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A Montana sauna with a simple floor and extensive DIY action

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Guest post series continues.  Rich from Montana makes it happen.

Enter Rich;

Thanks Glenn for inviting me to do a guest post on your site.

First off, Glenn’s ebook is well worth the $20 bucks or so.  There were a few tips in there  that saved me a ton of time.   One tip that stands out is his thoughts on how to build a  fireproof backer for your wood stove.   If you are building a sauna get his book!

I was introduced to sauna when I moved to a small town in Rural Alaska.

Although in that place the locals called it a “steam bath”.  Most of the steam baths were nothing more than an uninsulated  plywood shack with an old stove.  They weren’t fancy or pretty, but taking a “steam” was a great treat.  I knew that someday I would build something like it of my own.

It has been about 10 year since I moved from away from Alaska, but  the thought of building a steam bath or a sauna has never went away.  I now live in a small town in rural Montana, and last winter I decided that it was time.  I started doing a little online research and in quickly found Glenn’s site and I’m glad I did.  As I mentioned, his e book is a good place to start.

In all I spent just a little less than $3,000 to build my sauna.

However, I already had a stove, and I used quite a bit of reclaimed material.  The largest cost of the project was the 25 or so bundles of cedar tongue and groove boards.

One slight twist that I did differently than most sauna builds, is that I built the sauna with no wood floor.  I live in a very dry climate that any water that happens to spill I figure will evaporate quickly.  We will see if this proves to be true or not.

Creating the “floor less” foundation for the sauna was done by first removing as much top soil from the build area as possible.   Then I built a 2×4  frame box to hold a base layer of gravel.  This frame is two feet larger in all directions than the foot print of my sauna building.  I’ll explain.  I knew that I would build  the sauna using a a standard 8ft.x12ft. frame so I made a  2×4 pad 12 feet by 16 feet.  I filled this first “base frame” with with gravel.  Once the first frame was filled  I screed a layer of smaller crushed rock to get a completely level surface.  On this level surface of crushed rock I placed 6×6 treated timbers, 8 feet wide by 12 feet deep. Then I filled this entire frame full of more crushed rock, the crushed rock then became the “floor” of my sauna.

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In all it took me about 4 months of construction to build the sauna.

Most of that was done a few hours at a time.  A full day of work for me was rarely more than 3 hours.  I also should mention that I’m a stay at home dad with 4 boys all under 11,(two of them are under 4) which might help explain why it took me 4 months to build the sauna.

A large batch of photos from the project can be viewed here,

Thanks for reading and thanks to Glenn for the help.  If you have any questions I will be happy to answer them.

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5 thoughts on “A Montana sauna with a simple floor and extensive DIY action”

  1. Rich’s effort to create a minimalist floor is “totally cool” per Saunatimes building code of ethics. I have taken saunas where the hot room floor is nothing more than a deck – pencil thick spacing between deck boards – revealing ledge rock below. Heat rises, and with a decent sauna stove, there is no concern about a floor being open or uninsulated.

    That said, if one is jazzed to apply a Rich style floor, it is imperative that the sauna is in a place of somewhat decent drainage. ie no clay, as Rick mentions in his post.

  2. so, we just moved our hot tub out of the yard, and were left with an 8×8 area, framed by 4×4 pressure treated timbers, and gravel filled. the hot tub sat on this space for 10 years. after many different scenarios played out, we settled on building a 4×8(interior) hot room on that space, and leaving the gravel floor. I just moved all the gravel out, placed 1/2 plastic mesh down and up on to the footers to keep out mice and replaced the gravel. we’ll have a small 24×20 duckboard to step into setting on the gravel.

    fingers crossed.

  3. Hi – Beautiful sauna and really appreciated the detailed photos. Just curious if Rich is still following, how this has worked out (specifically the gravel floor). I’m in Montana also (Helena Area) and am wondering if this is has turned out to be viable approach, almost a decade in.


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