Budget was his biggest challenge: “I built this sauna for $1000 by looking on Craigslist all day for materials”

greg and son ready for sauna

Guest post series continues. Please welcome Greg from North Minneapolis. He’s pleased to share his sauna build project with you. Enter Greg:

Hello! I am a dedicated follower of your blog and used several of your posts to inspire my building process. I live in North Minneapolis and just finished my mobile sauna a few months ago. Just wanted to share some pictures with you. I have upper and lower deck seating of course and can fit about 5-7 people inside. Thanks again for the awesome blog and inspiring average Joes like me to build themselves saunas!

What compelled you to build your own sauna?

My friend built a mobile sauna and he introduced me to the experience. Doing the sauna rounds in and out of the cold with good friends was an amazing relaxing community experience. My body would feel good for days after and I just had to build one. In addition to that I love the creative process. I can’t think of a more awesome project than designing and building a sauna from scratch.

Greg’s urban backyard sauna retreat

How did you find saunatimes and give us a few examples where the DIY ebook helped you out.

Saunatimes was continually popping up in my Google searches on how to build a sauna. Soon I was just searching in the Saunatimes website and using the ebook for answers. I followed Glenn’s advice on keeping the sauna room small and I don’t regret that. The bench design was also a very helpful reference point for me.

Greg’s backyard sauna interior

What were the biggest 1-2 challenges for your sauna build?

Budget was the biggest challenge. I built this sauna for $1000 by looking on Craigslist all day for materials. So about half of the materials are reclaimed, repurposed, or free. At the time of building I was working full time, in grad school, and my daughter was just born. Money was tight but the build HAD to happen. It helped that I am a welder by trade and built my own stove for the material cost of $60 using an old oil drum, scrap metal, car parts, rocks from Lake Superior, and one “borrowed” railroad spike. The second biggest challenge was the floor design. Instead of concrete or tile I decided to use sheet aluminum which is perfectly corrosion, water, heat resistant, and extremely light. On top of the sheet aluminum is a removable cedar floor. I was really proud of this design and it has worked out perfectly thus far.

Greg’s custom welded sauna heater

Of which aspect to your sauna are you most proud?

I was very pleased with how the look of the exterior turned out. It’s nice to look at out my back window. The modern exterior contrasts with the inside which feels very rustic and transports you to another place and time. In addition to that the sauna has amazing heat. Since the stove is a mix of thin sheet metal and dense materials like the fire rocks inside and stones on top, it heats up the room really fast while also retaining heat. With a roaring fire it heats up in about 15 minutes even on the coldest days of the year. The stove has a 6” air intake in its side that connects to the outside, so the air quality in the sauna is perfect.

Outside Greg’s backyard sauna

Any regrets or do overs?

The only do over would be the raw Durock behind the stove. Although it was a cheap heat proof option I wish I would have tiled over it to make it look nicer. But it does add to the rustic vibe so it works.

If  you could have a mobile sauna anywhere in the world, where would you bring it and go sauna?

I identify as Norwegian American as my grandpa immigrated to the United States from Bergen Norway. So I would park it right on the ocean and swim in the ice cold sea in between sauna rounds in Bergen.  

Greg and his daughter getting ready for sauna

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10 thoughts on “Budget was his biggest challenge: “I built this sauna for $1000 by looking on Craigslist all day for materials””

  1. I’ve been building my own sauna made ALSO made from a lot of things that were repurposed, refinished, etc (though you did it for about half of what I did… Well done!) Two of the things that I repurposed were the door and the window. Both of them aren’t made of cedar (I have limited cedar because it’s all offcuts from someone milling bog bridges) but need refinishing. Any thoughts on a good finish for the interior? I’m assuming some sort of oil?


  2. Hi Glenn and Greg,

    Great Job Greg! I spent way more than that, and I bet yours is just as hot as mine!


    Here is a link to a Facebook marketplace ad I saw for cedar. They have 1600 board feet left, in 12-16 foot lengths, selling for a buck a foot. Location is Mars, PA.
    I thought you or someone doing a build might be interested.

    Maybe you should start a blog specifically for selling and buying sauna materials?

  3. I’ve also started building my own sauna with mostly recycled and extra, materials leftover from work. (I’m a carpenter)
    My question is, is it ok to have vinyl siding on the exterior of the sauna? 2×4 walls, with insulation, foil bubble wrap, and cedar interior.
    I can’t seem to find a yes or no answer to the vinyl siding.

    Thanks in advance,

  4. jeremy, no worries on vinyl siding. you’ll want to seal up the exterior like any other occupied structure, with wood sheathing and house wrap under the vinyl.

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