Among everything DIY home additions, a sauna is indeed one of the most popular projects. And for obvious reasons, as it carries both impeccable wellness features and unmatched ROI.
Not to mention the sense of luxury and indulgence that a sauna room brings, that too with a lot more convenience and cost-efficiency.
Now, when it comes to installing a home sauna, basements have become a lucrative option, thanks to the additional advantages they offer.
But to build sauna in basement isn't that straightforward either. After all, from running plumbing lines to providing accurate energy loading to ensuring proper drainage and more, basement saunas have their own share of complexities.
Nevertheless, with the right steps, tools, and materials, you can have your basement sauna up and running in no time.
Wondering how to build a sauna in your basement?
Well, you're at the right place as we've compiled a step-by-step tutorial to build a basement sauna from scratch. Also, I've dwelled upon my own sauna installation tips and tricks that have helped build comfortable and long-lasting saunas.
So, let's dive straight in and have a look.
Table of Contents
Step 1. Plan out your basement sauna
Like all things DIY home additions, it is essential to plan every detail of your sauna. In fact, planning your sauna is the most critical step, as it will set the overall direction of the project.
To start with, you can finalize a location within your basement, which can be just about any corner space.
You see, while the center space offers more customization in terms of design, corner spaces offer convenience. That's because you'll already have two of the four sauna walls in place before starting off with the project.
Not to mention the exterior walls also mean easy ventilation along with the flexibility to have natural lighting in the sauna.
Next up, you should settle on the size of your basement sauna. And to do so, you can consider factors such as the total available area, your ideal sauna size, your budget, etc., to name a few.
For instance, I've built residential basement saunas ranging from 4x4 to 8x12 to 12x16 16x20 feet. So, based on your requirements, you can also choose from the above sauna sizes.
Step 2. Decide on the type of sauna heater
Picking a sauna heater is, without a doubt, the most crucial part of building a sauna in the basement. That's because everything, from the heat source to installation and operational costs to convenient DIY installation and maintenance, is decided by the type of sauna heater you choose.
Talking about the sauna heater types, you can choose between electric, infrared, and wood-burning heaters.
Let's quickly go over each of the sauna heaters and see which one's best for you.
Also, it goes without saying that a typical electric sauna heater will cost you less than $ 1 per session in utility.
In fact, these are the reasons why I always suggest my clients install electric sauna heaters for regular use at home saunas.
Moreover, if you're not a fan of high sauna heat, infrared heaters can be the perfect remedy for you. That's because, unlike conventional heaters that significantly raise room temperature, infrared heaters directly heat up your body's core.
The only shortcoming of infrared sauna panels is that they can be pricey when compared with electric heaters. So much so that these panels can cost you over double that of electric heaters.
Why, you may ask?
For starters, installing these heaters in the basement can be very complex. On top of that, maintenance and upkeep can be another challenge that you can avoid on the above two heaters.
Step 3. Build drainage (for basements that don't already have one)
While a lot of newer homes have pre-built drainage units in the basement, many homes still don't have one. And if your basement lacks a drainage system, too, I suggest you build it before proceeding with sauna installation.
However, unlike other sauna components, DIY is something I don't recommend when building drainage in the basement.
Constructing a drainage line in the basement can include some major demolition work, including tearing out concrete at some places and sloping the floor slightly if needed. And that calls for professional-grade masonry and plumbing skills.
As such, you should consider hiring someone with the necessary skills for this part.
Step 4. Install sauna framing
With the basics sorted, it's now time to build the frame of your sauna. And to do so, I strongly suggest you go for the top-notch sauna wood.
You see, even though cheaper alternatives are readily available on the market, it's better to foot the bills once than repeatedly. As such, you should choose a wood frame that's not only long-lasting but is also mold, heat, and water-resistant.
For instance, you can go for the likes of cedar, hemlock, aspen, or redwood, to name a few. Further, you should ensure that the frame is put up perfectly with all the joists, nails, and corners in the right place.
Similarly, the joists, nails, and corners should be sealed using a high-quality sealant so that moisture doesn't escape the sauna through these narrow openings.
Step 5. Waterproof sauna floor
Not that the sauna frame is in place; you should check whether or not the basement floor is waterproof before proceeding further. Most basement floors are waterproof, at least when the property is newly built. However, it is commonplace for these floors to develop gaps and cracks over time.
And this allows heat and moisture to seep through the flooring, which, in turn, results in inefficient heating and long-term property damage.
Now, there are two ways you can waterproof your basement floor:
First, you can build a new sauna floor altogether using flooring timber such as cedar and duckboard, among others, and waterproof them. This will allow you to create a more authentic sauna experience from the bottom up.
Second, you can keep the existing sauna floor and waterproof it using epoxy paint or concrete sealant. Although not as aesthetically pleasing as wood floors, this is a much more budget-friendly option.
Step 6. Install sauna door
Door installation is yet another critical step for all saunas, including those built in the basement. But as complex as it might sound, sauna door installation is pretty straightforward.
Sauna doors are built with insulated glass panels and are available as prefabricated units. So, all you have to do is assemble them into the door space in the sauna frame. Nonetheless, when installing a sauna door, there's a catch you should be aware of.
