No. of Recommendations: 6
This question was designed for me.

My grandparents were from Finland. I grew up in Northern Minnesota. Most of the Finns up there had saunas when I was growing up. We used to take saunas 2-3 times per week in the winter.

Indoor or Outdoor?
If you have the space inside, and indoor sauna is probably the better choice because you will use it more often. An outdoor sauna is more authentic, and yes, I have literally ran from a sauna and rolled in the newly fallen snow when it was -20 F outside. It's a thrill, but you really aren't going to do it. Probably ever. Seriously, just take a cold shower at the end.

Outdoors can be nice if you live in a remote area and you have easy access to the house. It is nice to sit outside on a cool evening after sauna and watch the steam rise from your limbs. If you have to go to the other end of the yard across a muddy path in cold, dark, rainy weather to turn on the stove, then wait 20 minutes for the sauna to be hot, you're probably not going to take a sauna.

I cannot stress this enough. When you talk about spending $5000 or more on something like this for your house, you want to be sure you are going to use it frequently. Think about convenience and enjoying the experience. At a minimum, you want to have the sauna in a place where you can exit, take a shower, and then sit and relax while you cool off. If you do not have enough space for this in the house, that might tip the balance to an outdoor model--although having an outdoor model with a built in dressing room--which you will want--is going to put you way over $5000.

If you go for an indoor model, you might want to consider an infrared sauna. It's a bit different from the traditional sauna experience, but there are some very small units for 2 people and they are quite common in Europe for home saunas. Also very dry so the indoor installation considerations are simplified. The following site has some examples:

Wood Stove or Electric?
Again, the wood stove is more authentic, but electric is the way to go--not that there was any question in this case. It is more to point out that maybe an electric or infrared stove is not 100% authentic, but it is far more practical.

Cost of Ownership?
Well, we were lower middle class and we had enough money to run the sauna. I'm sure it wasn't free, but my parents pretty much considered it a necessity. Finns are like that with their saunas. We probably had the sauna instead of cable TV.

There was one family of Finns who lived out in the woods. They built a garage and started living in the garage while they built their sauna. They never got around to building a house. True story.

Absolutely. My friend Dave claims his grandmother used to cure polio by giving massages in the sauna. We have not verified this, but it looks like a viable theory--at least 20% is true!

As for the rest?
You can afford it, you want it, it is completely unnecesary, it is more convenient than a massage and much warmer and so why not? Assume it won't add value to your house, unless you have a lot of Finns and Swedes in your part of the country.

Finally, the story of the Finn who wouldn't take a sauna:
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