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How Much Does a Sauna Cost?

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Can You Afford a Sauna?

A friend of mine, looking to cut expenses, picked up a stationary bike on Craigslist and knocked off his $65/month health club bill. Good move, but he’s pining about missing the sauna. Beyond saving his health club expenses, is that the complete picture? I could start adding up the savings my sauna brings me in terms of not having to drive to go work out (something i’ll never understand) and yet, I enjoy a beer or two in the sauna after working out (something others may never understand), plus, in a home sauna you can choose who you sauna with vs. looking at some Fitness Fred sweating it out at Bally’s.

Let’s Try Out Some Amortizing

  • $65/month – no more health club
  • $36/month – gas ($3 round trip x 3x per week x 4 wks per month)
  • $24/month – water or food ($2 each time x 3x per week x 4 weeks per month)
  • $125/month: estimated savings working out home vs. health club.

What a Home Sauna Would Cost

  • $4,000 sauna/$125 per month = 32 months / 12 = 2 years 7 months.
  • $8,000 sauna/$125 per month = 64 months / 12 = 5 years 4 months.

Plus, You:

  • don’t need a babysitter to watch our kids while you go to a health club.
  • can sauna with your family/friends instead of Fitness Fred at Bally’s.
  • raise the value of your house for resale.
  • can play the music you want, or keep it quiet.
  • don’t have to remember where you left your car at Bally’s when over friendly Fitness Fred is following you in the parking lot.

For $8,000, I could help you save 5 years of health club noise and have your backyard feel as an authentic Finnish sauna lake cabin, or that up north nature cabin on the rocky shores of an outcropping peninsula. No driving, no Fitness Fred.

Cost of Pre Cut and Pre Built Saunas

an Almost Heaven sauna at a resort on the Greek Island of Ikaros

Thank you to Stacy at Almost Heaven Group for breaking down the costs of pre built saunas.

Enter Stacy

One of the most common questions we hear is “How much does a sauna cost?”, but before we can really answer that you have to understand the difference between a Pre Cut Sauna Kit and a Pre Built Sauna.

The Difference Between a Pre Cut Sauna Kit and a Pre Built Sauna

A Pre Cut Sauna Kit is designed for those who have an existing space, such as a small room or large closet, which they wish to turn into a sauna. It is also ideal for the do-it-yourself customer that wishes to provide more of the materials, do some of the building on their own, and thus save on their overall cost.

One of these kits typically includes interior tongue and groove wall and ceiling cladding, benches, a duckboard floor for the walking area in the sauna, a pre-hung door, trim and accessories.

Selection of materials is critical to a well-made sauna whether you purchase a kit or just the raw materials. Knots should never be permitted inside the room. They can get hot enough to burn the bather, they can weep sap, and they can even shrink and fall out.

Better sauna kits will include Grade A Select Western Red Cedar that is all clear and milled to a furniture grade finish, and in some cases, even already pre cut to your custom stud to stud and floor to ceiling joist dimensions. Such higher quality kits will also provide the benches and duckboard floor completely pre-assembled to your custom dimensions. In contrast, some sauna kit makers will just send you bundles of lumber to cut and cobble together for your benches and floor.

With the Pre Cut Sauna Kit, you supply the support framing, exterior paneling or drywall, plastic vapor barrier and insulation, all of which should be available inexpensively from a local source.

In contrast to a Precut Sauna Kit, a Pre Built Sauna is entirely freestanding and complete in every way. The Prebuilt Sauna requires no special tools or skills to assemble. The walls and ceiling are supplied in premade panels and assembly takes only a few hours.

When making a cost comparison between a Precut Sauna Kit and a Prebuilt Sauna, you must, of course, account for the extra cost of the former that is represented by the 2×4 framing, insulation, vapor barrier and exterior covering that you must provide, which you would not need to purchase for the Pre Built Sauna, and you need also to account for the extra labor required to frame the area, tack up the cedar, hang the benches, etc.

