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Calling All 3D Sauna Building Enthusiasts: Blueprints are Back on Google SketchUp!

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A big thank you to sauna builder Terry from the Sequoia National Forest area in California. Terry is just now in the midst of his own sauna build project. He reached out to saunatimes with some build questions and submitted to our Advisory Team a couple detailed SketchUp drawings which impressed our staff!

“I am pretty new to SketchUp, but really enjoyed making up some drawings of our sauna build plans.” Terry explains. “Glenn circled back with me and asked if I could adapt his pencil drawings of two configurations for his 8×12 sauna plans.”

Glenn’s hand drawn sauna plans from 2014, detailing two different hot room layouts

And Terry did it!

Terry advises: “You can create a free account for Sketch Up to fully view all the details and move around the 3D space, plus you can show/hide sections and get exact measurements as well. I’ve attached a few export images.  The actual .skp file is 23MB.”

We included Terry’s zip file within the folder of the saunatimes ebook “Sauna Build From Start to Finnish.”

Terry’s adaptation of Glenn’s two 8×12 backyard health and wellness retreat designs, with reverse gable, and out swing changing room man doors that won’t hit you in the ass.

What’s so funny about peace, love, and understanding divine proportion?

“8×12 is a magical dimension,” Glenn says. “We are using dimensional lumber. Being under 100 square feet, in most municipalities, the structure does not require a building permit.” Glenn goes on to add: “8/12 is a golden ratio. Divine proportion isn’t just for woo woo tarot card readers. Divine proportion is a foundation for all of Nature and Science.

If Leonardo di Vinci were alive today, chances are he’d be advancing his ideas while sitting on the upper bench of his own 8’x12′ health and wellness backyard retreat. He’d extend his arm out to toss water on the rocks and would be reminded that the length of his arm, from his elbow to the end of his hand is 2/3 the length of his entire arm.” More on the Golden Ratio and the human body here.

This fact may not mean much, but the 2/3 ratio exists everywhere. Because of this ubiquity, the Golden Ratio feels right. When we build by following the dimensions of divine proportion, we make art that looks and functions beautifully.

Terry’s SketchUp drawings of saunatimes sauna designs help us see Divine Proportion in action

8×12 may not be your sauna building dimensions. You may choose 12×16. And Leonardo di Vinci would nod approval for that dimension as well! (Check out these two 12×16 concepts here.)

Hot room bench analysis (down to the inch!)

Two different bench configurations for the sauna enthusiast in you

The SketchUp drawings offer two bench configurations for your consideration. The bench layout on the left is approximately 7’4″ long. The bench layout on the right is approximately 6′ long. The layout on the left has less standing space. The layout on the right has more standing space. As you can see, neither of these layouts offer an “L” bench, as for many applications, “L” benches look better on paper than in real life (and can easily be added after the fact).

Sauna builders can choose either layout with consideration towards how and where the structure will sit on their property. SUGGESTION: get the ball rolling (and right brain thinking) with 4 sticks and a roll of carpenter string.

Let’s look at window ideas

Three cheers for transom windows. With either design, we can introduce transom a transom window in the hot room to lighten the space and offer a welcoming view to nature, while sitting on the sauna bench. For more clarity of windows, please click here.

Overall building size matters

What is significant is that with either design, we are working with a hot room of just under 50 square feet. Why is this significant? Because this is a great hot room size. In the US, we have too many Big Homes, Big Cars, Big Cheeseburgers, But We Don’t Have To Build Big Saunas. This design, much like with Divine Proportion, prescribes to the Sauna Party Equation.

So, a big thank you to Terry for his great work with adapting the saunatimes sauna drawings to SketchUp. Collaborating and helping others with realize own health and wellness retreat is contagious (and rewarding!).

For extra credit reading, here is the development of above, with original SketchUp drawing from 2009. Tried and true and tested by a madman’s journey to 50 saunas in 12 days in Finland, this still probably remains “the perfect size outdoor sauna.”