I always suggest DIYers install the sauna door in a way that it opens outside rather than inside. That's because if the sauna gets uncomfortably warm or you feel unwell, a door swinging outside will allow you to get out quickly.
Step 7. Electrical and plumbing rough in
From running the sauna heater to controlling lighting to operating the ventilation system and more, you need electricity to run your sauna seamlessly. And although your basement might already have an electrical connection, you'll need to run electrical lines in the sauna enclosure.
Now, despite the fact that you're working on a DIY project, I suggest you hire an electrician for electrical rough-in. At the least, you should ensure that the electrical lines are drawn under expert supervision.
Well, unlike other things DIY, electrical rough-in involves major safety risks if not done properly. Also, electricians can suggest the best cable sizes, wet-rated sauna lighting, and other electrical components for seamless functionality.
Step 8. Insulate the sauna
Proper insulation is key to maintaining the right temperature in the sauna by preventing heat loss. And to that end, I can't overstate the importance of insulating your basement sauna.
To start with insulation, you can take rockwool or mineral wool insulation and fill the cavities in the wall and ceiling panels with it.
Note: While fiberglass insulation is also a good option for saunas, rockwool has much more moisture resistance, non-flammability, and R-value, making it apt for high-temperature applications.
After having insulated the sauna, you can take a vapor barrier and cover the rockwool insulation with it.
Step 9. Install sauna benches
Installing sauna benches isn't difficult and calls for basic handyman skills to put the prefabricated sauna benches in place.
But before you can install them, it's essential to buy the right benches - ones that are both comfortable and durable. Again, you'll have to look at the wood type and quality to ensure the bench meets sauna requirements.
Coming back to installation, there are two ways you can arrange the sauna benches:
First, you can have dual-deck benches, one lower bench at 1.5 feet from the ground and another higher bench 1.5 feet above it.
Second, you can have a single row of bench seating installed at about 2.5 feet from the ground.
Step 10. Sauna heater installation
Finally, with all other things in place, it's time to install your sauna heater, the last step to build sauna in basement. Now, depending on the type of sauna heater, the installation process can be anywhere from basic to complex.
For instance, electric sauna heaters are complete plug-and-play systems; all you've got to do is mount them at a convenient spot in the sauna. Similarly, installing infrared sauna heater panels isn't complicated either.
However, the same can't be said for wood sauna heaters that need to be connected to a chimney system and installed at a fire-resistant spot.
But notwithstanding the heater type, it's important that you're following the local codes. For instance, electrical codes in some counties might require you to hire an electrician for heater installation.
Also, it is essential to ensure that there's a safe distance between the heater and sauna benches.
Did you know that a cold plunge after a sauna session can do wonders for your body?
From soothing your nervous system to releasing feel-good hormones, and more, there are awesome benefits of taking a cold plunge after a sauna bath.
Want to learn more?
You can read our blog - Sauna And Cold Plunge Therapy: A Complete Guide.
Frequently asked questions
1. How to build a sauna in your basement?
Building a DIY sauna in your basement can be a tricky exercise. But by following the right steps in proper order, you can have your basement sauna up within weeks. You can follow the 10 steps above to build your ideal basement sauna.
2. How much does it cost to build sauna in basement?
A DIY basement sauna can cost you anywhere between $3,000 and upward of $9,000, depending on factors such as size, materials, heater type, etc.
Also, the cost will be determined by the extent of customization you undertake. For instance, a sauna with mood lighting, a music player, a smart thermostat, etc., will definitely cost more than basic saunas.
3. Should you choose basement sauna kits over DIY installation?
If you have the time and patience to build a basement sauna, you should certainly go for the DIY option. That's because by building the sauna yourself, you can ensure top-notch quality and performance on a shoestring budget.
However, if you need a quick and ready-to-use solution, prefabricated sauna kits aren't a bad option either, especially if you purchase from renowned sauna manufacturers.
4. Does your basement sauna need ventilation?
Yes, it does.
Ventilation is crucial for all saunas, including those built in the basement. As such, there should be at least one intake vent close to the sauna heater and one exhaust vent in the opposite direction.
5 Which wood is best for a basement sauna?
Wood is one of the most crucial elements of your sauna. After all, from the frame to the panels to the benches and ceiling, everything is built with wood.
Talking about high-quality sauna wood, you should always consider the likes of aspen, cedar, hemlock, and redwood.
Bonus: You can also burn calories in the sauna
As per studies, you can lose between 1.3 to 1.8 calories for every 2.2 lbs of your body weight while sitting in the sauna.
Wandering what’s more to calorie burning in a sauna?
You can go through our blog - How Many Calories Does A Sauna Burn?
As you can see, building a DIY sauna in your basement isn't that complicated. In fact, with the right tools and materials, you can build a professional-grade sauna in your basement.
Need assistance or materials for your basement sauna project?
You can get in touch with us!
At Steam and Sauna Experts, we're Florida's leading sauna installation specialists with over a decade of experience under our belt. Also, we've got an extensive sauna inventory from the likes of Amerec, Mr. Steam, and Steamist.
Simply put, we've got all your basement sauna needs covered in one go.