So How Much Does a Pre Built Sauna Cost Either Way?

If you take a size such as the 5×7, which we consider the perfect size for a couple or small family, our Precut Sauna Kit is $2,488.00 and our Pre Built Sauna has a base price of $3,935.00 (those prices don’t count the heater, which will set you back an average of at least $1,000.00, or shipping which is usually a couple/few hundred dollars depending on location).

Even after accounting for the additional materials you’d need for the Pre Cut Sauna Kit, if you are practiced in standard carpentry techniques and willing to put in the extra time yourself on the installation, this is likely a better value, especially if you already have a small room, large closet or even a particular corner in mind and wouldn’t have do as much framing.

If you plan on paying for someone else to frame and install a Pre Cut Sauna Kit, however, you may find that the cost is as much or even more than the cost of a Pre Built Sauna that you can assemble yourself. The costs of involving a contractor vary dramatically nationwide, and your local labor costs must be considered to make a proper comparison.

No discussion of Pre Cut versus Pre Built would be complete without one final consideration. If a built-in look is what you want, then the Precut is the only choice, and if you’d like a sauna that you can move from time to time and take with you when you sell your home, then the Prebuilt is the appropriate purchase.

How Much Does a Sauna Cost to Operate?

The question that naturally follows “How much does a sauna cost?” would be the question “How much does a sauna cost to operate?”, and there are really too many variables to give you actual numbers. If you get a good rate on your electricity, it could be just pennies per day.

The factors affecting operating costs are your local cost of electricity, the size of the sauna and the ambient temperature. Obviously, it’s going to cost dramatically more to run a large outdoor sauna in Alaska in February than it will to run a small sauna inside your home.

And, of course, the bigger the sauna the more it will cost to run. We routinely counsel our customers not to let the size of the space that they have available dictate the size sauna that they decide to build. It will cost as much to heat the space whether there is one person using it or ten people. Sauna size should be based on needed capacity, not available space.

Cost of an Authentic Sauna

A lot of people ask me “how much does a sauna cost?” or “I’m thinking of building my own sauna, about how much is it going to cost me?”

The usual answer to these questions, unfortunately, is another question, which is usually:

  • What size sauna building are you thinking of?
  • Are you talking inside your house or a freestanding backyard sauna?
  • Are you going to hire out the labor or do some or all of the work yourself?
  • You’re thinking about changing room, too, right?
  • Just checking… no infrared light bulbs, right?

Well, these numbers are fresh off the press and are current as of December 2018. These numbers relate to a method and model that I particularly recommend for those seeking to realize their authentic sauna dreams. Below details an 8’x12′ backyard sauna with an 6’x8′ hot room, and similar sized changing room.

Material Cost

  • $2,800: Shed company to build 8’x12′ structure, including exterior door, window openings.
  • $2,200: Small Kuuma Stove, window, aluminum side water tank, double heat shield, ash pan.
  • $2,400: T&g cedar, insulation, foil vapor, 2 windows, interior framing, durarock, chimney stove components, fixed glass hot room windows.
  • $7,400: Total material cost.

Labor Cost

  • 100 work hours

Conclusion: $7.5k plus 100 Labor Hours

And keep in mind, for what I think is a reasonable $16,000, you can have a really well built and designed mobile sauna delivered to your backyard, cabin, or driveway. Click here to learn more.

Closing Comments from a New Sauna Enthusiast. Enter Steve:

“We have been out there 10 out of the last 11 nights. After dinner, I’ll go fire up the stove, and then we go for a walk. After an hour or so, we arrive back home. Then, the sauna is about 140 degrees (f.), I’ll pull the coals forward, toss on another couple logs, and tone down the stove damper. Then I’ll go inside, make martinis, we slip into our bathrobes, and back out to the sauna we go.”

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24 Comments

24 thoughts on “How Much Does a Sauna Cost?”

