Dec 14, 2015

AFTERTHOUGHT: Sauna insulation techniques and results.

Well, it has been close to a year, if not more, since we started using the sauna. You have seen in my previous post all the techniques I used for insulation. From baffles in the ceiling and 12” thick batts of insulation, to the bubble foil over fiberglass insulation, to only insulating one side of the dividing wall with bubble foil to prevent moisture trapping. Over all, I am very happy with our insulation work.

We have used the sauna in the -20F weather (actual temp—not wind chill). The sauna heats up to a nice 160F in about 1.5 hours in such conditions and has no problem hitting 200+F. It retains the heat very well, even in the changing room with the hot room door closed. Most of the time, we end up opening a window or two in the changing room once the hot room gets up to temp because it gets pretty warm even there.

Overall, having used the sauna in one of the coldest days of the year, I can honestly say I’m very happy with the insulation. Furthermore, you can tell the roof remains cold as there has been no ice dams and the roof stays uniformly covered with snow regardless of the sauna use.

Insulating the sauna-- I feel warmer already.

So, last time, I left off with a list of things to finish prior to insulation. Some of those things I realized I didn’t  need to do, some I rushed through and forgot to take photos, some I did and took pictures—here’s the previous list below:

  1. Create nailing surfaces on the walls for cedar boards.
  2. Nail extra 2x4s for supporting the benches in the hot room.
  3. Create a vent in the hot room—a small window (about 4” x 8”), on the wall opposite from the stove, which we can open to let the fresh air circulate (convection).
  4. Put in a junction box and run speaker cables for my in-ceiling speakers I found on CraigsList.
  5. Install attic ventilation baffles to prevent the insulation from cutting off the fresh air supply to the attic coming from the soffits.
1. The only place I needed to add nailing surfaces for cedar was on both sides of the wall that divides the hot room from the changing room. We simply added 2x4s to the existing studs to provide more surface to secure the cedar boards to later. Also, I went though and installed metal nailing plates over all the holes in the studs though which we ran the Romex wires. This is to prevent accidentally running a nail in to an electrical cable.

2. The extra 2x4s for benches we didn’t need. After doing some more research (not very thorough research), I realized that there isn’t one complete example online that I could follow. So, having gotten the general idea, I think I’ll make things up as I go. The one main point about the support for the benches is this. There needs to be a 2x4 screwed in to studs in the walls on as many sides of the bench as possible. So, for the corner bench—I can do it on 3 sides (in the back and on both sides). For the other bench, I can do it only on the back. Again, more on this later when I get to it but  what’s important now is that the support 2x4s screw in to the studs OVER the cedar—so nothing to do now.

3. Now, on to the vent in the hot room. I’ve laid awake a couple of times trying to think this through. I thought I had a good idea until I did it J First, because I have lap siding, I needed to make sure I make the hole such that it’s in the middle of the siding piece and doesn’t cross 2 of them. From inside the hot room, I measured a rough length from the side of the building to the first and 2nd studs between which my vent would be. Then, I went outside, found the placement on the siding where I wanted to be and measured the same length. Using a small drill bit—I made 4 pilot holes for the vent.  After, I went in, marked my lines connecting the drilled holes and using a multi-tool sawed through the sheathing and siding to make the vent hole. What I realized then is my plan was wrong. The cedar box that I needed to build which would make up the vent opening, had to pass through the hole I just made—not abut to it. Now I was annoyed that I made that mistake, and having planned to finish insulating that night, I ended up rushing things. I made the opening bigger without marking it first, cut out the hole, assembled my home made (slightly crooked) vent and stuck it in the opening. Once I was somewhat satisfied, I nailed in place with a bread nailer.

4. For the speaker cables, I used a regular blue electrical junction box. I hung it on the wall where I thought it would be convenient. I then ran 4 speaker cables—2 in the hot room—2 in the changing room. Now, one of the things I thought about is interference with electrical cables. Because I ran my speaker cables through the same holes as I ran the Romex, I thought there may be a hum. Looking online, the debate rages on. People recommend running speakers at least 12 inches from Romex. I neither had time nor too much space to have 12" clearance for speaker cables. So I left things as is. I’m pretty sure I’ll be OK—but even if there is any slight hum—this is a sauna—not a concert hall. I’m not worried.

5. As with anything else—opinions differ about attic ventilation. Some say you don’t need to do it, some say you must. Same with insulation in the attic. I, however, wanted to be sure my sauna was HOT. Since I won’t get a chance to come back and change things, I’ll err on the side of caution.  First, if you remember, my soffits are the vented kind. That means there’s fresh air coming in from them on 2 sides of the building. Since when I put up the fiberglass I will probably  end up blocking that ventilation, I needed to put in something to prevent the blocking. Enter Attic Ventilation Baffles.

Attic Insulation Baffles
Attic Ventilation Baffles

Attic Ventilation Baffles are simply plastic sheets which attach right to the roof sheathing (make sure your staples are not longer than the thickness of the sheathing) and create a duct over insulation for the air to get to the attic from the vented soffit. It took me a little research and trial & error to figure out how they install but in the end, I think I got it. You start by stapling the edge to the top of the top plate of your wall. Then, you bend it in so it’s horizontal with the soffit bottom and attach it to the roof sheathing above with more staples. At first they seem long, but that’s a good thing. That way they drive air over the fiberglass instead of in to it.

Attic Ventilation Baffle Installed
Attic Ventilation Baffle Installed
Attic Ventilation Baffle-- closer look
Attic Ventilation Baffle-- closer look

Finally, I went back and installed the light switches/dimmers and outlets while I still could see which Romex goes where. Make sure you have one GFI outlet and run the other outlets on the GFI circuit from it.

