Widely used in commercial applications, such as gyms, spas and hotels, a sauna made from Western Red Cedar is an ideal building material choice due to the natural oils and extractives in the wood. These naturally occurring preservatives enable it to withstand rot and decay for many years, even in wet and steamy environments. Also due to its stability and low shrinkage rate, it is able to stay straight and hold it’s shape. Western Red Cedar’s high insulation value captures the heat inside and easily absorbs sounds to create a quiet sanctuary that is beautiful, smells wonderful and is comfortable.
It should be noted, that Clear (free from Knots) Western Red Cedar is the preferred choice over Tight Knot boards, as the knots tend to absorb a fair amount of heat and can become uncomfortable when stepping on or leaning against.
Building a personal sauna is relatively simple when the correct materials are purchased. Although styles do very, the basic construction methods do not change. These steps can provide you a general outline:
- Choose a spot for your sauna where plumbing, heating and electricity are easily accessible.
- Install any necessary pipes, wires, or gas lines.
- Personal saunas are generally heated in two ways: lava rocks, which are heated and then water is poured over to create steam, or infrared heating, which uses a heater inside the sauna. If you are using infrared heating, be sure to have the correct amount of power coming in to the structure. If you are using rocks, you may need to dig a space into the ground for them.
- Lay a simple foundation for your sauna and frame the walls and ceiling using dry Doug Fir, no. 1 or 2 construction grade, 16″ center. Use pressure treated plates. Be sure to leave room for three ventilation points: one in the ceiling, one on the floor, and one above the heater. Add spaces for benches and windows as desired. Be sure to frame for a door that opens out.
- Insulate with fiberglass insulation and add a vapor barrier to keep moisture off the fiberglass and help it last longer.
- Roof the interior of the sauna with Western Red Cedar, but remember to keep a ventilation spot open for steam to escape. A tongue and groove product works especially well in this application, as well as for sheeting the interior walls.
- Install your heating system, following instructions given with the system, and leave a wide space for the sauna heater.
- Place the first layer of flooring using ceramic tile. This goes over your heating system and will collect moisture.
- Lay a second layer of flooring using unsecured boards. You should be able to easily remove these and clean the tiles. Clear, Western Red Cedar decking is an excellent choice for this.
- Install the sauna heater.
- Add any benches, windows and other fixtures as desired.