Matt’s Handy Sauna Construction Tips & Observations

Matt is one of our happy customers who recently purchased the W34 barrel sauna kit. While the kit is not difficult to assemble, there are many nuances that can make assembly go much easier, smoother, and faster. 

Matt has generously written a blog for us sharing his experience and tips. We hope you find it both interesting and helpful!

Enjoy…

Before Ordering

Contact your insurance agent and discuss how you may need to alter your policy. You may, you may not (we didn’t – it is covered under our “outbuilding & additional structures” clause) but it is better to know beforehand.

Ensure you obtain any necessary building permits prior to ordering. Do not be afraid to actually talk to an inspector and discuss this project  – our inspector was intrigued as this was going to be the first barrel sauna installed in our rural county!

I send him YouTube videos of other barrel sauna projects as a guide, along with PDFs of the sauna instructions, specifications, and heater installation/operation instructions.  This goes a long way toward positive interactions with the Building Department.

Make sure you know EXACTLY where you are putting your sauna – they are not easy to move, especially if your installation is not on a flat, level, smooth surface like concrete/pavers, etc. Our location was on about an 18-degree slope, so it required concrete footings with posts.  It is never moving!

Delivery Day

Ensure that you have sufficient room for the delivery vehicle to get in and maneuver.  Also, make sure that the big shipping box is not dropped where it will be hazardous or otherwise inconvenient.

Communicate with your driver the day before he departs and provide him with local knowledge.  Everything from road conditions, alternate routes, where to stop to eat. . . if your actual delivery address is NOT the billing address which is a UPS Store Mail Box address. . .etc.

When unboxing

Ensure you have a sufficient open flat area to store all your lumber while you are working.  Figure on an area of between 12’x15’ minimum to as large as 12’ x 24’, depending on the size of your kit. This does not include the sauna’s final location and a possible intermediate assembly/prep area.

1) Separate out your screws, bolts, nails, and label them accordingly if they are not in marked boxes. Label your containers “Screws#1”  “Screws #2” etc.

2) Go through all your fasteners and make sure you have the proper size driver bits, as they are not all the same size.  Make sure you get at least two bits of each required size, you will probably strip one out before the project is done.

3) Go through the Assembly Instructions and write in “SCREWS #1” on every page they are called for in thick marker, repeat with “Screws #2” etc. This will be so much simpler when you are outside in the wind and cold and trying to figure out if you are supposed to use the 55mm or the 60mm and you really cannot tell which is which. Having them pre-sorted in clearly-marked jars or cans, along with unambiguous notes on the instructions will GREATLY IMPROVE your outlook on life during this project.

Make an extra copy of the notated Assembly Manual. Only take the page you actually need for the stage you are actually working on out to the worksite. Slipping the page into a plastic page protector is also advisable.

Carpenter’s spring clamps are fantastic for keeping the page where you want it, as opposed to blowing down the hillside…

During construction

THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE A FUN PROJECT – ANY TIME IT STOPS BEING FUN, knock off for the day.  For me, the fun would end when my carpal tunnel would kick in. Know your limitations and don’t overdo it.

  • Stay hydrated.
  • Make sure your helper (You do have a helper, right?) is given precise clear instructions, especially if your helper is your spouse who is unfamiliar with the operation of tools more complex than a hammer or pliers.
  • When building on a slope, a transit or water level will be necessary.
  • Make sure you call your inspector before pouring concrete footings!

If you intend to stain the exterior of your barrel sauna, consider pre-staining the staves for the underside prior to assembly, it was much easier to apply the stain with the staves on sawhorses and let them dry completely that it would be laying underneath and applying the stain above you.

A thick board 8’ to10” wide, about 6’long, with a piece of 2×4 screwed in perpendicular in the middle (length to be determined by your sauna diameter) makes a great movable surface to stand on when the sides start getting taller.

A large hook made of wood that has a way to hook a ratchet strap to it is very helpful for pulling the stave you are working on snugly into the previous one. Tighten the strap, whack the stave with your rubber mallet, tighten again, whack it again, repeat until it is fully seated, then screw it in.

The Assembly Instructions are pretty much spot on, but I would HIGHLY recommend installing the lower vent louver covers BEFORE installing the benches.

If you are installing round windows, a router and a circle-cutting jig will make the cleanest holes.

The wood stove instructions for our stove required a “burn-in” prior to installation.  This is to cure the high-temperature paint.  DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. The amount of fumes and smoke that will come off the stove is more than you would think, and I am glad I did not put all that stuff into the interior of the sauna. I also did an additional burn-in afterward when I temporarily installed the surrounding heat shield to get that paint get cured as well.

Get your stove into position, and call your Building Inspector before cutting the chimney hole – our inspector was satisfied with the position, but in case they want it a little further away from the back wall or somesuch, you do not want to have to make an oval hole in the roof.

Make sure you follow the roofing shingle instructions on the package. Especially if you have to peel backing off the shingles when installing. . . (Yeah, I messed that one up.  It is not easy pulling it off AFTER they are nailed down. . .)

Get ALL the sauna accessories upfront. Sauna hats are a Must.

ENJOY YOUR NEW SAUNA!

We love ours!

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