Building a Sauna for Post TEOTWAWKI Relaxation

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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I made the benches from 2” x 2” boards spaced about 1/4” apart.

 

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The walls and ceiling are made from pine shiplap boards screwed to the plywood.

 

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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.

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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!

-Jarhead Survivor

31 comments… add one
  • sirlancelot November 23, 2012, 9:03 am

    että on mukava sauna :-) that is a nice sauna !

    we have Finnish Society about 20 miles south of Boston. they have an old fashioned, wood burning sauna like yours. it’s great relaxation to get a good sweat and jump in the lake !

    a sauna will be the first house project once i get out of the city

    Reply
    • Jarhead Survivor November 23, 2012, 3:11 pm

      A friend introduced to me to it when I was a teenager and I’ve loved them ever since. Saunas are wonderful!

      Reply
  • D'ja'c November 23, 2012, 10:13 am

    Relax? …RELAX?!?!… With zombies, bikergangs, rouge blackwater security, UN black helicopters, aliens and Bigfoot running around. Who will have times to relax.

    Reply
    • Odd Questioner November 23, 2012, 10:56 am

      It is pretty vital (and I daresay critical) to have a means to kick back during those times where you’re not fighting something off or working to get fed.

      Even pre-historic people had games and other means to relax a little when they weren’t hunting, fighting off the tribe next door or keeping wild animals at bay… it’s how we’re wired.

      Reply
      • D'ja'c November 25, 2012, 8:01 am

        Man, how old are you? You remember cavemen?;-D. I should sit down and decide what to do after TSHTF. Right now I like to hike, camp, fish, cook, hunt, track, collect silver. Setting in a sauna sounds good for all my aches and pains!

        Reply
        • Odd Questioner November 26, 2012, 3:24 pm

          You kidding? When I was born, the Periodic Table of Elements had only one element: De (“Dirt”)

          (/me nods to Gary Larson/Far Side :) )

          Reply
    • Jarhead Survivor November 23, 2012, 3:10 pm

      I know! Crazy right? But there’ll I be, sweaty and smiling at the zombie hordes, all dizzy from the heat. :-)

      Reply
  • Jason November 23, 2012, 11:00 am

    You did a very thorough job building the sauna & it is great that you will get lots of usage from it, quite frankly it is well worth the investment of the dollars spent.

    That being said, if I want to get hot & sweaty then relax, I will choose a different indoor method :-)

    Reply
    • Jarhead Survivor November 23, 2012, 3:12 pm

      I hear ya, man! The sauna is my second favorite way to get sweaty.

      Reply
  • highdesertlivin November 23, 2012, 1:57 pm

    Im jealous, I cant seem to get enough time to get a new hot tub cover and fire it up. So it sits resembling the edmund fitzgerald.

    Reply
    • Jarhead Survivor November 23, 2012, 3:13 pm

      That sucks, man! Hey – make it a new years resolution and get’er done! I like hot tubs too.

      Reply
  • Yoda November 23, 2012, 2:44 pm

    Merry Christmas Jarhead:

    I think it would be helpful to relaz with a bevy of Scandinavian Airlines Stewardessess.
    Keep on keeping on Jarhead!

    “Yoda’s Little Knonw Tactics To AVoid Being A Target”
    http://www.magnifiedview.com

    Reply
    • Jarhead Survivor November 23, 2012, 3:14 pm

      Haha! Hey Yoda, I’d be relaxed until Mrs Jarhead showed up. Then they’d find my hide on the outside of the sauna wall.

      Reply
  • T.R. November 23, 2012, 3:39 pm

    The Russians call them dachas . and they are all over the place out in the country .

    Reply
    • Jarhead Survivor November 24, 2012, 9:32 am

      I always thought a dascha was a cottage. Ya learn something new every day!

      Reply
    • Jason November 26, 2012, 2:15 pm

      In Bangladesh this would be called a clothing & manufacturing building.

      Reply
  • ferndale November 23, 2012, 9:04 pm

    i married a girl with family from the upper peninsula in michigan. finnish thorugh and through. whenever we visit their place up there, we take saunas every day. they are really, really relaxing. i prefer them to showers and baths.

    there’s a old finnish style homestead near houghton (hanka homestead for those with google skills) that has all the old outbuildings, including a smoke sauna that doubled as a meat smoke house. very interesting stuff.

    Reply
  • Walt November 23, 2012, 9:24 pm

    We have wood heated dry sauna room in the back half of a 12 x 16 shed, with a bath and stall shower for bathing in the front half, at our offgrid cottage. Very relaxing, and gets every last chill out of your bones in February. Ours looks very similar to yours, minus the vapor barrier since we don’t use steam. A few drops of sauna oil, menthol or wintergreen are my favorites, helps clear the sinuses too.

    That aluminum vapor barrier makes great Faraday cage material too.

    Reply
    • Jarhead Survivor November 24, 2012, 9:31 am

      That sounds good. How do you get the water out there?

      Reply
      • Walt November 25, 2012, 7:29 pm

        We plumbed the well to a pressure tank inside the shed. Only holds enough for about 2 GI showers, unless we run the gennie to keep filling the tank. If I had to do it again, I think I’d go with a big non-pressurized water tank. Fill it from the well, and use a 12v demand pump to pump the water out for the shower.

        Reply
      • Walt November 25, 2012, 7:30 pm

        We plumbed the well to a pressure tank inside the shed. Only holds enough for about 2 GI showers, unless we run the gennie to keep refilling the tank. If I had to do it again, I think I’d go with a big non-pressurized water tank. Fill it from the well, and use a 12v demand pump to pump the water out for the shower.

        Reply
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  • Chukarguy November 25, 2012, 10:35 am

    Couldn’t agree more on the health benefits. Take out my obvious bias and after your own research you will find the material to use for saunas (or your house, man-cave, shop, etc) is CEDAR. It has a very high “r” value (insulting properties), which is why most commercial saunas are made from it. It doesn’t have to be perfect to use either. It is a misconception that it is way too pricey. Thats because there are too many markups involved and lumberyards don’t try to promote “seconds”, for less money.
    T

    Reply
  • BM November 27, 2012, 8:46 am

    As someone that grew up in a stinking hot country, I never got the point of the sauna. Our non-air conditioned demountable schoolrooms were saunas – definitely not relaxing. Your car so hot you cant touch the seats or steering wheel. Not fun.
    Once you’re surrounded by snow I can see the appeal, but all year round?

    Reply
    • Jarhead Survivor November 27, 2012, 10:35 am

      BM – that’s *exactly* why I don’t live in a hot weather environment. I was stationed in North Carolina and that was plenty hot and miserable enough for me. I also did a few rotations down to Cuba and Peurto Rico. Way too hot!

      I’m a cold weather guy all the way.

      Reply
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