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How to Build Your Own DIY Outdoor Sauna: Transform Your Backyard

A modern garden sauna cabin with large windows and potted topiary plants, showcasing a stylish DIY outdoor sauna in a serene backyard setting.

Looking at your backyard, do you dream of turning it into a place for relaxation and good health?

Building your own sauna outside seems tough at first. But actually, it’s easier than you think. With my experience in saunas, I’ve learned that building a DIY outdoor sauna is not as expensive or hard as it might seem.

This guide comes from years of loving saunas and learning how to make them. It shows you how to go from dreaming about a sauna to having one right in your backyard.

Quick Summary

  • Pick a good spot, use cedar wood, and decide between a wood stove or electric heater.
  • Building it yourself lets you design it your way and saves money compared to pre-made ones.
  • Make sure it has good airflow, enough insulation, and safety features to keep it working well.
  • Take care of your sauna regularly so it lasts longer and stays nice for years.

Why Choose to Build an Outdoor Sauna DIY?

Building your own outdoor sauna allows you to add your personal touch. And once you finish it, you’ll be proud to have created something from scratch.

The Benefits of Having a Sauna in Your Backyard

  • Having a sauna in the backyard is great for relaxation and health. The warmth helps relax the body and makes it feel wonderful. It’s like a private spot to unwind after busy days.
  • This space is good for having fun with friends or enjoying quiet time alone. It blends social and solo moments well.
  • You can design it your waykeeping an eye on costs by using recycled items or picking between wood-burning stoves or electric heaters.
  • This project lets you be creative while saving money.

DIY Outdoor Sauna vs. Buying Pre-Built: What’s Better?

Understanding the benefits of having a sauna in your backyard naturally leads us to the next crucial decision: whether to build an outdoor sauna or buy a pre-built one.

You have the option to buy a pre-built sauna kit from an online home improvement store. This kit has everything – walls, doors, benches, even a heater. It comes with instructions, which makes the building process easy.

Feeling adventurous? Go for building it from scratch and customize every detail exactly how you want it.

Let’s dive into this comparison of a DIY Outdoor Sauna vs. Buying Pre-Built:

AspectDIY Outdoor SaunaBuying Pre-Built
CostTypically more cost-effective, especially with the use of recycled materials.Higher initial cost but less labor-intensive.
CustomizationHighly customizable to fit specific desires and backyard spaces.Limited to available models and sizes.
Construction TimeLonger, depending on skill and complexity of the design. Can be a rewarding project.Quick and easy setup, often ready to use the same day it’s delivered.
Material QualityControl over materials used, can opt for high-quality, durable wood and materials.Depends on the manufacturer, higher cost doesn’t always mean better quality.
Personal SatisfactionBuilding your own sauna can offer immense personal satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment.Less personal involvement in the building process.
MaintenanceFamiliarity with construction can make maintenance and repairs easier to manage.Maintenance support may be available, but repairs could be costly if outside warranty.

In summary, deciding between a DIY outdoor sauna and buying a pre-built model depends on personal preferences, budget, and how much time and effort one is willing to invest in the project.

Related Article : Everything You Need to Consider Before Buying a Sauna

Initial Considerations and Planning for Your Outdoor Sauna

All set to go for a DIY outdoor sauna? Start by picking a spot in your backyard for the sauna. It must be on stable ground and clear of any trash or plants.

Then, make a simple plan of what your sauna will look like. An 8’x12′ size is enough for two people, with space for both a hot room and a changing area. For help, you can even look up plans online and design your own outdoor oasis

Next, lay down a strong foundation. I suggest a three-inch concrete slab for the foundation. Now, you need to choose the wood to frame the walls and roof. Recycled cedar is a very good option because it’s tough and good for the planet.

Now, you’re ready to choose materials and begin building.

A wooden barrel sauna with a large glass door nestled among trees.
Modern Outdoor Sauna

Deciding on the Right Sauna Kit and Materials

Choosing the right sauna kit for your backyard is key. You must pick strong and good-looking materials to make your outdoor sauna work well.

Understanding Different Types of Sauna Kits

You have two main choices for your sauna kit: pre-cut or modular.

Pre-cut kits come with wood boards and materials already measured and cut, but you need to assemble everything yourself. This option costs less but requires more work. It’s like a big puzzle where accurate measuring is crucial.

