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Shed Majal in Northeast Ohio: A long sauna build journey that has been totally worth it

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Guest post series continues:

Jim has never built anything major before.  This project was his first attempt at building a structure from scratch.  Though pretty handy with stuff, he’s never undertaken a build before.  By day, Jim is an engineer for General Electric.  In his spare time, Jim did all of this (and you can too):

Enter Jim:

Well, it’s a long, fun and a pricey journey, but it has all been worth it!   And I must start by saying thanks to you, Sauna Times and the other sauna enthusiasts there who provided inspiration.  Thanks!

The timeline, approximately:

Late February 2015 – Winter was gentle, and I started tearing down the playhouse which stood in the way.
Jim's playhouse, site of new authentic sauna build.
Jim’s daughter’s playhouse, and site for his authentic sauna build.
Late March 2015 – Playhouse gone,
April  – Get the sailboat ready
Late May 2015 – Power and water
June 2015 Site prep.
This is one way to prep for a sauna structure. Especially perfect for level grade.
This is one way to prep for a sauna structure. Especially ideal for level grade.
July to mid August 2015 – Build the shed.  Need it weather tight before vacation.
Sauna building framed in. Note chairs to help sauna builder feel the vibe of finished space.
Sauna building framed in. Note chairs to help sauna builder feel the vibe of finished space.
Late August – Germany for Vacation
September -Roof it! Paint
October – Windows, trim…
All shelled up and ready for vacation.
10’x16′ main sauna building.  All shelled up and ready for vacation.
November December – Rough inside, electrical , hot room floor, hearth, ceiling and wall heat shields
A saunatimes exclusive: firing strips to pitch floor to drain. Prep for durarock and skim coat.
A saunatimes hot tip: firing strips to pitch floor to drain. Prep for durarock and skim coat.

Early January 2016   – Get the hearth done, stove is coming.

Note Jim's non combustable tile work - an opportunity for an accent.
Note Jim’s non combustable tile work – an opportunity for an accent. (and plum bob hanging down to denote stove location).
January 5th -Stove is here!
January  through March – Finish hot room cedar, benches, door, candle window.
Cold room finish.
A beautiful example of candle window, helping to subtly tie in the two rooms,
A beautiful example of candle window, helping to subtly tie in the two rooms.
 April – Mostly done.
May June – Finishing touches.
Sauna stove in place and ready for action.
Sauna stove in place and ready for action.  6′ x 9′ hot room.
 June 17th – Inaugural  Shed Majal Sauna Party! For available builders and contributors.

Editors notes:

Shed or no shed:  Jim tackled his sauna build from scratch.  This is awesome and yet there’s no harm in hiring a shed company to build you a shed in your backyard, and after they leave and everybody’s happy, start building your sauna from there.  Whichever way helps you get to the Finnished sauna promise land is one that I support.
Sauna build journey: Jim’s project took about a year to complete.  Unlike a kitchen remodel, there’s no rush to complete.  There is no stopwatch.  There is no harm in spending a couple hours working on your sauna, then focusing on your spouse, kids, or day job.  Your tools can rest in peace.  BONUS:  There’s no better way to de-frustrate yourself from filling out TPS reports than finish nailing tongue and groove cedar to a sauna hot room.
A few details:  A veteran sauna builder can appreciate some of Jim’s attention to details.  See how he used a water base primer around the drain?  Check out the window trim, both exterior and interior.  And how about that candle window?  And another thing, the location of the sauna stove.  The door with glass window faces the sauna bathers on the bench.  nICE!
Lighting:  Jim applied another Saunatimes signature hot tip.  Note how he installed his three light switches in one spot, just outside his hot room.  We call this the triple dimmer feature.  In one spot, Jim can set the lighting tone in his hot room, changing room, and outside porch.   This is a great thing.  And sometimes, maybe after a fresh snowfall, it’s great to shut off all the lights, leave all electronics behind, and enjoy a sauna session with just one candle.  This is how it rolled for generations before electricity, and this type of sauna session is as great today as it was back then.
Jim’s authentic sauna build:  A welcome space for any Finlander visiting from afar, and a two thumbs up.
To view all of Jim’s photos from his sauna build project, please click here.
Jim's completed backyard sauna. Completed and ready for action.
Jim’s backyard sauna: all done and ready for a beer between rounds.
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9 thoughts on “Shed Majal in Northeast Ohio: A long sauna build journey that has been totally worth it”

  1. Hi Glenn and Sauna Times,

    This is Jim, builder of the Shed Mahal. Thanks for the great article. I thought I’d provide a few more comments.

    If you are frequent visitors to you will no doubt notice many of the features were taken wholesale from Glenn’s design! I never would have built the sauna if I did not stumble on to the site. Glenn has been very helpful and patiently answered questions, but as he says, in the end “Just own it!”.

    Building the sauna 120 feet from the house added cost and time, but was worth it for the “get away” effect. I am looking forward to a cold Ohio winter for the first time since childhood. I added a cold water shower and heat traced the lines. I am not sure I can keep it flowing through the winter but, if it is that cold we do not need the shower anyway.

    About the name: My elderly neighbor Virgie frequently saw me putting in time on the project. One day she said “When you get done building the Taj Majal, I have something I’d like you to help me with.” During the build when someone asked me what I was building, instead of saying a sauna I’d say it’s just a shed. So after Virgie’s comment, the Shed Majal was christened! A funny coincidence concerning the name happened at our latest sauna party. A guest was telling of helping another person build a sauna. When things were less than perfect, the owner would say “We aren’t building the Taj Majal here.”

    If you visit and wonder if you can do it, you can! It doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t need to be perfect. Get it built, and feel the heat! You will be thrilled at the experience and what you accomplished!

  2. Hi Rich,

    I agree. Doing it is important, the speed is not. Perhaps my wife told me that same thing, sympathetically.


    Hey Jeff,

    The friend who helped me with the framing said exactly the same thing!


  3. Jim again,

    I liked Glenn’s 8×12 sauna plan and from a purist point of view think Glenn is spot on. After all, he is the sauna But wives and (potential) zoning inspectors may intercede. My practical wife’s only requirement was ” It can’t look like a shed.” My small Kuuma stove provides all the heat we need for a six-person, three-round sauna experience from an armload of wood. Daryl Lammpa at said it would be fine for a 6×9 hot room, and he was right.


  4. Mine isn’t quite done yet and it’s going on three years but there has been quite a few projects that took priority over it. Still in 20 months since the first sauna I’ve had over 300 in it.
    Very nice job Jim, you will enjoy it!

  5. jim, i took a look at the photos on your site, that shower setup is fantastic! didn’t realize you had a sink in the changing room either, awesome! i live in central wisconsin and ultimately decided against running water out to my sauna, just because of the worries about freezing. and i love the larger changing room, very inviting. excellent work!

  6. Shed Majal Update: We’ve been able to keep the shower flowing down to 13 degrees F this winter thanks to heat trace, insulation and a drain system. A cold shower after a hot sauna round is a real endorphin rush!

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