  1. Awesome insight. Tongue and groove clear cedar or cedar with knots: I personally have a fondness for the non clear. Some prefer granite counters without marbly lines, some enjoy the wild look of natural stone. Much the same with knots. A nod towards the old school, I’ve never had knots fall out or ooze sap, but i’m sure this could happen. As far as branding one’s butt or back, no big thing, as long as one uses clear stock for sauna benches, and offers back rests. sauna bench advice here: https://www.saunatimes.com/building-a-sauna/a-better-sauna-bench/

  2. Point taken about an aesthetic preference for knots. Our Precut Sauna Kit customers often ask for extra pieces of our Grade A Select T&G for the outside of their exposed wall(s), and we always feel obliged to tell them that they can get a B Grade or even an A Grade for a fraction of the cost of the Grade A Select, and that the wall actually may have more character if a knotty grade is used.

    It’s really a shame that those knots get so hot in the sauna, and we agree that a viable approach is to be sure to omit them from the benches and to use fixed backrests as sort of a guard to protect bathers from the burns that the knots can cause.

    As you said, though, even then the knots COULD still cause problems, and when someone buys one of our kits we want to make sure if there’s any chance something could go wrong that we mitigate it. Plus “butt branding” is never fun 😉

    The post you linked to is a nice tutorial on building your own benches, beautiful end product.

  3. Hi Glenn, love the blog! You helped my family when we were building our sauna a few years ago.

    I have a random question about saunas in Montana (Missoula/Bozeman/Butte): do you know anyone there who has a mobile sauna (ideally wood-fired) that they would potentially be willing to rent out on short-notice?

    Many thanks!!

  4. This is very useful. So what “optional” parts of the Kuuma stove are really mandatory, or at least very highly recommended? The window is for ambiance only I take it, so that has to be optional (even if a good idea). The hot water tank has to be optional. But what about the heat shields and ash pan? Is it really that much of a pain to empty the ashes from the previous use with a fireplace shovel before starting the next fire? Or is the ash pan necessary for air flow? Are the heat shields necessary if using durarock?

  5. Hey Glenn,
    It was great chatting with you at the Home and Garden show.
    I was the guy who built a sauna in his backyard this winter but had not completed the benches yet. You gave me some solid advice on design that I will definitely put to use.
    Thanks for the info, I hope the show was a success!

  6. Ash pan is needed! It provides great airflow for starting. $150. Worth it.
    Window is fabulous!
    Water tank with a spicket is nice to have all year round.
    I would think your ok with no heat shields and durarock as long as the stove is 6 inches away from wall.
    Do get the ash pan and window right away, you will not regret it, add the other stuff later.

  7. Sorry I couldn’t help you Alex. One day soon there will be many mobile saunas for rent in Montana. Save this as proof that you and I are thinking ahead of a curve.

  8. Conor: Thanks for the kind words. Cedar is like Trout and Redwood is like Salmon. They are very close species. But i’ve not heard of redwood pine. If that’s like salmon catfish don’t use it. If it’s like Copper River salmon, then definitely use it. We want soft woods on our walls. White Spruce is another species which is very nice.

    No jointing compound at all. Just tap the tongue into the groove and on you go.

  9. Hi Glenn,

    Firstly thank you for all of your useful information it is greatly appreciated.
    I have a quick question, I know cedar is the preferred option when it comes to saunas, but I have opted for a redwood tongue and groove pine, should this suffice? also do you recommend a jointing compound for between the grooves??

  10. Hi,Glenn.
    This is Ray, a member of JAPAN SAUNA INSTITUTE.

    I want you to see some pics and an article of Japanese sauna.
    and want you to introduce them on your website.

    Actually, it’s a National Sauna Day on march 7th in Japan.
    So we took some beautiful pics of Japanese Sauna, and somehow want to introduce them to peaple who love sauna all over the world.

    If you get interested in, I can send pics and an artictle about Japanese sauna to you right now by email.

    Looking forward to hearing from you.

