A Custom Wood Fired Sauna

In their travels, our clients had visited a place which had a dry sauna with a cold pool next to it and asked us if it was possible to incorporate this same idea near their cabin. Terry began to visualize possibilities and make suggestions…they liked what they heard, the project had begun!

Relax in a custom wood fired sauna with log accentsThere were a few challenges to the project, not the least of which was the bridge en route to the clients’ property. This timber suspension bridge was built in 1953 and, spanning 350 feet across the Skykomish River (see photos below), has a vehicle weight limit of 20,000lbs. A limit which is easily exceeded when transporting rock and gravel. To solve this issue, we used a mini excavator which we drove over the bridge. We also brought in many small loads of gravel and rock , keeping all within the weight limit boundaries. Another problem was drainage near the site of the new sauna. Run-off water had , in the past, washed out their driveway and sluiced debris into their front yard. To begin to address this drainage issue, we incorporated a retaining pond below the sauna site which also served as a landscape feature. Next, in order to further improve drainage and create room for a woodshed, we built a rockery with footing drains which captured this water, piping it under the road. Lastly, in order to filter the water before piping it into the river, we created a filtering pond in which we were able to add a waterfall feature.

After these issues had been addressed, we began the construction of the cold pond. Our aim was to retain the natural beauty of the area, so we used many of the surrounding rocks and roots in the final design. We also carefully placed rocks for seating at different levels at the pond and incorporated an overflow drain that tied into the lower waterfall. The rock steps which led to the upper pond and the dry sauna were constructed over the drain to conceal it.

Following the completion of the ponds and rockeries, we began the construction of the deck in front of the sauna. The decking was custom cut to follow the contour of the rocks and roots surrounding it (see photo below).

The Sauna itself was built using cedar for the walls and character logs were used on the corners and roof perlins. The sauna was placed in a close proximity to the woodshed for convenience, which was important since the sauna was heated by using a wood-fueled heater. A second set of stairs and deck for easy loading of the outdoor wood-fueled heater was also constructed.

The seating area inside the sauna was built using clear cedar for the seats and wall portions where the sauna user’s back may touch the wall. Knots in wood in a sauna become very hot, hotter than the surrounding soft wood and can make for an uncomfortable visit to the sauna! Much thought was put into the final design with custom milling and fitting of the cedar boards. To finish off what is one of the finest saunas in Western Washington, Terry crafted a beautiful custom door. [Click here to view more photos]

Additional Info

  • Location: Baring, WA