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What size sauna building is best?

As we consider the “empty canvas” in our backyard, most often, the first place to start when deciding what kind of sauna set up for your own backyard sauna is to define your sauna building size.

To help define and carve out the footprint for your own backyard sauna, all you need is some carpenter string and four sticks. Mark off your area.

As we begin to look at the location for your own backyard sauna, it’s easy to pound in stakes to define the footprint of what will become the footprint for our sauna building.

What size for sauna building?

Generally speaking, when considering the size for our outdoor sauna building, most fall into one of two camps:

  1. A somewhat urban or suburban backyard
  2. A more rural setting
In either scenario, it is good building practice to consider optimizing your sauna building dimensions in terms of minimizing the needed materials, as well as maximizing its usable space, and practicality. For example:

Backyard sauna dimension options:

  • 10’x10′ = 100 sf. = 40 lf. = 2.5 ratio of square feet to lineal feet.
  • 8’x12′ = 96 sf. = 40 lf. = 2.4 ratio of square feet to lineal feet <– The sweet spot!
  • 6’x16′ = 96 sf. = 64 lf. = 1.5 ratio of square feet to lineal feet.
  • 1’x96′ = 96 sf. = 96 lf. = 1.0 ratio of square feet to lineal feet.

We are smart enough to know that a 1’x96′ sauna building is completely absurd, But it helps prove the point that a building’s dimensions can have a big effect on its square foot efficiency. 10’x10′ is very efficient, but do we really want a 10′ long hot room?

An 8’x12′ sauna building is our most practical dimension for a somewhat urban or suburban backyard.

Brian Peterson marking off his territory outside his 8’x12′ backyard sauna

I’ll write more soon. I will build out the grid for a more rural setting footprint analysis and then settle on how a 12’x16′ is the sweet spot. But for now, you get the idea. This post is in development mode. I just finished 4 rounds on lake vermilion, had some dinner and going to geek out on some Netflix. It’s windy and fresh outside. This long hot summer is waning. It’s a bit early for a season change, but the nip in the air reminds me of:

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14 thoughts on “What size sauna building is best?”

  1. We got the pad, the 8×12 shed is built. Now we’re trying to decide what kind of stove. We have gone back and forth. I think we are settled on a wood stove. Is there any type of clearance regulations around the chimney? Our neighbors branch is pretty close to the roof. Can’t wait to get going on the next phase!

  2. Hi Deb:

    Each area has their own rules and regulations for clearances outside, around a chimney. I suggest contacting a local fireplace dealer who should be able to talk local with you. I could plug the Kuuma here, and well, I’ll just say that a quality clean burning sauna stove developed with safety and efficiency in mind will produce a “controlled burn” such that the chance of sparks flying up the chimney is greatly reduced. Sauna on Deb!

  3. I have a 3x2m insulated cabin (couldn’t be any larger in our tight urban garden) with double doors on the long front side that serves both as home office and sauna.

    My solution to best utilize space was to spit the cabin diagonally, creating two triangles, giving both the office and sauna a narrow and a wide end.

    The diagonal wall creating the split has both the sauna door and the sauna oven on it, as well as two vents, one below the oven for cool fresh air to enter (the double doors to the outside are kept slightly ajar with a little chain) and one up high for hot air to exit.

  4. Hi, Glenn,

    Greetings from New Hampshire. First, thank you for your enduring enthusiasm and tireless dedication sharing information. Your DIY book was most useful for us in building our sauna. We have especially been grateful for your endorsement of the Kuuma stove. Daryl was really helpful when I contacted him and purchased one of his stoves.

    I am writing to see if you would be interested in a blog post on our process (and product!). Actually, on our family blog, I have written a three-part series of posts on our process that you can access and read here: http://farfieldfamily.org/tag/sauna/

    Perhaps there is something worthwhile in these posts for others? If so, I would be happy to write a blog post that combines parts of these pieces for your blog, if you are interested.

    Again, thank you! Mark

  5. Hi Mark,

    Thanks for the kind words and chiming in. For sure we can visit with the guest post. A lovely sauna built with great attention to detail and quality and love. Hashtag: kindred spirit!

  6. There are a few concepts/designs within the book. Mainly we dive into the 8×12 building, with a 6×8 hot room. The book details sauna building step by step. It is a guide for you to adapt and design your own hot room, not a blueprint to follow an exact plan.

  7. I decided and built a sauna that is 12×12 feet. Well, it is actually 8×12 walled-in structure with 4×12 privacy porch under the same roof on which I set up a bucket shower 🙂 I wanted to be able to get out naked and get that bucket shower, I have always been in love with. That is how I solved it the challenge and not disturb our neighbors.

    But yes, still, 8×12 IS the sweet spot for a sauna.

  8. I too am trying to figure out how to get in my naked cold shower in my back yard (without having to wait for sunset) I just finished my build and have had less than 10 saunas —-but oh, my they are fabulous.

  9. I’m especially interested in the 12 x 16 sweet spot size that you mention in article. Did you have a follow up post discussing that size for a larger lot? Really love reading folks’ building experiences.

  10. Hi Sarah,

    If you type in “12 16” into search bar above, you will see a couple articles and even a layout drawing of a good design of integrating a sauna within this size building. Hope this helps!

  11. I am considering a design replacing of the one short walls into a curved wall made up of 4 x 8 glass blocks which reflects the outside light in beautifully, but unsure if the blocks and the cement will take the heat of the sauna. Have you seen any saunas with glass block features and do you know if they are energy efficient?

  12. My sauna is 7X7X7 wood fired from outside. Great for a couple or 13 folks after a plunge in Lake Superior. Bigger seems a waste of stoking time and wood. My first sauna involved bird hunting Seagrams Seven and Bosch Beer. I’ve been in the UP for 50 years plus because of that sauna. Married a Suomalainen and have had a savu sauna in Kuopio Finland. A little more loylu please.

  13. Just finished our sauna build, made sure this time that we have plenty of room. The hot room is 8 by 10 with the benches along the 10 ft side.
    We heat it with an amazing Kuuma medium and it rocks. cladded on the inside with white eastern cedar (local Ontario).

    We are very happy with our new build.

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