Sauna Overhaul: Some Considerations

This post was written by an owner.

It is my understanding that the Portofino South condo association board will vote March 15 on the overhaul of our sauna near the pool. I gave our management a quote I had procured from Finlandia Sauna to provide new pre-cut wood and benches for about $2,000 (Installation would have to be provided by us or another contractor). I wrote about problems with the sauna that I believe warrant its overhaul in this post last year, and I believe that the sauna suffered from improper maintenance by our staff and poor use practices by residents. Today I want to provide some considerations to the management and board before deciding on approving this expense:

  1. Staff should have scheduled maintenance of the sauna.

Although I am not an expert on sauna maintenance, I envision this maintenance would look like weekly mopping of the concrete floor and cleaning of the wood benches with a mild cleanser.

  1. Staff should research and use sauna-specific cleaners.

The wood in the sauna is not finished deck furniture. In order for the sauna to operate properly, the wood is heat-treated but not sealed. This makes the wood more fragile than deck furniture. I would recommend that appropriate cleaners and procedures for cleaning unfinished wood be researched and used instead of “whatever we have lying around.”

  1. All maintenance and cleaning staff should be informed of these procedures.

If more people know how to take care of the facility, in unusual situations such as termination of an employee, sickness of the primary maintainer, etc., others on staff will be able to care for the sauna in the correct way. Management should hold a meeting with all applicable staff members to demonstrate the techniques and provide translation to Spanish as necessary.

  1. Expectations of resident users should be clearly posted.

Before I came to Portofino, I had never used a non-commercial sauna. Procedures such as putting a clean towel down under all body parts, proper ventilation of the sauna following use, etc. should be clearly posted outside the sauna door with a permanent sign (not a typed sheet stuck in to a plastic sheet protector). Management may ask the sauna company about proper use procedures. Residents can take responsibility for proper use of this facility.

  1. A properly shutting door should be installed. Whether or not the door should be left open should be determined.

Chlorinated water spray from the pool, as well as salty ocean spray, can have negative effects on the wood, such as warping, and on the metal heating unit. Unfortunately, the sauna opens directly to the outdoors and to the pool deck. The door should be properly sealed to keep out these elements. Residents should be instructed to keep the door completely closed at all times (although, I believe the sauna has no internal vent, so perhaps the door has to be open after use for ventilation?). Management may ask the sauna company about proper ventilation procedures for our particular situation.

  1. Old wood should be completely removed before installing new wood.

All existing varnished materials should be removed prior to the installation of our beautiful new top-grade Cedar. Although it would be easier to nail the new wood on top of the existing wood, this practice would still leave sauna users exposed to the scent and potentially toxic fumes of the varnish that still remains in parts of the old wood.


Although the sauna is in a difficult location regarding exposure to the elements, I believe with proper use and care the sauna will be a unique, health-conscious, and luxurious amenity of Portofino South for many years to come.

Brent L

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