Harvia Block sauna benches

How to design a sauna?

What are the things that you should and need to take into account when you start planning a sauna renovation? There are alternative options available for different needs and preferences. We put together an information pack to help you with all stages of sauna renovation.

A sauna renovation starts with a dream: think about what your perfect sauna would be like, what would it look and feel like, and what kind of functionalities it would have. When you have found a picture of the sauna of your dreams, you can take up a tape measure. Measure the width, height and depth of your sauna as well as the window and door openings. Also measure the log, stone and window surfaces that affect the heating power requirements; it will help professionals choose a sauna heater with the right amount of power for your sauna.

Permits and structures

As a rule, renovating a sauna in a detached house does not require a building permit or an action notification. A permit is only necessary for demolishing or building a load-bearing structure and expanding a bathroom. A permit is also needed for building a completely new bathroom or sauna. In that case, contact the building control services of your own home municipality.

If you live in a housing company, you must notify the board of directors of the housing company about the renovation. Typically, housing companies require that the waterproofing and electrical work be carried out by a professional. Therefore, you should only start the demolition after you have made sure that the permits are in order.

Harvia Block bench model with Qube heater

Demolishing an old sauna

When demolishing an old sauna, it is important to check the structures that are revealed from under the surface and repair them, if necessary, before installing new surfaces. The aluminium paper must be intact and leak-proof. If the paper is damaged, check if there is any damage behind the paper, too. If everything is all right, you can start installing new surfaces.

Glass walls have become more popular at renovation sites, and they can be installed depending on the structures of the wall with the door. A professional must assess the possibility of installing a glass wall at the demolition stage. Installing additional support for the existing wall may be necessary.

Updating the building solutions to modern times

In the last few decades, construction technology has developed by leaps and bounds, and new kinds of construction solutions and materials have become available to replace old ones. Even though things like urethane-based insulation materials have been available for a long time, they were not used in saunas built 20–30 years ago.

The benefit of urethane sheets as insulation is their thinness. A urethane sheet of 30 mm corresponds to 80 mm of mineral wool insulation. Replacing the insulation can save 5 cm in wall thickness in small spaces. Waterproofing products have also developed a great deal in recent years, reducing the risk of water damage considerably.

By the way, you should note that if you replace a wood burning heater with an electric sauna heater, the old masonry flue cannot be panelled shut or benches installed on top of it if the flue is still in use. There is often a fireplace, an iron stove or similar on the other side of the wall, connected to the same flue. The masonry can be tiled over, but nothing can be attached to it. You should check the issue with the fire authority in your own area.

Man installing a electric heater

Electrical installations in a sauna renovation

The electrical work in a sauna must always be done by a professional. This means that you should contact an expert electrical designer well in advance when you are planning the electrical work in your sauna. In most cases, there is no point in changing the location of the sauna heater during the sauna renovation, but with an electric sauna heater it is usually possible, if desired.

Changes to the electrical wiring should be planned at a very early stage of the renovation. The supply current cables are installed in the wall insulation, which means that the issue needs to be taken into account already during the demolition stage. When the surfaces are being installed, it will be too late to change the electrification.

Choosing benches and surface materials

Harvia Exclusive Air bench model

In sauna design, you need to consider how many people will be using the sauna at the same time and how often. The seat for one person is usually 60 cm in width.

If you want to have as many seats as possible in the sauna and the space is fairly small, a simple straight bench is usually the best solution. If you try to install a corner bench or even a U-shaped bench in a small sauna, the end result may feel cramped and uncomfortable to use. This means that you need to be realistic and consider the space when choosing the bench model.

Several options for sauna materials

For the material, you can choose between several different woods: reddish brown alder, light-coloured aspen or dark, heat-treated aspen. There is also a rich combination of pale-coloured spruce and black colour available for benches. Harvia uses only sustainably produced wood in making saunas.

You can let your imagination run free when designing the wall surfaces! In addition to traditional panelling, you can add character to the walls with different kinds of stone. An increasingly more common option is also to replace the front wall of the sauna with a glass wall, which brings spaciousness and a modern feel to the area.

You can use the shapes, colours and installation methods of the panelling boards to create the atmosphere you want in the sauna. You can choose spruce, pine, aspen, heat-treated aspen, heat-treated brushed alder, alder or smoke sauna panelling boards as the panelling material.

Harvia Exclusive Air, heat-treated aspen
Exclusive Air benches of Effex
Harvia Solide bench model of transparent white spruce
Harvia Solide bench model of transparent white spruce
Harvia Block bench model, heat-treated aspen
Harvia Block bench model of heat-treated aspen

Adding to the sauna experience

Harvia Solide hybrid sauna

You can create a mood and atmosphere in the sauna in many ways. The placement of wall panels, the choice of wood, surface treatments and indirect LED or coloured lighting create a unique feel. If you want to take your sauna experience to the next level, there are plenty of options available.

Hybrid saunas are becoming more and more common. It means that in addition to an electric sauna heater or wood burning heater, the sauna is also equipped with one or more infrared radiators. The infrared radiators are installed behind the upper bench. They are intended to warm up the person sitting in the seat in question, not the whole sauna room.

  • The infrared heater warms you up from the inside, penetrating deeper into the skin tissue to up to 5 cm.

  • You can go warm up in front of the infrared heater while bathing in the sauna, for instance, or simply sit there in your ordinary clothes on a chilly autumn day.

  • You can also use the sauna and the infrared heater at the same time; the sauna temperature must not exceed 70 degrees Celsius, however.

  • Infrared cabins offer the same health benefits as a traditional sauna: they have also been found to expand peripheral blood vessels and relieve pain as a result.

Harvia Autodose water dispenser, Legend pail and ladle

An automated water dispenser, you can lie down and enjoy the humid heat simply with the press of a button. The automated water dispenser operates either automatically at specific intervals, or by pressing a button. You can also add your favourite sauna fragrance to the dispenser.

Harvia loudspeaker SAC08008

A Sauna Steamer is an excellent accessory for those who love bathing in a very humid and steamy sauna. The steamer is an add-on device that works independently along with an electric heater to make the sauna experience more gentle and humid.

You can add a nice atmosphere to the sauna by playing music. Install loudspeakers to the sauna and play your favourite music or nature sounds by connecting them to your mobile phone, for example.

Man with adjusting MyHarvia app while jogging

Another way to add easy luxury to your sauna use is to use remote control, which makes it possible to set your sauna with a mobile phone to be ready for bathing at exactly the right time. What could be better than to go into a hot sauna straight from a jog?

Man with adjusting MyHarvia app while jogging


Sauna at your fingertips

Harvia launches a new WiFi solution for remote controlling your sauna.

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