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Minnesota backyard sauna DIY built and inspired by Scandinavian influences

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Guest post from Rich in North St. Paul, Minnesota.

Do you have an optimum configuration to maximize the upper bench size?  I was trying to sketch out an “L”, but the other thing I run into is clearances for the stove.  Am ordering a Kuuma wood stove (assume small will do it) and assume I’d add the heat shields to allow things to be closer to the walls, bench, etc.
Saunatimes:  Yes, Rich:  Two different bench configuration options here.
Will do the double cement board on the walls, but seems like having the 48″ front clearance that Kuuma recommends is pretty hard to do, given the small space.
Rich sauna tile behind stove
Love your website and your materials.  Very helpful so far.
Thanks,  Rich
White door trim came from great great grandparents’ house. (Grandmother was Greta Kaisa Taskila from near Alatornio). Other trim based on family farm in Finland.   Yes, have dimmers on chandelier and hot room.  Thanks for the tip on the trim, was thinking about doing something like that.  Oh, I live in St. Paul, north of Macalester College.  And the chandelier (my wife’s idea) is only about $30 at IKEA–FYI the IKEA LED bulbs are not dimmable, so need to get ones that are.

Rich sauna view of chandelier

rich sauna chandelier

Good progress this weekend. Finished with the vaulted ceiling changing area and chandelier (IKEA) and cedar is all in but trim in hot room. Also got the area around the stove tiled. At least the bulk of the heavy lifting is done. Now I can chip away at it  more easily. We are going use some free Orpheum Theater seats in the changing room. They were free and Bob Dylan owned them once.

rich sauna orpheum seatsJust need to get the flooring in the changing area so I can haul those in.   Worked on trim and benches this weekend.

When I grew up, my grandparents had a sauna in the basement.  Nothing fancy, but my Norwegian-Danish grandfather had built it for my Finnish grandmother.  I got inspired to build this after a trip to the North Shore where we used an outdoor wood-burning sauna.  Using the excellent plans from, I began construction this fall.  The exterior trim is based on common features in Norwegian buildings, were I was an exchange student.  Interior trim is based on trim from the family’s farm in Finland and the interior door trim is from my Finnish great-great grandparents’ house.  More to come.
Rich sauna door handle
Rich's Grandmothers sauna trimRich sauna changing room




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5 thoughts on “Minnesota backyard sauna DIY built and inspired by Scandinavian influences”

  1. Rich,
    Greta Kaisa Taskila is also my great-great grandmother and I have been trying to do the research on her. She was married to Torsten Estensen in Lake Norden South Dakota but lived in Minn. prior to that.
    Please contact me if you see this!!
    Noelle 360-253-7196

    PS. Beautiful Sauna!

  2. I’m planning the very same layout for my kuuma, small stove. In the corner, with water tank, just as I’ve seen this one is in other pictures. I wonder about clearances. Double wall, heat shield, etc. I’d like to comply with all safety codes. With air gap cement wall plus tiles, plus heat shields, how much space do i need from the walls and benches? Also, what do people do about the 48 inches in front? There seems to be no reasonable way to do that. 8′ x 6′ sauna here. Thanks for any details you can provide about clearances on the small kuuma with water tank.

  3. Hi Nicole:

    Official Kuuma clearances are detailed on their website, as per UL certification. You will see a little nudging of stoves closer to walls in some of the photos to which you are referring, including both of my saunas, each of which are more than 25 years old and being used extensively (owner practical discretion). Hope this helps!

  4. Thank you Glenn! Noted. 🙂 We’ll do the best we can with the space we have. And we’ll practice mega practical discretion. We have a 3ft x 3ft corner of space for the stove and then a further 2 feet in the area in front of the stove. We may design benches so they can fold up when not needed, to give extra clearance. The nature of the sauna is that we’ll always be close by (and awake) when the stove is fired so that alleviates some concern I suppose. Thanks for sharing all your knowledge and experience.

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