Not all sauna kits are created equal
There are several kinds of sauna kits, each designed for a different purpose. Lets first look at the different kinds of sauna kits. Then let’s look at some ways to compare them.
This is as simple as it gets. Most of these small saunas are for one person and come in 2 pieces that are easily attached. The pieces are designed to fit through doorways and take only a few minutes to put together before you are ready to go. Most are designed for inside but there are a few outside models available. These are complete units including heaters and benches (more like seats since there is no room to lie down). They can be detached and moved or stored when not in use. They are what they are. You won’t be able to come up with your own design for these kits.
MODULAR, PANNELIZED OR SECTIONAL SAUNA KITS:
These kits require little effort to assemble. Most can be put together in several hours with a minimum of expertise. They are essentially sections that are joined together creating a stand-alone unit. They are often pre-wired and ready to go after the heater and benches are installed. An electrician may still be required for installation of the heater. Although not as easy as portable models, many can be disassembled and moved to a new location if you sell your house. There are lots of models available but you are unlikely to get anything customized to your specifications.
PRE-BUILT STAND ALONE SAUNA KITS:
Pre-built stand-alone kits are complete units including heaters, benches and the shell. Most are designed for outside. Two popular styles are the milled log and barrel shaped. They tend to be easy to put together in a weekend or so. There are lots of available sizes and styles to choose from. Some companies will put together a custom design for you. They look nice and offer no brainer type solution plus the “I built it myself” pride.
PRE-CUT SAUNA KITS
Pre-cut kits are essentially custom built saunas that have a lot of the tedious work already done for you. The design has been figured out. The raw materials have been aquired and cut. You still need to put it together “almost from scratch”. Most of these kits are for the sauna interior only, including the benches. Heaters often need to be ordered separately. They assume you have already framed in and insulated the space that will become your sauna. It is typical to take 35-45 hours of labor on your part to complete a kit. T & G cedar is the most common material for pre-cut kits. Parts may still need to be trimmed somewhat and finished but having a complete package of materials will save you a lot of figuring time and the inevitable return trips to the lumber yard (some of us don’t consider this a bad thing) for whatever it is you forgot to figure in. There are lots of established designs and some customization is possible with pre-cut kits.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN COMPARING SAUNA KITS
Price OF your sauna kit is important but it’s not the only consideration.
Check into shipping costs. They vary greatly with large items like sauna kits. You might have the option of getting it from a closer dealer.
Some dealers don’t carry items in stock. Check on delivery times. There is nothing worse than having to wait weeks or longer for your new toy.
Make sure you know what you are getting into. Exactly how much assembly is required? Some websites have the construction manual available for you to download before buying.
Try to get an estimate of how long construction will take.
How complete is the kit? Is everything included such as heater, benches, wiring, controls, hardware, etc.? What is not included?
How much assembly is needed for the benches, duckboard and door?
What quality is the wood? Is it knot free (clear)? Check the thickness of T & G cedar. 3/4 and 5/8 are good, less is worse. Is it cut to the exact size or will you need to do the trimming?
Look for the size of the parts. Will you be able to maneuver the sauna kit parts to where you need them? Will they fit down basement stairs, and around corners? Will you need help?
If the heater is included, is it appropriate for the size of your unit? Is the heater from a reputable dealer? It isn’t always true but in general you get what you pay for with heaters. Compare the cost of the heater if it were sold separately. Are you getting a high-end or discount unit?
How much of the electrical work is prewired? How much work will it be to get connected to any plumbing, gas line or wiring?
Is all wiring etc. UL Listed for safety?
Are any accessories includes like a water bucket, ladle, thermometer, clock, rocks, etc.
Will any finish need to be applied. If so what kind and how much work/cost is involved.
There is great variety when it comes to sauna kits. How do you pick the right one? Comparing kits takes some time and thought. In the end,sitting in your new “perfect sauna”, you will know the effort was worth it.