What is a sauna
The simplest form of sauna is a small room designed to experience dry or wet heat bathing sessions. The steam and high heat make you perspire. The perspiration cleanses and clears the pores of toxins. Perspiration is an autonomic response for cooling the body.
Heat it up
The sauna heater and rocks get very hot—stay clear to avoid injury, particularly when pouring water on the rocks which create an immediate blast of steam. Combustibles on or near the heater have been known to result in fire. It takes 20 to 30 minutes to heat the sauna to your desired temperature. I have found that our electric heater takes about 20 minutes.
TIP: Place a drip pan under the heater to catch the water that leaks through. This is normal if you heater is designed for wet bathing. This is optional if your sauna has a drain in the floor.
Make sure you purchase a thermostat so you can set a timer and control the temperature. I know that sounds like simple, common sense, but the thermostat was not included in the price of the heater. It was “in addition to”. This thermostat is mounted on the outside wall.
You will also want a thermostat in the sauna so you can monitor the heat. These are relatively inexpensive and are available in many styles. Ours is a bit provocative so I am not including a picture here.
Cool it down
Cooling down is part of the sauna cycle and is as important as the heating. It is a good practice to cool down for a few minutes after exiting the sauna and before taking a cold plunge. Enter a plunge pool by stepping into it gradually, rather than using the cannonball method. I don’t have a plunge pool at home, so I relax for about five minutes in a cool location before I take a cold shower.
TIP: In summer, start your session with a cold shower. This will allow your body to begin sweating quicker.
Benefits of sauna
The benefits of sauna bathing are wide-ranging. We use our sauna daily for about 40 minutes. 30 minutes of dry heat followed by 10 minutes of wet heat. I feel so clean after my sauna that the shower is a way to rinse off the toxins., I do give myself a good scrub while I’m there and my skin hasn’t felt this soft in long time. For a 60-ish female this is a great benefit. In a nutshell, sauna as a therapy supports
- a reduction in stress hormones
- lowering of blood pressure
- improved cardiovascular conditions
- lowered inflammation in the blood
- associated with a decreased risk of pneumonia and may provide temporarily relief from the common cold, and
- reduced risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Sauna supply list
- Heater. Required. We purchase a 5kw Saunacore heater. An information book on Sauna is included with purchase.
- Towels. I purchased 100% Turkish cotton. Light and absorbent. They get softer with washing.
- Cap to protect your hair from getting dried out.
- Wool slippers to protect your feet.
- Water bucket with a plastic liner for easy cleaning and long-handled ladle.
- Thermostat to check sauna temperature (optional).
- Cup rack (optional).
- Sand timer (optional).
- Step (optional).
- Grab bar (optional).
Saunas may not be safe in cases of, or if you have or had
- unstable angina pectoris
- a recent heart attack, and
- severe aortic stenosis.
If the heat in the sauna becomes unbearable, or if you feel faint or ill, you need to exit the sauna. Don’t shield your face, it’s been found to reduce your perception of heat.
Do shield sensitive body parts with a light towel to keep them cooler. Because your body is the coolest object in the sauna, steam condenses into water on your skin that can be confused with perspiration.
Prolonged stay in a sauna can lead to the loss of electrolytes from the body. You can reduce your risk of dehydration by sipping of water or isotonic beverages while in the sauna.
TIP: Do not drink alcohol during the sauna.
Sauna can result in
- heat stroke, and
Children and older people who have heart disease or seizure disorders or those who use alcohol or cocaine are especially vulnerable.
With sauna-associated deaths in Finland, individuals usually had an underlying chronic illness. More than 50% were men over the age of 50, and 30% were over 70. Most were also intoxicated. Thanks Wikipedia.
Guys, protect your “swimmers”
Sauna use can affect spermatogenesis, and has been associated with loss of fertility in men lasting up to two months. However, I do not recommend sauna as a method of birth control.
What not to take in the sauna
Remove items that will get hot and cause discomfort and burns
- contact lenses will dry out, remove them
- jewelry or anything metallic, and
Is a sauna for you
When we first started talking about putting a sauna in our house, I made an assumption that saunas are always high in humidity, steam-based tiled rooms where Mafia bosses got together to discuss their ill-gotten gains. Thanks, Hollywood.
So not the truth. Sauna in Finland is used as a way to get together with friends and family; it is a communal experience. Our sauna is small and we can fit comfortably only three people, but outside the sauna can be easily turned into a lounging area where we can sit and relax. Enjoy a cool drink and talk before we hit the showers. I see a mini-fridge and some comfy chairs in my future.
Build it or buy a kit
Before we made the decision to build our own sauna, we researched the wide-range of kit options available. They range in price from 1500$ to 6000$, if you build it yourself. We decided to build ours because we were not finding a unit that fit our space. Building supplies for our sauna (including the benches) came in at approximately 2500$ and included
- Saunacore heater and thermostat; 700$
- Tile floor; 80$
- Framing; 100$
- Insulation and vapor barrier; 150$
- Cedar lining; 900$, and
- Electrician (to add an individual circuit); 600$.
I can’t give you a time estimate, because in the middle of construction my husband caught the flu. From beginning of construction to first use was about three weeks. Our first few sessions we used kitchen chairs
Do you research
Sauna is not for everyone. Do you research. Try one at a gym first. Safety first. And relax.
Have a sauna
We would love to hear from you. Tips on construction, safety, and use.