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Sauna Talk: Lassi A. Liikkanen, author of “The Secrets of Finnish Sauna Design”

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Today on Sauna Talk, we’re pleased to welcome Lassi A. Liikkanen, author of “The Secrets of Finnish Sauna Design”. The book is just now being released, end of April 2021.

We start our conversation in a good place, with Lassi’s early beginnings of sauna (before he could walk). And we transition into the definition of sauna, which for listeners new to sauna, is a great place for understanding.

We layout what is a sauna from a design perspective. For example, the sauna heater is usually visible, and a center point of the sauna..

löyly is the essence of sauna.

A sauna room is typically built out of wood.

Up until 60 – 70 years ago, sauna was the place for both birth and death.

We talk about how in this time of remote work, many are using their home saunas as offices. There is usually a sauna in most apartments in Finland, and traditionally, saunas in apartments and homes are one room usually operated as primary function, just a couple hours a few times a week. The rest of the time it is sitting still. They have natural bench systems, ideal for sitting and home offices.

The small integrated sauna. In apartments. Nothing under 30 square feet. We discuss the 50 square foot sauna, either 7×7 or 8×6 as a “good size” for most use case. During our Sauna Talk: Lassi A. Liikkanen, author of “The Secrets of Finnish Sauna Design”, divides his book into four sections. He calls it:

The Four-Leaf Clover Model of Great Sauna Design:

  1. heat
  2. air quality
  3. interior design
  4. culture & company
The Secrets of Finnish Sauna Design

The unified definition of sauna. It would be great if those things that aren’t sauna could be called something different than sauna, to help clear up misconceptions about the practice as well as the reported health benefits.

Lassi and Glenn – Sauna Talk

Episode will launch on conventional podcast platforms on May 1, 2021, but it is available now on YouTube here.

Other Sauna Talk Episodes


13 thoughts on “Sauna Talk: Lassi A. Liikkanen, author of “The Secrets of Finnish Sauna Design””

  1. Glenn: quick question. For a well-insulated outdoor sauna as detailed in your guide: how hot might the outside surfaces get? Long story short, my neighborhood building rules would have me clad my proposed sauna in vinyl siding to match my house. Would the siding melt or otherwise get destroyed over time beyond normal wear and tear?

  2. Hi,
    I am looking for information on traditional Finnish sauna construction from natural materials, and I can’t seem to find anything. Specifically, I would like to know how traditional natural Finnish saunas were insulated, especially in the ceiling. I am going to be converting an old grain silo with thick brick walls into a sauna. I figured I could panel straight onto that, but the ceiling needs to be enclosed and insulated. I don’t know if this author’s book covers such topics, and if not could you please point me int he right direction. I am not interested in using any modern building supplies, only natural ones. Thank you for your help! Cheers,

  3. Glenn,

    I am getting closer to building a sauna. Current plan is to build a 12 x 16 with a changing room that could serve as an overnight crash pad for 1 or 2 friends that celebrated too much. I would like to keep the beds on the floor to minimize the chance of falling! Any ideas on the best floor plan/design to accommodate this idea?


  4. Hi Dennis,

    Good plan. If you search “12 16” on saunatimes, you’ll see a couple plans/layouts, including my cabin sauna/guest room/office/doghouse.

    One thought for you: The incremental space above the hot room is good crash pad potential, but you may want a waiver form for guests using the ladder to get up there.

  5. Hi Julien:

    Rockwool insulation is used in Europe quite a bit. And it is sold here in US.

    Also, does cement board meet your criteria of “natural material?” How about foil vapor barrier? Just wondering. Commending the orthodox approach and pls. let us know how it goes.

  6. Glen,
    I have just finished Lassi’s book and it is both a wonderfully practical and aesthetic journey into ‘sauna-land’. I am so grateful to Lassi for the comprehensive nature of his endeavor. I am currently building an “out” building sauna on a 14 x 14 foot concrete slab. My Kuuma stove is being crafted as I type this and I continue to ‘fret’ over the layout and am looking for every inch I can find for both the hot room as well as the dressing room. It’s the UL mandated clearances that are giving me pause as I have seen multiple images and videos in real time of sauna stove setups in ways that do not satisfy those UL demands (but that might satisfy the ‘realities of the sauna environment) . I am getting all of the Kuuma heat shields as well as a water tank and will be installing heat shields on the walls with a one inch air space on the adjoining surfaces. I would like to cheat the 7″ offset to the heat shield a bit as well as bring a bench in close to the water tank (the water tank HAS to be its own heat shield in effect, right?)
    With an understanding that the UL clearances are mandated for many reasons: in the real sauna world what might I consider given what I have seen in print and video of operating saunas out there.
    I would appreciate some feedback as I’m champing at the bit to start building. I would be receptive to a practical, ‘wink-wink, nod-nod’ response.

  7. If you saw my two saunas, each with Kuumas.. 1996 and 2003… well.. you’d wink, wink, nod, nod with me.

  8. Glenn, I have been reading your Sauna Times for years and bought your e-book. My wife has family in the Tower area and we have spent time in saunas on Bear Island and Eagles Nest lakes. We own a wood burning Kuuma stove. We bought a summer cottage on a lake in Michigan and are finally ready to build our sauna. We like the shed roof design. We are building the 12×8 size with the 12 foot side facing the lake. What might be your thoughts on which way the roof should be built – high side on the lake side or on the road side. Thank you!

  9. Hi Steve:

    Short answer is that assuming your shed roof design is going to make for a sloped ceiling in the hot room, I prefer to have the benches along the high slope. You can pitch it so that the low slope is 7′ and the high slope is 7’6″ ish. Now this isn’t absolute by any means, but what’s nice about a sloped ceiling is that the heat will roll to the upper triangle, then, with good ventilation, down from there.

    Many go the opposite way, they like the taller wall facing the lake and put the stove along that wall. But I think it’s better as I describe above. Hope this helps!

    PS… the Kuuma cures all ills, so you’re in great shape, Steve.

  10. Glen,

    I’m building a traditional Scandinavian sauna/bathhouse in the US but I can’t find your email anywhere. I would love it if you could write to me via email because I am looking for a sauna-nut and I think you would be the perfect guy to talk to. Please reach out, I think you’ll get really excited about this project 🙂


  11. I’ve built a 8×8 hot room with plywood floor. I need to finish the floor to slope towards the drain. Please advise on
    the best material to use. I assume that because it’s on a raised wood foundation I can’t use concrete on the floor.

  12. Michael, type the words “vinyl cement” above these words on upper right corner search bar. You’ll get a view of a method that has worked wonderfully for me for 20 plus years of sauna building. Also search “ben square” and “trevor trowel”… and for a special bonus, my ebook details exactly what cold work great for you…

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