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A wood burning sauna gets nestled into the hillside on a boat access property in Northern Ontario

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Guest post series continues.  We welcome Andrew and Laurie who purchased a boat access lot on Tomiko Lake in Northern Ontario.  Rugged, beautiful wilderness offers an ideal backdrop for a spacious wood burning sauna.  All materials require boat transport.  Extra work, but well worth it! Welcome Andrew and Laurie.

Heeere’s deckboards (and my Lovely-Laurie wearing the latest clothing styles for wood-hauling!)

What compelled you to build your own sauna?

My wife and I purchased a water-access lot in the Canadian Shield in 2008. It turned out that we were fortunate to have neighbours that most can only dream of having! The first few years as we worked on our property we spent many wonderful evenings with them in their sauna. Eric being of Finnish descent, built his based on his parents and friends’ saunas. This led us to what we finally built-based on our experience with theirs and what we wanted to do to make it ours!

Beginning the tarping of the build in case it rains overnight

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

My wife and I were a military couple, so for the most part we could only be at the lake when we were on leave. Therefore we had to plan ahead for everything to prevent wasted time when on site. So when we were at home much of our free time was spent researching what ever our next tasks were.  My wife discovered your sauna site and E-Book and the rest is now history!

As for your DIY ebook, it really helped us find out what we needed to do and suggested how to do it properly the first time. The use of the foil vapour barrier, the need to slope the floor, and how to make and install the sleepers, cement board and drain. How to finish the cement board floor properly (we went the extra mile with the waterproofing paint to further seal the floor to our liking and it gives it a nice smooth easy to clean surface).

sauna sleepers taking on their own art.

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

I would say that my lack of carpentry skills and basic building knowledge was the biggest challenge for me to overcome. I have an older brother that helped us out. My wife and I came up with many floor plans and ideas and he was able to suggest improvements and then planned the build from there. This provided us with the time to work through what exactly we wanted. When we started building in the fall of 2016, he would be there for a couple days to get me started and then leave for a couple weeks while I carried on. When I ran out of work I could do on my own, he would return for another couple days before leaving me again to my own devices….I had to learn or nothing would have been accomplished in his absence.

A view from our deck, showing the newly completed native stone walkway to the lake.

What aspect to your sauna are you most proud of?

The final floor plan is what we are most thrilled with. Especially important is the inclusion of a comfortable sitting area (with exposed beams), the covered deck outside and views provided by the two windows that look out over the lake from the sauna itself. Our design allows us and our guests a comfortable sauna experience in all weather conditions and especially in the dead of winter!

Another angle from inside the sauna signature window to the lake

Any regrets or do overs?

1. I managed to forget to drill extra horizontal drain holes in the bottom foot of the drain pipe to allow better water drainage from it. 2. Now that I have more experience with installing tongue and groove cedar, I would love a do over on installing the cedar in the sauna itself. I know I could do a far better job of it.

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

A wonderful spot would be in Eureka, Nunavut (on Ellesmere Island). I did a polar bear dip there years ago as icebergs floated by and I can still feel how cold the water was….a sauna would have really made it a complete experience. I would probably go back into the freezing water a 2nd and 3rd time!

The finished look when walking into sauna hot room
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11 thoughts on “A wood burning sauna gets nestled into the hillside on a boat access property in Northern Ontario”

  1. A traditional wooden Finnish outdoor Sauna; something not seen at all nowadays. Thanks for sharing your great experience. Wooden Saunas are indeed a great way to socialize, and with a view such as that, it will be a shame for those who miss this experience. Please do keep track of CO levels though, and also remember to rehydrate as such saunas can produce really high heat.

  2. Hello,
    Does the cedar in the hot room give off a cedar smell? The cedar we used is grown here on the east coast and unfortunately had to be removed as it bothered all that breathed in the vapors.

  3. Thanks Mike, it was a long time planning and then finally building. We are so happy we had the Sauna Times E-Book to answer so many of our questions!

  4. Hi Martina. Thanks for your spot on advice. We have a Fenno Stove, which in my humble estimation is one of the finest sauna stoves I have had the pleasure of filling with wood and throwing water on! It is well constructed, as is the chimney system. It is very important with any wood stove to allow for draft…as in air must be able to enter the building to replace the oxygen consumed by the woodstove. We ensure this by always having the window cracked in the sitting area in summer/winter. We also have about an inch of space under the sauna door which allows the air to draft as needed. If necessary, I could also place a CO monitor in the sitting area, much as we have a monitor in our cottage as it is woodstove heated as well.

  5. Hello Steve. I have to let you know that I am very sensitive to scents of any kind, and if there was any similar problem I would have had to address it by this time. We built our sauna using locally sourced Cedar from the Ottawa Valley area. Our attached sitting area is finished out in Pine. We have noticed a light cedar smell when our sauna is cold/not in use. As soon as we light up our Fenno wood stove though, the smell disappears and I attribute this to the natural action of the stove burning and fresh air drafting in through the slightly open window in our sitting area…there is no time for excessive cedar vapours to accumulate in the sauna area due to the constant air flow. It is possibly for this reason that some would use clear pine boards vice cedar, as the pine is almost scent free. Was the sauna with the excessive cedar vapours heated with an electric sauna stove by the way? There would not be the air replacement with an electric heater as there would be with a woodstove, which could lead to the vapours becoming excessive….just a thought on my part. Thanks for your great question as I am sure there are others that may read this and have the same concern.

  6. Hello,
    I’m about to begin my Sauna and if you could share your layout that provides a view of the lake that would be great. My setup is almost identical to yours with the cabin’s deck looking down to the Sauna area and I would like to incorporate the lake views like you have done.

  7. Great to know your ebook Glen helped a fellow northern Ontarian build their sauna. I am just finishing our clear stone pad now and hope to start construction in a couple weeks- your book has been so helpful. Question for you and Andrew too if he is still following this post- in Minnesota and Northern Ontario, how deep do you run your vertical drain pipe? Should it be a minimum depth to avoid frost damage/or freezing up from the little bit of water that makes it down the drain come cold February?

  8. absolutely! I’ve done pine as well as a couple other different species in the cool down room. And you can poly vapor barrier the cool down room to save money that way also!

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