Next was fiberglass. There are a couple of nuances with that. First, our trusses are 24” on center. They sell 24” fiberglass, though not much of it. In the box store, the fiberglass is laid out under headings Attic, 2x6 Walls, 2x4 Walls. Under attic, the only choice for 24” they had was R38—it’s 12” thick. That would almost be to the top of the roof for me. Too much. The other choice was R19- about 6” of insulation, however, it was under the heading of 2x6 Walls. On the bag, it said it’s good for walls and crawl space. To me, attic/crawl space is the same J So—That’s what I took. The fiberglass comes in rolls that you then trim to your size. A clean way to do it is with a utility knife—a more convenient way—is just to tear it J

The other insulation I needed was for the walls. For 2x4 walls, I needed R13 Unfaced. Because we’ll be using the foil bubble vapor barrier, we don’t want to have a moisture sandwich, so we can’t have insulation with Kraft paper. This insulation comes in pre-cut batts for standard size wall. Since our sauna has a lower ceiling to retain heat—I ended up folding in the excess fiberglass at the bottom.

I started to install the fiberglass with the ceiling. Each run starts and ends on the wall top plate in the plastic cavity created by the attic ventilation baffles. Make sure the fiberglass covers that cavity very well. There’s a lot of cold air there. Then, slowly put up the fiberglass in one piece, between 2 trusses until you hit the other side of the building. Then cut the fiberglass. Thanks to gravity, the fiberglass will try to escape the ceiling to closer acquaint itself with the floor. To prevent that, you can buy special ties for $20 a pack, or you can do what I did. Simply run a piece of duct tape from one truss to another to have the fiberglass rest on. Staple the tape to both trusses for extra hold. One note of caution-- when I installed the can lights, I used specific ones rated IC-- that means they can contact insulation. Make sure yours are the same before putting fiberglass over them.

Ceiling Fiberglass- R19
Ceiling Fiberglass- R19
Duct tape holds the fiberglass in place.
Duct tape holds the fiberglass in place.
As you can see—there’s plenty of space still left between the insulation and roof for air to circulate. This is good.

Ceiling insulation- photo from above the joists.
Ceiling insulation- photo from above the joists.
The wall insulation goes a little easier. Simply fill the spaces between studs. Nothing tries to fall out. For the smaller spaces where there batts are too wide, you have to use a utility knife to make clean cuts. Don’t toss the pieces you cut—they’ll be useful elsewhere. Remember to cut the fiberglass around junction boxes. Also, remember that the insulation value doesn’t come from stuffing the fiberglass in, it comes from the air space created, so make sure it’s fluffy and there are no holes between it and the studs.

Wall Insulation- R13
Wall Insulation- R13
More wall insulation
More wall insulation
Better look at wall insulation.
Better look at wall insulation.
Insulating the wall dividing the hot room from changing room.
Insulating the wall dividing the hot room from changing room.

The last step before bubble foil install is what Glenn, of , suggests in his e-book on how to build a sauna. That is, to use expending foam specifically for windows & doors and cover the gaps between the window frame and the rough opening. We put that foam in around both windows as well as the entry door. Then, whatever was left, we used to seal any other gaps which were too small for fiberglass.

Now, with the sauna looking like a room any princes would be proud to call her own, i.e. pink, it was time for the bubble foil. I should note, though it was about 40F outside, at this stage you could tell that something was making a difference. Removing one piece of fiberglass in the ceiling to adjust something—you could now tell the colder air flow in the attic versus just cold temp in the sauna.

I ordered a big roll of the foil bubble wrap online. I think it as 200sq feet and about 4 feet wide. We started in the changing room. We put the roll on the floor and stapled it to the studs carefully unwinding the roll as we went around the room. We made absolutely sure that we had each corner well creased with enough slack in the foil. When cedar goes over this, we don’t want it to tear from being too tight. Also, we marked all the outlets and junction boxes we covered with a marker so we could cut them out. This first section only covered the bottom half of the wall. The 2nd section abutted to the top of the first section and was creased at the ceiling. Initially we thought we could use that crease—but, because there was no stapling surface to attach it to, we ended up trimming it off. One important thing to remember. Our wall that divides the hot room from the changing room, only gets the foil insulation on the hot room side. The other side gets nothing but cedar. That way it can breath and not create a moisture sandwich. Again, this is one of those topics widely debated online—but that’s the approach that makes sense to me.

Foil only goes on the side of the hot room.
Foil only goes on the side of the hot room.

Once the walls are covered up, it’s on to the ceiling. Our first thought was to go parallel to the trusses, but we quickly realized that perpendicular is the way to go. So, starting at the corner where one wall intersects with the ceiling, we stapled the bubble foil and continue to staple it on every truss. Then, we cut the foil at the opposite wall to ceiling intersection. As far as stapling goes, we generally tried to put a staple every foot on the walls and slightly less than a foot apart on the ceiling. The foil will also be held in place by the cedar, so don’t try too hard. When running the foil over the chimney support box, simply get right up to it and cut the size of the support box in the foil right on the fly as you’re hanging the foil. Get the box to fit in and continue stapling. Make sure, however, that the foil sits at least half of the stud away on the stud supporting the support box. Then, tape it to the stud with foil tape. The max temp this insulation can take is 180F per the manufacturer.  

At this point, we were starting to take layers of clothes off. With a small electric radiator going, the sauna started getting a lot warmer and the windows were starting to fog. This foil bubble insulation is good! One last thing to do is cover all seams with special foil tape to make sure there’s no air leaks in the foil.

