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Written by Kailey Fisicaro

Adding a Sauna to your Central Oregon Home

Known for their relaxing and rejuvenating effects, saunas have been shown to provide real health benefits, something especially appealing to fitness-conscious Central Oregonians. Evidence suggests sauna bathing may be tied to a reduced risk of vascular diseases, according to research in the peer-reviewed journal, Mayo Clinic Proceedings. For some people, it’s an enticing enough option to invest in one of their own.

A sauna is a special insulated room built of softwood and outfitted with a heater, according to Karen Post, who co-owns her business, Aqua Hot Tubs in Sisters, with her husband, Jason. The sauna’s heater contains rocks that can be heated to 600 degrees, but the room itself won’t get hotter than 180 degrees. “The health benefits are amazing, even just for mental health, rest and relaxation, meditation,” Post said. “For most people, sauna time is a quiet time; you’re not just improving circulation, burning calories, you’re doing a lot for your skin.”

Saunas can also help relieve joint pain and stiffness, according to Post. Most people heat the room to between 120 to 140 degrees, Post said, adding that anyone with health concerns should consult their doctor before partaking. In a traditional Finnish sauna, like those that Aqua Hot Tubs offers, users ladle water over the stove’s rocks to make steam, creating about 10 to 40 percent humidity.

For Heather Cashman of Bend, having a sauna at home is such an essential experience, she’ll be installing one for the third time. Each time Cashman has moved in recent years, she has built a sauna with the help of Redmond Spa Stove & Sauna. She uses her sauna at least four to five times a week, for about fifteen to twenty minutes at a time, she said. “It’s sort of almost euphoric, you’re so relaxed,” Cashman said. “If I’ve overexerted my muscles or anything it helps. You can just go in there and feel it unwind.”

Oudoor Sauna
Bend resident Heather Cashman’s backyard sauna. Photo by Riley Visuals

Sizes of saunas can range depending on when you decide to add one. If you’re building a new house, there is the most flexibility with size. A size of five by seven feet is the most common for interior saunas added to an existing home, Post said. “If they’re building new, they’ll do bigger because they can. For exterior saunas, you’ll get all different sizes.” The ceiling height of saunas is usually no higher than seven to eight feet to maximize efficiency and safety.

While saunas offer a pretty standard setup of benches surrounding a heater, homeowners can make the room’s layout their own. Glass doors, commonly used in saunas, can also be etched with
eye-catching, custom designs.

Saunas can be built custom or from kits, on your own, or with hired help depending on how handy you are. Many people associate saunas with the smell of cedar for good reason; saunas are built with softwood, and cedar is a go-to option.

At Aqua Hot Tubs where Post sells the Portland-area based brand Finlandia, the wood options are Western red cedar and Western hemlock. Aesthetically, hemlock is light and consistent, providing a slightly more modern look, whereas cedar is a bit richer in color with more variations throughout the wood. Both have soothing scents, Post said.

Outdoor barrell sauna
Saunas in nature are particularly peaceful. Open the door after a sweat to experience the brisk, fresh air. Image supplied by Divine Saunas divinesaunas.com, courtesy of Dundalk Leisurecraft

Finlandia offers two options for home saunas: prefabricated and pre-cut. Prefabricated saunas are kits that come with the interior and exterior walls plus insulation, ready to piece together. For pre-cut saunas, the Finlandia team designs and draws custom plans for the space in which you are looking to build your sauna, and then sends every piece needed to build the sauna—from the custom-cut slats of wood, to the pre-made benches, Post explained. 

The prefabricated option is a standalone sauna that might be placed in a home gym, garage or in the backyard if a roof is added. A pre-cut sauna might be built into a spare walk-in closet, extra space in an oversized bathroom in an existing home, or the sauna room of a new custom home. 

In addition to contractors, many people hire electricians if needed, as electric sauna stoves may require a 220-volt outlet. For many modern saunas, technology allows people to start heating their sauna using an app on their phone. Saunas with wood stoves are an alternative option to electric stoves.

In Central Oregon, where Scandinavians began immigrating generations ago, some people are drawn to saunas because they grew up with them. Others simply want a permanent spa experience at home. “They are a personal thing, a home sauna,” Post said. “Once you do it a few times, it’s something you miss when you can’t do it.” 

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