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Sauna Changing Room

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Do I Really Need a Sauna Changing Room?

If I had a stick of firewood for every time I’ve been asked this question, I could keep my wood burning sauna stove on idle most of the winter. I built my mobile sauna with a changing room for all the below reasons.

Why You Need a Sauna Changing Room

  1. Double doors. Why do grocery stores all have a double set of entry doors? Imagine you are a check out clerk at a grocery store and it’s below freezing with 25 mph winds and some old lady is standing in the doorway adjusting her hat. Now imagine that you build your own sauna without a changing room and some old lady is standing in the open doorway adjusting her hat. Close the door!
  2. Equalize your body temp. A backyard sauna with a changing room is a wonderful hang out space between rounds. After a well deserved cold outdoor shower, it’s nice to sit in the changing room and hang out, visit, indulge in a sauna music play list as your body equalizes. This is not only fun, but important!
  3. Expand your space. A sauna changing room is critical for a sauna party. Offering hang out zones gives your sauna party structure and expansion. How come people hang out in the kitchen at parties?
  4. Have a place to hang your clothes.

A Good Sauna Changing Room

A good changing room has an open, airy feel. Lots of windows welcoming the outdoors. An out swing door, providing more room inside. Cathedral ceiling to help air flow and give an open vibe. Don’t have any of these in your changing room? Don’t worry, you have a sauna. That’s what counts.

Does the Sauna Changing Room Need a New Name?

As we know, sauna is more than a hot room. The hot room is where we have our sauna stove and benches, where we enjoy heating up, tossing water on the sauna rocks to create steam, ahhhhhhh (loyly), and as we sweat it out on the bench and consider when to exit (when a cold plunge is about the best idea we’ve ever heard).

So, we leave the hot room to ideally jump into a cold lake or hit an outdoor shower enjoying the clean rinse. Then what? Brrrr.. the wind is cold but our body is warm! We are conscious sauna bathers. We listen to our core, not our skin. We want to equalize and feel that endorphin rush. We want to enjoy our cool downs, where do we go now?

The Changing Room

In winter, the changing room is where we can seek shelter from the cold, stretch out our sauna rounds, chat with others enjoying sauna, or simply reconnect with oneself. One need not seek a waiver from the President of the International Sauna Society to enjoy music as part of our sauna sessions. The best changing rooms are spaces for us to hang out, sip a cool drink, play a game of cribbage, or just Sauna Talk.

What About Our Clothes, Isn’t It a Changing Room?

Yes, a changing room is a changing room. Inside our sauna building, we have hooks to hang our clothes in our changing rooms. We have benches to sit on. We may have Troxers and towels lying on the floor. Sauna guests have hopefully tucked our shoes underneath the benches. Our changing rooms need this function.

Our Changing Rooms are So Much More

The sauna vibe is enhanced with a kick ass changing room. A sauna in our basement or at a health club does not have this vibe, but we can create this vibe when we build our saunas. Our changing rooms are awesome places to enjoy the completeness of our sauna sessions. Maybe our changing room needs a new name.

Candles in the Changing Room Cast a Warm Glow

For eons, the female persuasion has appreciated the warm radiant glow of candles. Recently, many of us caveman descendent males have also tuned into the vibe. Whatever your gender, a couple candles glowing in the sauna changing room provide a beautiful soft light, help accentuate nature, and are a nod to our ancestral past. Fire good.

Why a Sauna Changing Room Wants to Have a Subwoofer

The idea of music in the sauna may be frowned upon by sauna traditionalists looking to preserve and/or restore the “forgotten sanctity of sauna.” Sauna is a sacred place. There is a Finnish saying that “one must behave in sauna as one would behave in church.” Yet the church organ plays. There are many sauna enthusiasts who enjoy music as part of their sauna sessions. Sometimes it’s ambient downtempo or jazz. There’s the nod to Brian Eno’s “Music for Airports” with MFS – Music For Sauna & Osho Zen Tarot.

Just as the sauna experience is best realized with a kick ass sauna stove and a well designed hot room, music in the sauna is best realized with a kick ass sound system and a well designed amplification system. We celebrate the “amazing” sound quality and convenience of these wireless bluetooth cubes hitting the market, but there is no better sound than a hard wired sound system.

Designing a Sauna Sound System with a Subwoofer

Because our voices have a fundamental frequency of 150-200 Hz, we build our sauna sound systems to work around this range. We mount speakers up high, just above ears when standing, to give us clear highs. And we tuck our subwoofers underneath the changing room bench to resonate the lows. In addition, we amplify our music with receivers that have equalizers. This way we can set the dials often in the shape of a soft smile: more on the low and high frequencies and less in the middle.

Like good heat, our music is rich and full, yet we can ask “who needs a beer?” without having to yell. This design produces sound for our chill out sessions that complements how good we are feeling. Deep resonating base affects our core like a proper heat up – right into our bones. As we relax between sauna rounds, cool air helps close our pores, freshly clean rinsed, and we are helped along by high frequency treble notes rolling across our skin (as opposed to just more cowbell).

