The right materials, design, and construction methods for your custom sauna benches will give you benches that are functional and beautiful. Your sauna construction plans should take the following ideas into consideration before starting on the benches.
Cedar is the wood of choice for custom sauna benches, also known as platforms.
1 x 4 or 2 x 4 is a good size lumber to use for sauna bench construction. Any wider and it tends to warp in the constantly changing conditions of a sauna. Any thinner is not practical.
Use full lengths of clear knot-free lumber.
Don’t splice boards together; the joint will never stay tight.
You want to leave ½ an inch or so between boards for ventilation and moisture.
Any and all hardware needs to be corrosion resistant and hidden if possible. If it can rust it will in a sauna. Use galvanized if you must but brass is best.
What should your design be?
Make a drawing of your layout first. Even if you are not a visual learner a sketch will insure that everything fits before you build it. Using a piece of graph paper makes dimensions truer and easier to draw.
You will use the top benches most. There can be a heat difference of 1 degree for each inch of elevation. That means the top platforms are considerably hotter than the lower ones.
You will be sitting, laying and semi-reclining. You will want your feet up sometimes and your head up at others. Design for all these options.
Small portable hand made Cedar head/foot rests are a great addition and give it that real custom sauna feel.
It is generally best to have the benches go the entire length of a wall. It is also easier to build them this way because you can use the end walls for support.
A classic pattern is to have 2 tiers of platforms. The first is 16”-18” off the floor and the second is 16″-18″ above that. You should leave 42”-48” inches of headroom above the upper platform. Anything less is cramped and anything more wastes heat.The upper bench should be about 20” wide and the lower protrudes about 16” beyond that.
Some people like to block in the fronts of the benches to reduce the area to be heated. This helps but makes cleaning under the benches difficult. It is important to be able to clean all areas of your sauna to prevent bacterial growth.
If you decide to block the benches in, one compromise is to hinge the fronts so they can be moved out of the way for cleaning.
Another option used in some custom saunas to save space is to have the lower level benches movable. You can then slide them in and out for stepping up to the top benches or cleaning.
Platforms need to be sturdy. It is better to overbuild them than to make them flimsy. A bench that is designed for one person to lie on is likely to have three people sitting on it at some point.
A standard pattern is to have 1 x 4 planks over a 2 x 4 framework. Be sure to add plenty of cross members for strength.
Screws will hold longer and better than nails.
Wherever possible you should blind screw the boards together. This is cleaner looking and reduces corrosion by eliminating holes for water to pool in.
If you can’t use a blind screw pattern, be sure to countersink screw heads and fill the holes to prevent pooling.
Your custom sauna will be in use for a long time so build the best possible benches. Before finalizing your sauna construction plans you should think through the bench design carefully. Benches shouldn’t just look good; they also need to be solid and functional.