People who have decided to invest in a sauna for its numerous health benefits tend to forget about one crucial decision – what kind of wood do you use?
While this might seem inconsequential to some, the material used for a sauna can actually bring many advantages (or disadvantages). So choosing the right one is essential.
Read my review down below and what type of wood fits your needs and preferences best!
Infrared Sauna Wood Options
What kind of wood is used in a sauna?
1. Basswood – #1 Choice For Individuals With Sensitive Skins
Scientific Name: Tilia Americana highest
Abundant In: North America (east portion)
Basswood is a material with a very pale white to light brown color. Its mild hues make it easy to fit into the look of most homes without much effort. Aside from that, here are some other benefits you can enjoy when picking Basswood:
- Basswood is hypoallergenic. If you suffer from allergic reactions, this feature is a must.
- It’s odorless. Some people prefer a home sauna experience without the woody smell.
- It’s resistant to high temperatures. If appropriately prepared, Basswood is very durable and will last you a long time.
Summary: Basswood is an excellent choice if you have an allergic condition or prefer a scent-free experience.
2. Western Red Canadian Cedar Wood – Best For Durability
Scientific Name: Thuja Plicata (western red cedar)
Abundant In: Canada / Pacific North-West US
Scent: Highly aromatic
Another favorite material, Red Cedar is bright and flashy, featuring hues of red and purple (similar to redwood), and light brown. Unlike the single-noted look of some materials (like Basswood), red cedar sports a beautiful mix of different colors.
This appearance might be a bit harder to incorporate in some homes, but that doesn’t detract from the pleasing aesthetic of cedar structures!
- It imparts a unique and calming scent. Experts have found that a compound in cedar (called heliotropin) helps improve your sleeping experience and reduce stress.
- It has insect-repelling properties. Many studies show that cedar oil (oils) acts as a natural deterrent against insect pests.
- It’s long-lasting. The combined moisture- and heat-resistant qualities of cedar ensure that it will last you a long time with proper maintenance. This is why cedar infrared sauna options are highly regarded because they boast high durability and effective relaxation.
Summary: Cedar brightly colored material that’s always a good option because of its calming aroma, high durability, and natural insect-repelling properties.
3. Eucalyptus – For An Authentic Style
Scientific Name: Eucalyptus globulus
Abundant In: Australia
Eucalyptus is consistent and durable. It sports very neutral colors of light to deep brown (sometimes with a slightly reddish hue), so you won’t have a hard time finding a place for it in your home.
- It’s affordable. Eucalyptus grows very quickly and is easy to produce, so you can easily find a supplier that provides quality pieces at low prices.
- It’s odorless. This is a good feature if you’re aromatherapy-sensitive.
- It’s highly durable. There have been instances where untreated eucalyptus lasted for 24 years. So this material is sure to last you a long time.
Summary: Eucalyptus is a highly durable material that’s an excellent choice if you’re looking for an odorless option with different color options.
4. Hemlock Wood – Popular for Its Low Price
Scientific Name: Tsuga canadensis
Abundant In: North America (east portion)
It is another option that’s popularly used because of its calming scent and very low price point. I only recommend this if you’re going to build a residential traditional sauna as opposed to an outdoor one because hemlock is more prone to decay than other materials.
- It’s budget-friendly. You’ll have no trouble looking for hemlock that’s outside of your desired price range.
- It imparts a good aroma. Hemlock’s scent is deep and calming. It’s also very strong, so the smell lasts a long time.
- It sports a consistent look. You might prefer a wooden material with a cleaner look as opposed to one with many color striations.
Summary: I recommend Poplar if you’re looking for a budget-friendly, aromatic option that has a clean and consistent look.
5. Poplar – An Attractive Choice in Terms of Availability
Scientific Name: Populus
Abundant In: the Northern Hemisphere
Poplar is beautifully colored with white to pale yellow variants with straight, uniform grains. Despite being highly resistant to damage, it’s a material that’s easy to shape and work with.
- It’s easy to source. Since poplar grows in plenty of regions, you’ll have an easier time finding a supplier.