Turn it up. Feel the roll of the bass line and snap of the snare drum.

Sauna resonates deeper when we celebrate the benefits of embracing temperature extremes. Music in sauna, thanks to a kick ass subwoofer, resonates deeper when we celebrate the benefits of embracing sound frequency extremes.

Cool Down the Pace, Sauna Playlist

  • Time and Space, Thievery Corporation.
  • Farewell Transmission, Kevin Morby.
  • Feel it Still, Medisan Remix, Portugal the Man
  • This House is on Fire, Dead Man Winter
  • Soon Forward – Dub, Sly & Robbie
  • Mr White, Khrunghbin
  • Hokoyo, Orange Juice
  • Clean Living, the War on Drugs
  • Water Pumping, Johnny Osborn
  • Alarm Dub, Jah Wobble
  • Walking Lightly, Junip
  • Lotus Flower, Radiohead
  • Valium Skies, The Verve
  • Ritual Union, Little Dragon
  • Cool down the Pace, Gregory Isaacs
  • Water no get Enemy, Edit, Fela Kuti
  • Tenere taqqal, Tinariwen
  • Ryokan Loyly Rituals, MFS- Music For Sauna
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19 thoughts on “Sauna Changing Room”

  1. As a Finn, I can confirm that a changing room is vital for making the experience better, particularly for winter use – even a non-heated one is a lot better than no space at all. After all, you are pretty warm, so the temperature isn’t that important, just that there’s no wind and that you can keep your feet warm.
    During the casual summer sauna, where everyone is on holidays and in no hurry anywhere, most of the time is spent outside the sauna, either on a porch or in the changing room, or whatever people fancy. The cycle (sauna, chilling out, sauna, chewing sausage, [drinking beer] and chilling out…) can go on for a good part of the day.

    Thanks for inviting me over, that is still the only sauna I’ve had so far in the U.S.

  2. if your sauna is in an urban environment, changing room privacy might be an issue if there is a great quantity of windows. consider which way the windows will face and if in a northern climate, consider what the scenery will look like once the leaves fall off! skylights can present their own challenges but may be a nice alternative to windows.

    if security is an issue, an outward swinging exterior door presents additional concerns. most home exterior doors are manufactured to swing inward, with the hinges on the interior. reversing the door will place the hinges on the exterior and allow for an unscrupulous individual to simply knock the pins out of the hinges and remove the door, defeating any door lock you may have. consider replacing the standard hinges with security hinges, which have pins that cannot be removed.

  3. Simply put, it is the front room. The löyly room gets most of the attention, but without a proper front room a sauna is not complete. One can change clothes anywhere. But we also need a place to rest, laugh, wash, and share what is on our minds and in our hearts. While this place is central to the sauna, it is often located in the front. So it is the front room.

  4. A climate where winter temps hover above freezing is a diff story but awesome cold weather saunas are massively better with a temperate changing room (temps easily controlled by warm bodies and movement of hot room door and outside door).

  5. Glenn, appreciate your posts on the ideal sauna sizes. I am working with a 10×10 structure and was wondering how you would divide the space between hot room and changing room. Two 10×5 rooms or make the hot room 10×6 and the changing room 10×4? Sauna would be used primarily by one or two people but would like to accommodate 4 once in a while. Appreciate anyone’s help on layout. Thanks.

  6. 10×10 structure: I would look to carve our a 7×7 or 6×8 hot room within this space. As far as the small rectangle left over, this could be a curtain’ed off changing area, or you could box it off completely and access this small area from the outside, as a closet for tools or firewood.

  7. Thanks Glenn. Based on your recommendation I have been looking at some different configurations of the space and will likely go smaller. Thinking 7×6 hot room which will allow for a small hallway and much easier access to the structure. A couple of questions based on this new layout. I would like to have a door on one 6′ wall so I thought I would put the heater at the other end of the walkway on the far 6′ wall with just straight benches. However, I would also love to have an upper L-shaped bench. Any issues with moving the heater (electric) more into the middle of the room? We want to have a large single window on the 7′ wall to take advantage of the view. Can the heater sit under the window? Is there a maximum advisable window size? I know we will have to up-size the heater to accommodate the un-insulated square footage. Thanks for all the help. Got a new foundation set under our old shed last weekend and am now running electrical. Very excited that the build is underway.

  8. Hi! Totally agree, adding music is huge! Sounds waves can be very healing and I can’t wait to build my sauna with a sound sytem. I will be downloading your ebook this weekend as my husband and I are ready to build! Are there any concerns for the speakers and sub to be in the hot temperature? We are not putting in a changing room, but may have to frame a pop out to house the stereo equipment? Not sure how that is going to work. Any thoughts, ideas, or advice on this would be appreciated! Thanks!!!

  9. Hi Natalie: Regarding integrating stereo system if building a sauna without a changing room, assuming you are still at the “empty canvas” stage, I would recommend considering adding a couple more square feet to your footprint to allow for a “closet” access from the outside. Here you can put in a shelf for sound system. Your subwoofer can be in this room, along the floor, and you can box it in such that it will feed into hot room this way.

