Sauna Benches

A Few Tips For Building Your Own Sauna Benches

Six is the magic number for the number of clear 2×4 boards for building your sauna. As we see in the photo below, a stout 24″: wide bench calls for 5 deck boards on the long face, and two frame boards on the short face. Think picture frame.The back frame board can be knotty, as it is hidden along the sauna wall. And we save money by compromising and using semi knotty benches for our cooler, lower benches, where we sit less often.

IMG: 2×4 cedar makes for ideal sauna benches

When I build sauna benches, I use the best board for the front face of the sauna bench. This is the “money board” which is seen and felt (behind the knees) by you, and everybody else that will come to your sauna every round, every moment.

Are Your Sauna Benches Notty or Nice?

When planning and designing our own saunas, consider that building quality sauna benches with premium wood stock is an area for attention and investment.

Clear vs. Knotty Wood Sauna Benches

Knots are imperfections from branches that cause living wood grain to grow around them. This interwoven grain is a tight grain. Tight grain is dense. Dense wood holds much more heat than straight grain. In a hot sauna, around 100°c. (212°f), clear sauna bench stock can be quite warm to the touch, but not intolerable. However, settle your bare ass down on a bench with a knot, and “youch!,” you’ll never do that again!

Not all Wood Species for Sauna Benches are Created Equal

Soft grain wood is the key for building sauna benches. In North America, Western Red Cedar is the “go too” premium choice for making sauna benches. The wood is soft, relatively cool compared to other wood, and looks beautiful. Show me a premium sauna in North America, and chances are this sauna will be radiating coolness with clear wood sauna benches.

There are a couple of other wood species for sauna benches coming into the fold. Namely Basswood and Aspen. Like cedar, these species are soft grain. Yet unlike cedar, these species grow fast and don’t hold up well to moisture. That said, those that practice the “bake and breathe method” for zen and the art of their sauna maintenance should have no longevity problem using these species for building their sauna benches.

Counterpoint: “this Article is BS! Just Sit on a Towel. No Big Deal.”

Well, ok. You can do that. But some people think sweaty towels are janky. And trying to keep track of good towels vs. sweaty towels takes away from one of the freedoms of sauna, especially if a sauna guest goes to dry their eyes on someone else’s sweaty towel. And there are the sauna paddles, most often used in savusaunas where if you don’t sit on one of these, “your ass is black after this moment.”

And if we’re getting technical about sweat, good saunas, with good ventilation, take care of sweat in a safe, closed loop, hygienic way. (sweat evaporates, goes away, dries up).

Is it Time to Treat Yourself to a Clear Sauna Bench Upgrade?

The best saunas are those that get used. The best sauna benches are those that get sat on. For those of you who have built their benches using knotty stock, or 1x material or other compromises, so what? You built a sauna! And you built benches! Good on you.

Clear cedar 2×4’s do not fit well under the Christmas tree, but this could be a motivational gift that will be remembered for a sauna lover for the rest of their lives.

This article brought to you by the Clear Wood Council, where we are learning from the Seedless Watermelon Society, looking to make the world a knot free and happier place.

My Sauna Bench Design

There are a few different ways to build sauna benches, and here’s a play by play on my favorite.

Keep in Mind:

  1. Hide the knots
  2. Hide your screws
  3. Make your benches about 1/4″ less in length than your actual wall to wall dimensions, so you can get them in place.

Supplies:

  • 2×4 cedar
  • 2 3/4″” wood screws

Tools:

  • Table saw
  • Miter saw
  • Drill

Directions

Build your frames using 2x4s. I like 24″ wide benches: two 2×4’s + five 2×4″s + spacing = 24”

build frame out of 2x4s

Rip a 2×4, giving you a few 2″” x 21″” pieces to support your interior decking.

Screw in the cross supports from underneath, 1 1/2″” below the frame.

Cut and screw in a 2×3″ inside the two framed ends. Test the height against your inside decking so it lays flush to the outer frame.

Cut your 2×4 decking to length. You don’t have to wear shoes unless an OSHA inspector shows up.

Set and space your decking, screwing from underneath. Consider a bead of wood glue and 2 3/4″” screws. Don’t get glue on your feet.

Lay out all your decking so you can choose the better sides

In your hot room, screw in 2×4 headers along the back wall and 2 sides 28 1/2″ from the floor (note the location of your studs, screw through your t&g cedar and into the studs behind. Use 3 1/2″ screws). Set your upper bench on top of your header and secure underneath with a couple screws.

For your lower benches, make a couple sets of legs 12 1/2″ tall. Set your lower bench on your frame with a couple screws. Prevent wicking by screwing down spacers under your bench legs. Your lower benches will sit at 16″ (12 1/2″ + 3 1/2″) and your upper benches at 32″.

A Cool Corbel (Triangle Support) Design to Support Your Sauna Bench

7/10/2017

Guest post series continues. Enter Russ, with a triangle support system to hold up our sauna benches.

Directions

  1. Construct your bench, using 2” x 4” cross braces aligned with wall studs. You will need to offset these by ½” from the bottom edge of the bench’s perimeter.
  2. Make a 16” x 16” sandwich of ¾” cut-offs from a plywood sheet which provides the core of your sauna door. Glue and screw three thicknesses together, for an overall width of 2.25”.
  3. Bisect the square on the diagonal, and cut corbels, leaving 2” tails. Use the Selkirk decorator rim as your guide.
  4. Shape the corbels, rounding edges and recessing screws, as this will be in the hot room.
  5. Predrill, and drill two ½ inch holes in the vertical leg of each corbel. The holes should be at least 1.5” deep. Distance between holes should be at least 4”.
  6. Cut 1.5” sleeves from .5” outer diameter aluminum tubing, and at least 3/8” inner diameter. Drive into holes in corbels. These function as sockets, and guard against wear and tear on corbels.
  7. Insert bolt end of 3/8” hanger bolt into sleeve. Place into position on the back ledger, and mark holes with screw end on cedar over stud.
  8. Pre-drill and drill 3/16” holes through cedar and into stud, two for each corbel.
  9. Attach nut to bolt end of hanger bolt; use wrench to embed screw end through cedar and into stud.
  10. Repeat for each stud. Position each corbel on its two studs.
  11. Secure to wall and stud with one 6” screw on lower leg, and another with 6” screw into back ledger. These merely keep the corbels in position; the load they carry is on the studs.

The result is strong support for the upper bench, with minimal sacrificing of brace support between benches. In other words, a novice will still be able to recline on the lower bench, while a veteran reclines on the upper bench.

triangle support for sauna bench

Most of the Time L Benches Look Better on Paper Than in Real Life

I’m not sure what it is, but architects and casual sauna hot room designers are quick to lay out their hot rooms to include L benches. And 90% of the time, at the point of construction, we realize that things are getting too tight.

Generally speaking: I’m not a fan of L benches in the sauna. Why? Three reasons:

  1. Corners benches are dead space. You can’t fit your butt in the corner. They do work for when you are laying down, however.
  2. Knees knock. Two people sitting in the corners, adjacent, need to put their feet somewhere, and they end up knocking knees.
  3. Standing around space is valuable. L benches take away from standing space. A more generous standing space gives a sauna hot room good flow. Anybody sitting on the benches can come and go without the “excuse me” or “Let me know when you’re ready to go” chatter. Also, it is beneficial to have space to stand and stretch in the hot room, or dump water over your head.

