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Sauna => Sauna Environment Design & Construction => Topic started by: kajutisg on July 08, 2013, 11:36:14 AM

Title: Repairing existing sauna
Post by: kajutisg on July 08, 2013, 11:36:14 AM
My wife & I purchased our home about 15 years ago.  Pressure treated wood foundation.  Sauna is in basement, off of small 3 piece bathroom (sink, toilet, shower).  Heater is electric, 220V.  Floor is ceramic tile with centre drain.  Walls are tongue & groove cedar (vertical), as is ceiling.  Two levels of bench.  Insulated door opens inward.  Small hole in upper wall centre at back, but does NOT go to outside; just into wall cavity (unsure if they just never finished this).  Special light inside for sauna use (I think).  Thermostat on wall outside sauna in bathroom, with sensor through wall into sauna interior.

Wife doesn't like saunas, so it's mine.  Used a few times the first few years, until I noticed a problem.  One wall is shared with my office (I guess this was originally a basement bedroom) and one day I noticed, when I moved some books on my shelves against that wall, that the drywall was cracking, curling a bit & exhibiting some black traces like mildew.  So shut down sauna & it's been down for years 'til I get around to working on this issue.

I've been retired a while now & this year decided to investigate, so removed shelving & starting ripping out drywall on the affected wall.

First thing I've noticed is that the sauna is built inside the existing walls, with an air separation.  From my research on the 'net this is the way it's supposed to be.  I see that they used reflective foil behind the wall tongue & groove to reflect the heat back inwards, but the foil is paper backed & appears water damaged in some places (most likely my bad, for too much steam in the sauna & not enough ventilation afterwards to clear out the humidity) & almost burnt in others.  There was also signs of rodent feces in some places, so some of the paper backed foil damage may have been rodent-related, too.  NOTE that this particular house DID have a house fire years ago (numerous people I've met have mentioned it had a fire) and apparently was totally rebuilt but I'm unsure if burn damage I see on foil & some wood is from that incident, or sauna-related.  I know that in the crawlspace under the main floor (it's a split level) you can still see some soot on the floor cladding, here & there.

I checked & apparently there's no longer a sauna specialist in town (went bankrupt) so I'm on my own.

What I'm thinking of doing, after some research on the 'net, is to replace all the existing paper backed foil that I can see in this wall with Reflectix Single Reflective Insulation.  I'm also thinking of replacing the fibreglass insulation with rock wool insulation, then putting new moisture resistant drywall up for my office wall.  I've thought about caulking around the electrical box that provides power for the sauna heater, 'cause I can see a slight gap, but considering the paper backed foil isn't taped & I'm sure there's other air / humidity leaks, this may be a non-issue.  I have also thought about finding out where that inner opening is supposed to exist outside, but it's possible that it's too close to ground level (will have to investigate) & I may have to seal that opening to prevent heat & moisture getting in the wall cavity.

Once I do this work then I figure the sauna is ready for use again BUT there will be a big change in how it's used.  The main change is that I'll post on the door that this is a DRY sauna & absolute minimal water is to be used inside.  AND I'll post that AFTER the sauna has been used then the sauna door must be left OPEN with the bathroom door CLOSED AND the bathroom ventilation fan running, to remove the heat & humidity from the sauna.

I have more photos & other information, but I'd really appreciate some assistance from pros out there on how to get this up & running again, instead of being my wife's storage area.

Title: Re: Repairing existing sauna
Post by: Bernard on July 31, 2013, 09:49:37 PM
Thanks for the inquiry -

I would need to see examples of the black traces.

From my own experience, mold in a residential sauna is rare.

You certainly want to get this room up and running as there is very little that compares to a home sauna.  Further, preventing water tossing would be a shame as it is fundamental to the sauna bath.

Let's see the concern.  Drywall crumbling could be expected if the previous homeowner was an extreme bather.  Leaving the door open after use is always recommended.

Title: Re: Repairing existing sauna
Post by: kajutisg on August 01, 2013, 08:01:34 AM
Thanks for the reply.

My bishop from church came by for a visit, & he's of Finnish heritage & said he's built numerous saunas.  He figures that I could get away with the plans I've outlined (Reflectix, mineral wool, moisture resistant drywall, etc).  He suggested getting the wall spray foamed, as that would act as vapour barrier & insulation, but my concern with that would be that it would be the only part of the sauna out of 5 (4 walls & ceiling) that would be insulated that way, & then there's the issue of the foam out gassing I've read about on the 'net.  He also suggested I investigate finishing the ventilation hole that was started, but never completed, in the upper back wall.

The biggest adjustment to using the sauna, after it's repaired, would be definitely what you said:  leaving the door open.  This would allow the bathroom ventilation fan to pull the humid air out of the combined area.

I hadn't figured out on this forum originally how to add photos, but figured it out today, so I'm attaching some

Title: Re: Repairing existing sauna
Post by: kajutisg on August 01, 2013, 08:03:12 AM
Here's more photos

Title: Re: Repairing existing sauna
Post by: Misty on September 30, 2013, 08:10:38 AM
It is difficult to tell if it is a mildew or a soot issue but it does not look to be excessive.  The walls do not seem to indicate any moisture and soot damage seems less likely.  I would suggest washing down the walls with a mild bleach solution which should alleviate either problem.  Then insulate the exposed walls with foil-faced insulation.

The vent appears to vent into the wall cavity allowing warm, moist air into the wall pocket and possibly creating the issues you are experiencing.  I would recommend that you call in (see toll-free number at top of page) and speak with a Sauna Design Specialist.