In an earlier post I wrote about taking a sauna (pronounced sow-na) to stay relaxed after TSHTF; however, I didn’t talk about how I got there. Today I’ll show you what I built and how I did it.
One quick note about saunas. Not only are they a great way to relax, but it’s also a good way to get to get cleaned up with a minimum amount of water. With a gallon of water you can work up a thorough sweat, add water to the rocks creating abundant hot steam, and use the rest to rinse off with. If you’re in a position like me where you’re literally surrounded by woods then the wood needed to heat the stove is a minimal expense.
Build or Convert?
There are many different ways to build a sauna, from building one inside your house – usually in the basement – to converting an outdoor shed. I chose the latter method.
This was a learning process for me and it could have come out better if I’d done more research ahead of time, but despite its shortfalls I’m still pleased with the performance.
Here are the steps:
First, find a suitable sized shed. The one I bought was 10’ x 12’. Once I’d paid for it I had to find a way to get it to my house. Luckily the shed was less than two miles up the road. I paid $500 for the shed and another $350 to have it moved and put up on skids.
As you can see above there are two doors. Originally they opened up to one big room, but I built a wall behind the door on the right. This left me a small space behind the door on the left to hang a towel, clothing, changing or whatever. In the picture below you can see a small bench I put in to sit on while changing.
The idea behind a sauna is that it needs to be hot, which means insulation. I have a friend who built one, but didn’t insulate it and when it got real cold it was difficult to heat it up enough to be sauna hot (160+ degrees. I prefer my sauna at 180 degrees F). Lucky for me the walls of this shed were already insulated, so all I had to do was put insulation in the ceiling and the wall I built.
Experts advise against using the insulation that comes in the form of a board because the heat might cause it to release dangerous chemicals into the air. I used the insulation below.
Here’s where I made a mistake. My next step was to put up fiberboard over the insulation. First of all, fiberboard was a poor choice because the heat makes it flake and peel after just a few uses. I also should have put a vapor barrier in before the fiberboard. After much research and soul searching I decided to do it right and ordered some special aluminum vapor barrier from an online sauna site.
I didn’t want to lose the work I’d done putting up the fiberboard, but everything I read indicated that some kind of a vapor barrier was a must-have if you wanted a long lifetime out of your sauna.
I’ve paid for the project as I went along, so below you can see some of the vapor barrier sticking out from the wood I used to finish the walls. The vapor barrier is stapled to the plywood and the boards are placed over it creating a good barrier against moisture getting into the insulation. The vapor barrier also works as insulation helping to keep precious heat inside where it belongs.
I made the benches from 2” x 2” boards spaced about 1/4” apart.
The walls and ceiling are made from pine shiplap boards screwed to the plywood.
Stove and Stove Pipe
An important part of any sauna is the heating system. I chose a wood stove for a number of reasons and have been very happy with it. I found the stove on Craigslist and paid $100 for it. The pipe I bought new and if I remember correctly it was in the neighborhood of $200 for the pipe and the kit that runs the pipe through the ceiling.
All told I put roughly $3500 into this project. When I started out I certainly didn’t mean to put that much money into it, but this is something I use at least three times a week and I feel that over the years I’ll get my money’s worth out of it. If I’d gone with more expensive wood it would have probably run me another $500 to $1000, so I did manage to trim some costs there. The pine does tend to secrete a little pitch at higher temps, but it hasn’t been a problem for me or my guests up to this point.
So there you have it. A barebones, home made, get’er done, home project that has brought me hours of relaxation and enjoyment. If TSHTF and the power goes out I’ll still be out there sitting in the steam with a relaxed look on my face.
What do you guys have lined up for relaxation after TSHTF?
Sound off below!