Hot room insulation complete.
Hot room insulation complete- can you see the foil tape in the middle?
Hot room support box
Hot room chimney support box
Cut out outlets and switches from insulation.
Cut out outlets and switches from insulation.

Getting so warm the windows are steaming!!
Getting so warm the windows are fogging!!

Dec 7, 2015

Fire in the hole!

Last weekend, we rented a cabin in Minong, WI for a weekend of relaxation and fun for the kids. The cabin was one of the few cabins available to rent which had a sauna.  On a different note, I find it odd that here in the Northland, there’s only about 4 cabins that are available for rent that have saunas. So if you know of one—please PM me with details. Back to the story. The weather played out perfectly. It was in the mid 40s during the day. The lake had no ice on it. There was a straight shot run from the sauna to the lake and a big fire pit right by the lake. We strategized how we’re gonna get the sauna nice and hot and jump in the lake! The sauna house was what I think an 8x12 building. It was made out of cedar and had a metal roof. The roof was gable and so was the ceiling (now that I’ve built a sauna myself—I wondered why they’re heating all that extra space. ) The walls and roof were un-insulated, possibly only having the reflective foil, though I’m not sure. The hot room had 2 windows. Neither one was made to open, but I’m sure they didn’t help to keep the heat in. The stove was a small old stove with the front door laying on the floor. We barely attached it back to the stove, got out the broom and cleaned out all the pieces of wood all over the floor from the logs that were brought in by previous users. I told my friend that with all the mistakes in building this sauna—it’d take 3 hrs to get it up to temp. I think he took what I said a little too seriously and stuffed the stove full of wood. We went on to start grilling dinner and getting ready to eat. About 30 minutes later, my friend looks at me and says—"are there supposed to be flames coming out of the chimney?" I look up from the deck, and there are in fact, good size flames coming though the chimney cap. Now the cabin and sauna are all located on a lot heavily covered in pines. There are pine needles everywhere. All though the sauna roof was metal, there was a bunch of pine needles laying right on the chimney flashing. My first thought was OH SHEET! I grabbed an empty water jug, ran in the house, filled it up with water and came back to douse down the stove. The flames subsided. We decided to pass on a sauna that day J

Thinking about it further on Monday, I would guess that it was the chimney fire people warn you about. Just the creosote in the pipe that caught fire. I confirmed my theory with Glenn from who was in full support.  J I have always planned on having a fire extinguisher in my new sauna, but I think now—I will go for a bigger one.

Nov 30, 2015

Preparing for insulation and covering everything with cedar.

Today was a preparation day for closing everything up. Task number one, was to close up the chimney going through the attic. First thing I did was vacuum out all the debris that fell in to the support box from expending the roof opening to a 2” clearance all around. Don’t want that to catch fire. Next, as you recall, our chimney kit came with something called an “attic insulation shield”. That was supposed to go over the support box followed by a collar on top of it. It should protect the support box from any debris falling in and catching on fire. However, since our building is so small, there was not enough room in the attic to place this “attic insulation shield” – it just doesn’t fit. After doing some research, I stumbled on to this video:

12/8/15 UPDATE: I had previously sent an email to DuraVent asking if this was an acceptable method. They confirmed it was:

This would be an acceptable method instead of the attic insulation shield.  It is referred to as an enclosure, making sure you maintain the minimum 2” clearance to combustible walls.  Refer to DuraPlus Installation Instructions.

The Attic Insulation Shield cylinder portion of the component can be trimmed down, also.

Kimberly XXXXX | Technical Support Representative

The reason I trusted what he did is because he had a good point. The hole in the roof requires a 2” clearance from the chimney to the combustible wood roof. Also, the support box is framed in by 2x4s per the chimney installation instruction. If both those clearances are to code, then using the same material but a lot further than 2" away should be fine as well. So, I used the leftover sheathing to go from the enclosure of the chimney support box all the way up to the roof- about 1.5 feet. Also, I believe in the chimney installation instructions, it talks about a chimney running through the 2nd story of a building, so something similar would be used. So, that’s exactly what I did. Furthermore, if you look at the “attic insulation shield” it has plenty of gaps for mice and such to still get in to the support box. I went ahead and used some clear silicon caulk to seal any gaps I had as an extra precaution.

Boxing in the chimney in the attic.
Boxing in the chimney in the attic.

Boxing in the chimney in the attic further.
Boxing in the chimney in the attic.

Boxing in the chimney in the attic- all done.
Boxing in the chimney in the attic- all done.

Next, we went after the wall that divides the hot room from the lounge. If you remember, when we built it, we never fully installed it. At the time, we were still trying to figure out the layout and such. Today, we were certain enough to finalize the wall installation. Our ideal placement was under one of the trusses to offer extra support to the structure. That still gave us plenty of space for our stove clearances. We marked the wall location on the floor. Nailed the bottom plate to that location and after leveling and squaring the wall, we secured it in place on the top plate and both side studs. With the wall now in place, we could wire in the can light that is in the hot room. I installed a junction box on to the wall to the right of the hot room door and ran a dimmer in it. Now the hot room light is dimmable.


Another task left to do was to tidy up the wiring. Now that all the junction boxes were installed and wires have been ran everywhere (even though some switches and outlets have yet to be installed as the wires are just tied together at this point), we were in the right position to clean up the wiring. Using special cable staples, we stapled the wires to the studs carefully grouping them together. The idea is to staple the wires 6” from the junction box, and every foot from there on.

Stapling the wiring to the studs.
Stapling the wiring to the studs.