A Better Sauna Bench

I’ve built over a dozen sauna benches- no, many more than that. I’ve sat on a bunch more. Do you drive yourself crazy sitting on a sauna bench trying to figure out how it was built? Well, this is a better sauna bench. All 2×4 clear material. All hidden screws (no branding on the butt). No exposed end grain. Super sturdy. Every board is reinforced from the sides, below, and by bracing underneath. Simple construction.

If There is a Better Sauna Bench, I’d Sure Like to Know About It

If you already have a sauna and your sauna bench isn’t like this, I’m sure it works just fine, and I’m not trying to get under your skin (there are sensitive sauna Joe’s out there). It’s fun grazing through the 2x4x8 woodpile at the lumber yard finding boards clear on one side (no knots to brand your butt). You need 7 boards at 8′ to make one of these 2′ wide benches. I love this bench. Seeing this sauna bench makes me want to go sauna. That’s it- I’m going.

What is the Best Width for Making Sauna Benches?

I’ve sat on and built sauna benches from 2″ wide to 6″ wide. By FAR the best width for sauna benches is 2×4. Why? 2×4’s, with approximately 3/4″ gap between boards provides the perfect bench to air ratio. Benches made with too wide boards don’t breathe as well. Benches made with too narrow boards tend to be less comfy. It’s just the way it is. This may be a subjective observation, but this fact has been confirmed by many sauna nuts.

When I built the 612 Sauna Society benches in 2016, I commanded a team of enthusiastic volunteers (Rodsky, JP) to area Depot Menards to pick through piles and piles of 2×4 cedar bins in order to find runs of clear 2×4 cedar. Ask anyone who has sat on the sauna benches in the 612 Sauna. They may not know that these benches are made from clear 2×4 cedar, but their buttox surely knows. 1x stock gets hot. 2x not as hot. Why? 2×4 cedar is less dense. Sitting on a sauna bench made from 1x stock is that much closer to sitting on a tin can. Those that have sat on hundreds of different sauna benches (like I have) can tell the difference. And the difference is worth your consideration. Remember, we build our sauna benches one time, and we get to sit on them the rest of our lives.

Yes, clear cedar comes with a price. As of this writing, clear cedar wholesales for around $4.00/lineal foot. Ouch! that’s almost as painful as sitting your bare ass down on a big dark hot knot on a sauna bench.

How Wide Should Sauna Benches Be?

24″ is the magic width for sauna benches. Building 24″ wide benches allow us to lay down comfortably, and we have ergonomically happy depth for sitting. 24″ is especially valuable for our upper benches. We like 24″ for lower benches too, yet we tuck under the lower bench 4″ (to avoid ankle twisting when stepping up and down). The exposed bench width of our lower bench is 20.”

Many do better building stadium benches for their new sauna builds. Then we can field verify this preliminary layout over the course of a few of our first sauna sessions. When designing for our sauna bench layout, like with cowbell, we can always add more later.

Does Wood Thickness Matter for Sauna Benches?

Absolutely! If you are purchasing pre made sauna benches from the open market, take note as to the “stock” or thickness of sauna benches. Most companies making sauna benches use “1x” material (eg. 3/4.″ thick). Not cool! Defenders of using 1x stock for making sauna benches can tell you that it doesn’t matter, but I am here to tell you that if your buttox region could talk it would tell you that it does matter.

Is it Time for New Sauna Benches?

When you set your butt down, do your sauna benches move and creak like an antique dining room chair? Maybe it’s time for new sauna benches.

I’ve sat on my share of sauna benches, and I can’t get over how this design kicks (cough) butt. And once installed, the upper bench triangle brackets keep things simple and sleek, underneath. This allows for the non-patentable “tuck under” lower bench so nobody can get their leg jammed as they climb down from the upper bench after a long hot sauna round.

Like with Google maps, we triangulate support underneath the upper bench. Same theory as Google maps, but different. Instead of showing us where we are on our phone, here we install triangulated supports underneath the upper bench to transfer the load down and to the back wall.

Sauna Benches of 1,000 Saunas

After a flurry of sauna bench construction for others, there I sat in my backyard outdoor sauna thinking “why don’t I change out my sauna benches?” Like the cobbler’s kids having holes in their shoes, I was thinking “man, these are lame.” In fairness, they worked great for 10 years. They showed a bit of novice design and construction, but it was time.

So I built new benches and a week later, there we sat, my friend Kirt and I, admiring the upgrade advantages:

  • 2×4’s. More stout bench density.
  • Wider. A 24″ wide sauna bench, at least the upper bench, is an ideal width.
  • No legs. The stout construction of my improved bench system means no supports needed down to the floor. This sleek design makes it easier to clean the sauna and allows the lower bench to slide in and out, tucking under for more standing room or pulling out for more sitting space.

Before exiting the hot room, Kirt, of Finnish descent and demeanor, summed it up: “you got a thousand saunas out of those old benches.” Left alone, I began adding it up:

  • 3 saunas per week
  • 12 saunas per month
  • 10 months per year (2 months at the cabin)
  • 10 years
  • 1,200 saunas minus a bunch for traveling, etc.

“Kirt, it took me all this math to come up with pretty much 1,000 saunas. How did you do that so quickly?

“Well, I was here for most of them.”

No doubt.

105 thoughts on “Sauna Benches”

  1. Love the look of your benches, can you give us a bit more detail on how you built them without any screws or nails showing. Love your site.

  2. Very observant. The photos on this post show me building sauna benches with 1×4 stock, which is an earlier iteration of my sauna bench building. But I recommend building sauna benches by using 2x4s. They are more sturdy than 1x4s and feel really good on the buttox region. You may have to pick through a pile at Home Depot to find clear boards, but it’s worth it.

    My ebook will walk you through the sauna bench building process (using 2x4s).

  3. Maybe this is blasphemous, but I am really interested in getting a sauna with benches that can fold up and out of the way to allow for stretching and light exercises (at least two of these types of saunas are advertised as “hot yoga” saunas). Any thoughts on these (and if they could accommodate an upper and lower bench design)?
    Your site is great, by the way!

  4. Thanks Maria. Not blasphemous but thank you spell check!. Two thoughts come to mind for you. 1) at Russian banyas, some bench sections are hinged so that the person doing the vihta/vennick treatment can stand in front of the person receiving the treatment lying on the bench above. check: https://www.saunatimes.com/sauna-talk/sauna-talk-bill-trotter-general-manager-chicago-sweatlodge-describes-for-us-the-behind-the-scenes-sweatlodge-experience-between-sauna-rounds/

    2) When i build saunas, i advise that the low bench be built such that it can be on a track, able to slide under the upper bench. This is a great system for cleaning, etc. You can modify this technique for your hot yoga adaptation. https://www.saunatimes.com/building-a-sauna/get-off-your-butt-and-lets-make-some-new-sauna-benches/

    And I know you are careful, Maria, to be suspect of saunas advertised as “hot yoga” saunas. Especially from those websites that are optimized to only move widgets, as well as those websites that falsely call infrared light bulb closets a “sauna.”

