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Sauna Talk: Steve Friedrichs walks us through all it takes to build your own backyard sauna, and how it has enhanced the lives of he and his family

I want to introduce you to a good friend of mine

I got know Steve about 20 years ago. Steve has embraced the authentic sauna experience at my island cabin sauna “up north” through dozens of “boys weekends.” Some of the cabin visits have been in winter. Yet, most often we go to my cabin in the fall when we close up, and in the spring when we open up. Steve has always been a great help and supporter of that process. Cabin maintenance can be a pain in the neck, but with a guy like Steve to boss us around, the work gets done. And we have a lot of fun.

An amateur sauna builder

This Sauna Talk episode is significant for me because it allows me to share with you first hand, the nuances of sauna building. For some time now, I have wanted to document the nuts and bolts of building your own sauna from the casual builder/home owner perspective. This documentation is independent of and in addition to my e-book Sauna Build, from Start to Finnish.

In this episode of Sauna Talk, you will learn firsthand what it takes for an amateur builder to undertake the construction of their own authentic backyard sauna. You will hear all about the lifestyle change for Steve and his wife, since completing the sauna, on Thanksgiving. I did a little math: Steve and his wife Amy (and their kids when they’re in town) have enjoyed their backyard sauna 95 out of the last 100 days.

The shed build

You will learn more about the shed build concept. We have to keep in mind that though building a sauna from the ground up can be straightforward, building a shed requires extra ladders and tools. We need extra hands and we need strong ankles to work on a roof. We discuss the concept of hiring a shed company to shell up a backyard shed. This can be a great way to jumpstart your sauna build.

We talk about how much does a sauna cost? Spoiler alert: $7,600. This total includes hiring the shed company. It is worth listening through this episode as we detail the individual costs of building your own sauna.

“You can always use wider trim”

Additionally, you will get a flavor of Steve’s sauna building philosophy. Steve’s focus was to get the Sauna completed and functioning. Steve was not so concerned about measurements to the 16th or eighth of an inch. “If you screw up, you can always make wider trim.” I commend him for that.

Steve and Amy’s 8×12 backyard sauna while in the midst of record winter snow.

You will learn some tips on which he and I have collaborated. For example: I often use cedar fence paneling to make my own trim. Cedar fencing is a wonderful, inexpensive material. Steve has taken cedar fence paneling to a (cough) wider level. Though not recommended so much for the hot room, in Steve’s changing room cedar fence paneling looks awesome on the wall.

A surprise guest

Additionally, we hear from Steve’s wife Amy, as a surprise guest to Sauna Talk. Like many of us, Amy did not grow up with sauna. She had dabbled a bit with sauna action at the health club. But now, their own backyard authentic sauna has been a formative change to Amy’s life and well-being.

I enjoyed visiting with Steve and Amy. I am pleased to share with you how much they have been appreciating their own authentic sauna experience.

Steve and Glenn between rounds (note the cedar fence post paneling in Steve’s changing room.
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9 Comments on This Post

  1. Couldn’t find a better place for this question. I’ve finally gotten the funds lined up for a sauna build. I went to Tuff Shed with what I wanted. I told them, the ultimate use was for a sauna. I now think that was a mistake. Well before sales could send me a quote the general manager called and told me their shed would not hold up to a sauna and that it would destroy the building. He was forewarning me this use would void the warranty. My question is, have you heard or their sheds failing? How long have their sheds held up with a sauna inside? I’m annoyed at his response and am likely going to find another builder. Why spend a premium for a product that is trying to get out of its warranty before I place an order?

    What do you think?

    Thanks,
    Sean

  2. Cody: Steve can chime in more but he got an 8×12 reverse gable “pro ranch.” Openings for windows and man door. He framed interior wall and went to town from there.

  3. I haven’t ordered yet. I am looking at an 8 X 14 lean-to. I know it’s not 8 X 12, but both my wife and I want to be able to lie down on an upper bench. I couldn’t figure a way of keeping it 8 X 12. Also, county code only requires a permit on a shed over 120 sq ft. 8 X 14 is only 112. Plan is for a full glass residential door and a few transom windows. This product has 24 in stud spacing on the walls. I don’t think that would be an issue. Main thing is you are limited on insulation choices.

    I was looking forward to starting with that shed and building it out. But the manager raised the issue of the shed’s durability and was wondering if anyone had heard of a tuff shed failing?

  4. sounds like the manager either doesn’t know how a sauna actually operates (do they think it is a steam room?) or they think you are just going to stick a heater in the shed ‘as-is’, with no insulation, vapor barrier, etc. agreed, you wouldn’t want to use as a steam room or as a sauna without properly finishing it off so something is missing here. their warranty already states that any third-party additions, modifications, etc. are not part of their warranty responsibility.

  5. Tuff Shed in Minneapolis has sold many sheds for saunas–Many with Glenn’s Help! You can reach out to Jon @ tuffshed–952-224-7225 x1 with any questions. There is no reason any Tuff Shed will not work as long as you finish it properly.

  6. Im purchasing a outdoor rustic cedar barrel sauna and was wondering what would be the best clear stain to use on the outside to keep it from turning grey. Also, what product if any is suggested to use on the inside of a sauna on the cedar boards and benches.

  7. Hi Chuck: absolutely no product on inside of sauna on walls or benches. Natural.

    As far as outside cedar barrel sauna, you can use the best deck seal around or let it go grey/natural. I’m not sure this helps, but at our cabin in NE Minnesota, we have 2×6 cedar decking for our docs. Some people stain their deck every year. Some, like me, just leave it alone. We’ve had a friendly competition/contest and the treat it every year group is not having decks any longer lasting than the leave it alone group. That’s our experience.

  8. Thank you for your input. I was hoping to keep it from turning grey. I really like the deep cedar color. When I think I have found a good product there are reviews that show the different stains peeling off peoples decks after only a year and I dont want that to happen to my new sauna.

    In regards to the inside there are a few manufacturers who actually make a oil to put on the inside of the sauna and claim they keep them from staining from perspiration and make them easier to clean. Im not sure if its appropriate to post any links here but but if you google sauna wood oil you will see what Im talking about. Some claim to be organic and food grade so as not to create any toxic fumes inside the sauna. Any experience with these type of products?

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