A final word from Terry: “People can link up with me on: Facebook or Instagram . I’ve been documenting our build progress via stories and have a Sauna Build collection you can see on my Instagram profile.”

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40 thoughts on “Calling All 3D Sauna Building Enthusiasts: Blueprints are Back on Google SketchUp!”

  1. very cool, nice work! amazing how 3d views really help tell a story. one item that is often overlooked when framing a building is blind cavities and how to insulate them. ideally, framing is such that they are not created but if they happen to be, be sure to insulate them before putting up the exterior sheathing.

    for those that are not familiar, take a look at the exterior wall corners as well as the intersection of the dividing wall with the exterior wall, the model shows it very well. note the small ‘cavity’ in between the closely-spaced studs and the one perpendicular to them. once the exterior sheathing goes up, there is not an easy way to access these ares and insulate them, short of drilling a hole in one of the studs and trying to force some insulation in there. best to place insulation in those cavities before putting up exterior sheathing, very easy way to completely insulate the exterior wall and avoid potential cold spots.

  2. Such a great thread! Ive been messing around with sketchup for a few years now so this seems very interesting. I am starting to build a sauna and want to get your e-book but I am curious as to what designs/sizes to you include in the book?? has a cool sauna design about 5×7, just wondering if I could create something like theirs? I am sure your designs are cool too!

  3. Alex,

    The book, like that scene in Wizard of Oz when everything goes from black and white to color, allows the sauna builder to open themselves up to all kinds of thinking and seeing. You can create exactly what works best for you and apply all the nuances of good sauna building (ventilation, insulation, bench design, etc.) and the process has all the possibility to be as awesome as walking through a field of poppies…. kind of. sort of.. but I think so!

  4. On the L bench…

    As I doodled various hot room layouts before I began my build, it became clear to me, too, that an L bench would fit clumsily, at best. But, I wanted more top bench real estate. What to do?

    My base configuration is the 7.5′ (internal) cube. The door is centered on the bottom ‘front’ wall. Low & high benches span the top/far wall. The stove, a small kuuma, is to the left of the door in the front corner. A transom window, 8×25 is on the left wall, at eye level for high bench sitters. This leaves a fair amount of open space on the right. I filled it with a removable high bench.

    The removable L section sits on 2x4s screwed to the walls, per Glenn’s standard design. It is not braced from below, other than a hinged leg at the L corner. The leg rests on the lower bench, which has center legs of its own. This layout gives us room for two adults to fully recline on the high/hot benches. We lose one seat on the low bench, which sees less use anyway. And, if we don’t like it, it can be removed in seconds.

  5. Brian: Awesome. What a great example of a sauna builder who is a sauna user. This is the thing about architects and designers laying out sauna plans who never sauna. It’s hard to make that work.

    But with you, you use your sauna and you’ve messed around and made it work for you. German car engineers would be pleased to hear your story. Ergonomics. Zen and the art of using your sauna and figuring out benches how they best work for you. Great stuff!

  6. Must be Upper and lower case and not a password you’ve used in 12 months with no consecutive characters and 3 Finnish letters to be valid in Alaska or Hawaii. jk.. i emailed you, Slava. Enjoy !

  7. We are planning on building a sauna in the woods in northern MN hopefully next spring. I want to know if your book has information on building a shower room using water heated from the wood stove? We will be able to bring water over for the shower from our pressurized well more than likely thru a garden hose. So before purchasing your book I wanted to know if there would be information on this to guide us thru this project. We know of saunas, but to build one and to do it correctly we definitely need guidance. Also why does it say your book is $20.00 but when you put it in the shopping cart it is $25.00?

  8. Hey Glenn
    I love what your doing here!…so glad I found you before I started my sauna build. I’d like to purchase your E book. I live in Ontario, will it convert to Canadian$ at checkout?


  9. Hi Ian:

    Yes, payment will automatically convert from Canadian dowlers, to US dollars.

    Glad you found saunatimes.

    Also, you may be happy to know that in the spirit of Canadian content, we’ve been using Silkerk brand chimney components (from your native land) for decades. And growing up in Buffalo, NY, my Grandfather and I would head over to Fort Erie for Tim Horton’s before they came to US. Glad you’re advancing with your sauna project.