    Thanks for finding and enjoying saunatimes.com. Just like with striving for world peace, sharing free relevant information is my reward.

  5. Nice bench!! How do you attach the four 2x4s to make the frame? I understand exposed fasteners is a “no-no”. I was thinking about recessing screwheads and making dowels to cap them, but I am concerned the dowels will not hold up under the heat conditions of a sauna. Thank you in advance for your response.

  6. 2 3/4″ screws from underneath. I love this bench design. It has been refined over many builds, and i’m at the point where I don’t build sauna benches any different. If there is a better sauna bench design, i’d like to know about it.

  7. Glenn,
    Thank you so much for your reply and your valuable insights! You’re correct that I’m wary of “yoga saunas” – which are mostly marketing. But I am inspired to incorporate a couple of features, like the hinged benches I saw in one, though I am struggling with how to attach a hinge so as to avoid any chance of skin-metal contact, and how to adequately support a hinged bench when it is folded down for sitting. I can envision the lower bench which slides on a track back (and perhaps even lifts off the track entirely and can be stored against the back wall, if the track leaves a gap along the back wall). I suppose this is why I did not become an engineer…!

  8. Glenn:

    You said “if there is a better sauna bench design [you would] like to know about it.”

    Go to bouldersauna.com and click on “benches”. It is the same 2×4 build as yours, but it is frameless. It looks like they built it on short pieces of car decking (T&G).

    Anyway, I think it looks nice, too. But, I don’t know if it is “better”; though.

    You also said you make the 2×4 frame by screwing the boards from underneath. I am not sure I understand. Just looking at the two short end pieces on the frame, I can see how you could place one screw at an angle underneath and drill it through the end piece into the long piece of the frame, but I don’t see how you can get two screws in there. Do you drill the second one in from the side of the end piece (i.e., the side that faces the wall???

    Thanks, and keep up the good work!!!

  9. Hello,
    I want built my sauna, i want set some panel horizontal and leave a small space in between each panel.
    is it bad if i use some abachi wood for benches for the wood panel?
    i have an image showing a wall made of horizontal panel, but i wander what is behind , a black film ? there is a 2 cm space in between each horizontal panel.
    i live in spain and look for wood for panels online and its not easy, any keys?

  10. if you leave a small space between each panel, i’m wondering about moisture and all that business. We want to encourage air flow and no trapping.

    Abachi: I have not worked with this species. If it were me, i’d get a piece of it and bring it into an existing sauna and see how well or bad it absorbs the heat. That’s my suggestion.

  11. Hey had a weird puzzle question for you. I am reclaiming an old outdoor sauna and the benches were in 3 pieces that I’m not sure how to put back together. The guy I got the wood from said it was just a single upper and lower setup. I’m assuming two pieces go together and wanted your take.

    http://tinypic.com/r/fcr441/9

  12. Jon: Forgive, but I don’t know what tails or heads to make of that bench configuration on the wall. Maybe get a neighbor or friend over to help the scratching of head/diagnosis. Sorry I couldn’t help. You’ll get there.

  13. pic is the bench pieces on the ground, looks like they are laid on top of other cedar pieces, maybe for a wall? i would assume the piece in the top of the pic goes wit the middle piece, that would give two benches of equal width, an upper and lower bench. maybe those two pieces are used for the bottom bench, with the three-latt piece ‘beneath’ the upper bench and can be removed for easy cleaning in the space behind the lower bench? that three-latt piece may also be a backrest, with the nine-latt piece as a top bench and the six-latt piece as a lower bench but functioning more like a foot rest.

  14. Regarding sauna bench reassemble question and photo, here’s my opinion:
    Wider one is upper bench, narrower one is bottom bench, skinny one is back rest to mount on wall. I’m assuming the photo shows them laying on a wall section, and they are not attached or anything.

  15. The knots are like hardwood. They get hot in the heat and can burn. That’s why you want to use clear wood for the bench tops.

  16. Brennan: I think you may be describing an “L” bench configuration? If so, yes, I recommend for the longer wall that you run upper bench with support system including the triangle brackets. Then lower bench that can slide and tuck under the upper bench. For the short “L” upper bench, build and box in this bench using header and similar triangle support gig. It’s illustrated in my ebook, Sauna Build Start to Finnish. I did this for the 612 sauna. you can search “612 sauna” on this website and the interweb. There are photos and videos out there for you to see what i’m rambling about as hope this helps.

  17. Any suggestions on how to build and support benches that run along 2 walls and meet in a corner? I have a drawing for you to look at for my proposed bench layout if it would be helpful.

  18. Glen, I am going with an ‘L’ bench configuration. Your description makes sense, I have your ebook, and it is GOLD, thank you so much! Also, I love listening to your podcasts while working on the sauna, do you have any new ones in the works?

  19. Hi Glen,
    I’m well on my way building my sauna and changing room. I’m building it in one corner of my 32′ x 40′ steel shed. And I’m using white cedar from our own woods that was rough sawn and milled into 4,5 and 6″ t&g.

    Question: Do you have a reference on how to build L benches? My hot room is 6′ 5″ x 8′ 5″. We’re heating with a Nippa wood burning sauna stove. I plan on building 24″ benches per your design ( I have your electronic sauna book).
    Thanks for any guidance here.
    Mark Paape

  20. yes, Ricardo…. All the stock to make sauna benches is 2×4. The only thing we need to do is rip a couple 2x4s at 2″ to use as underbracing so all is “flush up.” You got it!

  21. Is the type of screws or nails used in a sauna important? Zinc plated acceptable? Or is it only stainless or galvanized?

  22. Screws: I”ve had no problem with standard deck screws. They are plated and rated for outdoor use (high wet/moisture). And these are all hidden as you know.
    Nails: I use standard finish nails in my nail guns. As they recess a fraction of an inch, i’ve never had issues with rusting or bleeding rust marks down the wall.

  23. Thanks Glen. I have really enjoyed your writing style. I have literally laughed out loud at your dry humor. I’m within 8 hours of completion of my 1st sauna and wanted to thank you for your ebook. It was really good and helpful.

  24. I think that’s because we think of sauna as a tradition, and want to do things same way as it was done before 🙂
    But your arguments are valid and I would rethink my future bench layout once again.

  25. Alexey: beautifully poetic (and true)!

    Such a lovely aphorism and inspirational for an article with this statement as foundation. Very zen and the art of sauna building.

    Every sauna has its own soul. Ty for this provocative thought!

  26. Hey Glenn,
    You have any experience with the supi sauna wax? Not sure if we can even get it in the US, unless you smuggled some back from your Finland trip. My sauna has a 2X6 cedar floor that doesn’t neeeed the wax, but it could be cool.

  27. Hi. Yes, I have had experience with supi sauna wax.

    My knee jerk reaction when considering any product on or in the hot room is first to say no. Come to think of it, and this is totally just my matter of preference, I use no products in my sauna. Only exception is a bar of soap, which lasts a super long time as I use it very sparingly and most often as just lather for shaving on the sauna bench.

