How To Build a Barrel Sauna
Posted by Mark Bollman on


Fall in the Berkshires. The wind is kicking, leaves are falling, and the temperature is dropping. Today, it is just the right temperature to finish our fall project, the Almost Heaven Barrel Sauna build. 


Fall is a great time to start and finish an outdoor home addition. It's a great time to be outdoors and theres a time limit on when things need to be finished... Mark the founder of Ball and Buck thought this would be the ultimate addition to his cabin. He wanted a place where he could escape the escape. The sauna is built about 200 yards away from the cabin, tucked back in a clearing in the middle of the forrest. 


This video will surely get you in the fall mood, and hopefully inspire you to start or finish your own project!



These directions should be used with the instruction manual. 


Identify where you want the barrel to sit, place the cradles equidistant (according to manual) from each other. Once they are placed fasten to your platform with a screw in the center of each cradle.



Find the Drain Stave and place it in the center of the cradles (perpendicularly) then attach the drain stave to the cradles using 2” screws. 



Add additional staves on each side of the drain stave until you reach the ends of the cradles. 

Make sure the cross cuts line up on either end section of the barrel. 



Use a rubber mallet to tap the staves into place, lining up the craze cuts on the front and back. 



Screw in every other stave from center with a 2 inch screw. Be sure to identify where the cradles are this way you don’t drill a hole in the floor of the barrel. We located the cradle under the wood by running a string from the center of each of the individual cradle’s ends. Once the string was tight, we would press down and make a mark ensuring we would not miss and keeping the screws in a straight line. 



Place the front and back of the barrel into the core. Use a level to check the panels are flush. 



Place a temporary stave across the top of the barrel. 



From the bottom, place staves on either side of the barrel and secure them with a tap (periodically) throughout the building process. 

Nail the ends of the staves down every 2-3 boards until you reach the 10 and 2 o’clock positions. Do not place any nails after reaching 10 and 2. 



Continue placing the staves on either side of the sauna, tapping each piece in with the mallet. Once you reach the top, remove the steadying stave. 



Use as many staves as you can in order to create a tight seal once the bands are tightened.  



Wrap the bands around the barrel. The two end bands should cover the nails holding the staves in place. Insert the threaded rod through the bracket. Tighten nuts evenly so the bands are of equal tension. 




Position duckboard base to back of sauna, centering and using a level to insure that the surface is flat.


Screw the duckboard to the floor using 2” screws.


Position the protective metal base on the duckboard. Center and allow a gap of 4” from back wall of sauna.


The chimney should vent out the top of the sauna. Remove the cover from the top vent hole. Unscrew the hinged plate on the back of the heater and reposition the cover over the back vent hole. Screw the hinged plate back into position.


Fit the chimney adapter into place.


Following the instructions provided with your heater, install the protective surround around the heater.


Set the heater on the metal support, centering from left to right.


Using a plumb line, find the center of the heater flue and mark the corresponding center point on the ceiling of the sauna. Drill a 1/8” pilot hole at the center point all the way through the wood.



On the exterior of the sauna, find the pilot hole. Using a string and pencil, draw an 12” circle on the wood using the pilot hole as the center point.


Using a jig saw, cut a hole following the line you drew in Step 10.


Fit the first chimney section over the chimney adapter on the heater. NOTE: Non-standard components depicted.



Fit the second chimney section down into the hole and attach to the first chimney section. Rotate to lock into place. Use the wall support bracket to secure the chimney in place.


Insert ceramic wool insulation around the chimney to provide a protective barrier between it and the wood. Use the hose clamp to secure the insulation around the chimney.


Screw the front trim frame piece into place. The distance at which it is positioned from the back wall should be about the same as the width of the depth. Make sure it is level before inserting screws, one on each end of the board into the ceiling of the sauna.


From the outside of the sauna, drive screws into the front trim frame piece securing it to the staves.


Double-check that the distance from the back wall is uniform and that the front piece is level.


Cut the provided boot to the appropriate size so that it forms a tight seal. Position the boot over the heat shield and fasten it into place. Finally, position the cap on the chimney and rotate to lock into place.


Build your benches if you choose to install them.  


Enjoy your sauna.








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