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!