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The definitive word on what kind of glass to use for windows in the sauna (I can really see clearly now)

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I have built a bunch of saunas. I help hundreds build their own sauna thanks to the book I wrote, and an unwavering enthusiasm to help folks build their own kick ass saunas (with no compromises).  The question of what kind of glass to use in a sauna comes up frequently.

So, what kind of glass should I use for windows in the sauna?

Well, I finally got through with an expert in the field.  And it took a lot of work.

Folks in the glass industry seem about as temperamental as the product they sell. Industry experts that I have spoken with are generally not the most patient and don’t seem like a lot of questions from DIY’ers. Most are more accustomed to dealing with tradesmen.  I understand how patience can wear thin as ordering the right custom cut glass can be an involved process.  There are many glass options to choose from, and every order involves a careful verification of dimensions.  Mistakes are costly.

However, I have finally been connected to an expert in the field who was patient and friendly, and locked into my barrage of questions.  Michelle is a glass industry expert with 17 years experience.  Even better is that she told me “I never stop learning” which tells me that she is open minded enough to keep expanding her knowledge in the field.  (This, by the way, is exactly my theory of sauna building, which is why my ebook is open to involving with sauna builders’ generated content).

Ok, enough of all that, here’s the scoop:

For windows in your sauna:

  1. Plan your sauna window carefully.  I am a big fan of transom windows up high. – 16″x 30″ or so.  They don’t get in the way with whatever is underneath, and allow privacy.  There is the candle window, and window in the hot room door.
  2. Contact a local glass company.
  3. Order 1/4″ insulated tempered glass, cut 1/8″ to 1/4″ less than your rough opening.
  4. Frame in the glass using the same material as your hot room (cedar paneling ripped to size).
  5. Run a bead of silicone around the inside and outside of window.

Insulated tempered glass is two pieces of glass bonded together.  This creates an insulated unit.  This system reduces moisture on the glass.  This system helps facilitate the temperature extremes of a sauna hot room and a cold winter’s night.

What if the seal of the double pane glass breaks down and moisture gets between the glass?

This shouldn’t happen, but if it does, we are shit out of luck.  We either have to live with it or replace the glass.

What about cost?

a 16″x30″ insulated tempered 1/4″ piece of glass costs $93.00.  That’s about twice the price of single pane.  But this price is a fraction of the price of buying a window.  We build our saunas one time.  Let’s use the best glass option we can find for our sauna windows.

a hot room transom window as viewed from the outside, with saunatimes promotional material underneath.

For more discussion and clarity on windows in the sauna, please read here.

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24 thoughts on “The definitive word on what kind of glass to use for windows in the sauna (I can really see clearly now)”

  1. Is this bead of silicone special heat silicone. It seems like regular silicone would melt inside the hot room?

    I am thinking of using my old triple paned tempered patio door glass that lost it’s seal on the third pane. I will cut off the third pane of glass and still be left with a double sealed tempered glass unit.
    Does this seem ok?
    The glue that seals them won’t melt?

    Tom from Manitoba, your northern neighbor. 🍁

  2. Hi Tom:

    shhhh.. don’t tell anyone but I’ve used regular silicone to glaze around my hot room windows. And they’ve held up. That said, if special heat silicone is available, I say, sure, get that and use that!

    Greetings neighbor.. i’m looking to get up your way. Therma action!

  3. Hi Glenn, is there a reason why you recommend framing a window yourself (rather than buying a manufactured window) in your book?
    FYI: Our window will be in the hot room, we’re don’t have a changing room. The glass will be tempered and insulated.

    Tom, were you able to source special heat silicone? Thanks both!

  4. Hi Wayne:

    Windows are factory made with vinyl or aluminum or pine framing. None of these materials are good for sauna. We’ve got heat differentials and a shit ton of moisture that can sit and pool around the trim and jam area. So, it’s nice to get fixed glass and use a material like cedar or heat treated product to frame around.

    Also, fixed glass is usually a better choice than operative windows. Using windows for ventilation sounds good but it leads to all kinds of hassle potential: in cold climates, the heavy steam trying to escape hits the cold and icicles, jamming the sliding mechanisms. And in wet climate, well all that moisture can short live the sliding mechanisms of operative glass windows.

    There are plenty of examples where people frame in windows for hot room sauna action. Especially these old school windows reclaimed from cottage remodels. it’s cool to not be rigid on all this stuff, but above is a guideline that may help you along.

  5. I have an existing insulated double-pane glass casement window in the space I’m converting into a sauna. My guess is a should replace that with a tempered piece of glass? My question is how bad would it be if I didn’t? Would insulated glass shatter at 200 degrees?

