Instead of buying a prefab sauna and calling it a day, he rolls up his sleeves and builds his own kick ass sauna

Guest Post series continues. Pleased to welcome Bob Leutmer to Saunatimes.

Growing up

In the late seventies and eighties my dad had a cabin on a dreamy, walleye rich northern Minnesota lake (which will remain unnamed). The property featured an old, dilapidated fish cleaning shack right on the beach with rotten half log siding that was infested with bats. While the constant restless skittering and scratching in its walls was creepy as hell, it was our favorite place because it also housed the sauna. We spent many wonderful, crazy nights listening to an old Robert Johnson cassette, getting impossibly hot and sprinting down the dock into the cool water.

Of course, I wasn’t the only exuberant youth enjoying the sauna and one night some stupid with a flare gun…well, you know the rest. To be honest, I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner – that sauna was a tinderbox! 

The will to build

Since that time I always wanted my own sauna and after I got laid off last year and sold my cabin I thought maybe the universe is finally affording me the time to do this already. I started hunting for ideas and stumbled across Saunatimes. Glenn’s wonderful stories and love of all things sauna was infectious and I finally had the motivation to build. By the way, my sauna will be much safer than the one that inspired me.

Getting started

I bought the ebook thinking that if it only helped with one thing, it was easily worth 20 bucks. Of course, it helped with much more and before I knew it, I was cutting a giant hole in my new roof. One of my favorite aspects of the ebook (and Glenn’s guidance) was how it downplayed the complexities of a shed build by breaking it all down into separate acts. One of my favorites is the section on the durarock/skim coating for the floor and stove surround. While I’m mostly comfortable with woodworking, cement work intimidated me until I realized (with the edbook’s help) that it was just another thing that anybody can do.

Bob’s wife on her way up to “serving temp” inside their newly hand built sauna

Overcoming challenges

One of my greatest challenges was designing a roof system and shingling – there’s plenty of youtube videos out there, however, and I finally settled on something that made sense to me. Between carving a level spot for a foundation in my sloped backyard to that stressful roof and all the wiring, foil, cement board and cedar in between, I am very proud of the fact that I attempted this project at all. Had I not found Saunatimes and the ebook, I probably would have bought a prefab sauna and called it a day. Thanks to Glenn, I now have a bullet proof, custom sauna and the confidence to build just about anything.

Bob and kids outside their new sauna, celebrating sauna confidence

Glenn asked me if I could have a mobile sauna anywhere in the world, where would I bring it and go sauna? I think I would bring it up to that unnamed northern MN lake where we sometimes mixed our scotch with lake water. 

I think I still have that Robert Johnson tape laying around somewhere…

The sauna kicks ass and I’m very grateful for your assistance/advice! (I am still getting a handle in the intricacies of using the Kuuma to it’s full potential).

Bob, contemplating the intricacies of the Kuuma stove
Another kick ass authentic backyard sauna, opening the door to really good heat

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2 thoughts on “Instead of buying a prefab sauna and calling it a day, he rolls up his sleeves and builds his own kick ass sauna”

  1. Hi Glenn,

    We are building our sauna and after reading your ebook have two questions…

    1. We live in the country and have plenty of space, but want our sauna close to our house for convenience and to use our patio. We are getting a kuuma stove and wondering are there any safety concerns about closeness to the house?

    2. Do you have any concerns about using rigid foam for the entire structure (other than cost)? We are concerned about mice…

    Thank you

  2. Hi Treena:

    1. Kuuma safety concerns: I’ve worked with the Kuuma for close to 3 decades now and have never had an issue of safety breaches and flame -age coming from the chimney. Extend your chimney pipe above your ridge, and be mindful of the potential for sparks as you would with any wood burning stove. But i’ve been very happy with the Kuuma, on all levels, including safety.

    2. Rigid foam for entire structure: No issues. Matter of fact, love it. The 4×8 sheets cut easy and fast on a table saw. You can fill joist cavities and A job may be a little expanding foam spray in the corners as adhesive as well as gap filler. Foil vapor after and you’re off to the races!

    Hope this helps.

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