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An authentic backyard sauna built in Wisconsin with a little help from his high school friends

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Guest post series continues.  Welcome Dave Olson from Wisconsin, who took upon himself to create his own authentic sauna backyard retreat.  Enter Dave:

1.  What compelled you to build your own sauna?

I have been a fan of wood fired saunas since my first experience at our deer camp in western Bayfield Co Wisconsin.  Most camps in the area (township of Oulu appropriately enough) have one since electricity and running water are rare at camp.

Dave Olson siding his sauna

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

My wife and I found Sauna Times just by Googling sauna building.  We found your info on stove setback and heat shield composition and placement, both on stove and cedar walls, to be very useful.

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

One of the biggest challenges was finding someone who could move the building the six blocks up the hill to my site.  Also the decision on concrete slab, footings, or gravel bed caused much head scratching because everyone seems to have an opinion on that.
Dave Olson’s sauna well crafted and nestled into his backyard.

 4.  What aspect to your sauna are you most proud of?

We like the copper heat shield for that classy look and are also proud of my deer antler clothing /towel rack, all bucks I have harvested over the past 50 years or so.

 5.  Any regrets or do overs?

 We took it pretty slowly and methodically and we really don’t have anything at this point that we would like to modify.

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

I haven’t thought much about a mobile sauna but having one at the kayak launch site when coming off the water would would be sublime.
Dave Olson’s changing room
In the small world theory my friend Ron Olsen up in Homer was at my place assisting me in sauna finishing and said he had been in contact with you as well!  Great stuff!

We bought the building from the Washburn High School ‘Industrial Technology’ (shop) class.

We had a local lumber company transport it up the hill to a prepared gravel foundation on our land. My buddy and I made a road trip up to Calumet, MI to the heart of Yoopee Finlander country and we bought the wood burning stove from Royale Fabricating.

For the base, we used sheet metal with patio blocks on top and porcelain tile to protect the area in front of the door.

The stove has added heat shields on the wall sides and I got my hands on some lovely sheet copper for wall protection. Metalbestos chimney. We add d a shelf and a custom deer antler rack to the changing room.
The room heats up with one armload of wood, poplar and oak/maple mix, in about 45 minutes to an hour. Dragon breath heat level. Lake Superior rocks on the stove.
Its been great with the snow and an admirable project for both the high school students and us.
Copper heat shield offers aesthetics and functionality
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10 thoughts on “An authentic backyard sauna built in Wisconsin with a little help from his high school friends”

  1. Oooh, gorgeous. I’m still in the planning/ getting inspiration phase, but soon I’ll start my own.

  2. I would like echo Shirley’s question on the copper heat shield. What gauge was used? And I see copper nails/screws in the corner. Was there any other attachments used to anchor the copper? I don’t want to use an adhesive due to possible off gassing. Anyone have any answers? Thank you.

  3. Frankie: I like the thinking. I’m not sure on gauge for copper heat shield but maybe I should track down the sauna owner? I’m interested in the lampomassa rating of this surround.

  4. I would like to know what clearance dimensions Dave used between the stove and the wall heat shields. We have a stove just like his and are in a quandary about how much space to leave between walls and stove. I like the idea of using sheet metal on the floor and adding patio brick.


  5. Dave can chime in if he’s on board, but i’ll chime in and say that a sheet metal surround works extra good if applying to cement board with 3/4″ – 1″ air gap to the wall. A guy can run the stove pretty tight in this circumstance, my experience. (insert legal waiver notice here).

  6. Thanks Glenn.

    Now, we have another problem. We want to use double wall pipe from the stove to the chimney. We purchased an Ultra Black pipe system from Excel. When I tried to install it on the stove, it wouldn’t fit. Turns out the outside diameter of the stove collar is 6″ but so is the diameter of the inner wall of the pipe. I thought the diameter of the OUTER wall of the pipe was supposed to be 6″.

    I would like to get in touch with Dave Olson and find how he installed his pipe and what brand he used. Would you please ask him to email me at dkdavies3 at so we can discuss. Thanks much.


  7. Further to the above comment, I checked with the stove manufacturer who told me they design their stoves to work with single-wall 6″ pipe that has a crimp on the bottom to fit inside a 6″ stove collar which is has an I.D. of 5.5″. Since the O.D. on our stove collar is 6″, I had our local metal shop fabricate an adapter to the Excel adapter that’s supposed to go from the double-wall pipe to a stove chimney with a 6″ O.D.. Now, I can use the double-wall pipe with our stove and have no issues. Kinda confusing, eh? Just thought I’d pass this along.


  8. I came across this particular post as I am looking at the Royale Superior sauna stove and was wondering if anyone else has the stove or any input on it.

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