- It’s hypoallergenic. Sauna Poplar doesn’t release any allergy-inducing phenols when subjected to heat.
- It sports a clean and modern look. The pale look of Poplar can easily complement the aesthetics of most modern homes.
Summary: I recommend Poplar if you’re looking for a robust and odorless material with a neutral and adaptable look.
6. Pine Wood – Popular for Its Low Price
Scientific Name: Pinus
Abundant In: the Northern Hemisphere
Scent: distinctive natural aroma
Pinewood is one of if not the cheapest sauna wood options that might not have the durability of Cedar, but it will still last you a good number of years that you can easily extend with proper maintenance.
- Pinewood is moisture resistant. With this material, you don’t have to worry about shrinking or swelling.
- It releases a calming aroma. Many people pick Pinewood for this reason alone. However, it has also been known to cause an allergic reaction to a few individuals, so its best to find out first if you’re allergic.
- You have multiple color options to choose from. Pinewood is available in reds, yellows, and browns.
Summary: Pinewood is an excellent choice if you want an aromatic material that provides a bit more freedom when it comes to color availability.
Why Are Saunas Made Of Wood?
So why are saunas made of wood? Interestingly enough, the term ‘sauna’ is derived from a Finnish word that means “room of wood.” Wooden structures are preferred over anything else for several reasons:
- Heat Insulation
Can you imagine going inside one made entirely out of metal? The whole surface would be too uncomfortable to touch, let alone sit on.
Wooden materials, though, remain comfortable to the touch even in a warm environment because it’s an excellent insulator.
It also keeps the heat inside the structure much more efficiently.
Wood has natural antiseptic and antibacterial properties. And as long as it prepared correctly, you shouldn’t have any problems with mold or bacterial growth.
- Air Quality
Unlike plastic materials, it doesn’t impart any off-odors when heated. Depending on the material, you can opt for an odorless experience or one that’s enhanced with a natural scent.
The neatly aligned rows of planks used for building a sauna just gives a lot more aesthetic appeal than any other material. It imparts a relaxing atmosphere that makes you feel closer to the natural environment.
- Cleaning and Maintenance
Contrary to popular belief, this material is actually not that hard to manage. Cleaning and maintenance don’t require too much of your time and effort to keep your unit in excellent condition.
Summary: Wooden constructs are popular because they’re natural heat insulators, hygienic, heat-resistant, and easy to maintain.
What’s a Sauna?
Saunas are individual rooms or enclosed spaces that are meant to generate and trap heat.
People stay in these rooms for short periods to refresh their body, but recent studies have been attributing the use of saunas with other benefits, such as:
Traditional saunas typically use hot steam as a heat medium. But recently, more and more are making the switch to the electric infrared sauna because they produce a gentler heat while imparting the same, if not better, advantages.
Summary: Saunas are heat-retaining rooms that individuals use for recreational or health purposes.
Which Sauna Wood Type is Most Often Used?
hemlock, cedar, basswood, and poplar are often used woods for saunas. Pine & Eucalyptus can be used. Cedar possesses a rich aroma and is often used to build a sauna. Poplar is natural wood and is best for sensitive people.
Also, it depends on the location and the purpose. Most public units feature scentless materials so they can suit a more extensive range of users. Personal units can widely vary because owners will often choose a material that fits the aesthetic of their homes.
Summary: Most public sauna and bathhouses use odorless materials to account for hypoallergenic or smell-sensitive individuals.
Is Hemlock Wood Toxic?
It is probably one of the most misunderstood plants in the world. The common belief that is most commonly heard and that is just totally false. It is the Hemlock tree that is toxic. Why is the Hemlock Wood Poisonous? The Hemlock tree is in the hemlock genus which is one of the most poisonous plant families in the world. Even though it is not that poisonous, the tree has such a strong and distinctive smell that it makes people want to touch it. In time, they will also notice that if they come into contact with the sap of the tree, it can cause irritation on their skin and be harmful. And as they continue to deal with the sap on their skin, it may lead to problems with their lungs, digestive system or cause them to cough up a lot of phlegm.