Since we will be nailing our cedar boards on the ceiling going perpendicular to the trusses, we needed a nailing surface both at the front of the building and the back. We nailed 2x4s putting them flat on their face and nailing them to the top plate with ½ of the surface area perpendicular to the top plate showing. These will provide nailing surfaces for our ceiling cedar boards. We have yet to go through our walls and see where we need to nail on the same extra 2x4s to provide an extra surface to attach the cedar.

Nailing plate for ceiling cedar boards.
Nailing plate for ceiling cedar boards.

Nailing plate (other wall) for ceiling cedar boards.
Nailing plate (other wall) for ceiling cedar boards.

As usual, due to prior commitments, we ran out of time. However, we made good progress. We only have a few things left before we cover up the walls and ceiling:
  1. Create nailing surfaces on the walls for cedar boards.
  2. Nail extra 2x4s for supporting the benches in the hot room.
  3. Create a vent in the hot room—a small window (about 4” x 8”), on the wall opposite from the stove, which we can open to let the fresh air circulate (convection).
  4. Put in a junction box and run speaker cables for my in-ceiling speakers I found on CraigsList.
  5. Install attic ventilation baffles to prevent the insulation from cutting off the fresh air supply to the attic coming from the soffits.
Once all of the above are done, we're ready to run insulation and vapor barrier.

Nov 27, 2015

Chimney installation inspection passed!

This week, I was ready to have the inspector come out and take a look at our chimney installation. The inspection successfully passed and we are now ready to precede to insulate and install the cedar interior.

Nov 23, 2015

Expanding the roof opening for the chimney for the 2" clearance all around.

As you recall, last time we put in the chimney and when all was said and done-- we realized we missed a 2" clearance around the chimney to the combustibles-- i.e. the roof. Luckily, there was just enough room to maneuver the tools in order to expand the opening. At first, I marked off the 2 inch clearance location on the sheathing. I then knew how far I needed to cut. The best tool for the job ended up being a so called Variable Speed Oscillating Multi-Tool.

Sawzall on the left, Multi-tool on the right.
Sawzall on the left, Multi-tool on the right.
This tool ate through the sheathing like warm butter. With little notches all around the perimeter, I was able to expand the opening to the required 2" clearance. The location where the multi-tool didn't fit (if the blade was longer, it would have worked), I ended up using the Sawzall successfully. After a few hours of work and a trip to the store to pick up some new blades, I had my required clearance of the roof to the chimney. Inspection is coming up next, then the space between the black chimney support box and the roof sheathing will need to be boxed in so that nothing gets in and starts a fire-- i.e. insulation, rodents :) One more important note-- a lot of junk has fallen in to the support box from cutting the roof and later expanding the hole. I need to vacuum all of it out before I close it up!

Closer look the the roof opening clearance for the chimney.
Closer look the the roof opening clearance for the chimney.

Chimney sitting in a hole in the roof 4" winder than the diameter of the chimney.
If you look closely, the lighter gray is the outside flashing while the shiny gray is the chimney and a 2" clearance in the roof (that's a pretty big gap!).

Nov 16, 2015

Installing the wood stove chimney and cutting the roof.

Well, it’s time to work on the chimney. A big and very scary step (for me). Scary, because since we’ve shingled the roof—we’ve had a few good rain storms and the roof stood up to the challenge. Now, we’ll be making a hole in this well-built roof—and hopefully the right sized hole and in the right location J To back up a bit. You can buy all your chimney pieces a la cart.  Or, DuraVent sells a basic kit that has all the components you need to go through the roof—just need to buy the actual chimney pipes separate. The kit has a square support box with trim, attic insulation shield with collar, roof flashing with collar and a chimney cap. For what it’s worth—the best deal on it was at Tractor Supply Company along with the 24ga stainless steel triple walled chimney pipe. What sucks is that for such a potentially hazardous install, the instructions could be better. Furthermore, I found some videos on youtube that help, but not one that answers all questions. So here goes.

Although I don’t have my stove yet, the maker gave me the location of the 6” chimney opening on top of the stove. We first mocked up the measurements on the floor. We calculated the 13” clearance from the back (12” needed clearance + 1” for approximate cedar thickness to be safe). Then it was 5.25” from back of the stove to the start of the pipe. Pipe was 6” diameter which would make a 3” radius. Anyway—that was the center point of our pipe (13” + 5.25” + 3” = 21.25” from framed wall). Then, looking up—we decided to use a truss that was already there to support the chimney support box. We dropped a plumb bob from the truss down to the floor so that we had that location marked. We could then tell the left/right location of the stove chimney opening. Once we had all those marked, we went in the opposite direction. From the center of the stove pipe mark on the floor, we dropped a plumb bob from the ceiling until we could locate the place on the roof that aligned with our center mark. Once we had it—we put a screw through the roof. That was our center of the roof opening. Also, since we had the distance from the wall measured (13”), we reflected that on to the truss and now knew where our support box will sit.

Calculating clearances and stove placement on the floor to put in the chimney.
Plumb Bob(on left) and marking locations on the floor.

Next, we had to frame around the support box on the trusses. We simply held the box in place and framed around without actually attaching the box permanently yet. 

Framing around the chimney support box to hang it.
Chimney Support Box

Next would be to cut the hole in the roof. As careful as we were about this, hind sight is 20/20 J Because the directions call out for a 2” clearance all around the chimney, and the chimney is 6” in diameter, we summed it up to 6+2+2=10” diameter. I was also aware that the roof hole should be an oval going from eave to peak, not a circle. So, from the center screw we put in earlier, we measure a radius of 5” and marked it on the inside of the roof. I then used a spade drill bit and drilled 4 pilot holes. We made a mistake in our calculations here—but more on that later.