    Anyhow, that’s just me, so i’m not the best to get an opinion regarding sauna wax. Could be great stuff. Maybe others have thoughts on it.

  28. If the space is very small, L-shape benches seem to me the most space-efficient way to get the most seating — or even enough seating simply to let one person at least lie down.

    I have a 2x3m cabin split diagonally between sauna on the inside and office/anteroom on the outside (our home is small and we couldn’t build bigger), which makes the sauna a scalene triangle. The oven and door are on the diagonal (the longest side), the opposite corner — the only right-angle — is perfect for the corner of L-shaped benches.

    But yes, benches are removable (instant 1-person hot yoga studio, just about).

    There are advantages to small — quicker and cheaper to heat!

  29. My wife and I purchased a copy of your book on how to build a sauna.  We are in the process of building a house with a sauna (electric).  My wife’s parents are from Finland, and my wife grew up in Florida in a house with a sauna (a necessity!), so we’re looking forward every much to finally being in a home with a sauna.  

    Your book has been very helpful as we plan things–thanks!  Are you able to answer some follow up questions we still have after reading the book?

    The constraints of the lot/build allow us to have an electric sauna that is within the house.
    The sauna (6′ x 6′) will have one wall to the exterior and three walls to the interior (shower, laundry room, and living room).  The wall to the exterior will have a window, and the wall to the shower will have a 2′ wide door.  The plan is to use bubble foil vapor barrier as you describe in your book.

    What type of insulation should we use for the wall to the exterior?  There are a number of materials that will meet the needed R value in order to pass code.  We’re trying to figure out which material would be most appropriate for this location, and perform well with the potential heat and moisture.  One site recommends fiberglass, another recommends mineral wool.  We figure it makes sense to stay away from cellulose (soggy if it gets wet).  Our builder had been planning to use spray-in foam, but we wonder if that allows any open channels for air to circulate and moisture to escape, if needed.

    What type of insulation (if any) should we use for the three interior walls?  The same as for the exterior wall, accounting for wall thickness?  Likely, it makes sense to insulate the wall toward the living room, and probably toward the laundry room.  However, someone brought up the possibility of not insulating between the shower and the sauna–moisture is more likely to work into the space in that wall, and the insulation might trap the water.  Leaving an open wall cavity might let the moist air dissipate more easily and quickly.  We live in Michigan, so the slight added warmth coming through the sauna wall to the shower might be appreciated on cold days (pretty much every day except the Fourth of July?).

    Also, as to the joist spaces, if the builder recommends spray-in foam (but is open to other ideas) should we use the same foam or a different insulation for the stretch of joist spaces below and above the sauna?  We’re concerned about the effect of heat on the foam (melting? volatilizing?).  

    Thanks for any help you can give on these questions!

    Dan

  30. Hi Dan:

    Insulating our sauna is a hot topic. Until recently, we had few options. Now, in addition to fiberglass batting, we have wool batting. And we also have closed cell blown in spray foam, and its first cousin: rigid foam.

    No matter which way that we choose to insulate between the joists, I like that you’re thinking foil bubble wrap applied to the inside face of your joists so that we safely seal off what’s inside our wall cavities, isolated from our hot, moist sauna hot room.

    You can insulate with pretty much any of the options you and I outline above. Each product has its advantages, and each product is also subject to criticism (moisture, off gassing, trapping, etc.).

    If this were my project: I’d probably look at hiring a professional to blow in insulation everywhere: ceiling, exterior, common walls, etc. If you’re worried about this product under extreme heat, then go with batting.

    Vague, yes. But if I had a dollar for every hour I’ve spent talking and analyzing the pros and cons of different insulation options for sauna, I could buy us a really good case of beer. (and it’s still not definitive).

    And this just in:

    https://foursevenfive.com/blog/is-foam-evil-a-new-paradigm-of-foam-less-is-more/

    475 has a nice energy envelop product, expensive, but well done and they have a lot of published research. They use foam, limited, but they use it.

    And the other truth is we don’t “really know” -https://www.sprayfoam.com/content/exposure-to-spf-chemicals/45 Just like COVID-19 – there is a ton of stuff we don’t know

  31. Hello! I’m trying to design a sauna that will double as a one-person hot yoga studio now that my 26/2 (Bikram) studio has closed forever. Any designs out there for fold-up / -away benches to (temporarily) increase floor space for a yoga workout?

  32. Hi Jen:

    For sure on fold up and away benches.

    This is how we build our saunas, using “cleats” glued and screwed to the walls and bench sitting atop. By building the benches about 1/2″ shorter than the length of the wall, the bench an be folded up against the wall.

    For the lower bench, we put cleats on the wall, supporting benches from the sides such that the Bikram enthusiast can slide the lower bench underneath the Upper bench for that kind of action.

    And for your application, I’m thinking a “third bench” or raised floor – such that yoga mats can be laid down and you’re off to the races.

    Pls. email me if you want to have me help you further. I can help deliver your plans to your builder, or handy brother in law to build it, or you can write a check and we can deliver to you a Finnished sauna built in MN directly to you.

  33. Glenn,
    I have started my ” sauna-plex “, a combo man cave, sauna, screened in porch/tree house. I bought the e book and regarding the sandwich plywood T & G sauna door I was wondering about hinges and their placement. Not all the pic downloaded for me evidently.

    Jim

  34. Hi Jim:

    Your project sounds great.

    Regarding sauna door hinges and placements, there may be some exact science to it, but what i’ve done is just measure up from the bottom and top of the door to what look to be reasonable distance, maybe 18″ and secure the two sets of hinges there. One bit of tinkering is that the hinges tend to bind, so we come back with a skill saw and set the blade shallow and score out where the hinge attaches to the end or the door, so the hinge sits flush with the door end, so the door closes flush.

  35. I built L benches, and love them. Primarily I sauna alone or with 1 other person. The L bench gives me two different places to lay down, and it allows two people to lay down on the top benches. Plus it makes sauna conversations easier as you can look at the other person. Compared to stadium benches, my L benches do not provide any extra butt space nor does the L increase the number of people it can hold. Interior dimensions of my hot room are 7’3″ x 6’11”

  36. Frankie: Re: hot ass from knots – right on to that.

    Cedar is the bomb as it’s a soft wood and holds up beautifully. It’s expensive as hell to get clear, but with a few Wim Hof breaths, and some patience, a guy can work their way through the stacks at Menards to find clear runs. Eg. if you need a 7′ bench, you may find a 7′ run out of a 10′ board and use the 3′ remnant for support and framework underneath.

    I’m a huge fan of the sauna bench design I developed and have built for 25 years and running now. If there’s a better bench design, I’m still open to hearing about it.

  37. What are people building their benches out of? Basswood, Menards Cedar, clear cedar, etc? Thats the last piece to the puzzle and then I can actually fire up my sauna!

    I don’t want a hot ass from knots, etc.

    Thanks.