Luckily, the tree is not that poisonous so it’s safe to eat if you’re not allergic to it. However, this tree can cause problems for people if they have kidney problems or have high blood pressure. But when it comes to having an irritated stomach, it can cause a lot of discomforts. This wood can also be very poisonous if you are exposed to it in large amounts. However, in small amounts, people don’t really know the real damage it can cause to their bodies. More Facts About Hemlock Wood. It can be found growing in many places around the world. However, it is the forests of Appalachia and New England that it is most often found in. In other places, it can be found in areas like the Mediterranean and South America as well. If you find this and other trees growing around you, don’t take it. Instead, move it to somewhere else where you can appreciate its beauty and view it from a distance.
Is Basswood Rot Resistant?
Basswood rot, or Conkle’s disease, is an epidemic fungus that feeds on fresh rot and spreads to living oak. It is responsible for the millions of holes that we see all over the East. As with the bark-eating fungi that grow on Douglas Fir trees, and other new, and old rot diseases, the fungus eventually destroys the tissue that makes up a tree’s vascular system, causing limbs to break and die.
Because of the tree’s extremely shallow roots, little or no secondary growth can occur if basswood rot becomes established, which makes tree removal necessary. One thing that makes basswood rot so devastating is that it has a much higher survival rate in basswood than in its “hardier” host tree species. Unlike some of the other “new rot” diseases, the roots of a basswood tree have little chance to become infected until the disease.
Eucalyptus vs Cedar Sauna
Of the two, the cream-of-the-crop are the trees and the sauna experience of the ancient indigenous Mesoamericans. Instead of the heat and steam, these trees and their clusters of smooth bark create and detect the natural cooling and warming cycles of the earth, and in a less brain-rattling effect than even winter’s cold snap, allow one to enjoy a sweltering sauna experience. Today, a sauna is most often a hulking steel-encased cube of wood, steel, and stone. Many of these saunas are found in the Chinese steam baths or are on a beach in Turkey.
Interestingly, the steel saunas were constructed in the late 1930s in the United States when they were away for the educated class to escape the heat of a big city and enjoy a pleasant solitary experience. As such, they tend or a country farmhouse that doesn’t feel so hot. Most have the brand name Saunas Uta (or similar) imprinted on the side, indicating they were designed in Finland. But the sauna is a centuries-old Nordic creation and a smaller sauna at the turn of the century at Columbia University would have been no more elaborate than a hand-cranked searing oven.
Is Cedar Sauna Toxic?
Scientists have managed to isolate a part of the fungus associated with UTI symptoms. They found that the endosymbiont—that is, the fungi that live on the walls of the bladder—produces a metabolite that is dangerous to the human body. In addition, scientists discovered that the fungus is attached to the cells of the host bladder. This indicates that these tiny bladders might be involved in the production of harmful substances.
Scientists used this information to work out how the amount of fungus in the bladder might vary with the severity of the infection. The findings have been published in the latest issue of the Journal of Urology. The article is titled “Diversity of Endosymbionts of Human Bladder Microbiota and Their Role in Bacterial Urinary Infections.
What Factors Are Considered When Picking Sauna Wood?
You might opt to go for a scentless unit if you’re highly sensitive to smells. It’s also a wise choice to test if you have an adverse reaction to the wood beforehand since aromatic woods occasionally cause skin irritation.
Not every material can last the moisture and heat-heavy environment of a sauna without getting damaged.
So if you can afford it, choose one that’s highly durable to save you the potential costs of repairs and replacements.
Be prepared and learn how to treat sauna wood the proper way before you make your decision.
Some woods are rarer than some. Always check if what you want is available in your area. For example, you might find abundance in hemlock wood for sale if you live in America, but options for Eucalyptus units are limited.
Summary: Aside from the obvious looks factor, you also need to look out for the scent, lifespan, and availability when choosing a material.
Final Words. Best Wood for Sauna Considerations
Now that you’ve seen the full spectrum of options, the best types of wood sauna manufacturers use depends on specific needs and preferences. