Authentic Sauna Blog

How much does a sauna cost?

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

Guest post from Stacy at Almost Heaven Group.

Here at Almost Heaven we love saunas.  We’ve been in the sauna business for over 30 years, and we’ve helped a wide range of customers from numerous commercial ventures in hotels and health clubs, to contractors who purchase our kits for installation in their customers’ homes, to homeowners who don’t even own their own set of tools.  Because all situations are unique, so are our saunas.

Even though we have a wide variety of basic designs, we run a completely custom shop and strive to make each sauna distinctive to meet each customer’s specific needs.  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 Precut Sauna Kit and a Prebuilt Sauna.

A Precut 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 precut 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 Precut 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 Prebuilt 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 Prebuilt 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 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 Prebuilt 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 Precut 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 Precut Sauna Kit, however, you may find that the cost is as much or even more than the cost of a Prebuilt 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 Precut versus Prebuilt 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.

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.

Regardless of the type of sauna you ultimately choose, expect to bring 240 V over for the heater (only the faux “infrared saunas” can operate on 120 V), and you’ll also need to splice into a nearby household circuit for 120 V for the sauna light.

We welcome questions from fellow sauna enthusiasts, and after over three decades in the sauna business there isn’t that much we haven’t seen.  If you’re not exactly sure what you want or need, we’ll be happy to give you unbiased advice regarding the pros and cons of the various alternatives to help you make an educated decision with the end result being the sauna that is perfect for your needs.

To highlight our commitment to sauna bathing, readers of this blog are welcome to contact us for help planning the layout of their sauna.  If you send us the width and length of the space you have or are considering building, as well as any constraints regarding the location of the door, we’ll be happy to provide you with a drawing of what we consider the optimum layout design, free of charge and with no obligation.

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6 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: http://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. 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

  4. 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.

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