On the other hand, modular kits include panels that easily snap or screw together. They’re quicker to set up because most of the assembly is done beforehand. While these kits are pricier, they save time during installation.

Before deciding which one to pick, think about how much work you want to do versus how fast you want your sauna ready.

Choosing the Best Wood and Materials for Longevity

Cedar is the best wood for outdoor saunas. It fights rot and deals with moisture well, perfect for both inside and outside the sauna. Its oils keep bugs away, and it smells good when hot.

Don’t compromise on the quality of the door, windows, and insulation. Vapor barrier and foil tape stop moisture from getting where it shouldn’t. Fiberglass batts in walls keep heat in. Strong door framing and right ventilation are key to avoiding fire risks and keeping the temperature just right inside.

Preparing Your Outdoor Space for a Sauna

I’ve turned my love for saunas into knowledge. Here’s how to make your backyard the perfect spot for a sauna, focusing on the right location and safety.

Assessing Your Backyard: Finding the Perfect Spot

Picking the right spot for a sauna in the backyard needs attention.

  • Choose level ground to skip extra leveling work.
  • A place close to the house is best for easy trips to the sauna, especially when it’s cold.
  • Make sure there’s room around it for air and safety.
  • Privacy matters, too; you’ll enjoy relaxing more if it’s private.
  • Look up local rules before choosing a spot since some places have strict building rules for saunas.
  • Sunlight is important, too—a good amount makes the sauna nice all year.
  • Also, consider how the sauna fits your garden’s look, aiming for a nice blend.

Concrete Foundation vs. Deck: What’s Best for Your Sauna?

Deciding between a concrete foundation and a deck for your outdoor sauna is crucial. Here’s a quick comparison:

AspectConcrete FoundationDeck
StabilityOffers excellent stability, crucial for sauna structures.Can provide sufficient stability, but depends on construction quality.
LongevityHighly durable, can last decades with minimal maintenance.Requires regular maintenance to prevent rot and deterioration.
CostInitial cost is higher due to materials and labor.Can be more cost-effective, especially if you have existing structures to utilize.
InstallationRequires professional installation; not a DIY-friendly option.More DIY-friendly if you have some construction experience.
Heat RetentionExcellent, ensures efficient heating of the sauna.Good, but insulation might need to be supplemented.
Ground PreparationRequires significant prep work, including excavation and leveling.Less invasive, can be built over existing ground with proper supports.

In building my own sauna, I opted for a concrete foundation. I’ve found its durability and heat retention properties unmatched. Though upfront costs were higher, the longevity and stability it offers made it the clear choice.

Steven, the proud owner of an outdoor sauna in California

For those considering a more budget-friendly and less permanent option, constructing your sauna on a deck might be the way to go. Just keep in mind that maintenance and stability could be concerns down the line.

Interior of a sauna showing tiered wooden bench seating and warm lighting.
Sauna Interior with Tiered Benches and Warm Lighting

Ventilation and Insulation: Keeping Your Sauna Efficient

To keep your sauna working well, focus on ventilation and insulation. Ventilation lets fresh air in and steam out, which makes the sauna comfortable. The door opening helps with this airflow.

To keep heat inside, I suggest using R-19 insulation for the walls and ceiling. This way, heat stays in, which saves energy.

Put one vent near the bottom of the wall and another one close to the ceiling. These vents ensure air moves around well so it doesn’t get too hot or stuffy.

With good airflow from the vents and solid insulation with R-19, your sauna will stay warm without wasting heat.

Assembling Your DIY Outdoor Sauna: Step-by-Step Guide

Building an outdoor sauna is easy with the right steps. I’ll show you how to put up walls and heat your sauna quickly.

  • Start by setting up the side walls, front wall, and door for your sauna.
  • Ensure proper ventilation for a safe and enjoyable sauna experience.
  • Place the sauna stove or heater away from walls to prevent fire hazards.
  • For comfort, the upper bench should be at the same height as the stove’s bottom edge.

Building the Structure: Walls, Floor, and Ceiling

I’ve spent years enjoying and diving deep into the art of sauna building. It’s more than just a project; it’s about creating a personal haven. Let me walk you through crafting the walls, floor, and ceiling of your DIY outdoor sauna.