Marking the roof opening for the chimney and drilling starter holes.
Guide holes.

Then, using a Sawzal, I cut around the marked oval from inside of the building and we had a hole in the roof. All while cutting the hole—one of my buddies was up on the roof making sure nothing went wrong.
We have a hole in the roof for the chimney to go through.
Hole in the roof.

With a little careful further trimming, we were able to get our Stainless Steel, triple walled chimney through the roof opening. Once we accomplished that—we could secure the support box in place. The one thing about the support box is it should protrude 2” below the finished ceiling. Since we don’t yet have a ceiling—we made it 3” to be sure (to accommodate the cedar). Because of the size of the support box, nailing it to our framed support was tricky, so right or wrong, the guy on the roof helped my secure it by using the roof opening to reach in for the air nailer and putting 2 nails per side of the box making sure we had a 3” drop from the truss along each side. One of the places where the instructions failed me was here.  The kit came with an insulation shield. It’s a piece with a rectangular bottom to fit around the support box, and a piece of circular flashing slightly higher above.  The flashing is not sealed and has a gap. So I understood this piece as something that prevents the insulation from falling in to the hot support box. It also gets capped with a collar. But in my situation, the support box extends almost half of the height of my small attic and the insulation shield won’t fit. Further, the insulation should rest below the top of the support box for me—however a mouse or whatever can make its way in to the uncapped support box. So, though we did not use the insulation shield that came with the kit—I will need to go back and frame something up to seal that support box.

Now, back to the mistake I hinted at which I realized after everything was assembled. The triple wall chimney piece all together comes out to 10” diameter. Same as the opening we made in the roof. This takes away the 2” clearance we added to the 6” stove chimney on all sides and leaves me with 0” clearance. I figured that out once everything was done of course! I will need to go in now and find a way to expand the hole without taking anything apart.

Now back to our schedule programming. Once we could get the chimney through the hole and we had the support box framed and secured in place, we were on the roof trying to get the chimney flashing piece lined up correctly. We cut a few shingles around the top of the flashing to carefully line up over the flashing.

Cutting the shingles so they lay well around the chimney flashing.
Cutting away shingles to lap over the flashing.

This is the 2nd place the instructions failed me. The flashing needs to tuck under the shingles on the top side and sit over the shingles on the sides and bottom. The directions say to only nail the top, or the top and sides ( I forget) but on a tar and flat roof—they say to nail on all sides. The videos I’ve seen I saw it nailed on all sides—which is what we did. However, not before applying flashing silicon generously all around the bottom side(laying on the roof) of the flashing.  We used regular roofing nails to nail the flashing and caulked all the nail heads with the flashing silicon.  We also caulked a few shingles we lifted and used a level on the side of the chimney to make sure the chimney was level. Finally, we ran a bead of flashing silicon all around the perimeter of the flashing to make sure no water gets in.

3rd place where the instructions failed me is sealing the chimney. From watching some video, I remembered to put a special high heat silicon around where the chimney met the flashing. Then I put the collar over it, then sealed the top part of the collar. So in a way, the collar was sealed on both sides-- top and bottom. From the instructions—it’s hard to gather if what I did was correct or not. However, I think it’s right as the flashing I had was not the “Vented” kind and with snow piling on the roof, it would melt when the chimney got hot and would drain inside into the sauna—so I think I did the right thing.

Finally, we made sure our chimney stood at least 2’ from the highest point of the roof (should be within anything 10’ away—but I got trees—I hope they don’t count.)

With that, we put the chimney cap on that came with the kit and called it a day.

We have a completed chimney on the roof.
Look at that chimney!

Dividing the sauna hot room and changing room.

So far, all we have is one big room. We need to divide this room in to a changing room and a hot room. This is where some planning needs to be involved. Because the hot room has a wood burning stove, and the stove requires certain clearances to combustibles, and because I actually pulled a city permit for this :), things need to be right. So, here’s what I’m working with. My stove requires about 12” from back and sides clearance to combustible wall—i.e. cedar. The stove is about 19”x19” in size. It also requires 48” clearance from the door of the stove to combustibles. Meaning I can’t have a bench closer than 4’ in front of the stove. Now, from the very beginning, the plan for the sauna was to fit about 8 people in the hot room on a good night and a few in the dressing room for after sauna drinks :). We needed to now find a way to make it all work and make things fit. We started with building a stove mockup—true to size, out of 2x4’s.We could then see how it’d look. If you look back to the first posts where we drew a plan, we now realized it won’t work for us. After spending an hour in the cold sauna building after our weekly beer night—the 3 of us devised a plan that should work. We decided that the hot room should span the width of the building—almost 12’. But the width of the hot room would do fine at about 6.5’. We will have the benches in an L shape. The hot room entry door will be slightly off center to the right. The stove will sit to the right of the entry door as you enter and will be in the middle of the short (6.5’) hot room wall. That way we get 12” clearance from the back and extra on both sides. Finally, the hot room will have the necessary “candle window.” I figured an appropriate size of which should be 20”x36”. That window will have the short side on the vertical and long side going horizontally and will start on the far left of the wall. One side note—the glass to use for this purpose is tempered glass. It withstands temps of up to about 500F which is enough. See the helpful links page of the blog for a place in Burnsville, MN where I bought that piece of glass for $32 with tax. Now that we had a plan, we could build the wall. Since the building already had all the framed elements such as doors and windows, I could just copy those to make the wall. As my buddy later told me—the candle window rough opening did not need a header :) But hey—no harm in extra support :) So, we measured our heights from the floor to the ceiling, and added extra for our candle window and door rough openings and assembled the wall on the floor.