  38. Glen:
    On several Finnish YouTube vids I noticed that builders were putting sealer on sauna walls and ceilings.
    Do you have any experience with this or know of what they are using.
    David

  39. The Finns are right about so many things, from health care, to happiness, to back checking in hockey, but I will wrestle any Finn to the ground regarding the issue of using any product of any kind on our sauna walls.

    Here in N. America, we are blessed with western red cedar, and this product holds up beautifully over decades of heavy sauna use without any treatments (my personal experience as well as that of many others in my camp).

    I’m emphatic about this. Putting sealer on our sauna walls is like putting motor oil on our wood fired pizza: doesn’t make any sense and it is yucky.

  40. Rob, i’ve not worked with Eucalyptus wood, nor have I heard of it being used for sauna benches. My hunch is what you’re saying – too hot.

    There are only a limited numbers of wood species suitable for benches. We want soft grain, soft woods, and no branding of the buttox region with knots. And since you got me going, i’m a huge fan of 2x stock, (vs. 1x stock). The difference is not noticeable by sight, as a 1×4 looks like a 2×4 from above. However, the difference is felt.

    Dense wood feels better. It’s just the way it is.

    For those with 1x bench decking material: no offense intended. You can change out your benches one day if you like.
    For those with 2x bench decking material: you know what i’m talking about.

  41. Sauna is approaching completion. Stove went in & got about 1/2 full of rocks and door went on last weekend. Benches will be built this weekend. “Homage to wood” will have taken 12 months from when my son and his grandfather turned the first shovel full of dirt.
    Question: Your book and pictures never show a lower bench support other than the side rails. My lower bench will be 7 1/2 ft long. Since I’ll step in the center to get in my anticipated place, it seems like either bracing or a support leg would be in order. Thoughts? Experience?

  42. Hi Wesley:

    You’re right! The lower benches sit on cleats – which are two sets of two 2x4s. The 3″ ledge for lower bench to slide on offer great support. I find that low benches up to 7’4″ in length do just fine with these left and right supports. And that’s it. But you can start things off with a center post, and put it on one of those furniture castors (to allow sliding and prevent wicking). Hope this helps!

  43. Unfortunately, I’ve built a technically bad sauna because I’m sweaty when I’m done with every round. I put in 3 4″x10″ vents in the recommended locations. There’s a 4″ inch gap in the hot room door. The bottom bench is at the same height of the top of the stove/rocks. The only thing I can think of at this point is to increase the gaps in between the clear cedar bench boards but I’m skeptical that doing that would bring my sauna to the “technically good” level.

    As I continue to read about sauna, I am coming to the conclusion that trying to emulate the existential authentic sauna experience is overcomplicated and filled with too much dogma.

    At the end of the day, the sauna gets really hot and when water is poured on the rocks, the loyly surrounds everyone and all is good. I even use a towel so all of my non-evaporting sweat soaks in it and then I wipe my happy face with it. When I’m done, I throw it on the bench to dry and repeat the process the next day.

  44. I guess I’m a rebel. I used clear WRC 2×2. I like 2×2 more than the industrial feel of 2×4. Sure, I need an extra brace under the bench to provide strength. No problem. Would have done than anyway.
    Living in the PNW, western red cedar (WRC) is the right choice. There are great discount retailers where you can vind 3-4-5-6-7 foot T&G lengths at 1/2 the price of “market”. Bench material was pretty much all market pricing, but, oh well. Sauna is sitting at 225deg, so I need to get off this blog and ready to go.

  45. Wes. Using 2×2’s for bench stock? I’m reaching for my yellow card. How dare you? (Totally kidding).

    I knew this post would draw some ire, and that’s ok, as we are doers, and, as mentioned, the best sauna benches are the ones that get used, and the even better ones are the ones that get used that we built.

    Your mention of lumber retailers in PNW (Pacific Northwest) reminds me also of your seafood retailers, and brewers retailers, oh, and coffee retailers.

    This writer has PNWRE (Pacific Northwest retailer envy).

    Here in Minneapolis, we seem to have to scour more extensively. We do have one old school lumber retailer in town who, from time to time, comes upon WRC (western red cedar) in odd and beautifully clear configurations. When discovered, it’s like landing a nice coho, or sipping a freshly brewed mosaic, or taking home a bag of favorite roasted blend.

    PS.. “Industrial feel.” Tremendous! Has me thinking about ripping clear 2×6’s for a more unique width bench stock. “Opti-bench™: 22% improved butt to air ratio, authorized by the Sauna Persnickety Society.”

  46. Glenn, your information is amazing. I really appreciate all your work and effort to share your knowledge. Wanting to know your opinion on the need to put a heated floor in a basement sauna. The floor is concrete and seems to become obviously quite cold. Would there be that much more benefit to having heat on the floor or would you recommend just leaving it as concrete. Thanks,

  47. Hi Jesse:

    Glad saunatimes is working for you. Makes me happy.

    Regarding a heated floor in a basement sauna, this is sure the “A job.”

    A “B job” could be to lay rigid poly-iso atop the concrete floor, then durarock. This would isolate the cold.

    The “C job” could work, duck board over the cement floor.

    Not recommending “C” but giving you a range of options.

  48. Hey- I need help! Just completed my basement sauna build with an electric heater (Finlandia, 3kw w/ built in controls) and it is not reaching temp. Takes 1 hr to reach 140 F. I rearranged the rocks, sealed around the door & no change.

    My sauna is 140 cubic feet. Everything I read said 1kw=50 cubic feet. This heater says max is 130. Is size the problem here? Do I need a bigger heater or could there be another problem?

    I built my sauna according to all reccomendations. R13 plus foil bubble wrap. Used cedar fence panels. 2.5 inch gap under door, proper venting on opppsite wall.

    What the….?

  49. A question about insulation and the floor (unrelated to benches…):

    It seems to me that the ‘build a sauna’ ebook from this site has a sauna with an uninsulated floor (am I reading it correctly?) If we are especially concerned about insulating, why would we not insulate the floor? If you can light a candle and heat your hot room after the foil bubble wrap stage, does that mean that the floor is insulated?

    I have blue rigid foam I got for free that I was planning on using to insulate the floor. The sauna is also going to double as a tiny guest house. The following list is my construction plan to insulate the floor. I’d love your feedback and advice!

    1-Lay down blue foam on the existing plywood floor (can’t take the plywood up, it’s a retrofit install) in the changing room and hot room.
    2- Put down the cheaters in the hot room for the drain in the hot room. Install drain.
    3-Put down cement board in the hot room on top of the cheaters and secure it THROUGH the blue foam into the studs from the floor.
    4-Put down plywood for the changing room, then linoleum for the final surface.
    5-Put up the interior wall between changing room and hot room.
    6-Continue on as per ebook!

    7-I could skip the insulation of the floor all together, what do you think?

    Thank you!

  50. Hi Rebecca:

    For sure! Do this.

    There is a wide range of options and opinions relating to floors for outdoor saunas. We can break it down into floor for hot room and/or floor for the cool down room.

