I’ve long dreamt of having an outdoor sauna just steps away from my backdoor. With a three-season outdoor shower already in place and nearly a half-acre of land to work with, my home by the sea in coastal Maine was practically begging for one. And, after the many hours spent (happily) researching and writing about outdoor saunas (and wood fired hot tubs and cold plunges) here at Field Mag, my interest was piqued. Despite my apprehensions about building one myself, I decided to take a shot on a new outdoor sauna kit from retailer Redwood Outdoors. Spoiler: it was way easier than I thought.
In this article, I’ll share exactly what it’s like to buy and build a sauna kit with minimal building experience while breaking down each step along the way to your personal sauna heaven including: choosing a kit versus prefab, the sauna model (i.e. sauna shape, type of heater, and features) and where to order from.
My hope for this review of the Redwood Outdoors Mini-Cube Sauna kit is to share the kind of valuable firsthand experience that helps others feel confident and capable enough to buy and build your own personal outdoor sauna.
What's covered in this article:
- Choosing the Right Sauna Kit for You
- Site Prep and What to Do Before the Sauna Arrives
- Shipping and Delivery
- What Comes In a Sauna Kit
- Building our Redwood Outdoors Mini-Cube Sauna
- Cost of Hooking Up the Electric Sauna Heater and Light
- Using the Sauna
Choosing the Right Sauna for You
The Redwood Outdoors Mini-Cube 2-Person Sauna is a compact, cube-shaped traditional sauna made from Scandinavian Thermowood, a process that treats different wood species with high heat and steam to create a durable, rot-resistant, well-insulated material made to last a lifetime (other common woods used in sauna kits include nordic spruce and clear western red cedar). The small size measures about 5 ½ feet long, 4 feet wide, and 6 ½ feet high, which helps make the most of your outdoor space without sacrificing a comfortable yet cozy interior.
All the wood, components, hardware, and accessories are manufactured off site and shipped unassembled to your home. This guarantees a high-quality product, however, the sauna must be assembled on site. There is no option to have it delivered fully assembled (aka prefab saunas), which makes this a fun project if you’re up for doing some hard work with a little heavy lifting.
Site Prep and What to Know Before Your Sauna Kit Arrives
Due to the sauna’s compact size, minimal site prep was required. After we chose the perfect spot nestled among some pines, we dug out a 54-inch long by 72-inch wide area in the grass and buried four concrete deck footers purchased at my local hardware store in each corner. For the base, we built a wooden platform with pressure-treated lumber to save time and money on a level, sturdy foundation instead of pouring a concrete pad like Redwood Outdoors suggests. Lastly, we filled in the open space with weed cover and pea gravel for drainage.
To complete site prep we needed to dig a roughly 30-foot-long, one-foot-deep trench from our house to bury the electric cable that would connect our sauna to the power grid. We could have paid the electrician to do this, but optioned to DIY instead to save money.
We contacted the licensed electrician far enough in advance to get a quote and schedule the installation during the week of the build so we could use it right away. Redwood Outdoors has the assembly manual for the sauna and heater on their website to help you and any hired professionals prep. All that was left, was to make sure we had all the tools necessary (Philips screwdriver 7/16” and 9/16”, open end wrenches, 9/16” deep socket wrench, vise grips, and a mallet), and it was build time.
Sauna Kit Delivery: What to Know
When purchasing from Redwood Outdoors, the unassembled sauna kit and heater may be delivered in separate shipments. The Harvia heater and sauna rocks ship through FedEx just like any other package, however, the sauna materials and additional components were delivered via FedEx Freight in a wooden shipping crate on a scheduled delivery date.
Be sure to keep an eye on your email for tracking updates as FedEx requires a scheduled delivery with a signature. Redwood Outdoors did a great job of sending automated emails when the items shipped to help me keep track of everything.
What’s Included in a Redwood Outdoors Mini-Cube Outdoor Sauna Kit?
All pieces of the precut sauna kit arrive neatly stacked and well organized inside a single wooden crate. Cracking open the top released a heavenly wood smell that makes it all feel very real and exciting.
