The Relaxing Benefits of At-Home Saunas
At-home saunas add a healthy, tranquil touch to the home and are a popular luxury among homeowners looking to relax.
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When installing a sauna, first consider whether you want it outdoors or indoors.
If building outdoors, you can alter an existing structure by adding insulation, benches and a heat source for around $1,500. If converting an out-building isn't an option, consider building a new one. This is a project for an experienced builder but if you're game there are several excellent books on the market, including Bert Jalasjaa's book, The Art of Sauna Building.
A simpler alternative is to purchase a sauna kit, which comes with snap-together wall sections and a roof, which you assemble on site. You provide the waterproof pad (concrete, tile or vinyl) and the electricity.
One such example is the Finlandia Prefabricated Room (FPF). The standard walls are made of grade A Western red cedar. They are shipped in sections, which you snap together. The roof package includes rafters, plates, shingles, hardware and instructions for assembly. The FPF is available in sizes ranging from 4 x 4 feet to 8 x 8 feet to accommodate more than one person.
Indoor saunas come in similar configurations, though with flat ceiling panels instead of a roof. Choose a precut sauna package, also from Finlandia Sauna Inc., which includes everything you need to build the sauna: the heater, lights, door, flooring and water dipper. These kits are cut to your specifications. A typical 4 x 6 foot precut sauna is about $2,700 when you buy through a wholesale contractor.
Don't be intimidated by all the pieces or the price tag. "Building a custom sauna out of the panel package maybe takes you a weekend," says Reino. And you'll get more than do-it-yourselfer pride: "They (sauna) could last as long as a house does," he says.
If you're not the handy type, go for a prebuilt, freestanding sauna for around $3,000, available from the Sauna Warehouse. All you supply is the nonporous floor, the electrical service and the towels.
If space is a consideration, try a portable or "knockdown" sauna, which comes in two pieces and can be snapped together or taken apart quickly and easily (starting around $3,200). Reino recommends saunas sizes 4 x 6 feet and up, to leave enough room for the sauna bather to lie down. Heat distributes evenly over the entire body when lying down, as opposed to sitting, he says, and makes for a better sauna experience.
Whichever sauna location you choose, the material your sauna is made of is very important. Avoid lumber that is 1/2 inch, as it may shrink when the sauna is used, leading to deterioration of the room, says Reino. Finlandia Sauna's standard is 1-inch lumber.
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