Happy Winter Solstice!!  On this, the shortest day of the year, it is only natural that we have turned our attentions to ways to beat the winter chill.

A few weeks ago on our facebook page, we did a little survey to see what people prefer:  a sauna or a hot tub.  The response was overwhelmingly in favour of a hot tub.

Our experience has been than most people don’t know what the hell they’re on about, so we decided to start building a sauna.

Only kidding!!  Being the greedy people we are, we decided to start building BOTH!

The goal is to have both of these projects finished by the school holidays three weeks away and then have a Sauna and Hot Tub Beat-the-Winter-Chill Party.

Peter started work on the hot tub and I started work on the sauna.

SAUNA Week 1

This is TAKE 2 for building a sauna.  We started building a round sauna in 2010, but it has long gone (read about it in our book). This time round, we elected to go for a rectilinear sauna, mostly because it would be easier to put benches into.

In 2010, the plan was to build a round sauna where the cordwood masonry would be structural.  For Sauna Take 2, we again decided to build the sauna out of cordwood simply because we still have a lot of the materials, making the build relatively cheap.  The cordwood masonry will not be structural- we will be building a post and beam frame.

From our research on google and in Rob Roy’s book ‘The Sauna’, we decided to make the sauna a 2-room building measuring 2.5 x 3.75 metres.  This would give us a stoveroom of 2m x 1.5m, an enclosed changeroom/chill out zone of the same dimensions, and walls of cordwood masonry 250mm thick, including the internal dividing wall. We wanted the internal benches to be long enough to sleep on; this way, the structure can double as a guesthouse if we ever have so many visitors staying that they can’t all fit in the cabin.

We still have plenty of radiata pine trees leftover from the cordwood masonry in our cabin and main house, so my first job was to chainsaw these trees into lengths of 250mm for our walls.  The trees have been lying out in the rain for seven years, and to be honest, I am not sure the wood is really sound enough to be using.  We piled them on top of each other to keep them off the ground, but even so, I suspect all but the trees on the very top of the pile are no longer good for anything but mulch.  Because this wood will not be structural, I still plan to use it.

Here was my process- measure out the long into 250mm lengths and mark with a builder’s crayon, chainsaw into rounds, chop rounds into splits, stack the wood.

The Sauna Slab

First we marked out the size of the foundation- 2.5m x 3.75m with a little extra added to give a bit of room.

The proposed sauna site is in front of a natural occurring spring which we recently enlarged with an excavator and which is to become the icy plunge pool.

We underestimated both the amount of time it took to pour the slab and the number of hours of sunlight left in the day- once again, we were working by headtorch.

The slab needs to cure for a few days, and then we will be on to the post and beam frame.

The HOT TUB Week 1

This week, we started on our hot tub heater.  We did a lot of research into what other people have used to heat their pools and hot tubs, which meant watching a lot of youtube videos.  You may think this would be enjoyable, watching youtube videos of people enjoying a steamy jacuzzi:

But in reality, most videos we needed are more like this.  Except the people are older.  With more body hair.

We decided to convert a 44 gallon drum into a barrel stove, but we had some difficulty finding the conversion kit we had read about.  Amazingly, after calls interstate and even to America, a friend told us the conversion kits were sold at Bunnings warehouse!

We were only able to source black heatproof paint on short notice, so we painted our barrel black.

A bit of drilling and cutting, and we turned our 44 gallon drum into this:

Now we are waiting on our local welder to finish making the hot water jacket to fit inside the barrel stove.

We have no idea if this stove will be powerful enough to heat the1000 litres of water that fills the hot tub- stay tuned!