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The Top 8 Sauna Wood Types: Cedar, Hemlock, and More

Your choice of wood can make all the difference between a steamy paradise and a hot mess, as each wood variety brings its unique character to the sauna experience. From the comforting aroma of cedar to the wallet-friendliness of pine, stick around to learn more about which wood you should pick for your sauna. In this article, we will review the top sauna wood types, including cedar, hemlock, and more

  1. Cedar

Cedar is an excellent choice of wood for saunas, whether you're considering traditional or modern infrared saunas.

The softwood, particularly the western red cedar variety found in North America, boasts a beautiful reddish-brown color.

Its durability and resistance to moisture and temperature fluctuations make it a top pick for indoor and outdoor sauna construction.

One of cedar's standout features is its ability to withstand the demanding conditions of saunas without swelling or contracting excessively. This feature is crucial for maintaining the structural integrity of your sauna, especially in regions with extreme weather variations.

Additionally, cedar's natural essential oils not only emit a delightful aroma but also possess antibacterial properties.

If you're looking for a durable, attractive, and reliable wood option for your sauna, cedar should be at the top of your list. Just make sure you’re not sensitive to cedar, as it can trigger symptoms like a runny nose. A beautiful cedar option is the Dundalk Canadian Timber Harmony Barrel Sauna, which is made up of Eastern White Cedar.

  1. Hemlock

Not all Hemlocks are created equal when it comes to the sauna experience, with a few varieties standing out from the bunch. 

First up, we've got the Canadian Hemlock, also known as Eastern Hemlock. It has a smooth, uniform texture and a lovely white color that won't darken over time.

Canadian Hemlock is also moisture-resistant and low on resin, which means it plays well with the sauna's steamy environment. Moreover, it's virtually scent-free, making it highly suited for sensitive noses or allergies.

The second variety is Western Hemlock. It’s a top pick for indoor saunas, offering a light color and a refined texture that adds elegance to your sauna design. You'll mostly find Western Hemlock in doorways, sauna benches, and detail work.

Lastly, you’ll likely stumble upon Hem-Fir. As its name suggests, the sauna wood is a blend of Western Hemlock and various firs. This light straw-colored wood is often used for sauna benches and doorways, as well as other detailed touches. A beautiful indoor hemlock option is the Sunray Aspen 3 Person Hemlock Sauna with Carbon Heaters.

 

  1. Eucalyptus

While it might not be the most common choice, Eucalyptus is a hidden gem when it comes to sauna construction.

This premium wood has some similarities with teak, which is renowned for its durability and beauty. The good news is that Eucalyptus is often a bit friendlier on your wallet.

Besides that, if you've ever stepped into a public sauna and felt that amazing, invigorating scent, chances are they've added Eucalyptus oils to enhance your experience. 

Those oils do more than just smell good; they promote relaxation, healing, and deep cleansing of your airways.

In addition, eucalyptus is naturally resistant to pests and insects, ensuring your sauna's longevity. Even when it gets cozy with water, Eucalyptus won't succumb to rot anytime soon.

  1. Basswood

Choosing basswood allows you to step into a sauna enveloped in light brown wood that's as gentle on the skin as it is on your budget.

Basswood's gentle, hypoallergenic nature makes it a perfect choice for sauna enthusiasts prone to allergies or chemical sensitivities. It’s skin-friendly and scent-free. 

This wood is durable, resisting bending or warping over time. Overall, these characteristics make basswood ideal for residential and commercial saunas.

  1. Common Alder

Black Alder, also known as Common Alder, is a reddish-brown wood with a velvety texture that thrives in regions spanning Europe, southwestern Asia, and northern Africa.

Its popularity in saunas stems from its robustness, water resistance, and ability to maintain a comfortable temperature.

Additionally, it doesn't get excessively hot, ensuring a pleasant sauna experience. What's more, it brings a range of health benefits. Extracts from its leaves and trunk have traditionally treated various ailments.

However, it's worth noting its vulnerability to pests and insects.

  1. Aspen

Common Aspen is a bright deciduous hardwood found in cooler parts of Europe and Asia. It doesn’t produce resin, making it mess-free. It's also splinter-resistant, ensuring a safe and smooth sauna experience.

The light tone and smooth texture of the hardwood make it visually appealing and easy to customize with paint or stain. It's suitable for sauna benches and walls, inside and outside. 

Aspen is non-toxic, non-allergenic, and moisture-resistant, making it a favorite for various saunas, from home setups to public facilities. It’s also bacteria and fungi-resistant, ensuring a long-lasting sauna. 

The main drawback of using aspen is its high price. 

A beautiful Aspen or Alder option is the Auroom Lumina Cabin, available in both.

  1. Pine

Pine is widely known for its availability, cost-effectiveness, and workability. It’s naturally resistant to rot and holds multiple health benefits.

The softwood has a history of being used to soothe upper respiratory issues, stuffy noses, hoarseness, common colds, bronchitis, coughs, and even blood pressure problems.

Now, here's the twist – pine saunas aren't super common, and there are a couple of reasons why. The wood tends to have large, loose knots, which can weaken the sauna's structure. Plus, it packs a punch with a high resin content.

It might not be the most durable wood on the list, but when thermally treated, it transforms into a stronger, more robust version of itself.

  1. Spruce

Nordic Spruce, also referred to as European Spruce or Norway Spruce, hails from Northern, Central, and Eastern Europe. Among the various spruce species, it’s distinguished by its high density and solid structure.

This wood is adorned with a lovely light color that doesn't fade with time. Plus, it brings a subtle and soothing aroma that elevates your sauna experience.

It also contains terpene hydrocarbons, which keep the bugs at bay.

Did you know that Thermo-Spruce lasts up to 2X longer than Cedar wood? One example of this is the SaunaLife barrel with its industry-leading 1.65” thick full-length staves that encapsulate the sauna and provide exceptional thermal resistance (R-value). This chemical-free, eco-friendly wood is dimensionally stable and ideally suited for outdoor saunas. We even build showers out of it! Wood thickness is the theme in the SaunaLife ERGO Series and provides bathers with ergonomically crafted benches and backrests from Thermo-Aspen (1.1” thick and 3-1/2” wide) nearly 50% thicker than most.   

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, when picking a sauna wood type, you’re met with a rich palette of options, each with its distinct qualities.

 

Whether you seek the durability of cedar, the sensitivity of basswood, the robustness of hemlock, the refreshing scent of eucalyptus, or the natural resistance of alder, there's a wood type to suit your preferences.

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