You have seen the true wonder which is our glorious Woodfired Hot Tub (and if you haven’t, click the link!). Now, we are excited to report that we have added a homemade woodfired sauna to the utopia which is the House that Worked Out. Does it work? YES! Is it a beautiful, quaint addition to our property? YES! Are we super glad we built it? YES! Was it a straightforward, hassle-free process? No, of course not.
We lay a 2.5m x 3.75m slab in mid-June, and then we were away with the post and beam frame.
As always, raising the frame of a structure is fast and immensely satisfying. Within hours, the skeleton of the building is up, and you feel as though your project will be done and dusted in no time.
Then you start your cordwood masonry. And it goes on…
You would think that after building a cabin, a house, and a battery shed out of cordwood masonry, we would well and truly be aware of how slooooooow it is as a building process, how uncomfortably frigid your hands get handling the cold mortar on winter mornings, how you think the day’s building is done and are just about to down tools and rest your tired back when you realise you still need to POINT the mortar (smooth the mortar). But no- it again caught me by surprise, and halfway through the second cordwood masonry panel (of the intended six plus one internal wall), I informed Peter that I thought only the sauna stoveroom should be cordwood masonry and that the remaining three walls should be built of WHATEVER GOES UP FASTEST.
Around the time of completing the third cordwood wall, we realised that our proposed stoveroom was too small. We had built it without accounting for the woodstove’s safety clearance from the wall. We had to eat into the changeroom space in order to enlarge the stoveroom.
You can see the plan to extend the walls with the placement of the internal doorway.
We put the floorboard roof on in between rain showers and waterproofed it with bituthene. Once this was done, we had a nice dry shelter to continue working under.
I was very keen to finish building the internal wall- this way, the sauna would be finished, we could use it, and the changeroom could be built at our leisure. But for practical purposes, we decided to outfit the inside of the stoveroom while the wall was still unbuilt so we had room to move.
We had hardwood planks to build benches, but a google search informed us that wood inside a sauna really needs to be softwood or it can get too hot to sit on. Cedar was way out of budget, as was birch. Peter bought a pack of dressed, finished pine, but it was very expensive, and he came up with the brilliant idea of using packing timber. Packing timber is used to protect good timber which is being delivered to a yard, so it is often scuffed, marked, and can be dirty and stained, but at $2 a plank, it was worth running a sander over every plank.
Once the internal cordwood masonry wall was finished, we cut a hole in the roof and installed our woodstove flue. We insulated the roof at the same time with polyfoam.
The flue, looking like an alien spaceship.
Sauna stoves are EXPENSIVE. We looked around for secondhand ones for a while (non-existent), inquired into new ones ($2000+, not going to happen), and settled for using an old wood heater we found a few years ago, dumped in the bush a short walk from a road. We sealed its door, cut a new door into one of the shorter ends, and topped it with bluestone rocks.
(The firebricks in the photo were to surround the stove so that the heat would be longer and softer, but we have found that they just make the heating process take too long).
Once the stoveroom was finished, we just wanted the whole structure to be done, so we kept plugging away to close in the changeroom.
Glass wool insulation in the changeroom. The stoveroom is insulated with our usual rice hulls.
Then we were on to finishing touches: a bench in the changeroom which can be folded away:
a gorgeous, homemade, insulated, Finnish style door on the sauna,
and this really cool, rustic latch which Pete came up with. It’s like a puzzle!
We love the whole building!! It is so cute (I seem to be obsessed with little cubby style structures), it smells strongly of pine, like a real, authentic sauna, and it works. Our last sitting, the sauna was at 50ºC, which is probably a bit cool for many sauna enthusiasts, but we prefer a sauna where our nosehairs don’t burn off when we breathe, and we were still sweating within 30 seconds of entering.
So, the verdict…Hot Tub or Sauna?
To be continued…