How to Choose the Best Wood for Your Traditional Sauna

Timothy Munene Timothy Munene
How to Choose the Best Wood for Your Traditional Sauna

If you’re thinking about building a traditional sauna, it’s important to consider various factors before choosing the wood. It is worth mentioning that a traditional sauna steam heats the cabin and helps you sweat. It has a bucket of rocks that are heated using an electric heater, fire, or wood.

The temperature in the cabin rises once the rocks are heated. Further, traditional saunas come with a pail of water and a scoop for sprinkling the water over the rocks. This process helps generate steam and cools the rocks down for some time, maintaining the right temperature.

So, what’s the ideal wood for building, and what characteristics should you consider before choosing wood for your home's traditional sauna? Read on to find out. 

Qualities to Look for in Wood for Sauna

The ideal wood for a traditional sauna should be moisture and heat-resistant. It should be capable of regulating the high temperature to enhance your heat sessions. Here are the characteristics you should look for when buying wood for your traditional home sauna. 

·       Mold Resistance

Traditional saunas provide dry heat but, unsurprisingly, they can reach up to 45% in humidity levels. Choose the type of wood that can endure humidity without developing mold or other issues affiliated with consistent humidity. 

·       Smooth to Touch and Temperature Resistant

The right wood for your traditional sauna, if you are looking for a great experience, is one that does not absorb heat. The wrong type of wood can get overly hot, becoming uncomfortable or dangerous for you. Softwoods would be ideal because they discharge less heat compared to hardwoods.

Using heat-resistant wood for your traditional sauna is crucial. Remember, temperatures inside a traditional sauna can heat 200°F. If your wood is vulnerable to these high temperatures, it will deteriorate or discolor rapidly. A heat-resistant wood can withstand overheating and maintain the wood’s integrity. 

·       Water-Resistant

Water-resistant surfaces help you keep your sauna clean. Do you have hot traditional sauna rocks that you sprinkle water to produce steam? You want to ensure that moisture from spilled drinks or sweat does not stick between the wooden panels, causing discoloration and molding over time.

·       Durability

A traditional sauna undergoes constant heating and cooling phases. As a result, you have to choose the best wood that doesn’t crack, shrink, expand, or warp. When building a traditional sauna, you want it to serve you for the longest time possible. Choose robust traditional sauna wood to avoid replacing it often, which can be costly. 

·       Antifungal and Antimicrobial Properties

The humid and warm environment of traditional saunas can help you reap various benefits. However, they can also be a breeding ground for fungi and microbes. To avoid the risk of infections, consider wood with antifungal and antimicrobial properties. 

·       Smell

Some home traditional sauna users prefer scented woods but others don’t. Other people may be allergic or sensitive to the phenols in odor-generating woods. Before choosing wood for your traditional sauna, establish the kind of smell you love and pick your wood accordingly. 

·       Saps and Knots

Inspect your wood for knots and saps. Of course, you can use knotty wood to panel the parts you hardly interact with. However, it can lower the aesthetic value of your unit. Avoid knots for benches since they can trigger skin rash complications. Additionally, ensure the wood you choose has no sap. Sap can melt due to heat, weakening the structure of the traditional sauna. 

Types of Wood You Can Choose for Your Traditional Sauna

Traditional saunas vary depending on personal preference. While some people prefer practical units, others focus on decorative appeal. Regardless of the voice you make, some principles such as the wood you use remain universal. Here is a guide to popular woods used for building traditional saunas. 

·       European Aspen

The European Aspen is a deciduous tree that belongs to the willow family. It grows around North Africa, Asia, and Europe. It’s ideal for making traditional sauna benches because it doesn’t get too hot, create splinters, or secrete resin. It comes with a smooth texture and light tone, giving it an attractive appearance and making it ideal for painting. You can use it for the exterior or interior walls of your traditional sauna. 

·       Norway Spruce

Just like the Scots pine, Norway spruce is a coniferous tree that belongs to the pine family. It has a light yellowish undertone and is nearly white. It’s usually used on the exterior walls of traditional saunas. It grows in eastern, central, and northern Europe. 

·       Western Redcedar

This coniferous tree from the cypress family is evergreen, also known as Pacific red cedar. It’s ideal for traditional sauna interiors and benches since it neither overheats nor secretes. It is also water-repellent.

The Western redcedar grows mainly in the western region of North America. This tree is popularly known for its elegant reddish color with various natural shades, making it an eye-catching option for external paneling. The Pacific red cedar also has a rich aroma.

·       American Ash

This perennial deciduous tree belongs to the olive family. It grows in North America and produces decorative, strong, durable, and valuable wood with a pleasant texture that beautifully complements exterior traditional sauna walls

·       Common Alder

Also known as the black alder, this perennial deciduous tree has an appealing texture and reddish tone. It’s popularly used in the finishing of a home traditional sauna. The common alder grows around Northern Africa, southwestern Asia, and Europe. Common alder belongs to the birch family and produces water-repellent, hardy wood that does not overheat. It is used to produce various interior traditional sauna products and materials. 

·       Radiata Pine 

This coniferous tree from the pine family is popularly known for its excellent quality and rapid growth. It’s one of the most grown coniferous species in different parts of the globe. The radiata pine has no exposed knots. It doesn’t overheat, splinter, or secrete resin and these characteristics make it ideal for traditional sauna benches. You can brush the wood to highlight its natural pattern. 

·       Canadian Hemlock

Also known as the eastern hemlock or Tsuga canadensis, the Canadian hemlock is a soft wood with a light smooth color and coarse grain. It belongs to the pine family and is ideal for exterior walls. Besides being knot-free and durable, this coniferous wood is perfect for use in the interiors of traditional saunas. This is because it radiates heat evenly without warping. What’s more, it discharges a relaxing, delicate aroma. 

·       Poplar

Poplar has a natural pale color and smooth texture. It’s commonly found in the Northern Hemisphere and belongs to the willow family. Poplar doesn’t splinter, overheat, or secrete resin. Further, it doesn’t have exposed knots, making it perfect for traditional sauna interiors and benches. Poplar produces wide boards that you can use to create a luxurious and cozy feeling and is ideal for exterior traditional sauna walls. 

·       Scots Pine

This coniferous tree belongs to the pine family and is perfect for the outer walls of your traditional sauna. It grows across Asia and Europe and responds well to thermal modification. You can highlight the timber’s natural pattern using special brushing techniques. 

·       Magnolia 

Also known as the tulip tree, the magnolia has a golden, creamy hue and dark areas. Further, it has a characteristic pattern similar to the radiata pine and American ash. Its low density makes it ideal for traditional sauna exterior, interior paneling, and benches. Thermal modification gives the magnolia a luxurious finish. 


As we've seen above, there are various considerations to make before choosing the ideal wood for your traditional sauna. The wood should be capable of confining heat inside the traditional sauna without overheating the cabin. Further, it should be durable, water-repellent, and mold-resistant to prevent infections and give you an enjoyable experience. 

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