    Old school saunas often have been built and are built right on decking. While sitting on the sauna bench, between the deck slats, you are able to look down and see the granite outcropping, underbrush or a passing critter. Many would scoff at this design, but these saunas work perfectly fine. This system benefits from the heat rising principle, infinite venting, drainage, and simplicity. And it does deserve note that the deck gap hot room flooring system is generally for saunas used in the non winter season, but there are exceptions to this, such as winter trips to the cabin, but for discussion, this is generally the gig.

    Then we have the shed subfloor – sheetrock – sleeper – skim coat – drain system. This is a hugely practical solution in that
    1. Water is guided to a controlled escape (drain).
    2. The floor is waterproof (vinyl skim coat).
    3. Feet stay relatively dry (duck board or “3rd bench” atop).
    4. Critters and bugs are in their upright and locked position outside.

    Insulating the floor is the question, and we can do this with a new build by ripping rigid insulation the width of our floor joists and setting these strips flush up underneath with sleepers to insulate our floor underneath our subfloor.

    In your case, you’re spot on. We all know that heat rises. If our goal is to envelop our hot room, our floor is a cold point. We control cold air coming in with air vent intake, yet there is merit to being able to heat our hot room throughout, dense like an oven (see lämpömassa).

    I prefer an insulated changing area as “our feet get cold first.” Being able to ride out our cool downs with warm feet and cooling body (mass) is about as nirvana as it gets. Further, the optimal sauna, my empirical opinion (hotty toddy for “experience”), is one in which the changing room floor is heated by radiant, yet the room is brisk and cool everywhere else.

    So, you got me in a rambling mood with a long answer to a basic build question.

    Yes, isolate your subfloor with rigid!

    And if you really want to get crazy, check in with a flooring store that sells coil or matt radiant floor systems, and really go to town. If you love the idea, yet face headwinds via significant other, cost, or “that looks hard to do”, consider that you have this opportunity only one time (now) and you’ll be able to enjoy the benefits between rounds forever (and hopefully this will be a long time!).

  51. Have to second the 2 x 2 recommendation from Wes above. Here in Southern California dimensional WRC lumber is hard to locate. I used redwood for the benches (WRC T&G for the walls) and the 2 x 2’s with 3/8″ gaps provide great airflow. Home Depot sells 8 foot long smooth-finished redwood 2 x 2’s that I think are primarily intended for staircase and deck railings. Works great, looks great, and the cost is reasonable. Odor is not as nice as WRC but otherwise no complaints.

  52. Hi Kelly – I’ve got a pretty good background with electric heaters, and while it may be a little undersized for the room, 140 F after an hour is ridiculous. Is the heater temp limit tripping? During that hour are the heater elements on continuously or are they shutting off after a while? If it’s the latter the heater’s temp sensor may be fouled up or not getting adequate airflow and shutting off the elements prematurely. That’s the first thing I’d check. Next I’d make sure all 3 heating elements are turning on (glowing when energized), maybe one was damaged or burned out.

    Not to be a smart alec but are you sure it’s wired up properly? If it was inadvertently wired with 120 V rather than 240 V it will likely still turn on but only put out 1/4 the heat. If that was the case you probably wouldn’t even get to 140 F but I thought I’d throw it out there.

    Like I said it may be a little undersized but since you are indoors it should still go much hotter than 140. Assuming nothing is wrong with it, how’s your ceiling insulation? Are you closing the exhaust vent during warm up? If all that is fine and you are still only getting 140 I would have to think it’s something with the heater.

  53. Hi Jeff-
    Thanks for your informative reply. Although I am lacking in experience, 140 F seems like a ridiculous under-performance to me as well. Ceiling is R13 plus foil bubble wrap. I do close the vent while heating up. Yep to 240 V (thanks for being thorough). I haven’t run the heater without rocks, so I don’t have a visual on the elements. I will try that.

    I did notice that the heater turned off prior to the 1 hour preset (around 45 mins after running). The manufacturer had me put a thermostat directly above the heater (6 in from ceiling) and get a reading. The results were: 165 F at 30 mins and 190 F at 1 hr– directly above heater. That seems low to me. The sitting area only reached 140F.

    I am going to follow up with trying to get a replacement heater– just trying to make sure there is nothing faulty on my end. Thanks so much for your advice. Any other tidbits welcome!!

    Kelly

  54. Kelly – Just take out enough rock so you can see the tops of the elements, don’t take them all out. Also, only run it long enough so you can see that all three elements are glowing. The elements are not designed to run without rocks so you don’t want to run it for a prolonged period like this.

    If the heater is turning off before the room gets to temp then the heater must think the room is hotter than it really is. This could be a sensor issue (bad location, incorrect calibration, poor airflow, etc.) or it could be something about the room geometry causing a large temp gradient. Your 50 deg temp difference between above the heater and the bench is very large, my sauna is only around a 15-20 deg difference to the upper bench. Is that measured on an upper bench or a lower bench?

    I know you said your sauna was 140 ft3 but what are the interior dimensions? Is your ceiling higher than 7 feet? Also, do you have anything like a very large window or large stone surface that may not allow heat to escape? Last off, where is your exhaust vent located and how large is it? Moving the exhaust vent lower (like under the upper bench) will cause the air to circle the room more and have less of a floor to ceiling gradient.

    Let us know how it goes and good luck.

  55. Hey Jeff-
    I took a few layers of rocks off & inspected elements while running. No visible glow with sauna light on. With it completely dark, there was a glow, but it was faint in spots – could not clearly decipher shape of all elements.

    My sauna height is 5’9 (had low basement ceiling/duct work to avoid). The room length is 6’8, width is 40″. The entrance way is an additional 11.5 ft3 that slightly juts out from the rectangular room.

    I only have one bench (due to size of room)- it is 27″ from the ground.

    No windows. No stone surfaces. It has a cement floor (basement) which I have covered with foam board & am in the process of laying decking on top of. (Heater performance did not change much after installation of foam board).

    Exhaust vent is located on the wall opposite of heater (both placed on the shorter, 40″ walls), just below ceiling. The vent being closed or opened has not affected temp.

    Side note: in subsequent tests. The temp directly above heater only reached 150 F after 30 mins & 175 F after 1 hr.

    Puzzled…

  56. Hi Alex:

    Glad your are enjoying saunatimes. You have what we call a “first world wood availability problem”. Instead of cutting down these slabs, please email me your physical address. I’m wanting to drive down and sweet talk you into helping me load these slabs of Eastern White Cedar to back haul to Minnesota.

    Here in MN, our local white cedar takes 88 years to bring up to serving temperature. We are known to grovel in the Home Depot aisles looking for any length runs of knot free 2×4 Western Red to assist with our bench building, or take out a mortgage to purchase #1 clear.

    Anyhow, I’m rambling. Back to your question. Solid bench: not a fan. (and pardon the pun). We like air to circulate underneath and around our buttox region (reference: Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump). Experientially, a 3/4″ deck width gap between 2×4 is about the best ratio we’ve ever felt.

    I feel you on the cringe of cutting down those precious slabs.

