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My Experience Building a Sauna

When preparing to build a sauna I did my homework. I gathered information via the Internet; I researched sauna construction, particularly types of woods used; my wife and I visited a local sauna dealer who represented several large manufacturers; and I got quotes for different offerings from multiple sources.

What I found was that factory direct Superior Sauna had significantly lower prices than manufacturers’ representatives, it offered the same heaters supplied by the large manufacturers, and the wood that was offered was far, dare I use the word, superior to the wood offered by other companies.


Most US manufactured saunas and sauna kits use western red cedar. This wood is resistant to decay, widely used for outdoor construction, and therefore readily available. Cedar sauna manufacturers claim the wood has a pleasant odor, but other manufacturers claim the cedar fumes can be irritating, especially to children.

Scandinavian manufacturers’ saunas are often made of Nordic white spruce. This wood feels cool to the touch, as any sauna wood must, and it is light color and gives the sauna an open look. The downside to Nordic spruce is that it is full of small tight knots that do not impair its function and are minimally objectionable in appearance, but Nordic spruce does not compare to the beauty and silky feel of the wood that Superior Sauna supplies for walls—aspen, and for benches—basswood.

Aspen is the most widely distributed tree species in North America, ranging from Alaska to Newfoundland and from Canada to Mexico. When sawn it is white in color and it is low in density, which is why it feels cool to the touch. Basswood grows throughout the northeastern quarter of the US. It is low in density and sands to a smooth finish, but despite relative softness it has high bending strength. Basswood’s combination of low density and high bending strength makes it an excellent material for sauna benches, and its white color complements that of Superior Sauna’s aspen walls.

I looked hard but found no company that offers what Superior Sauna offers: the best woods and the lowest price.


Once I determined what company I wanted to go with I got down to business. I called Superior Sauna and spoke to Marilyn who referred me to Chuck Porter. Chuck and I had a preliminary discussion, and I faxed him a drawing of the room I was turning into a Sauna. My drawing included overall dimensions, window and door positions, which were fixed, and a first take at bench and heater locations.

Chuck has a fancy title, Design Consultant and Managing Partner, but he’s down-to-earth, soften-spoken, a good listener, and a thoughtful man who knows saunas inside out. He made suggestions, we discussed trade-offs, and through an iterative process we arrived at a design. Chuck even complemented me on an innovation I came up with that he’d never thought of. He said, “Hey, that’s a good idea. We can use that.”

After we arrived at the design Chuck sent me a detailed parts list that included costs, and together we tweaked the design and list of materials and selected accessories with an eye toward minimizing overall cost.

No one is perfect, and I did find two errors in the prices on the quote, but the mistakes were not intentional, and double-checking to catch mistakes is why the list was sent. I signed off on a corrected quote.

Within a week my parts were milled, shrink-wrapped, packed onto a palette, and shipped. A few days later they were delivered by truck. Everything was there, nothing was missing or damaged, and I even discovered an extra bench mounting brace that Chuck thought I might need but we hadn’t discussed. I was ready to begin my installation.

What I found exceeded my expectations. Certainly, all the benches were made of clear wood, but the paneling, too, was also relatively free of knots. By careful selecting and cutting of boards and deciding which board to place where, I got almost entirely clear walls (no knots). What knots I had to include were closed (no open space between knot and clear wood), and I was able to place these few knots below benches or in corners.

Based on quality, beauty, cost, competency, helpfulness, thoroughness, and the manner with which I was dealt, I don’t know why anyone would buy a sauna anywhere else.

I hereby affirm that this testimonial is unsolicited, and I received nothing for it.

Matthew Proujansky
Lexington, Massachusetts
June, 2009.
Date Added: 06/19/2009 by Matthew Proujansky