Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Sauna Book, by Tom Johnsona and Tim Miller

This book, published in 1977, is large for a book about saunas.  Its length (partially due to including material on general construction methods that is better found elsewhere) and dated material could make this book tedious reading for impatient people such as myself.  This is the second book (see also Hollander's) that goes into length about having a plunge pool with a sauna, which the authors consider nearly indispensable.  The text could use editing for length and flow of subjects – it gives the impression of being hastily slapped together, despite being well researched.  Some of the illustrations are very good, while others are poor.  If you have access to other more recent books, such as Konya's (which is one of the best on the subject), then look around.  That said, there was a lot of good advice that is sauna specific.  The author repeats several times the importance of having the sauna door always open outward. (72, 113)  And recommends the window area in the stove room not exceed five percent of the stove room floor area. (78)  On the sauna floor, “cover the joists with exterior grade plywood... smooth side up.” (94)  He cited possible health risks of using plastic products such as “cellular or foamed polyurethane and polystyrene and its copolymers” for sauna insulation due to the high temperatures they would be exposed to on the walls or ceiling. (105)  This is a topic I have yet to confirm.  Regarding interior paneling, he recommends looking for vertical grain boards as opposed to flat grain, nicely illustrated. (108)  Galvanized or hot dipped nails go without saying as the only rational choice for interior construction. (109)  A 2x6 door is large enough (112) and an excellent illustration of how to adapt a hollow core door to the sauna and build your own window into it is shown. (117)  The author recommends using insulated electric wiring for any fixtures in the sauna. (121)  A sidebar to the text (annoyingly common in this book) describes how to cure a sauna once it is built. (122)  Platforms 30 inches wide for lying down seem over generous, but are recommended. (124)  A stove guard rail is nicely illustrated. (135)  And how to keep a tight chimney flue is described. (138) 

On the first page of this book I read “[sauna] is a cathartic experience”, an idea I had supposed was original to me, but now I see it must be more obvious than I thought.  The part of the text I paid closest attention to was that on drains.  “We have built saunas with flat concrete and wooden floors without drains and experienced no problems.  A small trap door in the floor of an elevated sauna and a driveway broom is enough to sweep most of the water out of the stoveroom, but if you have the opportunity and money to put in a drain, do so.  If your sauna is to be built of sloping ground and you are using a post foundation, your drainage problems will be minimal.  Simply build the floor with a slight pitch, drill a few 1-inch holes through it, and let the water run out onto a bed of gravel beneath the stoveroom.” (91)

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