  57. Hello Jeff,
    I’m wondering what you think of a solid bench.
    I have 1 1/2” x 12” slabs of eastern white cedar (aka arborvitae, or northern white cedar) that I am loath to cut down to 2×4”
    Thanks,
    Love your blog…
    Alex

  58. Basswood for sauna: Yes. You can do this. Be sure to practice the “bake and breathe method” to ensure that your sauna dries out.

    As you know, basswood is much less hearty when it comes to moisture and long life. Any moisture hanging around will shorten the life of basswood.

  59. Hi Glenn,

    What are your thought on building the entire sauna interior with basswood? We have a surplus of basswood boards unused from another project. They are rough cut at 1 1/8″ x 6″. We use a local mill to have them tongue and grooved or made into plane trim boards.

  60. Hi Brendan:

    1. Precut kits: They may work, but like with most things, you get what you pay for. Imagine being the pre-cut procurement officer for a sauna company. If you can source less expensive (cheaper) paneling, think you’d do it? Maybe get Purchase Agent of the Month plaque for saving $450.00 per month? Don’t mean to be crass about it, as the rising sauna tide lifts most boats, but one of the virtues of DIY is we get to pick our lumber and know exactly how we have built our walls, and what they look like as the löyly clears.

    2. Western red cedar: You sure you need clear? I actually prefer knotty. It’s less wimpy stock and more “nature”, and more readily available. I’d call around and keep searching. Cedar is becoming like Cuban cigars.. many think they have an angle on where to purchase, and there’s limited supply. But like a good Fuentes, we love the smell of cedar in the morning… it smells like…

    3. 2x2s for bench..I very much prefer 2×4 cedar. Clear for top bench. Please search “sauna bench” on saunatimes for more on this (air flow, density, etc.).

    Hope this helps.. sauna on!

  61. hi Glenn. Hello there. Great website!

    After looking at precut kits and such, and based on the odd size (about 4.5 feet deep x 6 feet wide x 7 ‘ tall), we want to get clear western red lumber and build a small inside sauna; is where an old wheelchair accessible shower stall. My cousin is a carpenter and will assist. Will be an all glass front we are getting from shower company here

    I cant find any clear western red cedar T&G, 2-bys or anything, locally. Do you have a suggestion for an online retailer? Its not a ton of lumber. About 142 SF of clear T&G. 4″ x 1/2″ (or 3/4″). Lets say 150 LF of 1-by for trim and skirt.. And 72 LF of 2-by for bench tops and support/wall rail; “rounded” for comfort. 18 LF of 2×2 for holding benches together.  Will also need a heater guard and I guess vents though since we are converting an old shower (its stripped down to the studs now) I am not sure yet how we will vent out (I mean where). Any advice is appreciated.

    Brendan
    Davidson NC

  62. Hey, does anyone know if treating the benches with Paraffin oil is worth it? I just build a new sauna/benches and want to start it out right!

  63. John:

    Please don’t do this! You’ll never be able to go back. There is a sauna wood oil from Sweden, I believe, and I think it may be called Scandian or similar. I’ve been on saunas that have this and it’s better. I prefer nothing, but a place to start is the lower bench first. See if it works for you, then apply to the upper bench. Low bench gets more foot traffic, obviously. and is less prone to ouch, which is what would happen with a standard oil product. Too much ouch. Hope this helps!

  64. thanks. yeah, the paraffin oil iI was looking at is from Stelon, in Finland (sold by superior saunas in Duluth), but was wondering if its unnecessary.

  65. Hi Mark:

    Pleased that this website and the ebook is helping you.

    Low bench: Yes, in most of my builds and others’ builds, 3″ “runners” or bracing on the ends is enough to support a lower bench. We find this to be enough up to 7’4″ (the span for an 8′ wide structure). Any longer bench seems to want a post, esp. for megga weight sauna guests. And a center post is not that big of a thing to install “after market.” If going with a bench post, install a furniture foot slider floor glide to suspend the post from the floor and help the lower bench slide in and out.

    Generally, we build the low bench with the same 24″ width as it gives the low bench the freedom to tuck under the upper bench for cleaning and for hot room jumping jacks (a practice that hopefully doesn’t gain traction, like goat yoga has).

    Hope this helps!

  66. I read through the bench section in the building guide. Am I reading correctly that there are no supports across the 2x4s other than the 3″ at the ends? Recommends triangular supports on the upper bench but nothing on the bottom? I was curious if that is sturdy enough for a couple people?

    Also, I was wondering if the bench is ever wobbly when rested on the supports? Doesn’t seem like they are actually attached to the supports. Do you find that you’re sliding them around to free up space? My hot room is 8’x6′ and I’m 44″ from the wall to the stove heat shield.

    Sorry for all the questions, but one last one. Is there a specific reason why the bottom bench doesn’t extend to the wall and has a gap? Is that for air flow to the upper bench?

    Thank you so much! Really appreciate this site and any feedback others have.

  67. Runner all the way to the heat shield may be pushing your luck, i’d end it bit from the heat shield. Your middle/lower bench can be fully extended during sauna action, when the building inspector and UL certification compliance officer are having lunch together.

    We build our saunas safe, and per instruction manuals, but we know that when we are using our saunas, we’ll be able to tell if materials are being heat compromised. (ie darkening from wood being too close). #practical thinking.

  68. Thanks so much Glenn! I really appreciate the response. I’m 44″ from the wall to the Kuuma heat. Think it’s ok to have the runner all the way to the heat shield? Or should I set back a few inches?

  69. Glenn, To minimize the cubic airspace we are heating, we are thinking of enclosing the space under the benches entirely – framed/vapor barrier/Insulated/Durock – siding where legs could touch… The seat tops would have removable wood slats – (like duckboard flooring), for easy cleaning and drying.
    Is there a reason to not do it this way?
    Thanks Glenn!

  70. For layout, I very much recommend a 24″ wide upper bench. Your lower L can just be a stool, a foot rest at maximum.. 8″ ish, but make it so that it can tuck under the upper bench at least 4″ for safety and ease for climbing up and down.

    Sounds beautiful! Sauna on, Dan.

  71. Hi Glenn,

    I converting my shed into a Sauna with a 6×8′ hot room as the book describes. I just finished the foil bubble wrap vapor barrier last night.

    I made one wall of the sauna a full picture window (tempered double pane), about 60″ by 60″. It is on the right as you enter the room. I live in the California Sierras so the view should be pretty great. I already planned on high and low 24″ by 8′ benches on the back wall. However, I would like to put in an L bench on the left wall so that I can sit and look out the window. I am using an electric stove which will be on the right as you enter the room.

    There is 32″ between the wall and the rough opening of the sauna door. Do you have any suggestions for the layout? For example, 20″ wide high bench and 12″ low bench?

  72. Hi Glenn,
    I purchased your plans and they have been very helpful. I’m building a sauna in my basement and dimensions will be 7’x7′. Ideally, I’d like to be able to have room for my wife to do some hot yoga if she wants to. I’ve used your recommendations for the 24in benches in the back and the lower one will be able to slide back against the wall. I’m very tempted to add the L shaped higher bench down the side to allow more seating at the higher level and it would be able to flip up against the wall when I want it out of the way. Do you think this would feel too crowded? It sounds like you feel this is usually a mistake.

