What to Know About Home Saunas

Considering adding a home sauna? Here's what you need to know about cost, installation and maintenance.

What Is a Sauna?

A sauna is a small room or free-standing, hut-like structure heated to temperatures ranging from 100 to 140 degrees F. The purpose of a sauna is to generate sweat through a combination of steam and heat. In the case of “wet” steam saunas, that means moist, heated air. During a typical sauna session, users sit on benches for 15 to 20 minutes and let themselves perspire.

While the sauna tradition is closely associated with Finland, steam or sweat rooms are found in cultures all over the world, dating back thousands of years. Health and well-being are the main reasons. Then, as today, saunas are considered beneficial for circulation, pain relief, detoxification and relaxation. Steam saunas are also said to be helpful for the respiratory system.

Types of Saunas

Saunas are divided into two categories dry heat and moist, humid heat. A dry sauna (the type of sauna most often installed in private homes) can be heated by wood fire, electricity or gas. Commonly, a dry sauna is a wood-clad room that contains a stove filled with stones. Users pour water over the stones to add moisture to the extremely dry air.

Infrared saunas also use dry heat but without a stove or stones; they are well-suited to home installation. In an infrared sauna, heat is emitted from infrared lamps that warm the user’s body and induce perspiration without heating up the air in the sauna chamber.

Steam saunas are typically tiled rooms with a water boiler that emits hot, moist steam. While many sauna devotees prefer this experience, steam saunas are more challenging for home installation.

For more information, check out our article about the different types of saunas suited to home use.

Home Sauna Pros and Cons

To add or not to add a home sauna really depends on how much you love using a sauna. Here’s a look at some of the pros and cons to consider:

Pros:

  • It’s a way to relax without going to the spa or gym;
  • Sauna health benefits are widely accepted;
  • You can add a sauna into existing space in your home or install it outside;
  • A skilled DIYer can install a basic sauna kit without paying professionals.

Cons:

  • Sauna installation and repair costs can be expensive;
  • Steam saunas carry a mold and mildew risk;
  • You may not use a home sauna enough to justify the costs;
  • Saunas take up valuable space in your home, whether in a bathroom, rec room or outdoors.

Sauna Costs and Considerations

Saunas typically cost between $2,500 and $5,000, more if you need professional installation or additional wiring or plumbing.

Electric or infrared sauna kits are relatively easy to install, but you may need to pour a concrete slab (for an outside sauna) or add an electrical line. For steam saunas, often installed in an existing shower, we recommend professional installation. Depending on where you live and how often you use the sauna, a dry-heat or infrared sauna will add between $100 and $500 per year to your electricity bill.

Sauna Maintenance and Repair

Indoor dry heat saunas require little maintenance beyond a simple wipe-down with vinegar and a clean cloth. For electric saunas, the most likely element that could need repair is the heater, and experts say it’s often cheaper to replace a faulty heater than repair it.

Steam saunas, including those that are part of a bathroom shower, are also easy to maintain just as a standard shower is.

Outdoor saunas, whether wood-burning or electric, require more diligence to protect the wooden structure from dry rot, leaks and other damage.