Saunas are a huge piece of Finnish history, and it’s not surprising that you want to decorate your backyard with one. In fact, it would be perfectly safe to say that Finnish people are the most experienced sauna crafters and artisans as they’ve been perfecting their craft for thousands of years.
Of course, there are numerous ways to get started, which seems to be the first thing that puzzles most people when it comes to building a Finnish-style sauna, and luckily for you, we’re here to give you some useful tips, tricks, and of course, recommendations in terms of DIY kits and techniques. Without any further ado, let’s get started.
Even though it is possible to build a quality Finnish sauna from scratch, we highly recommend that you start by choosing a do-it-yourself kit; there are numerous construction companies and brands that will gladly help you out with this matter, with one of the most prominent names being BZB Cabins and Outdoors.
Depending on the style and design you wish for your Finnish backyard sauna (and your kit, of course), you’ll need a different set of tools. Anyway, you’ll need the basic tools, such as a screwdriver, a saw, a hammer, a measuring tape, and some hardware regardless of your choice of sauna design.
Things to consider
There’s a bit more to building a Finnish sauna than just construction work; picking the right location, selecting adequate materials, and adding your final touch to it are the things that will make it exquisite and unique.
Picking the location
The location where you intend to put your Finnish sauna is just as important as the design, materials, and pretty much any other factor. First and foremost, the ground must be even; most Finnish sauna designs utilize wooden supports, and you don’t want a flammable box with a built-in heater tipping over.
For safety purposes, your sauna should be at least ten-fifteen feet away from your house, your fence, and anything that can easily catch fire (especially garage).
On another hand, you’ll also need to pick the spot that offers enough space for the construction itself, but also for your comfort and leisure. Cramping your sauna next to your home might seem like a good idea during the colder seasons, but it doesn’t look so great aesthetically. Additionally, most people wouldn’t feel too comfortable being within the eyesight of their housemates while trying to relax inside the sauna semi-naked.
Selecting the material
When it comes to picking the right material, you’ll need to balance the cost, durability, and mold/moisture-wicking properties. Cedar, for example, is insect-resistant and fares pretty well against moisture. Pine trees are slightly harder to refine and are pricey, but they boast the same properties while also being sturdy.
Essentially, hardwood is always a good choice. It’s dense and has a natural scent while also being available at a relatively approachable price pretty much everywhere in the world. Spruce (especially Nordic Spruce) is perfect in terms of robustness; insects seem to avoid it altogether, and mold shouldn’t ever be an issue, but it’s fairly expensive.
Adding a personal touch
Before you get to the final stages of building your Finnish sauna, you should think about putting your own stamp on the design of your sauna. You might want to add another set of windows or build stands for more towels, and such.
Some people go as far as integrating a sound system in their sauna, which is a wonderful idea if you’re careful about it. Steam can easily destroy even the most durable speakers unless they’re water-resistant, so the smartest course of action would be to have a separate room just by the entrance where you’ll connect your audio setup.
Finnish Sauna Design Recommendations
One of the most important parts of constructing a sauna is deciding how the end result should look like, what materials it will be comprised of, and obviously, choosing the kit that will best fit the situation. Here are some of the most popular designs:
Oval Sauna is a classic choice. Most saunas of this type look pretty simplistic, they require minimal handyman skills, and the DIY kits required to build them aren’t too expensive.
The design of these saunas provides the benefit of curved walls, which substantially improves the level of comfort a person can hope to achieve while using its facilities.
The BZB Cabins and Outdoors offers a single Oval Sauna kit labeled ‘W2’; it includes a wood-burning heater, relatively large walls made from Nordic Spruce, three support cradles and three steel bands with fasteners, a covered terrace, roofing shingles and all the hardware you’ll need, as well as plenty of spare parts in case you damage or misplace some.
Being one of the most popular designs, you’ll also be able to upgrade your new Finnish Sauna with custom windows, a water tank, a cold plunge tub, and sauna headrests.
The Igloo sauna is plain, straightforward, and depending on the kit its size and number of people it can accommodate varies. Basically, this is a variation of the Barrel Sauna Style; it’s slightly easier to build, though, mainly because it rests on a wooden floor (as opposed to wooden supports).
BZB Cabins and Outdoors offers three Igloo Sauna DIY kits; they’re all relatively similar, with the main difference being the number of people the sauna is meant for.
