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A 12’x16′ cabin sauna that’s a lot more than just a cabin sauna

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Along the Eastern shores of Pine Island, Lake Vermilion, in Northern Minnesota

there sits a 12’x16′ sauna tucked within the landscape amongst the Birch and Pine trees.

12z16 sauna
12′ x 16′ sauna building.



Being on an island, electrical service is not always reliable.  Imagine a cold winter day, cross country skiing from mainland and realizing there is no power.  Danger.  But not dangerous with a candle in the changing room window and a wood burning sauna stove.  Now you have a health and wellness winter retreat.

DSC_1080
An authentic sauna hot room, with an authentic wood burning sauna.

This sauna is much more than a sauna.  Imagine this same cold winter’s night.  Sub zero temperatures creeping in and making sleeping miserable.  Not so with this sauna.  Above the hot room is a cozy warm sleeping area, reachable by this hand made ladder.

DSC_1073
Ladder leading to sleeping loft above hot room.

But that’s not all.

The changing room has an old school table/desk area. Thanks to cell phone coverage and interweb access, the sauna structure doubles as a super chill office retreat. One can set up their work station here. Windows all around to take in the beauty and brilliance of nature.

a changing room that doubles as an "office" for a corporate foot soldier.
a changing room that doubles as an “office” for a corporate foot soldier battling from the trenches.

And check out this screened in porch.

Connecting the outside with the inside, this multi purpose structure may provide no better place to:

screened in porch.
taking in doses of nature in the screened in porch.
  1. welcome the morning – as a guest cabin.
    decompress from a conference call – as an office or
    chill out between sauna rounds – as a sauna.

I don’t care what the building inspector calls it.  This sauna building is a lot more than a sauna.

12 x 16 cabin sauna
12 x 16 cabin sauna
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12 Comments

12 thoughts on “A 12’x16′ cabin sauna that’s a lot more than just a cabin sauna”

  1. Planning a 12’x16’ sauna/bunkhouse at our property up north in Talkeetna, AK. Love the idea of a sleeping loft over the hot room, but am getting naysayers who think it’d be darn hard to keep moisture/heat from making that space uninhabitable. Any ideas on how to seal/insulate to allow for 4-season use of the sleeping loft? In my current vision, the entire structure would be insulated 2×4 exterior walls, insulated gable roof, with hot room ceiling insulated as well. Changing room would double as guest bunk space, and I know the kids would love the loft idea. Hoping to do a through wall stove into changing room, to provide some warmth to that space as well, for 4-season use (not sure if that will be enough, or if will need to add another heat source?). Any suggestions/ideas/feedback would be much appreciated!

  2. Our loft above the hot room works wonderfully.

    Our sauna sessions are only a couple few hours out of the 24, which allows for plenty of time to air out the hot room (open door) and vent the cool down room and loft (ceiling fan and windows).

  3. Thanks, Glenn, for that feedback – didn’t realize that was your cabin. Love it. Ours will not have electricity (unless we can rig solar – may be a challenge in our short winter days), so would have to count on natural venting (windows). Did you do anything different from your usual recommended ceiling construction (taped foil barrier above the t&g, then fiberglass between the joists), knowing it would be a sleeping loft? I’m considering shipping a Kuuma up here – if we can swing that, do you think going to a medium would serve the planned ~6’x8′ (or 7’x9′) hot room, and ~10’x12′ changing/bunk room, with a through-wall design? Hoping to be able to use the stove as both sauna stove and bunk room heat, for 4 seasons. Have a lot of wood available, so no worry there – just not familiar enough about how a sauna stove works vs. a regular wood stove, and the through-wall factor, to understand if the stove would meet that dual-purpose need. Again, thanks for whatever feedback you have. About to buy the e-book, to dig in to planning mode!

  4. Matt:

    My friend and I built this sauna/guest cabin/office/chill out sanctuary 1996. If I had an empty canvas and new paints in which to do it all over again, it may sound wacky, but I would build the exact same thing. Super appreciative of the consciousness put into this project.

    As far as more pics go, maybe you’ll have to sight inspect after ice out or we face time zoom it. My wife is a photographer but hashtag: cobbler’s kids shoes. These photos are all I can put my fingers on at the moment.

  5. Hi, I’m enjoying this design.

    Can’t quite see from the pictures–how did you manage the stove pipe exit from the building? Did you have it go up through the loft, or (I’m guessing) out the side of the structure instead?

    Also, do you know the dimensions of the sauna itself in this model?

    Thanks for any info–looking at building this April / May.

  6. Hi Torsti:

    Stove pipe:
    The stove pipe goes straight up, and transitions to silver chimney pipe at the hot room ceiling. From the loft, while sleeping, you could lean against the silver pipe if you were sleeping up there and rolled over and had a bad dream, so I boxed around the pipe up there (2″ clearance). I like sauna stove piping to go straight up vs. elbows for better draw, and clean lines, and that’s just me.

    The hot room dimensions:
    Somewhere I have the dimensions of this entire sauna building, but I can’t find them now. The hot room, I know is 6’4″ along the 12′ wall (remaining dimension forms the porch width). And it’s close to that same dimension the other way, with 2 – 24″ wide benches, lower bench tucked under. And the key is that the hot room door wall is off set on an angle. This is a key feature for this design. as it picks up the opposite angle for the changing room door to the porch.

    Really good flow. You exit the hot room and are in position to head right outside, vs. pointing diretly into the cool down room.

  7. Hi Glenn,
    We saw this post in the fall and are moving ahead with plans to build a sauna-cabin like this one come spring 2022. Our family of four live in a 600 ft2 house so having the get-away space of the changing room and loft–in addition to the sauna–definitely appeals to us! Any chance you found the building’s dimensions you mentioned above? Or would it be possible to get a sketch of the layout with approximate dimensions? I think we could take it from there. Your description of this cabin’s flow sounds fantastic and we’d like to replicate that.
    With appreciation for your work and shared knowledge,
    Megan

  8. Hi Megan:

    I can’t change anything about this 12×16 design. I’m 230 miles away from our cabin sauna, so I can’t take a tape measurer to it at this time. And as a guy with stuff all over the place, I can’t seem to put my fingers on the dimension/layout right now. But I’ll send you an email, and maybe this kind of nudging in both directions will get it to happen for you.

    Thanks for your kind words regarding my work and shared knowledge. A kick ass sauna is like a candle that lights another candle. To know that others are doing it, and building awesome saunas for themselves, fuels me, as you may know.

    So, happy to help you.

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