  10. Hey Glenn,

    I am working on my plans for an outdoor wood fired sauna. What do you recommend for the floor? Is a drain really required? Does the floor need to be insulated? I’ve been getting conflicting info.
    FYI, I live in Ontario, Canada.


  11. Hi Jeff,

    my book, Sauna Build Start to Finnish lays out details on the floor which will really help. There’s a wide range of opinions regarding the floor. Given where you live and climate, and similar to here in MN, I can advise how i’d roll, which would include:
    1. 2×6 green joists.
    2. 2″ rigid faced up, flush to top of joist cavities.
    3. 3/4″ green subfloor.
    4. sleepers, either Ben Square or conventional.
    5. cement board.
    6. vinyl cement skim coat.
    7. drain: yes.

    We build our saunas one time, and this is the Cadillac. As our floors become heat neutral vs. a heat suck.

    Then we can control the fresh air via venting action detailed and explained in the book, and throughout this website (or face the wrath of Finns, justifiably so).

  12. Hi Glen,

    Thank you for all of the great info. I’ve purchased your e-book. I have a couple of questions. I’m building an indoor sauna that will be 240 cubic feet. We are doing 1 wall with tempered glass (the thick stuff we’re having that done by a bath company), I’m wrapping the other walls and ceiling with the foil and lots of insulations throughout.

    My questions are:

    We are doing 1 wall with stacked stone tile (opposite the heater wall). Given I have a glass long wall and a stone short wall should I upsize my heater from a 6kw to an 8kw?

    On the tile wall should I double up the Durock?

    And given there is electrical (existing light switches) on the other side of the framing behind the tile do I have any worries with heat transfer? I’ll get as much insulation behind it as possible but I’ll only have an inch or so behind the Durock.

    Any advise would be greatly appreciated!

    Thank you for the help!

  13. Mike:

    Sounds like a great project. I vote yes on the KW stove bump.

    Double up on Durarock: I like your thinking. We build this once and there’s no downside to this extra layer (except $40 in material, but who cares, right?).

    Electrical: That’s a tough one, I’m not sure what amount of heat transfer you’ll get through that wall. I’d appeal to your local university Mechanical Engineering department and have them geek out with thermal modeling. But that sounds like a long shot.

    Hope this helps, and others may chime in.

  14. Hello Glenn,

    I purchased your book quite awhile back, and am FINALLY getting around to planning/building my sauna! (I picked up my Lamppa stove on Friday – a small with glass viewing window). I cannot seem to find the book I downloaded, or what email addressed I used when I purchased it. Looking for some help in redownloading the ebook so I read through your book again and start building my sauna! Thank you!

  15. Greetings from the Keweenaw Glenn.

    Going to be putting up a sauna in the next month or so here, and your website has been invaluable flesh out my plans.

    Wondering what your thoughts are on a shed/single pitch roof vs. the gable roof that seems to be most popular.

    With lumber prices on the up and up and in the spirit of a quick simple build and ease of roofing, I was thinking about going the shed roof route. Curious if you ever have done so or have any tips, advice, or warnings.

  16. Eli,

    I’ve built two shed roof saunas, and have helped many dozens with their own shed roof builds, mebbe more than that. But what’s important is that it’s totally doable. Totally. You can de-triangulate the ceiling of your hot room or carry the same slope. If you carry the same slope, and I encourage a gentle slope, where the upper bench is on the high slope, and the stove is on the low slope. 44″ ceiling to top bench.

    Tips: you can frame the whole gig in 2×6 16″oc, r19 in the joist cavities and call it good. That may be better than 2×4’s and r13 from a span and r value perspective.

    Rock on, i’m happy for you and your build.

