We all get big ideas on the bench, very few of these ideas materialize. My friend Glenn over at SaunaTimes calls this “sauna talk.” Well, my friends over in the Powderhorn neighborhood are putting their vapor barrier where their mouth is!
They invited me over to talk sauna a few days ago. Knowing this bunch as well as I do, I had high hopes for the project. However, the rate of their progress has blown me away! I’ll let them tell you the rest…
Hello, 612 Sauna Society! Abby and Emily here from the Powderhorn branch. We’ve enjoyed many good sweats on the bench at the Firehouse and Little Box Sauna and, after a few glasses of wine with everyone’s favorite saunameister, committed to building our own sauna right here on 17th Ave!
The duplex where we live (which Abby purchased this summer) has an old 2-stall garage. We are less into car exhaust and more into Löyly, so we thought we’d just cover the walls in cedar and give the space a new life!
Ok, maybe it’s not quite that simple–but lucky for us, we are 612 Sauna Society Members and have a lot of support! We also have Oriel, who actually knows how to build things. Emily learned a thing or two about making something flashy outta something trashy when she remodeled a rotting trailer to take her nonprofit, Eat for Equity on the road. Abby usually has a pot of soup on the stove, Lindsay keeps our wine rack stocked, Ingrid makes sure we take breaks to play broom ball and Tripper the dog barks at us and pees on our 2x4s. Oriel’s two boys, Anson and Benicio, live with us for part of the week, too, and are excited to see just how hot the garage will actually get.
Phase 1: The First (of many?) Home Depot Trips:
Armed with the sketch we made of our sauna at dinner the night before, we made our first trek to Home Depot. The plan: purchase materials for framing the floor and insulating the walls. Here’s what we learned:
Sauna Building Lesson #1 – Bring snacks.
You will be making many decisions, on questions you’ve never really thought all that much about before. Decisions like batt or roll insulation or 6″ or 8″ or 10″ wide pine planks. You’ll be using mathematics skills you haven’t accessed since high school algebra to figure out how much square footage of insulation or aluminum vapor barrier you need. You will be sorting through a hundred cedar boards, looking for one without knots that will burn your butt. These decisions could soon overwhelm you, if you were making them on an empty stomach. We brought a bar of chocolate, sprouted crackers, a clementine, and a meat stick.
Sauna Building Lesson #2 – Make friends.
We found Joe, a helpful employee at Home Depot who quickly adopted us and our sauna project. So far, we’ve spent three times as many hours at Home Depot than actually working on the sauna [3 hrs/1 hr]. And Joe was with us most of that time, watching us work through the above decisions as a group, and offering his opinion as needed.
We were also in regular text communication with Saunameisters Glenn and John, who generously shared their advice. Glenn even texted us the aisle in Home Depot we could find an item, after we had asked three different employees to help. Make the process about making friends and working with friends, and the process will be as fun as final product.
We’re kind of a rag-tag group, but we hope these posts will be helpful to others who are thinking about building their own sauna. Mostly, though, we’d love to hear your feedback in real-time as we figure things out! Do you know a place where we can find cedar that we can actually afford? Is it ok to use a stove that my Uncle Stephen salvaged out of a dumpster or are we going to burn our house down? Do I need a permit for this? Stay tuned, fellow bench-dwellers–it’s going to be a silly and sweaty ride!
-Abby and Emily and the 17th Avenue gang!
Nice! If you’re looking for cheap cedar, I had good luck recently through a guy out of big lake I found on Craigslist (as shady as it sounds). Saved me about $500 compared to the stuff at home depot for mine! Also I saw you have that reflectix stuff in a pic…if that’s the same vapor barrier I almost bought you might want to check the specs on it. I think it’s only rated to like 180F…there’s some plastic in it that might not hold up. Some sauna websites sell stuff meant for higher temps. Good luck and enjoy!
Alex: Foil bubble wrap: i went down a similar cautionary road. I even contacted the mfr. regarding heat rating for foil bubble wrap. They set my mind at ease and I can get into the details of their heat rating relative to the insulate-ive properties of t&g cedar, but i’ll just say, i’ve used foil bubble wrap with great long term results for all my sauna builds and for me it has been the bomb.
Would you recommend foil bubble wrap in addition to other type of insulation, or is the bubble wrap enough?
Foil bubble wrap with foil tape : ) and check out our fb group for more building tip… Lots of knowledge there!
Matt, R11 to R13 fiberglass batt insulation is recommended for all walls and R19 or double batt (two layers of whatever you use for your walls) for ceiling of your sauna if building indoors. If your build is going to be outdoors then I’d recommend going with R19 for walls 2×6 framing.
I’d suggest you contact TyloHelo, Inc. to discuss your project. They can provide you all necessary materials in a custom-cut sauna kit or at the very least get you pointed in the right direction. They can also sell you sauna materials a la cart. Take a look at their Custom-Cut Sauna Kit Installation Instructions to help get you going in the right direction both for preparation of your framed area and the rest of your sauna build.
Custom-Cut Sauna Kit Installation Instructions: https://irp-cdn.multiscreensite.com/5997a641/files/uploaded/CC_Installation_710-0101.pdf