Hot room door and "Candle Window" framed.
Hot room door and "Candle Window" framed.

Stove mockup behind the wall.
Stove mockup behind the wall.

Hot room door and "Candle Window" framed another view.
Hot room door and "Candle Window" framed another view.

Once the wall was nailed together, we lifted it up and could play with the actual placement locations to see how the room changed. We ended up running out of time, and simply braced it on both sides without making it permanent. We’ll do that later when we make our decisions.


Read my post about interpreting the sauna stove clearances before dividing your building in to a hot room and changing room:

Planning and installing the sauna electrical wiring.

Now that we have a fully enclosed building, I wanted to get the electrical in. I’ve spent a little bit thinking about what I wanted—then it was just a matter of making it work.

I knew I wasn’t gonna have a permanent connection to electrical. Didn’t want to deal with it. But, what I wanted is to run an extension cord to the building and plug it in when I was gonna use the sauna. Luckily, Menard's sells something called an Inlet—the opposite of an outlet. Basically, it’s a male prong that sits in place of an outlet. It’s made for the outdoors and sits inside a weatherproof outdoor junction box you buy separately. So for about $15 total, you can have an RV-like setup. Works perfectly for me.

An inlet on the outside to supply power to the sauna lights and outlets.
Sauna is powered by and extension cord plugged in to it like an RV.

Next, for the inside, I wanted 3 outlets—just in case I need the power to run tv, or audio or whatever. I nailed the junction boxes on 3 different walls in locations that won’t get in the way. Btw, a trick to place outlet junction boxes is to put your hammer on the floor with the head down. Where the handle ends—that’s where the outlet junction box should begin. :)

Next, the lights. I figured I just put in can lights so that I don’t use any of the limited space I have for protruding lights. Since cans can be used in moist environments such as showers (not just any cans), I figured it would work. I bought 3 cans. They are rated for contact with insulation—IC rated, and with the proper trim (sold separately) can be used in the hot room. I put 2 cans up in the changing room, and one can in the hot room. Still trying to figure out  if I want 1 or 2 there.

Finally, I figured we’ll be hanging outside a lot to cool down. One side of the sauna is perfect for that. So, we’ll need some flood lights there and while I can do it—I’ll put an outdoor outlet in as well—just in case we ever need it—Christmas lights? J

Outdoor flood light and outlet for the cool down area of the sauna.
Outdoor flood and outlet.
The floodlight kits are all different prices. However, I need light—nothing fancy, so I went with the $10 basic 2 bulb kit. It’s outdoor rated, comes with the outdoor junction box you hang on the outside of the siding and bulbs are easy to replace. Same goes for the outlet—and outdoor box will keep it safe in all weather.

Finally, to run everything, I put a junction box by the entrance on the inside for the light switches I will have 1 switch run the outdoor floods, one run the outdoor entry lights and one dimmer run the changing room cans. I will take care of the hot room lights/switches once I build the hot room wall J. One note of advice—at first, I placed the junction boxes where I wanted them—but didn’t nail all the way. I left it like that for a few days. I noticed later that a few of them didn’t work well where they were—so I easily swapped them. Then nailed them permanently.

The plan for wiring all these things was kinda simple as well. I started with my inlet since that’s where the power comes in. I bought a roll of 250 feet of simple gray 14/2 Romex. I don’t need a thick cable since I won’t be pulling much amps. With 3 outlets and a few lights—I should be way under. At first, I installed the inlet weather junction box on the wall that wouldn’t have much traffic (just a personal pref) I put a bead of regular silicone around the hole of the box where the wire comes in and screwed it to the outside wall. I then ran a bead of silicon around to prevent the water from getting in. Just make sure the place you put the box is clear on the other side of the wall—no studs or wires.  I then took a spade drill bit and drilled through the junction box hole and through the wall.  From there on, it’s a little common sense and a little knowledge to get it all done. Here are some rules.

1. To run wire, you have to have it go through either studs or top plate—not outside. Use a spade drill bit, I think I used 5/8” and drill the hole in the center of the stud/top plate. Run the wire through it—remember to check that you’re not drilling in to anything.

2. Things can be wired in series or in parallel. If you want 1 switch to control 3 lights—wire those lights in series. If you want to have a switch control 2 lights and an outlet—run the outlet in parallel- but the lights in series. More is available on the web J

3. Make sure you’re connections are good and tight- not loose. Try tugging on each wire to make sure it doesn't come out.

FYI… if you’ve never done this before—do some research on the web. That’s how I learned back when I was finishing my basement. It’s pretty straight forward.

To make things quick—I didn’t yet install any switches—instead I tied the wires together where they would have been broken with a switch—I’ll add those later—right now I just needed light J

At this point, I have all my lights/outlets wired except for the hot room can. I’ve used up about 200 feet of my 250  ft Romex. There’s still a few things left to do:

1. There are special wire staples that are used to keep wires in place. You have to staple the wires 6” from the junction boxes and every 12” from there on.

2. There are nailing plates that need to be nailed to the studs/top plates where the wires run through holes. This is to prevent nails from being nailed in to the wire.

3. Need to install light switches.
But that can be done later—what’s done now is that I have lights and power. With the sun setting around 530p, that’s much appreciated.

All our light switches and dimmer will be right next to the entry.
Light Switches Go Here.

Wiring the can lights in the changing room.
Look at those cans :)

We have working lights in the sauna.
Can lights all hooked up. We got lights!

Outdoor entry lights lit up at night.
Sauna lit up at night. Now that's just beautiful!

Outdoor entry lights during the day.
Sauna entrance lights in daytime.