  17. mike, regarding the existing light switches, you SHOULD be fine. assuming these are mounted at a ‘typical’ light switch height, it will be significantly cooler at that elevation compared to the ceiling in the sauna, maybe on the order of 150 degrees or so. and note that is the temp inside the sauna so considering the tile, backing and insulation in the wall, it will be considerably cooler at the switch box, probably less than 100 degrees, should be fine for plastic box. i have a light switch in my changing room, on the wall shared between the changing room and hot room, plastic box, do issues.

    i can say that those plastic boxes WILL deform at high temp. i used one for the light inside my hot room and it is right up by the ceiling. plus, it is above the heater. spot works great for the way my hot room is laid out but was about the worst spot for the plastic box i used, it is heavily deformed inside the wall. wires look fine and the light itself has a separate mount to attach it to the wall but yeah, wish i would have gone with metal on that particular box.

  18. Newb SketchUp user here. One thing that I’m confused by is this top wall measurement, pictured top left in this screen shot. It says 7’5″ which is a 7″ difference compared to 8′ on the bottom. It looks like this could be an inside measurement but I’m still scratching my head as these wouldn’t be 3.5″ thick boards? Like I said, newb checking in plus I haven’t had my coffee yet.

  19. Hi Glenn,

    I talked to Jon G at Tuff Shed today to get a couple of quotes for shed frames. Material prices have obviously gone up through COVID times, but wondering if there are any standard plans saved with Tuff Shed based on your previous builds. The quote I received for a 8×12 reverse gabled roof with rough cuts made for a door and 2 windows was about $4500. I love the idea of starting from the shed, but if I can build the shed myself for $2500 less, I’ll probably be going that route.

  20. Hi Dylan:

    Yes, at some point it’s best to roll your sleeves up and DIY the whole gig. Lumber prices are going up for everybody, including shed builders. Good on you for moving forward!

  21. We have purchased the eBook and plan to build our own 8×12 outdoor sauna. Is there a particular reason for having a reverse gable with door on long side, versus traditional gable with door on short end?

    Also wondering if you have more photos of completed 8x12s, that have been built based on your eBook instructions. We are trying to get some ideas for window placement, style and size, and it is great to see others completed projects, but many are not the same specs, so not as helpful.

    Thanks, Sue & Mark

  22. Hi Sue & Mark:

    Love the question, and it’s a sign that you are well engaged.

    Reverse Gable Benefits:
    1. Incremental Deck
    Many choose to add a deck off their 8×12. A 12′ long deck along the length of the building is generous (think cold plunge tub, planters, benches).
    2. Rain cover
    A reverse gable overhang offers a hang out area, especially in the rain. And rain is shed left and right (vs. on your head) as you exit the hot room.
    3. De-train-car-effect-ify.
    When exiting the hot room, as we make a turn to exit the building along the 12′ wall, it’s a quick exit. The changing room becomes a hang out space vs. a train car walk through area. In asian cultures, this orientation is about good feng shui and keeping the spirits within the structure.

    Regarding more pics, have you tried searching “8 12” just above these words, at the top? I’ve put up a few examples, including the Ohio sauna, that can help. My wife helped designed the changing room window concepts and I love it. two identical double hung on back 12′ and adjacent 8′ and a “half glass” man door, out swing to the outside. Triple light action in the changing room, opening up the small ish space.

    Hope this helps!

  23. Hi Glenn,

    I’m very excited to build my own sauna in the backyard. I think I am going to get your ebook and go from there. However, a couple quick questions before I purchase the ebook.

    1) Do you need to include two rooms or do your plans allow for just the hot room?
    2) Does your ebook have information about preparing the ground and foundation before building the structure?
    3) I have about a 14’x14′ plot next to my garage that I am working with. Is that too small of an area? Are there building codes I should know about?
    4) Is there anywhere in Mpls you recommend me visiting to check out a backyard sauna? (I live in South Mpls.)

    Thanks for this awesome website and info.

    All the best,

  24. Hi Nick:

    Awesome on you for building your own sauna backyard S. Mpls.

    1. Plans are malleable such you can own build what works for you. That said, in our climate, you can read Do I really need a changing room? (Written in 2010 and stands up today).

