Sauna is pretty much the only Finnish word in the English dictionary. In Finland, saunas were used for everything from bathing and purification rituals to giving birth. Whatever the intention, the outcome was that aching muscles were soothed and there was very welcome relief. Among their many benefits, saunas can help flush toxins via sweat, help bring on a deeper sleep, cleanse the skin, and aid in recovery after intense physical activity.
The first wooden saunas weren’t free standing, but rather were built into the side of a large embankment or hill. They evolved to be made up of wooden logs and stand above the ground, while stones were heated in a stone fireplace by burning wood.
Of course, this created smoke which had to be cleared before the room was used, and wasn’t ideal. Soon metal stoves were used, and water was thrown onto the rocks to heat the room with steam.
The construction of saunas has changed over the years, but what remains is that choosing the right type of wood is absolutely key. Those looking to have their very own sauna want it to be just perfect. So what kind of wood is best for a sauna?
Why choosing the right wood for a sauna matters
Different types of wood will have different properties that make them best suited to different uses. When it comes to saunas, the properties that are important are:
- Resistance to decay
- Thermal comfort
With that in mind, here are four different types of common sauna wood and their pros and cons when used in a sauna.
Cedar is the most common choice for saunas and is often deemed the best wood for saunas because :
- It's a stable wood that’s still malleable.
- It performs well when used in the heat and humidity of a sauna and resists warping.
- It’s also a good insulator because it’s not very dense, and so is quick to heat as well as cool down.
- Its density also means that cedar is comfortable for skin to touch, as dense wood will radiate too much heat and possibly burn the user.
- Cedar has various hues and is colorful.
- It doesn’t bleed pitch like other sapwoods.
- It’s extremely resistant to decay and fungus.
- The natural essential oil present in the wood smells amazing as well as being antibacterial.
- Cedar is great for an outdoor wood sauna as it’s incredibly robust and can withstand harsh weather for many, many years.
Cedar is pretty much the standard choice for saunas, but it might not be right for everybody, because:
- Some people may have a natural sensitivity to cedar which can give them flu-like symptoms such as a runny nose, or even itching. If that’s the case, there are many other options such as pine, basswood, poplar, aspen, hemlock, spruce, or eucalyptus.
Poplar is great for sauna wood as:
- They are common in the Northern Hemisphere
- It has no exposed knots so it doesn’t splinter, secrete sap, or overheat
- It provides a beautiful, cozy, luxurious look
- It doesn’t secrete sap
- It’s the wood of choice for health clinics across the globe. Sometimes it’s the only wood that has helped people detoxify.
It may not be the right choice for some because:
- It’s an expensive wood to choose, often the most expensive out of the options available
- It’s porous, and so isn’t suited for very hot or very cold conditions.
- It’s only average when it comes to strength and resistance to decay.
This type of sauna wood is most commonly chosen by those who have allergies or are sensitive to scents and aromatherapy. Basswood is a light-colored, odorless wood that’s affordable while still possessing qualities that make it excellent for use in a sauna.
Basswood is a great choice because:
- It’s free of harmful toxins and allergens that often bother users. If treated properly, it’s considered hypoallergenic.
- It has an excellent strength to weight ratio.
- It has a subtle color, usually pale white or light brown.
- It’s incredibly durable.
- It’s affordable.
- It has a soft texture.
- It doesn’t emit any fragrances or toxins.
- It’s unlikely to bend or warp over time.
It might not be the right choice for some, because:
- It doesn’t have a bold color or any scent.
One of the rarest woods to use in a sauna is eucalyptus. While what comes to mind is the aroma associated with the plant, the Eucalyptus used in saunas often don’t have it.
However, Eucalyptus would still make an excellent choice because:
- It grows very fast, which makes it an eco-friendly and affordable option (when compared to similar woods like teak).
- It boasts color-consistency.
- It’s strong.
- It’s durable.
- It can be stained to match a variety of different decor.
- Eucalyptus is a soft wood that resists warping.
- It lasts for many years.
- It’s rot-resistant.
- It’s odorless.
Eucalyptus might not be the right choice for some because:
- While more affordable than comparable options, because it’s rare it can still be expensive to use.
- Some stains that are used on the wood can smell and even release harmful chemicals when heated.
- It might be odorless, but it’s not hypoallergenic.
Saunas and the types of wood they’re made from
Various woods and their specific properties appeal to different people for different reasons. Here at SunHome, we have a great selection of options for saunas, and our woods of choice are Cedar and Basswood as they’re the most versatile and work for the most people out of all wood used in saunas.
Our Cedar options are provided by Dundalk Leisurecraft. They use Canadian Red Cedar and are known for being spacious, ergonomic, and high-quality.
We’re also pleased to offer Clearlight infrared saunas, which are made out of either American Basswood or Red Canadian Cedar.
We have a variety of both indoor and outdoor options, but all of our saunas are rigorously tested for quality under the harshest conditions to ensure that they’re up to our standards, as well as our customers.
If you’re ready to start pampering yourself and caring for your health in one of the most powerful ways out there, get in touch with us about your very own sauna today.