    See sketchup plan here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/1LECZRqmzpPA3Bo78

    Cheers!
    Jesse

  73. Hi, love the site and all the tips and info!
    I was wondering if there is any wisdom around open vs closed bench design. I mean the boxed in benches sometimes seen in saunas vs the standard horizontal platform variety. I can imagine the boxed-in style reduces the volume of air to be heated? and possibly improves circulation of the air?

    This does not seem to be something discussed often, at least I could not see any articles/posts on the question.
    Any feedback appreciated!
    Many thanks
    Toby

  74. Toby,

    I’m very much on your wavelength!

    Mebbe we work on a stand alone article “out of the box thinking with boxed in benches vs. open benches”

    We can get nerdy about:
    1. air flow
    2. de-massing the cube
    3. optimal de-jankification.

    Re #1, I feel the flow of air underneath, and I gotta think it’s a good thing. My non patented bench design, in my 30 plus year experience, creates the best air flow from under and above, and provides the best wood/air ratio ergonomics for the Forrest Gump “buttox region.”
    Re #2, I know folks who have built cabin saunas and use the negative space under boxed in benches for wood storage via a closet door access panel from the outside.
    Re #3, Commercial saunas, like Chicago Sweatlodge and many others, box in their bench seating and tile underneath wood for sitting. In this case, they hose out the hot room, as the horizontal tile is pitched.

    Toby, if you want to email me a guest post outline, please do! We need two clear photos, one illustrating boxed benches, the other illustrating the conventional open air underneath benches.

  75. Hi Jesse:

    In my experience, the best gig is to build your benches without an “L”, start using your sauna, and as you listen quietly, your sauna will whisper in your ear and tell you what to do (or not do) in terms of maybe adding an “L” down the road.

  76. I added 2×4 “duck board” cedar benches atop my boxed-in seating because the solid surface seats would get wet and yucky and there was no ventilation to allow air to circulate air under the buttocks region. The cubic feet cut by interior bench buildout is largely irrelevant as it is down low and heat rises (law of loyly). If storage is at a premium and/or you want your sauna to double as a boat house, interior bench buildout may be a good option, but you will need to add “duck board” benches for proper airflow.

  77. Hi Danny,

    Straight pine, or SPF (Spruce, Pine, Fir) is what you want to use for framing walls. Treated is more expensive and has yucky in it, best reserved for outdoor use. The exception is bottom plate where the material is in contact, potentially, with cement and moisture. There, green treated is good idea.

    Regarding framing for benches, it’s best to follow my ebook. In there, you’ll see how we like to attach “cleats” or headers to the wall, and this material is ideally cedar, like the walls, whereupon benches can rest thereupon hereto, henceforth. It’s a good way to go, I declare, as benches are best built separate and brought into hot room as “independent events.”

  78. Hello Glenn,

    I read lots obout the wood to use for walls and benches. I am curious about the wood to use for framing the walls and also for building the frames for benches.

    Can this be Pinewood?
    Is it essential the Pine is untreated, even for that used behind the cedar and foil?

    thanks for your insights into this.

  79. Hi Glen,

    Thanks for the informative article! I’m planning my build now and have a question that I’m hoping you can help with. What bench depth do I need to lay down comfortably? I have really limited space (5×7 would be ideal, 6×7 may be possible) but want to make sure I can lie down after a long day.

    Thanks!

    J

  80. 24″

    It’s a magic number. (and I’ve sat in hundreds of different saunas with dozens of different bench depths).

    It’s like goldilocks and the porridge. Less than 24″ and your body kind of droops off the edge, and that’s not comfortable. More than 24″ and you start encroaching on the small space of a hot room.

    And bonus info., as well detailed in my ebook, building a lower bench as a slider, with cleats installed on the left and right wall, you can take advantage of using a small space that also allows for sitting on the upper bench with adequate space for your feet to rest. Additionally, for low bench Larry’s and for saunas with more people, you can pull out the low bench for additional sitting area.

    The low bench slider also allows you to conform to the setback requirements heater to combustibles (when the low bench is tucked into it’s upright and locked position mostly under the upper bench).

    Sauna on Jeremy!

  81. Just had my wood burning sauna shed delivered. There are live edge untreated benches in the change room/screened in porch area. Should I be treating this wood or leaving it au natural?Thanks for your thoughts!
    Dee in northern Ontario

  82. For doing no legs on the high bench… do you screw right through the underside of the bench and into the 2x4s in the wall with like 3.5″ screws or similar?

  83. Glenn,
    Any thoughts on closing in the area underneath the bench to reduce the amount of airspace in the sauna that you need to heat? It seems like there’s a lot of wasted space under there, and the smaller area would mean your room would heat up quicker, right?

  84. Hi Glenn,

    Decided to put my question on this post since I’m probably going to do an L bench (despite your advice!). I’m going to put my small sauna in the corner of the garage (hence the L bench). Long story short, there will not be enough room for a lower bench, so I’m wondering if you would recommend framing/insulating the space under the upper bench to reduce the heated cubic footage of the space?

    My target heater (Harvia 4.5kw) has a max 210 cubic foot capacity

    My math with my sauna design:
    210 cubic feet with normal construction
    144 cubic feet with additional framing under bench

    So framing out and insulating under the benches would bring my heated room size back down into the center of the heater’s capacity.

    Appreciate any thoughts you have.

  85. Glen

    I bought your e-book last year and I’m trying to build some sauna benches. It’s not clear in the text and there are no photos of where the underframing pieces go. I searched high and low on the internet also for a photo example. Do you have any photos of the underside of your benches that you could share? I’d also like to see how and where the triangular supports (corbel) are screwed in.

    From your e-book “With bench frames built, we next want to rip a 2×4 cedar at 2” to use as our underframing.”

    Matt

  86. Hi Randy:

    I used to make spacers to set the 5 2x4s within the 24″ frame, but what I do now is just eyeball it. I happen to really like the gap of 5 2×4’s. It’s the perfect balance of air and mass (for the buttox region). Yet the cool thing is that with sauna building and bench building, there is no absolute. So, here’s what you could do:

    Try using 5 – 2x4s laying flat (3 1/2″ face) AND 1 – 2×2. Try dry fitting that. You can start with your 1 – 2×2 on the back and space out from there. That additional board may tighten up your gaps to your liking. If you like this idea, it was my idea, if you don’t like this idea, i’m up for your thinking, and please let me know what you end up doing. I like it!

  87. You state your bench is 24″ wide. How big of a gap are you providing between 2x4s?
    According to my math is comes out to be .58″ which I feel is a bit of a wider gap than I’d like. I was hoping for more of a 3/8″ (.375″) maximum gap.

  88. Hi Glenn, I haven’t been able to find this information anywhere. Your commandment is for 24″ wide benches and you want us to use 5 2x4s for the decking. With the front/back rails, that’s a total of 20.5″ of wood before adding gaps. To get to 24″, I would need to add gaps a little over .5″ in between everything and that spacing seems a little wide to me (I’ve read elsewhere that the sweet spot for gaps is 3/8″.) Any tips?

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