Three cheers for transom windows

When designing and building our own saunas, it’s important to be thinking about windows.

In the “ole country” (Finland), with the exception of the candle window, few sauna hot rooms were built with windows.  Who knows why.  Maybe it was cultural timidity, or structural platitudes, or heat loss concerns.  Whatever the reason, today, the hot room window concept is “opening up!”.

Like music in the sauna, traditionalists may scoff, but any sauna bather of any origin sweating it out on the upper bench will smile that much wider being able to gaze out of their hot room and take in a bit of nature.

A transom window offers:

  • a great vista from the sauna bench.
  • privacy while standing.
  • natural light without being a fishbowl.

What size transom window?  Let’s start with 18″ tall by 36″ wide, cut in about 8″ below the 7′ ceiling.  A sauna with a hot room transom window and a common wall candle window feels airy and nICE.  Don’t have these windows?  No big deal.  We can make it happen with a sawzall or with your next sauna build.

Dual transom windows in Josh’s floating sauna (under construction).
Wisdom Woods sauna hot room


we need more of these authentic kick ass saunas.

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14 thoughts on “Three cheers for transom windows”

  1. I absolutely agree, transom windows in the sauna add another level of pleasure-the view outside. It was mandatory (X2) in our sauna build!

  2. Thanks for this informative article. The use of a transom window in a sauna is a nice feature, since it offers light and vistas to the natural world, while providing some relative privacy, compared to a conventional sized window.

  3. Hi Glenn —

    I will be putting a transom window in a sauna with two L benches (room dimensions The height of the ceiling is 84″ (i.e. 7 feet), and the top bench will be at 36″. I have a 48 3/4″ x 30 3/4″ push out awning transom from a friend that would be great to use and free. Unfortunately, due to the existing room and orientation, the window will have to be behind the long bench.

    Is it common for windows in saunas to get too ho /reflective and make the backs of anyone sitting on the upper level bench uncomfortable?

    It’s a great window, I just don’t want to accidentally carve a 4 foot portion of a 9 foot bench into a “hot seat”, and not the good kind.

    What do you think?


  4. With a window behind where people sit, what will happen is that people will generally not lean back against the glass. And when they do, you’ll be cleaning your glass. Yes, it’ll get hot, especially up top, but it is what it is, as people will generally conform to the situation, my experience.

  5. Any rules of thumb, like always leaving 18″ at the ceiling, for use of tempered glazing in the sauna? I have an 8.5w x 9d x 7h with a view. The stove will be located in the center of the room in front of the window wall. Am planning taller windows on either side, shorter window behind the chimney. Granted the wall will not be thermally efficient even with insulated glazing units, I presume the impact is more significant the higher the window.

  6. Right on, Matt. As you say, windows don’t insulate as well as well insulated walls, so we need to balance this. A kick ass wood burning sauna stove is a good way to fight back against the non thermal efficiency of glass. Re: electric stoves, my instinct and empirical whining from the bench is that more KW stove can get you there, but the fight gets harder and harder, and the lämpömassa more and more constrained.

  7. We are trying to map out of sauna plans. After lengthy discussions on DIY and since we have 3 kids under 7, my husband said no way. has anyone had any experience in hiring a contractor to build a “shed” and providing them the guidance on additional steps to finish it out to sauna level without issues? Any gauge on current costs? I think the original list that is included on this site indicates approx $7k, but is from 2009. We are thinking $7500-9000, but really hoped to keep it under $8000. Not sure if that is realistic.

  8. Hey Folks, I live in Newburyport, MA and I plan to build an outdoor, wood-fired sauna this spring. I just used a mobile saw mill to slice 10 oak trees into 1 – 3″ slabs of varying lengths. Will be using for furniture and boat making.

    Was wondering if you have any thoughts on using the white oak to frame and finish the sauna? Since I have several hundred linear feet of wood, thought I would use this vs. buying wood. Any thoughts?

  9. Hi Gary, and hoping others please chime in. My feeling is that oak is unique and mainly uncharted for any area in the hot room. I’m open minded to the thinking and resourceful to the upcycling of product you’ve milled yourself. Right on to that!

    but one piece of advice: No for oak benches. Tight grain and too ouch.

  10. I’m trying to decide on the best glass for windows in my sauna. I was going to go with insulated double paned glass, but was told that they may have a problem with condensation and eventually becoming hazy due to mineral deposits. Now I’m leaning towards a single pane flush with the inside wall of the sauna, and storm panel on the outside. Do you have any experience to share on what works best?

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