A good large sauna is much more difficult to build than a family size sauna. The large capacity saunas are often in institutional use, located in spas, swimming pool facilities, health clubs, and hotels.

A good large sauna is a result of many co-ordinated components. There is a list to consider:

The size

A common mistake is to build a sauna too large. If too large, the sauna is very ineffective in space utilisation. There is a large empty space in the middle of the sauna and a narrow bench as a laude alongside the walls. When even the ceiling is high above the laude, one could say that the sauna is double the size necessary.

In most cases, a sauna is sized for the maximum number of bather but, in reality, it seldom is filled with people. Enclosed is a drawing of an ineffective inferior sauna and also a drawing of a sensibly sized good sauna for the same capacity of bathers.

Click to see this image bigger... In the inferior sauna, there is a narrow bench alongside the walls.

Click to see this image bigger... In the better sauna, there is a wide laude and plenty of space for bathers. The maximum capacity is still bigger, because the bathers who, in the crowded sauna most often know each other, can sit somewhat staggered as shown in the figure.

The biggest difference in the two saunas is when there is only ten or fewer bathers; in the inferior sauna they must remain sitting up whereas in the better sauna they get the luxurious feeling of leaning back and keeping their legs up on the laude.

The laude

As seen before, the laude must be wide. A wide laude has reserve space for an occasional crowd, and thus makes it possible to build the sauna smaller. A wide laude is the easiest way to achieve a feel of luxury in the sauna. If the sauna is not burning hot, it is like heaven when you lean back, lift up your legs onto the laude and close your eyes.

The ventilation

In an inferior sauna the air intake is down behind the stove and the exhaust is below the laude or high up on the wall or in the ceiling.

Only a small fraction of fresh air goes up to the bathers for breathing. Most of fresh air spreads out along the floor. There is a sharp drop of temperature below the laude at the exhaust vent level.

Click to see this image bigger... This sauna can be good or tolerable only, if there is an exhaust near the ceiling that provides for a continuous flow to the exhaust. This flow raises fresh air to the bathers. This would resemble a wood burning sauna, where the excess heat capacity makes it possible to waste half the energy. This is seldom possible in an electrically heated sauna which causes poor ventilation and lack of oxygen.

Click to see this image bigger... In a better sauna, the fresh air intake is in the ceiling above the stove and the exhaust goes to the washing room below the door, or the exhaust vent is down on the floor level.

An upper exhaust vent is used only after bathing in order to dry up the sauna. With this arrangement, the fresh air falling down is mixed with the hot air rising from the stove. The fresh air spreads with the hot air and cools a little the hot air under the ceiling.

The distance between the laude and the ceiling

Click to see this image bigger... In the inferior sauna the distance between the laude and the ceiling is long. The heat remains up at the ceiling and it is difficult to get the sauna hot enough. There is not enough löyly for the heroes of the World War II who throw the stones cold. The bathing is like sitting on the second laude of a better sauna. In a good sauna the distance is between 110-120 cm.

The stove

If there is an electric heater in the large sauna, there will always be a conflict between the löyly and the temperature. Everything is okay as long as there is no löyly throwing. With löyly throwing, the small amount of stones will not secure enough löyly at a moderate temperature. To avoid lack of löyly, the sauna must be heated up to 100 ºC or more, which temperature prevents generous löyly throwing.

Click to see this image bigger... If there is a stove with plenty of stones, there will be no lack of löyly even though the temperature of the sauna is kept at a moderate level.

The single most important element in a sauna is the stove, the heart of the sauna. The type, the effect, the size of the stone chamber of the stove are the things to consider when building a better sauna.

© Saunasite, 1997

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