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Designing your sauna: most of the time L benches look better on paper than in real life

light steam graphic

I’m not sure what it is, but architects and casual sauna hot room designers are quick to lay out their hot rooms to include L benches. And 90% of the time, at point of construction, we realize that things are getting too tight.

Generally speaking: I’m not a fan of L benches in sauna. Why? Three reasons:

  1. Corners benches are dead space. You can’t fit your butt in the corner. They do work for laying down, however.
  2. Knees knock. Two people sitting in the corners, adjacent, need to put their feet somewhere, and they end up knocking knees.
  3. Standing around space is valuable. L benches take away from standing space. A more generous standing space gives a sauna hot room good flow. Anybody sitting on the benches can come and go without the “excuse me” or “Let me know when you’re ready to go” chatter. Also, it is beneficial to have space to stand and stretch in the hot room, or dump water over your head.

What’s a better way to design our sauna hot rooms?

Go with stadium seating. Like this:

Then, after your sauna build, after a few sauna rounds, you can always come back and after market your sauna with the introduction of more benching, if you think you want it. And more often than not, an added “L” becomes a creatively functional slider, or a free standing removable bench, or perhaps bench cover for wood supply.

How wide should sauna benches be?

24″ is the magic width for sauna benches. Building 24″ wide benches, allow us to lay down comfortably, and we have ergonomically happy depth for sitting. 24″ is especially valuable depth for our upper benches. We like 24″ for lower benches too, yet we tuck under the lower bench 4″ (to avoid ankle twisting when stepping up and down). The exposed bench width of our lower bench is 20.”

Many do better building stadium seating stadium benches for their new sauna builds. Then we can field verify this preliminary layout over the course of a few of our first sauna sessions.

SUMMARY: When designing for our sauna bench layout, like with cowbell, we can always add more later.

mobile sauna stadium seating with a very mini L lower bench (referred to as “the on deck circle,” added after market.
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3 Comments

3 thoughts on “Designing your sauna: most of the time L benches look better on paper than in real life”

  1. Hi Glenn, THANK YOU for all the amazing information you share in your eBook and on SaunaTimes! Reading these is part of my morning “dream about the sauna” time.

    We’re working through the chapters/build phases in your book to build our 5.5’x6’ sauna. One thing that’s keeping me awake at night is the depth of the benches…. I have 5’10” x 3’ to work with. I’d love to have a 24” wide upper bench but that will leave me with an approx 16” (with min 4” overlap) bottom bench. Is that just enough space? We probably won’t have more than 2-3 people max in the sauna so I’m thinking it will be ok.

    Thoughts?
    Thanks!

  2. Hi Bridgett. Thanks. As your sauna build therapist, let me try to help you with bench width scenario this way:

    Go for 24″ wide upper for sure. If you have to compromise, let it be with the lower bench. Whatever it needs to be to max out. One way we get this to work is to build lower benches as detailed in my book, using sliders. When it’s “sauna time” you can slide the low bench out to accommodate additional bathers or for low bench layover.

    If sliding out the low bench puts you non compliant to your stove, well, you’ll be sitting on the bench and can get a first hand analysis of any potential pyrolysis.

  3. Thanks Glenn!

    This is just the confirmation I need. We’ll definitely try to max out the bottom bench width and include slide rails.

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