The original Sauna Kit Igloo 40 is an 8-person, two-room Finnish sauna equipped with two benches. Just like Oval Sauna Kits, the Igloo Sauna Kit 40 features Nordic Spruce planks. Once finished, this sauna will have a covered terrace and a pre-cut door opening where you can install BZB doors or any particular model of your choosing.
The Igloo 40 Sauna Kit is also available in the ‘Trailer’ variation; this kit is near twice as expensive, but it will give your new sauna a set of wheels so you can enjoy its benefits on the go.
If you want a smaller Sauna, we recommend the Igloo Sauna Kit 28. It’s designed for 6-8 people, and it comes equipped with exactly the same features as the Igloo Kit 40, with the only exception being that it is slightly smaller in size. Of course, this also makes the kit rather more approachable in terms of price.
Aesthetically, Barrel-style saunas look absolutely amazing, perhaps even more so than Igloo and Oval saunas. It might even be fair to say that Barrel saunas are birthed from the marriage of the aforementioned two.
Barrel Saunas resemble Igloo-style ones, but there are a lot of differences between them in terms of both functionality and aesthetics. These saunas are typically wider with shorter roofs, or at least that’s the impression you are most likely to get due to its curvature.
BZB Cabins and Outdoors Company offer a huge number of Barrel Sauna construction kits, including the Barrel Sauna W44, W42, W34, W20, and W29. DIY kits SQ44 and SQ45 are essentially ‘square’ barrel saunas; these two are different only in terms of size, whereas they both include Nordic Spruce planks and premium-quality hardware.
Some of the first Finnish saunas were small, simple cabins equipped with a log burner. If you want to decorate your backyard with an authentic, Finnish-style sauna, we highly recommend the Viking design.
Furthermore, Viking Finnish Saunas are, perhaps, most practically designed. They bear a lot of semblance to casual cabins and smallish farmhouses, but they’re also very spacious. Regardless of the kit you choose, you’ll have plenty of space, both indoors and outdoors. Due to the fact that they feature separate rooms, Viking saunas build up heat faster and are ready for use in shorter amounts of time.
DIY kits that BZB Cabins and Outdoors Company offers are plain and straightforward, requiring nothing more than the most elementary skills with a saw, nails, and hammer. Apart from sporting Nordic Spruce wood materials, these kits also come outfitted with Harvia’s sauna stones, heater bedding, and protective shield.
Tips & Tricks
Break the building process into smaller steps
Having a plan always helps, especially with projects as demanding as constructing an outdoor sauna. Take a pen and paper and scribble down a plan before you get to work. Break the process into smaller bits and take as much time as you need, you don’t need to rush it.
Laying the foundation for your sauna should be your first step, and it should go pretty smoothly. Building the outer walls will take a bit more time and effort, but you’ll have a rough idea about how you are progressing so far.
Dividing the total sauna space into rooms will probably be difficult. If you don’t think you can do it efficiently on your own, there’s no shame in asking for help from a professional architect or an engineer.
Make your sauna safer to use
It doesn’t take much to imagine a wooden box catching fire, and most saunas are precisely that. Even though most people feel pretty safe and confident that nothing can go awry once the steamer (or any heating element) is completely doused, there’s a tiny chance that a couple of embers can lead to an inferno.
Investing some extra cash in a more stable, more reliable heating element is always a good choice. Alternatively, there are a couple of devices and gadgets that you can install, including a thermometer, temperature limiters, heat-sensitive sprinklers that were specifically designed for saunas, and carbon-monoxide detectors.
If this is your first time building a Finnish sauna, you might have a hard time figuring out what you want it to look like. Firstly, consider that you can have as many windows as you like. Keeping the sauna well-lit helps most people relax, and natural sunlight is usually the best way to do it.
Some people don’t feel too great about being so ‘exposed’, so a great alternative to adding more windows is to add better lights. If your sauna is mid-sized or larger, any room other than the main ‘sauna’ room can be used for recreation; you can add a sound system, and even a TV inside, but only if you’ve made sure that your sauna is completely fire-proof.
There are so many reasons why you would want a Finnish sauna in your backyard; first and foremost, these structures really look ravishing. Furthermore, all you need is a DIY kit and some goodwill; at least BZB Cabins and Outdoors kits are designed in such a way that any layman could easily build a marvelous construction with it.
If you’ve always wanted a place to rest or a steaming sanctuary where you could relax with your friends, we encourage you to take a look at BZB Cabins and Outdoors sauna kits.