Finishing the roof and starting on the siding

The last time we worked, we were close to done, but still had some loose ends to tie up. We needed to finish the shingles, the house wrap, put in the door and start on the siding. Due to personal commitments, I couldn't find time to get back to work until 2 weeks later. By this time, I was able to order LP siding that I wanted. To save money, I bought it for 1/2 price on Craigslist. However, you get what you paid for as the siding at half price is one that didn't pass the quality control. Some pieces were spiting, some had the primer coming off. Anyway, the shop I bought it from didn't advertise it, but you could tell they're defective by the fact that they had black paint sprayed on the back. However, for a sauna, we were able to make it work.

For the roof, we pretty much only had the ridge to finish. The ridge uses special ridge shingles. They come in the same length pieces as the regular shingles, but they're perforated--and meant to be separated in to 3 pieces. They go over the ridge with the same idea in mind as the regular shingles go on the eaves. You put one down at the edge. Nail it. Use the 2nd one to cover the nails and attach it. And you do this until you reach the end in which case you put some silicone over the nail heads of the last piece and call it a day.


One other thing left to do was the holes in the sheathing for the electrical boxes for the outside lights. You can go 2 ways here-- you can use the outdoor boxes that go over the siding and protrude out, or you can make it cleaner by cutting a hole in the wall and installing the junction box on the inside of the building. I've opted for both. On the front, I have internal junction boxes-- on the side where we'll hang out to cool down-- I'll use and external box. That's because I plan to put a flood light there and thought it's easier that way :)

To put in the junction boxes, I ended up buying a 4 and 1/8" Hole Dozer Hole Saw attachment that goes on the drill.


Then I marked the location next to a stud on both sides of the door opening and drilled the holes. I attached the round electrical box in to both opening getting it to be flush on the inside of the building with the sheathing and protruding as far as possible on the outside.


The next step was to cut out the template for the outside lights to be attached to. I used the 6" wide trim pieces we had for siding. I cut it to about 5" so I had two 5" x 6" pieces of trim. I then took the Hole Dozer and cut the junction box holes in both pieces. These pieces get attached to the sheathing on the outside right over the protruding junction boxes. Siding then goes around these templates.

Trim with the space for a junction box for outdoor lights.

Outdoor Light Trim Template

with these things being up all that was left was to put in the door.

Outdoor lights are ready to hang. Junction boxes are in.
Junction Boxes For Lights.

The door I bought was an entry door with lots of glass-- just like I wanted :) It was pre-hung which was great. It came with the threshold and trim. One unfortunate thing is I wanted an entry door that opens to the outside to save space. However, I think for safety reasons-- all entry doors open to the inside of the dwellings :(

Before putting in the door, I re-measured the opening to make sure it fit. Then, we used the same rubber membrane that we put on the bottom of the window openings. We laid this membrane on bottom under the door and about 6" up the rough opening. With the membrane in, I put a bead of regular silicone around the door as well as under the threshold and put in the whole pre-hung door in the rough opening. I then used a level and some shims to make sure the door was square. I checked closing and opening the door a few times to make sure it worked well. Once I was sure, we used a pneumatic brad nailer and nailed the door assembly through the trim that it came with in to the rough opening of the door. Then, I took out 1 screw from each of the 3 door hinges and replaced it with a long screw that would penetrate the door frame and go in to the 2x4s of the rough opening. That’s the standard way to install a door and made it secure. With that—we had a functional door. Next I needed some locks and could start keeping tools in the sauna instead of the garage.

A friend of mine that was helping out does siding for a living. He was guiding the hanging process with another buddy who would cut the LP siding boards to the right sizes. I was busy working on other things-- so I can't tell you much about the dos and don'ts of siding. However, from what I’ve seen, first you start with the trim. Trim on the corners (L-shape) and around windows. Then, you start at the bottom, pick a starting point. Take a piece of siding and cut it to size of the wall. Make sure it’s level and nail it on. The next piece laps over it going up with about a 1” lap. One thing I noticed, he had a special tool that he used that set the right overlap. Not sure what it’s called. When putting up the siding, leave a ¼” gap between the siding pieces on the side and the trim pieces on the sides. You then fill that gap in with the special siding silicone sold at the big box stores. The rest is just cutting the pieces to fit.

The siding took us a couple of weekends to finally finish, but once it was done—we had a real building! :)

Outdoor sauna with finished siding and roofing.
The siding is up and the door is in.

Sep 29, 2015

Roofing, Underlayment, Shingles, Soffits, House Wrap and Windows...

I am starting to see how this works. If I don’t make 3 trips to the improvement store, the day is not over. Also, Pizza every Saturday is now getting predictable J

The plan for this weekend was grand. We wanted to:
-finish the soffits and fascia
-put down the ice and water membrane/underlayment
-put down shingles
-put up the Tyvek
-put in windows

The buddy who does siding for a living took up the fascia/soffits. One thing I learned is that the long sheets of soffit material do not go on the overhang as is. Instead, they get cut down to little rectangles that get put up from overhang to the building. So plan on that when buying material.

Drip edge over fascia with soffit below.

2x6 Fascia that will get covered up with aluminum and soffit below.

Return box being fabricated.
Return Box

The day started with me putting up the drip edge on the eaves. Note: the drip edge gets put on first on the eaves, with Ice and Water membrane going on top of the drip edge. However, for the gables, the drip edge gets put on top of the Ice and Water. Ice and Water, by the way, is the name of the rubbery underlayment that is used on eaves and gables. Read further to find out more J.

