A DIY Sauna Project on the Cheap

It's easy and costs next to nothing to build your own sauna from recycled materials.


| March/April 1978



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Directions for your DIY sauna just like the commercial ones, only better!


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What an ad. The photo showed a lovely, towel-clad model reclining on a smooth redwood bench in a handsomely paneled room. Healthy beads of perspiration trickled down her brow as she ladled water from a wooden bucket onto the stones in the heater below. Under the picture, the caption read: BUILD THIS BEAUTIFUL, HEALTHFUL FINNISH SAUNA. KITS AS LOW AS $449. 

"Yeah," I said to myself. "Sure would be nice to have a sauna like that ... but $450? No way!" My pal Tom was unemployed at the time, and I was, ah, between jobs myself. And to be sure, we didn't have the kind of money mentioned in that classy ad although we dearly wanted our own sauna.

You've heard the old saying, "Where there's a will, there's a way"? Well, I'm happy to report that — thanks to a little resourcefulness on our part, a bit of luck and some help from our friends — Tom and I have been able to build an efficient, cozy, roomy (for four people), down-home, woodburning Finnish sauna. And it didn't cost us $450. In fact, it didn't even cost us $50 if you can believe that.

I'll have to admit, fate was with us when we began our search for free building materials because right off the bat we stumbled onto a couple of half-moon houses (made of rough-sawn pine) sitting behind an abandoned migrant workers' camp. Each was 4-foot-by-4-foot-by-7-foot, in excellent shape, and — as luck would have it — completely odorless. We tactfully approached the cherry farmer who owned the pair of privies, and he let us have them for a chortle, a chuckle and a good-natured guffaw.

Back at the cottage, Tom and I — aided by Kathy Kalcec's brainpower — came up with a brilliant idea: Rather than dismantle the privies for their wood, why not hook the two units together to form one larger structure (our sauna)?

With this idea in mind, we laid out a foundation of six cinder blocks. Then — after removing the seats, face and roof of each outhouse — we positioned the two buildings on the blocks so they faced each other. At this point, friend and ace carpenter Chris Knowles arrived on the scene to help Tom and me mate the two outhouses to one another. (We used 3 1/2-inch through-bolts to lock the two structures together.)





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