    As far as speakers in the hot room: Provided that they are down low, you should be fine. I have super quality deck speakers in my hot room. I made cedar boxes for them, so if someone above on the bench goes crazy dumping water over their head, the speakers down below will be somewhat protected. These speakers are still working fine. It’s been 15 years and probably 2,000 sauna sessions (geeze, they add up!).

    Hope this helps, enjoy!
    PS… volume control module. Highly recommend wiring this in: I have this exact unit. It integrates with a standard blue light switch box:

  10. Glenn, or anyone,

    Have you found the new bluetooth portable speakers to work alright in the hot room on the floor while playing remotely from your phone in the changing room?

  11. i don’t bother having them in separate rooms. hot room floor is cool enough that no worries having the phone right in there. if you chuck water all over the place, might want to consider strategic placement but most phones these days are at least splash proof.

  12. Frankie:

    When I build saunas, I still wire for speakers, as i’m one of those analog grey hair types. Yet these cylindrical blue tooth speakers do pack a punch, and I use them. For sauna application, my experience, a wireless speaker is best in a corner on the changing room floor.

    And an unintended benefit of a generous crack along the hot room door is that the sound from the changing room enters into the hot room really nICE. It’s analogous to car speakers, where the changing room becomes like the trunk of a car, functioning as a speaker cabinet. The lows resonate, like good lampömassa. The highs come through the crack along the hot room door, unabated to the quarterback, sitting on the upper bench.

  13. My sauna is nearly complete and I was at Lowe’s looking for material to make my duck boards. I was expecting to find not what I needed, but what might work. Boy, was I surprised. I happened upon a rack that had furring strips and they were perfect. They are pine I believe and come in 1” x 3” (2 1/2“ actual) x 3/4“ thick in 8’ length. The UPC tag on the end says 1x3x96 premium. EACOM with a code of 41262 02402. They are very nice and did the trick for both the boards and the sleepers. At $198 per stick, they were a steal.

  14. Hi Kelly:

    1. Shower and bath drywall board. Yes, given that this material is rated for moisture, it should work. My caution though, before we “high five” this material is, as I understand it, this material is meant to be tiled over, not as a finished product? If this is at all a concern, one could apply Durarock as a changing room finish material. It looks janky on its own, but we can skim coat it with vinyl cement, and I think the finish look there is really nice. You could even add some pigment to the slurry mix. And definitely we stay away from regular drywall product for changing room. A good changing room gets really moist. Over time, regular drywall will get really yucky, moldy no matter how well we vent out the changing room.

    2. Flooring. Yes, 2″ rigid ripped between floor joists, flush up to subfloor is totally awesome way to seal off a floor, and a thermal bridge to the cold Canadian winter harshness. I wish I had done this for my backyard sauna build. It’s in the garage and I built up the hot room and cool down room 4″ from the cement subfloor, but like a dumb ass, I didn’t insulate between the joist cavities. I feel it on my feet, which get to be ice cubes quickly. And the A job would be “warm tiles” or other electric radiant system atop your subfloor.

  15. Hello Glenn! Here’s a question or two for you. My change room is all wired – for power AND sound. It’s very well insulated for our Canadian winters and ready for floor and wall coverings which brings me to the question du jour. I’m considering drywalling the change room as it is a finishing material I’ve worked with may times in the past. In a sauna, is there any reason not to and/or if I do, should I use the “shower and bath” drywall board or is regular drywall fine?

    For the flooring, I’ve been eyeing those 2X2 underlay systems that are either lifted up from the floor sheathing to allow good ventilation OR the other ones that have a dense layer of foam insulation the underside (I’ve used the first one called DriCore in the past). I DO have the space between the floor joists insulated with 2″ of the foil backed foam insulation as well. Do you have any recommendations on either of these two?

  16. Hello Glenn!
    I always find that changing rooms too hot and I don’t think opening a window is the best solution either. Is it possible to build a changing room with very very little (maybe even no) insulation if the vents are inside?

  17. Yes!

    I love this. Matter of fact, I have built several saunas where we just take a paint roller to the raw changing room stud walls, and call it good. Hanging out between rounds, between the steam, what you see are the exposed (painted) studs, and the other back side of the shed sheathing material (also painted) and for many of us, this works totally great.

    Minimal Viable Sauna

    A couple other ideas:
    1. The joist cavities make for functional coatroom style stalls. Pound in a couple nails on the insides of the 2×4 joists and you have perfect spot, recessed for towels and such.
    2. Cut a few 14 1/2″ 1×4’s and tap them in place as horizontal shelves, between joist cavities, in strategic locations and you have a perfect spot, recessed for glasses, water bottles, nICE mugs, and cel phones and such.

    Matter of fact, just typing this makes me realize that this is a fabulous short and long term solution for an awesome changing room set up. (And I miss this style from my more raggamuffin penny pinching days!).

    Who says you need fancy paneling in our cool down rooms? Not me Marie!

    Less is more.
    Minimal viable Sauna.
    Using all your space.
    Rustic and wonderful.
    Everything Cool and calm.

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