  1. Start with the foundation – Pouring a three-inch concrete slab provides a solid base. This step is crucial for stability and longevity.
  2. Frame the walls – Using recycled cedar, create stud walls. Cedar withstands moisture well, making it perfect for saunas. Ensure frames are squarely built for structural integrity.
  3. Install insulation – Proper insulation keeps heat in and cold out. Place it between wall studs before sealing it with vapor barriers to prevent moisture damage.
  4. Set up the flooring – Choose materials that resist water and heat. Masonry or special sauna mats work well over the concrete slab to prevent slips.
  5. Construct the ceiling – The ceiling traps heat at the top, so make it slightly sloped to direct condensation away from users towards the walls.
  6. Attach exterior siding – Protect your sauna from weather elements with durable exterior siding, like cedar boards, ensuring they overlap for extra protection against rain.
  7. Mount interior paneling – Similar to siding but for inside, cedar panels give a classic sauna look and feel while resisting mold and mildew.
  8. Seal gaps with caulk – Any tiny openings between boards or at corners need sealing to preserve heat and block moisture ingress.
  9. Cut spaces for ventilation – Install vents near the bottom edge to draw cool air in and another high on a wall opposite the stove for exhaust, ensuring fresh air circulation and proper ventilation.
  10. Throw water on hot rocks safely — ensure the heater or woodstove is accessible but not too close to lower benches to avoid fire hazards yet still enjoy that quintessential sauna experience.

Adding Benches, Doors, lighting, accessories and Finishing Touches

Building a sauna takes more than just walls and a roof. It’s about making a space that feels welcoming and works well.

  • Bench Position – Begin with benches. For an 8×12 feet wide sauna, put the first row of benches 18 inches off the ground to let heat move around you. Add another level at 36 inches for those who like it hotter.
  • Selecting a Door – A solid wood door keeps heat in better. If you want light, choose a small, insulated window in the door, but make sure it’s double-paned.
  • Light Up Your Space – Use dimmable waterproof LED lights for soft lighting that doesn’t raise the temperature too much.
  • Don’t Forget Accessories – Place hooks near the door for towels and robes. Consider adding a waterproof speaker system and heat-resistant artwork for extra comfort.
  • Put Safety First – Always include safety features like grounding electrodes for electrical systems unless everything is battery-operated.
  • Heating Correctly – Pick the right heater for your sauna size to reach and maintain safe temperatures, whether it’s electric or wood-burning.

Heating Your Sauna: Choosing the Right Heat Source

Close-up view of a round sauna heater filled with volcanic stones with the word "HUUM" inscribed on a metal plate.
Modern Electric sauna heater (Wall-Mounted)

Choosing the right sauna heater is important. It decides how warm your sauna will be and its running cost.

Wood-Burning Stove vs. Electric Heater

Both options have their merits, affecting your sauna’s ambiance, maintenance, and operational costs.

FeatureElectric StoveWood-Burning Stove
InstallationRelatively easy, requires electrical hookupMore complex, needs a chimney for ventilation
Heating TimeQuick heating, convenient for spontaneous useTakes longer to heat, adds to the ritualistic aspect
MaintenanceLower maintenance, no ash cleanupRegular cleaning of ash and chimney required
CostHigher operating costs due to electricity usageCost-effective if you have access to affordable wood
AmbianceClean and modern experienceTraditional feel with the crackling sound of wood
SafetyNo open flame, considered saferRequires cautious handling due to open fire
Eco-friendlinessDepends on the source of electricityRenewable if using sustainably sourced wood

Each option presents unique benefits. Electric stoves offer modern convenience and ease of use, ideal for those seeking simplicity and quick heating times.

Conversely, wood-burning stoves provide a traditional sauna experience, complete with the satisfying crackle of wood, but they demand more in terms of installation and maintenance.

Your choice will significantly influence your sauna’s character and operational dynamics.

Related: The 5 Best Wood-Burning Sauna Heaters in 2024

Maintaining Optimal Temperature and Humidity in Your Sauna

I keep my sauna between 150 and 195 degrees Fahrenheit for the best heat. I use a thermometer to check this. To add humidity, I sprinkle water on the rocks. This makes the air feel warmer.

Wood stoves in saunas give off dry heat. Electric heaters let you adjust the temperature easily with a thermostat. Choose what works best for you.

Now, let’s talk about energy efficiency and safety for outdoor saunas.

Energy Efficiency and Safety Tips for Outdoor Sauna Heating

To keep your sauna warm and just right, here’s what you need to do.