    2. Yes, ebook details options for ground up construction, including options like pads, footings, class 5, etc.

    3. 14’x14′ by Euro standards, is massive area for sauna consideration. You can do a lot with this, including a space for chilling out in the garden all misty wet with rain. Building codes. I tell everyone to click around their local municipality and become familiar with local ordinances regarding secondary structures. Spoiler alert for you: Minneapolis code, I am well familiar, and you should be fine. 1′ side hard setback and entire lot no more than 40% building, no permit if less than 120 sf (from memory). Please check it out, so you can “own” the rules, which is important in case any neighbor becomes pissy.

    4. I have several friends in S. Mpls. who have their own backyard health and wellness retreats. Check out the sauna map, and my friend’s “cornerstore sauna BNB in NE Mpls. here.

    Glad you are enjoying saunatimes, Nick. Now’s your time for good sauna, and glad to be of service!

  25. Thanks for the great response, Glen. I’ll buy the plans today and get to work! (As soon as my wife gives me the green light of course:)

  26. I’ve used Sketchup for years. I’m using the free, browser app of sketchup.

    I downloaded the latest zip file and opened the model. Upon opening the model I only see the floor, studs, & stove. No roof, siding, etc.

    When I open the list of Tags, it shows me various tags that I would think are going to be helpful and functional (gable studs, rafters, sheathing, etc), but none of them are working. And selecting any of the model elements (e.g. a wall)… none of them have been given a tag.

    What’s up? How can I show the other parts of the model?

  27. Jon,

    Awesome that you have used Sketchup for years. I’ll say this, I used to use it, but forgot more than I learned about the software. This file was given to me by a fellow sauna builder enthusiast, so I’m not sure how you can see other parts of this model.

    Maybe you can move the sketch-up ball further along, and share your file, I’d be happy to update this for others.

    Thanks for the heads up,

  28. I made a comment yesterday asking about the missing parts of the model (roof, etc). I found them. I realize that parts of the model were just hidden. I feel stupid after having said I have used Sketchup for years.

    However, it still seems like the tags never got used. In the model, or am I just confused about something again?

  29. Hello Glenn,

    I recently purchased your e-book and I’m starting the build process. I have two questions for you, 1. do you recommend insulating the floors in a 8 x 12? 2. when I open the sauna build – 3D model pdf it brings me to a site 3dwarehouse/ site but I cannot see the roof construction. I”m looking to have the gable end on the 12′ side of the sauna and would like to see how that roof was constructed. Like in the picture above. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you, Mike

  30. Hi Mike:

    1. Insulating the floors:
    In the spirit of “we build our saunas one time, and get to enjoy them the rest of our lives” one of the ways I have insulated the floors of 8×12 builds is to run 2″ rigid pink insulation between the floor joists. You can lay them inside 1×2’s or 2×2’s set 2″ below the surface, before laying down the plywood. Rodents are not big fans of this material, but wire mesh on the underside of your floor joists is also probably a good move.

    I like this, especially after returning to the cool down room after dumping cold water over my head outside on a sub zero sauna night. Feet are like icicles. And then you may be thinking radiant heat for the cool down room. Now you’d really be styling.

    2. Roof construction:
    Two ways to go, you can order trusses for the job, or hand frame. For reverse gable 12′ roof, I’ve done 5/12 or 6/12 pitch, hand framed with simple ridge beam, and 2×4’s 16″ oc. I like big overhangs. Gable and eave. Hope this helps!

  31. Hello, my name is Ignacio, I live in Argentina, I am a fan of the sauna, my dream is to make a sauna in my garden, as everyone knows here in Argentina there are very few saunas and they are electric, that implies that I have to do it with firewood, I see myself with great difficulties to be able to do it because there are no wood stoves, I have to find out how to make it, I ask you for help from anyone who can have plans to make it here in Argentina (wood stove), I send you a greeting and I leave my email, thank you very much

  32. Glenn,

    Just grabbed your Ebook and I have been playing with my pond-house/sauna plan. I have made a few modifications to my sketchup file. Would you mind taking a look see for any issues you foresee??


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