    Ray

  11. Hi Glenn:

    I downloaded your “Build Your Own Sauna” publication. I have an indoor 6 x 8 sauna drawn into my architectural plans, and an electric heater is my only option. There are so many sauna heaters on the market, and it is hard to distinguish them from one another. I want quick start up, efficiency, and wi-fi control capability. Suggestions?

  12. Hey Glenn, Love the site! Can’t wait to start in on the podcast! I was wondering if you could go ahead and send me your E-book. Made my donation earlier this morning. Cheers, Ryan

  13. I love your podcast and your perspective on all things TRUE Sauna.
    I realize building a home sauna is the primo way to go however I’m not in a situation to do so.
    Do you have any US company that you trust where a small backyard unit with good Finnish electric stove could be purchased?
    Thank You so much

  14. Hi MaryKay: Glad you are enjoying Sauna Talk. I’m pleased you are thinking backyard unit, and I recommend Custom Mobile Saunas. Eric is a guy who is committed to building good saunas, mobile and otherwise and he understands lampomassa. When you call him, ask him if he can spell it, you’ll get a chuckle out of him. 612-221-3214.

  15. Glenn (and Steve),

    Man, so I am planning out my build for this summer, using Steve’s approach by having Tuff Shed build me a shed. However, I am not getting a quote anywhere near the $2,800 listed above for the shed structure. Using Tuff Shed’s online quote configurator (as instructed to use by Jon at Tuff Shed in Savage), a 8×12 reverse gable pro ranch tall with a man door is coming to $4,600. That doesn’t include any upgrades or anything (paint job, vents, etc). Am I missing something here, or have construction costs just shot up by 40% in the last year? Hard to believe that’s the case.

    Some other questions I am pondering…

    Did you go with the standard 7 ft sidewalls or 8 ft? Tuff Shed said I’d need to do the “tall” version since I’d want a man door, but your picture looks like you just squeezed a man door in with 7 ft. sidewalls.

    Insulation: Did you have Tuff Shed apply house wrap? They insist on doing this if you plan to insulate it, which of course I’ll be doing. Not sure if it’s necessary tho.

    Venting: Did you have Tuff Shed install any vents to the outside (either in the gable or changing room section of the shed)?

    That’s all for now. I’d also be open to connecting about Steve’s build either over the phone or on the bench.

    Nick

  16. it all depends on options. i was just fooling around with the site and priced a premier tall ranch for $3600. this is bare-bones with unpainted vertical wood siding, 3-tab shingles, single six-panel residential door, etc.

    that $2800 price is from december 2018, still a big jump though.

  17. Yeah… I’d be nice to get what the exact order was for above, so I can I provide that to Tuff Shed to get confirmation on price increase. It’d probably be a good idea to update this post, if indeed, the price as jumped up that much since December 2018.

    Glenn – Any way you could have Steve provide exact specs for his order from Tuff Shed. He could email me at nicholaspetercampbell(at)gmail.com.

  18. Hi Nick:

    Better thinking: please call the Shakopee MN Tuff Shed, and explain who you are and where you saw all this (saunatimes) and ask for the “Auerbach Pro Ranch” it is/used to be on file, and many have used this spec for their own shell, including Steve. If they don’t have this one on file anymore, ask them to pull Steve’s project from their build record.

    And if all this pricing is North of reality, there’s always someone willing to do a shed build at a (more) reasonable price. If you are by chance in Minneapolis/St. Paul area, please email me, saunatimes@gmail.com, as I’ve got a reputable builder in mind who could do a shed, or complete build or anything in between.

    Good sauna to all.

  19. Hey Nick!

    Just sent you an email about my experience with Tuff Shed and ultimately going with Dakota Storage Buildings. Hope it helps!

    Tom

  20. Does anyone have experience with Superior Sauna & Steam Company?
    How good are their sauna kits and the support service?

    What about Finnleo?

    I incline toward the first one as I prefer to deal directly with a manufacturer. Also, their website provides a lot of details about their products and the related options, vs. Finnleo that deals with customers through its dealers only. Not much of concreate information can be found on their website.

    Any comments? Thank you.

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