Inside you’ll find the materials that compose the main structure of the mini-cube sauna, which, similar to a barrel sauna, includes the front wall with glass door already installed, a back wall, and about 50 wooden staves that fit together to form the side walls and roof; plus two cradles for the base.
My kit included:
- Two stainless steel bands that wrap around finished sauna
- One interior bench, back rest, and footrest
- One wooden front step
- One interior LED light
- Sauna thermometer and hygrometer
- Roof shingles
- Sauna bucket and ladle
- One door mat
- Felt sauna hat for temperature regulation (and fashion!)
- All screws and hardware, numbered and labeled for assembly
- A step-by-step instruction manual
Some of the items we received were add-ons, such as the shingles and wooden step. For the full at-home wellness experience, dive into the world of sauna accessories—and try pairing your sauna with a cold plunge tub.
Building Your Sauna Kit
How long does it take to build a DIY sauna kit? Two people with basic building experience should be able to assemble a sauna kit in half a day using a handful of common tools most people already own. For our build, we used three levels (a four-foot, two-foot, and 9-inch level), two cordless drills (one for each of us), a soft mallet for setting the staves, an adjustable socket wrench, and a couple of measuring tapes.
With my sauna kit build experience in mind, I would recommend doing before you begin on your project:
Read the paper manual delivered with the sauna all the way through and pull up the assembly video on the product page—there were moments when a visual example really helped. Redwood Outdoors also has great customer service, which was useful when we had a question about the sauna heater and resolved things within fifteen minutes!
Check the weather forecast (we got skunked by a surprise afternoon rain shower on day one, it is New England) and give yourself enough time to complete the build before it gets dark.
Stay organized! The wood pieces are numbered with removable stickers, but the hardware comes in individual bags and it’s very easy to mix up the screws because some look similar. Be diligent and don’t remove any labels throughout the sauna build process to save yourself a lot of time and a few gray hairs.
Overall, the manual very clearly guides you through the process from the ground up. Assembling the body was easy and enjoyable because it mainly involves screwing in staves. The most complicated part, relatively speaking, was installing the interior finishings because it required leveling and measuring, yet was still very simple.
One final and important detail to note is the roof shingles. Unless your sauna is under a deck or covered by something else, you do need protection from rain and snow. Instead of using the shingles, we chose to build a metal roof overtop to match the aforementioned chicken coop (we like cohesive designs, ok?) to keep the elements out. During the interim, when the sauna was exposed, rain would leak through and get the sauna wet which is not a great experience. The wood won’t rot, but it can get musty if you leave it wet and unused for too long.
Hooking Up the Electric Heater and Light
I highly recommend hiring a licensed electrician to connect the light and heater. Our electrician took a full day to complete this portion of he project, which included installing a disconnect switch on the exterior of our house as a safety precaution.
Digging the trench ourselves helped save money here, but the electric hookup still cost an additional $1,700. Since this isn’t included in the price of the sauna kit, it’s important to factor that into your total cost. It's also worth noting cost of labor may be lower or higher where you live.
Using the Redwood Outdoors Mini-Cube Sauna
There is truly nothing more satisfying than enjoying your first sweat after building a sauna with your own two (well, technically four) hands. Before you use it, Redwood Outdoors recommends “breaking it in” by rinsing off the sauna rocks, cranking the heat up to the highest temperature for one hour to cure the wood and burn away any impurities, and then slowly pouring a liter of water over the rocks.
Using the sauna is easy, and because it’s such a small space, it heats up to 160-170 degrees Fahrenheit in about 40 minutes.The Harvia heater has two dials on the bottom: a temperature and timer. The timer can be set for a one or eight hour delay, so you can set your heater to turn on when you’re ready to use it.
Initially, I was skeptical about the sauna comfortably fitting two people on the bench. At best, I thought it would be, er, snug, but we were pleasantly surprised at how much space there is for two people. That being said, it is quite nice to relax in the warmth and solitude of the mini-cube sauna solo.
With a base price of $4,999, Redwood Outdoors' most compact outdoor sauna is an investment for sure, but for the quality, ease of delivery and assembly and many years of use ahead, it's a great value for anyone who wants their own backyard oasis.