The roll of the Ice and Water is pretty heavy to work with. So I measured the length of the roof, added some wiggle room and cut off a piece of the membrane on the ground. Then, rolled it up and took it up on the roof. Each piece has 2 white plastic sheets on the bottom side, and one small plastic strip on the opposite side. We’ll call that the top. We lined up the underlayment with the drip edge and left some slack on the gables to be cut off later. We rolled out the underlayment with the small strip of plastic facing up toward the sky and towards the roof peak. Once we had everything where we wanted, we took the top large sheet of plastic from the bottom of the underlayment and pulled it off to expose the glue. The underlayment was now glued from the top half. We then took the remaining bottom plastic piece off of the underlayment and now the whole thing was secured to the roof. We then went and put a few T50 staples through the little plastic strip that was facing up. The instructions don’t really say what that piece is and initially we thought we had to take off that plastic from the strip to expose the glue. As we found later, there was no need—the plastic stays on.

Also, I had read somewhere that the Ice and Water underlayment needs to cover at least 1 foot of the heated space. It needs to be put down on the eaves as well as the gables. With those 2 rules, I’d have most of the roof covered in the Ice and Water anyway, so I decided to ditch the cheaper felt paper and do the whole roof in Ice and Water. They also say it’s better that way—though more expansive. I ended up needing 3 rolls at $45 each.

Our next strip, we did the same thing. Cut the length of the roof with some extra on the ground, got it up on the roof, lined up the new piece to the bottom of the small plastic strip sticking up on the previous sheet, peeled the plastic from the bottom, glued the sheet and put staples through the upper strip.

We continued to lay 3 strips on each side of the roof while leaving the ridge of the roof to be done last. Once both sides were complete, we again cut a whole length sheet and put it over the ridge making sure it equally overhung on both sides of the roof. The sheet was again glued by peeling the backing and stapled.

After the underlayment was complete, we added the Drip Edge over it on the gable sides.

Ice and Water underlayment with drip edge.
Drip edge over the Ice and Water underlayment on the gables.

Next we were ready for shingles, but first, we had to put down the starter strips on both eaves. The starter strip looks just like the Ice and Water, with one difference that it has blots of black glue on one edge. That glue needs to point up to the sky and be towards the eave’s end. When shingles are placed on top of it, the heat causes the first row of shingles to fuse to the black glue and holds them from coming up in the rain/wind.

Starter shingles at the edge of the eaves.
                         The shingles starter roll with the glue blots before the shingles go up.

When I went to the store to buy shingles, there were 2 different types I needed. One package of the Ridge shingles—those that go over the ridge. And, 11 boxes of the regular shingles. On a side note, it’s amazing how now every trip to the store is at least $300.

So the rule with shingles is pretty simple. First row needs to hang over the drip edge around ¼ inch. Once the first row is laid, if you look at the shingle, there’s 2 chalk lines on each piece. The top one, you use to put 6 roofing nails through equally spaced. The bottom line is what you use to line up the next row of shingles by. Finally, because once again, all the butt joins need to be staggered, the following rule is used. For the first row, you start with a full shingle piece. 2nd row, you cut a ¼ off the first shingle and start the row that way. You then use that ¼ piece on the end. Next row, you’re down another fourth, so at this point, you start with ½ of a shingle piece. Next row ¼ piece, the following row, a full piece once again. If you do that, you’ll notice that each subsequent row covers the butt join of the previous row very nicely.

First row of shingles is nailed on.
First row of shingles over starter roll.

In the midst of one of my trips to the store, the guys put up the house wrap for me. I basically bought a 9’ roll. And, since I have about 7’ walls, things worked out perfectly. The wrap was lined up to the eves and rolled around. We saved a few dollars by using regular staples to hold it in place instead of the specialized plastic-top nails. We’ll just be extra careful not to rip it. Otherwise, there are marking on the wrap for where the nails should go, so we put staples through those markings and called it good.

Tyvek house wrap going on around the outside of the sauna.
Small red dots on the paper is where the staples/nails go.

The fun thing with building this sauna is that I have all sorts of help available from my friends. So while 2 people were doing shingles on the roof, me and another guy took on putting in the windows.

For the windows, the following things needed to be done. The house wrap was cut such that the “wings” were folded inside the window rough opening on the sides and bottom. (They suggest a reverse-Y cut to be made) They were stapled from inside the building over the window opening. A special window membrane/underlayment was placed on the bottom sill and half way up the sides of the window rough opening as well as the outside wall. This protects the wood from standing water.

Window underlayment on the bottom of the window opening to prevent water rot.
Window underlayment glued then cut in to shape.

A bead of caulk was put around the outside of the window opening and the window itself was put in. Once it was shimmed from inside on the bottom and leveled, 2 nails were put in to each of the 2 top corners. The window was then shimmed and leveled on the sides, and the bottom corners received 2 nails as well. At this point, the window was secured from being out of square, and the rest of the nails were put in. Once it was all nailed up, a special aluminum tape was put over the nails on both sides of the window first, and the last strip was put over the top making sure that it extended past the side tape on both sides. And with that—both the windows were done.

A bead of silicon underneath the window to seal everything from the elements.
Caulk the window openning for better seal.

Ready to put in the window.
Ready for the window to be put in.

The window nailed in with protective foil around all but the bottom sides.
And it's official!

Once again, it was a full day of work that started at 10a and we got a lot done. However, we ran out of daylight and so, we still need to finish the shingles, the fascia on the back of the building and get started on the siding, but as the temperature outside gets cooler, we’re moving right on schedule to getting the exterior done so that we can start on the inside.

More info can be found from the following links off of my resources page:

Installing Ice and Water membrane, Felt and Drip Edge:

How to shingle a roof:

How to shingle a roof (more):