Would you like to subscribe to our newsletters?

Out of boredom was born the Okanagan barrel sauna

This is a barrel sauna built by the newly launched Okanagan Fire Tubs in Oyama.
This is a barrel sauna built by the newly launched Okanagan Fire Tubs in Oyama.
Image Credit: Submitted/Okanagan Fire Tubs

Jacob Jobst spent last summer working in Germany with plans to return to his Lake Country home and go off to university.

But boredom changed his life.

“I was waiting for my next job to start in the Okanagan,” the 19-year-old told “I had about one-and-a-half weeks to wait so, out of boredom, I decided to build a hot tub, just for myself.

“It was wood fired and it worked out really well. I thought, well this is a pretty cool concept. I don’t know of anybody doing this here with wood fired. Then I listed it and it sold and it basically went from there.”

That was four months ago and he’s built about 10 two-person hot tubs since.

This is one of Okanagan Fire Tubs
This is one of Okanagan Fire Tubs' hot tubs
Image Credit: Submitted/Okanagan Fire Tub

The wood fire is lit in a forklift propane tank that’s had one end cut off. It heats water that goes into the top of the hot tub and it pulls cold water out of the bottom.

In some cases, where customers don’t want to burn wood, they can hook up electric or gas heaters.

Pretty soon, people were sending him messages on his Okanagan Fire Tubs Facebook page asking if he could build them a barrel sauna.

Jacob Jobst
Jacob Jobst
Image Credit: Submitted/Okanagan Fire Tubs

“I looked into it and I figured out how it was made and figured out where to get the materials from,” Jobst said. “I figured out everything involved with it and then, four weeks ago, I got my first lift of lumber and started building them.”

He's built saunas that are six feet in diameter and up to 10 feet long. He’s about to start work on a big one with windows, special seats and a porch.

Saunas were first developed in Finland about 2,000 years ago and have evolved over time. Barrel saunas have been around for quite some time but Jobst knows of only two other builders in B.C., both in the Lower Mainland/Sunshine Coast area.

There are distinct advantages to the barrel shape, according to the website.

Those include the fact they heat faster and the circular design provides a more even distribution of heat, it says.

The cedar Jobst uses, along with other materials, is sourced in the Okanagan and will last for many years, especially if a roof is installed over them since they're designed to be outside.

Unlike the infrared saunas commonly used indoors, the barrel saunas can be “wet” by pouring water over the hot rocks to create steam.

Jobst does not build standard models for customers to order but specially builds the saunas to the customer’s specification.

He doesn’t like the idea of people just ordering a sauna out of a selection posted online.

“I would much prefer to be able to actually talk with my customers and interact,” Jobst said.

The saunas are built at his Oyama home, dismantled, then set up on site. That set up takes about three hours and is included in the cost of the saunas.

At this point, Okanagan Fire Tubs does not have a website, although Jobst has had offers.

“If I do that, then I’m kind of pulling the trigger on the long run,” he said.

As a young man just starting out, he’s still a little hesitant about where he’s going with all of this.

“I’m very passionate about wood, about working with wood,” Jobst said. “I think I will have a website in the new year.”

The saunas start at $4,750.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above.