling and warping (probably as it is only 1/2″ thick), but with some face nailing it’s doing fine. I have been working with Japanese cedar mainly for trim, years but I just finished an extensive screen porch project where I used the Japanese cedar fence boards to make knee walls with good success.

    Tip: Lay all the boards out during a sunny day or two to dry out. I happen to have given mine a good sauna session, overnight to dry them out, then started working with them.

    Thought: I ran the fence boards through table saw, given the edges a 45. My hunch is that in an aggressive sauna climate, they will curl. How nuts would it be to run these boards vertically, with firing strips or sleepers between joists such that the spans are less than 16″ oc?

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