If you want to be able to go to a sauna anytime you want, then why not build a sauna inside of your backyard? Backyard saunas aren’t just for those living in the far north, but also for those who want the benefits of a sauna all year round. While you might think that building a sauna in your backyard is extremely complicated, you would actually be wrong. It’s pretty easy!
All you need to do is read this guide, and it will tell you everything you need to know about building a backyard sauna!
Do You Need a Permit for an Outdoor Sauna?
Whether or not you need a permit to build an outdoor sauna in your backyard is actually going to be determined by local laws and what your homeowners’ association (HOA) has to say about the subject.
Most residential areas will let you build structures that are 120 square feet or less without any permits or paperwork, but otherwise you won’t need any additional permits. Just make sure you are doing the research before you lay the groundwork!
Can You Buy Outdoor Sauna Kits?
Yes, you can buy various kits that are partially made, and others that require more building knowledge and only include the disassembled pieces. If you are more of a do it yourselfer than an actual builder, then buying a kit can help you get a full sauna, without needing to build and put together every single piece.
Some kits, like the LTCCDSS Outdoor Far Infared Sauna come in pieces and you need to put all of the pieces together like a giant puzzle, but as long as you attach the right pieces to the right pieces, then your sauna will be good to go.
The ALEKO 4 Person White Pine Wood Barrel Sauna on the other hand, uses skill and some building knowledge whenever you both put the sauna together and hook up the power and water to it.
No matter what level of kit you buy, you should do the research and ensure that it works for your sauna needs and that you can also build it without any difficulty.
Can You Build Your Own DIY Outdoor Sauna?
You can build an outdoor sauna yourself without the need to buy any kits, because building them isn’t super difficult as a sauna is simply an insulated wood shed with a proper heat source. As long as you make sure your sauna has that (and if you have built insulated wood sheds before), you should be able to make a pretty good stab at building one yourself.
Still, if you aren’t 100% confident in your abilities and don’t want to spend a ton of time and money building a sauna from scratch, then you might want to use an outdoor sauna kit.
How to Build a Sauna in Your Backyard?
No matter what you do in the battle of DIY-ing vs a kit, you will need to follow a few steps when it comes to getting your sauna off the ground.
1. Prepare the Ground Area
Saunas can be big or small, and once you pick the area where the sauna will need to be built, you need to prepare the area to make sure it can handle the sauna’s weight. Grass and soil won’t be your friends for this build, so you need to build your sauna on a reinforced deck, a patio, or on a strong concrete foundation.
2. Determine Your Heat Source
Electric (infrared, rocks), woodburning, gas… explain in detail the difference.
If you are looking for the best way to heat your sauna, then you’ve got a few choices. The first way and the most common way to heat your sauna is to use an electric sauna heater. These heaters are able to be turned on, and are able to quickly warm your sauna, with just the flick of a switch. Plus they can also be connected to apps or to your phone so you can flip the switch and turn your sauna on while you are away.
You can also use an infrared heater to heat yourself and the objects inside of the sauna directly, and unlike the electric heater it will not heat up the air around you. Additionally, you can get the same level of perspiration without a massive increase in temperature, which helps if you are sensitive to heat.
Of course, one of the best ways to add both heat and ambiance to a sauna is by using sauna heater rocks. These rocks store the heat from your heater, and whenever water is thrown or poured onto the hot rocks, then the reaction creates steam and that causes an enjoying atmosphere in the sauna.
Finally, one of best ways to heat your sauna is to use a wood burning heater. This adds the ambiance of the pure sauna experience with a woodburning crackle, soft heat, and of course the steam. Now, there’s no one heat source this is better than the other, just some that give you more of an environmental change or are more convenient to use.
3. Constructing the Sauna
Now, if you purchased a kit this is made easy as you can follow the instructions to properly assemble your sauna. Just make sure you are following all of the instructions, and if you need help the manufacturer of the kit typically has someone you can talk to.
Now if you are building the entire sauna yourself, then you need plans, and you can find sauna plans online or design them yourself. Decide on the design; because you can build a barrel sauna. This type of sauna is an outdoor sauna shaped like a barrel set on its side, and really looks cool!
