Updated: Jan 11, 2021
My husband and I have talked for years about how nice it would be to have an in-home sauna. Being in the health and wellness world, I hear almost daily about the benefits of regular sauna use. From pain relief to SAD (seasonal affective disorder) relief, to detox, there are a number of reasons to regularly hit a sauna.
But, what’s a girl on a budget to do? I regularly price shop for saunas, and I currently don’t have an extra 2-5 grand laying around. So, I thought about it. What is an infrared sauna anyway? It’s a small space with special bulbs. So, I moved on to doing research and discovered that there are many wonderful DIYers out there setting up their own saunas for around $100.
You can go *super* basic, or you can get crafty with it, but the premise is the same. You need the bulbs, you need lamps to hold the bulbs, and you need something to hold the lamps. The most expensive part of the project is the bulbs, and I recommend buying the highest quality that you can afford (see below for my personal choice). We ended up spending about $150 on ours. There are ways to make this cheaper if you want to go super basic, see below.
My Shopping List:
2 birch wood boards sized 36x24 inches (you could buy cheaper wood if you want, but we wanted the kind that would be the least likely to be off gassing chemicals (for this reason I would for sure avoid plywood))
4 2x4’s - sizes: two 22.5 inches, one 36 inches, one 31.5 inches
3 near infrared bulbs (I bought the 3 pack). I have heard you can buy infrared bulbs from the hardware store, but I'd just be sure they are near infrared bulbs.
3 L shaped brackets, 1.5 x 2 inches
We bought the brooder lamps and power outlet block from Menards, and the 36x24 boards and 2x4's at Lowes, (they did not have the 36x24 boards at Menards). I bought the bulbs on Amazon (you can click the links above to see exactly what I bought).
A 1.5 inch spade drill bit, or something similar (you need some way to cut a hole. They have specifically sized circle drill bits you could buy, but they range in price from $10-15 and we decided to just use what we already had).
Electric saw or hand saw (to cut your 2x4’s, or you can get them precut at the hardware store if you don’t have a saw. Most hardware stores at least have a saw you can use in the store to cut them yourself if they don’t sell the precut sizes)
Sand paper (not required but helpful for the cut edges of the 2x4's)
The general idea here is quite simple. I recommend watching the video above and you'll know just about everything you need to in order to make this happen. And, you can modify any of this as you need, as I've said, this is basically lamps screwed into a wood panel. (FYI in the video I call them far infrared bulbs, but we purchased the NEAR infrared bulbs linked above in the shopping list, sorry about the mix up :) )
Our specific process was this: First, we drilled through the front of the 36x24 board to screw in the 2x4's around the outside edges of the back of the 36x24 board, making sure that the 31.5 inch 2x4 was along the left side leaving a gap between the 2x4 running along the bottom so that the cords could be fed through that area. Then, we set the lamps on the 36x24 board and spaced them were we wanted them, then traced around the back so we knew where to make the holes. We then used our 1.5 inch drill bit to cut out the holes. Technically, you could stop here, put your lamps in the holes, tighten them using the metal clamps that come with the lamps, get your bulbs and you're ready to go. We took it a step further and added the back panel to close off the back of the lamps. We did this by using three brackets so that the board can slide in and out making easy access to the back of the lamps (see video). It makes it a larger and sturdier set up, but this is up to you.
Some important safety things to consider. You want to make sure your lamps are tight in their
holes. The last thing you want is the lamp falling out and starting a fire. You never want to get water on the bulbs, if you do, they will shatter. Also, never ever touch the bulbs, they are extremely hot and will be for at least 30 minutes after turning it off! For this reason, I would not allow kiddos to use the sauna. For safety I always unplug the power box and keep the door closed to the sauna. Never run your sauna unsupervised, and be sure it is on a stable surface away from anything flammable. Be safe and do this project at your own risk!
We set this up in an unused walk-in closet in our house. We moved everything else out of the room except our grounding mat which I sit on while in front of the sauna. You will want to start off with shorter sessions (10-15 mins) and be sure you are hydrating before and after. Here is a great article all about the benefits of near-infrared saunas.
And, that's it! In a couple of hours you can have your own in-home sauna! I have been using mine for a few days and I absolutely love it. If you have any questions, please post them below and I will be sure to answer them!