  6. You could be just fine with this casement window. The issue with windows is a couple things. The main one is that they are cased in either pine, vinyl, or aluminum. None of them are good in intense moisture thermal extreme climates. That’s why our best gig is a fixed piece of glass and frame around it with cedar – moisture happier species.

    And fixed glass Vs operative windows:
    We want steam to move out of the vents Vs through cracks in windows. But there are plenty of awesome saunas with operable windows. All great.

  7. Hi Glenn in your ebook you said to use 1/2 ” glass but the forum it says 1/4″ glass, what is your preference ?

  8. 1/4″. That’s a type’o in my book. and above article discusses the thermally insulated vs. single pane version.

    General rule:
    smaller window: single pane 1/4″ is more than fine. Even 3/8″ or 1/4″ works.
    larger window: A glass company can spec out a double pane thermally insulated. This is the trend these days… big glass.

  9. Hey Glenn – I have a dual-pane tempered Marvin window with pine interior frame that I was planning on installing in the sauna room. Am I going to regret this decision? What things will I experience in going with that? Thank you!

  10. We’ve had great results with this exact type of window and from the same window company. If you type “Jon Sabes” in search bar, you’ll see his sauna. Similar window ! Holding up very well. And thermal goodness.

  11. If framing a piece of glass for a window (20″ x 50″) do I need to account for expansion and contraction to avoid having the glass crack? How do I do this and ensure this is sealed from the elements? I live in BC with massive amounts of moisture.

    Look forward to your comments.

  12. Kevin, in my book, I think I mention how it’s a good idea to put a little cork down at the base of the glass, before framing around the glass. Those little cork squares come from glass companies, and you usually get them when you order your glass, to keep the glass from rubbing together when stacked.

    Other than that, we like to use clear silicone around the perimeter to keep the moisture out. This material does flex a bit.

  13. Hello Glenn
    Is it possible to use the tempered glass found on shower doors for a sauna ?
    I am trying to cut costs on my sauna plans and used tempered glass shower doors come up regularly for sale on marketplace.

  14. Yes! there’s nothing wrong with this concept and its resourcefulness. The one thing to be on guard for is proximity to the sauna stove. As we know, saunas getting north of, say, 200°f. is one thing, but heat off the stove can get that glass a lot hotter and subject to no bueno thermal shock and awe.

  15. There are nice stained glass transom windows out there, seems flimsy to me though. What do you think of that? Should it be a special kind of stained glass? Lead is probably no good as well.

  16. Hello Glenn & Sauna Community!

    My wife and I are converting an 8×10′ shed into a backyard sauna. The structure was built with a 2×3′ functional, vinyl-framed, insulated window that’s in (what will be) our hot room. We’ve been reading up on how tempered glass is best, but in the interest of keeping what we already have, do you have any tips on how to best protect this window? A friend suggested we build some sort of removable heat-shield for the window itself to reduce the radiant heat of the nearby stove. Is it worth it to swap the window out with wood-framed tempered while we’re in the build-out process, or do we make modifications to help work with what we got?

    Thanks much!

    from Madison, WI

  17. Keegan,

    I have a vinyl framed interior window in my hot room at my cabin, we built in 1996. I didn’t know better back then. The window has shown some minor warping, but it still functions fine.

    I suppose if you’re in the build out process, you could take the window out, but if it were me, i’d set the interior trim such that you could gently pry bar it out, and get after this window with a sawzall to replace after the fact. You may be fine, as mine has, over the decades and if not, you have a replacement plan. sauna on keegan!

  18. I’d avoid that material. Not reliable over the long haul with temperature extremes and hot and cold.. and then, not sure the service temp rating for plexiglass. My feeling is that even if it is high, we may not know about any potential offgassing. That’s my instinct, anyway!

  19. Hi Glenn. I have an Almost Heaven Auburn Sauna kit that I installed in our garage in NY. The sauna has full length tempered glass windows and door on the front. During warmer months the sauna heats up and holds heat well. Now with temps dropping, It is taking double the time to heat up and looses heat fast once set temp is reached. I have a Huum Drop 6 heater that is recommended for the sauna size with amount of glass included in the calculations.

    My question is… Is it OK to cover the glass with some sort of heat approved insulation to reduce heat loss thru the glass? If Yes, on the inside or out outside of the sauna glass window/door? and with what type of material?

  20. Hi Shawn.

    I hear you on your issue. I think you could try a $40 solution by purchasing a 4×8 sheet of rigid polyiso and cutting it to size for your window and taping it to the window, on the outside. It’s not a great solution. You’ll be looking at it while sitting on the bench. How’s your ventilation in there? Good air movement helps with the heat, believe it or not.. it’s like wind chill in reverse. You can read about this more here on this website, as you may know. Hope this helps!

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