  1. Pick a heat source carefully. Wood stoves feel classic but need good air flow to stop fires. Electric heaters are neat and easy to handle, but they might hike up your energy bill.
  2. Make sure nothing that can catch fire is near the heat source.
  3. Get a reliable thermometer and hygrometer to check the sauna’s temperature and moisture. 
  4. Insulate the walls well to trap heat inside; this saves money over time.
  5. Use LED lights because they’re low on energy and don’t make it hotter.
  6. Always check your stove or heater to see if they work right and safely—this stops accidents before they start.

Taking care of these things helps you enjoy your backyard spot without stress while keeping costs low.

Enjoying Your Sauna: Tips for the Best Experience

I’ve enjoyed and studied saunas for years. I want to share my tips to make your sauna time better.

Traditional Finnish Sauna Rituals to Try

This is what I do. First, I heat the sauna. Next, I toss water on hot rocks to create steam. This makes it hotter and more humid, so I sweat a lot. Then, going outside or into a cold plunge cools me down quickly and feels good.

I also use birch branches on my skin in the sauna. It seems strange, but it improves blood flow and is relaxing like a massage. Drinking water or having a light snack is important to stay balanced during breaks.

These rituals are about warming up, cooling down right, and resting in between.

How to Properly Maintain Your Outdoor Sauna for Longevity

I take care of my outdoor sauna to make it last longer. Here’s how:

  • Sweep and wash – I clean the floors with a broom after using the sauna and use mild soap to wash the benches once a month.
  • Look for mold – I check for mold or mildew, focusing on corners and near the heater.
  • Keep wood nice – I put on wood sealant once a year to fight moisture and keep it looking good.
  • The Sauna door needs attention – I ensure the door seals well and its hinges are tight so the heat stays in.
  • Watch the stove – Cleaning my wood-burning stove or electric heater regularly prevents fires.
  • Let air flow – Keeping vents open during and after use stops too much moisture from building up.
  • Fix things fast – If boards, screws, or shingles get loose, I fix them right away to avoid bigger problems later.
  • Ready for winter – In cold areas, I cover outside pipes and think about using roof heating cables to stop ice dams.
  • Electrical safety is key – For electric heaters, checking all wiring and connections often keeps everything safe.
  • Stop pests in their tracks – It is important to ensure there are no gaps for bugs or rodents because they can damage quickly.

How to winterize your outdoor sauna for year-round use

Here’s how I do it:

  • First, I check for gaps or leaks where heat might escape. Sealing these up with caulk or weather stripping keeps the warm air in.
  • Insulation is key. I ensure walls, ceiling, and floor are well-insulated to hold in heat.
  • Next step? Double-glazed windows help a lot. They add an extra layer against the cold outside.
  • To stop pipes from freezing, I wrap them in insulation foam. This avoids bursts when it’s really cold.
  • heated floor system adds comfort and warmth underfoot during the chilliest days.
  • The right heater makes all the difference. Electric heaters work great, but wood-burning stoves bring a cozy feel with stronger heat.
  • Keeping a thermometer inside lets me check the temperature without letting out the heat by opening the door too often.
  • Proper ventilation is important to keep moisture down and prevent damage.

Conclusion

Making your own outdoor sauna can turn your backyard into a relaxing spot. It’s simpler than it seems if you have the right kit and want to do it yourself.

This project adds value to your home and offers health benefits, too.

For more ideas, check out other designs or speak with people who’ve built one before. Stepping into a sauna you built yourself is truly rewarding.


FAQs about DIY Outdoor Sauna

1. What materials do I need to build an outdoor sauna?

To build an outdoor sauna, you’ll need wood for the structure, insulation, a heat source like a wood stove or electric heater, copper wire for electrical connections, drywall for interior walls, and maybe hurricane clips if you live in a windy area. Don’t forget the speaker wire if you want music!

2. Can I really do it myself?

Yes! With some basic construction skills and patience, building your own outdoor sauna is achievable. You’ll dig a trench for electricity and water lines., frame the space using wood, and fill it in with insulation and drywall. It’s complex but rewarding.

3. Why should I consider having an outdoor sauna?

Outdoor saunas offer health benefits, such as better sleep, stress relief, improved cardiovascular health, and more! Plus, they transform your backyard into a relaxing retreat where you can unwind any time.

4. How long does it take to build one?

It varies based on size, design complexity, weather conditions, and how much help you have. On average, expect several weekends of dedicated work from start to finish, especially when working mostly alone or with limited help.


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