There is also a small shed style and larger cabin style, which are saunas that look like a small shed or a large cabin and can give you the experience of stepping into an oasis. You can also simply plan out a modern design. Get creative with planning out your sauna, because as long as it works for you it will be fine, no matter the design!
Choose the right materials and figure out the best type of wood? Cedar wood is the most popular wood for your sauna, but you can use other pieces of wood as well. Don’t forget doors, windows, benches, and ventilation especially, because all of these things are required for your sauna to work effectively.
4. Add Additional Features
Get fancy and creative by adding additional features. Add unique windows, lights and switches, fire sprinklers for safety, towel racks, a sauna floor mat, a thermometer, and a sauna bucket. Your sauna isn’t just something you are going to use whenever you are stressed or bored, but also something that can provide a lot of release and relief.
For example, some saunas are equipped with essential oils to promote aromatherapy. This helps to reduce pain, improve sleep, manage stress, and even prevent depression in some users. Other saunas use Himalayan salt in their features or decorations, which has 84 minerals that can help to improve your mind and body.
Finally, even having a few shelves or stands in the sauna can also help you put things down without having to bend or reach to retrieve them, because who wants to move whenever they are so relaxed?
Great Add-ons to Your Outdoor Sauna
Hot Tub Or A Wood Fired Hot Tub
Why just sit in a hot steam room whenever you can sit inside of hot water too? Having a good hot tub near the sauna can help your body feel even better and can get you acclimated to the temperature. Plus, they both fulfill the same function for you, so there is no reason not to have them together if you want to relax or if you want to spend some relaxing time with people.
If you want to experience your sauna the way that the people of the north do, then you should mix time in the sauna with a dip in the cold water. Since you might not have a freezing cold lake to hop into, a swimming pool is going to be the next best thing. Spending some time alternating between a cold pool and a warm sauna can really help your health
A Covered and Heated Walkway
You might want to use your sauna whenever it is cold or raining outside, and instead of letting that stop you, or running out into the nasty weather with just a towel around you, you can use a covered and heated walkway to make the walk from your home to the sauna warm and pleasant as you ignore the elements. See our best outdoor heated snow melting mats here!
Building an Outdoor Sauna FAQs
Are DIY Saunas or Sauna Kits More Affordable?
Most sauna kits are sold by the square foot, and going by the measurements of a normal sauna (8-5 for four people), the kits can cost around $2.450. However, the price can go between $1,500-$7,200 depending on the kit you buy. Building your own sauna can cost between $3,000-$6,000, so if you want to save money, get the kit,
Can You Stain Sauna Wood?
You can stain or varnish the external wood of the sauna; however, due to the inside of the sauna being exposed to heat and water, you should NEVER apply anything to the inside of a sauna.
Do You Need to Apply a Protective Finish to an Outdoor Sauna?
No, you don’t need to. If your sauna gets dirty or has a weathered look, you can power wash the sauna with low pressure water, but only to get rid of any dust or debris.
How Long Do Outdoor Saunas Last?
If you have a cedar sauna it will last 15-20 years with proper maintenance.
How Do You Maintain the Exterior Wood for an Outdoor Sauna?
Wash the wood with a low pressure power wash, and occasionally inspect the wood for signs of bugs or rot.
Will Snow Damage an Outdoor Sauna?
A harsh winter can damage a sauna, so you can stain the wood with a wood penetrating oil to keep your sauna looking beautiful.
Will the Sun Cause UV Damages to my Sauna?
No, your sauna will not be damaged by UV rays, and you will not be sunburned if you are inside your sauna.
Are Outdoor Saunas Dangerous?
As long as you monitor yourself and ensure that you are heating the sauna up to the correct temperature and not staying inside for longer than you need too, then you can use the sauna safely.
Do I Need Insurance for my Outdoor Sauna?
You might need sauna insurance to protect the sauna from property damage, and liability risks due to injuries or illness from sauna use.
The Verdict – Are Outdoor Saunas Worth it?
Yes. If you like saunas and want to have one all to yourself all year round, then you should take the time to buy and build an outdoor sauna!
Jamie is the founder of The Backyard Pros. When he was 15 years old he started working at a garden centre helping people buy plants, gardening products, and lawn care products. He has real estate experience and he is a home owner. Jamie loves backyard projects, refinishing furniture, and enjoys sharing his knowledge online.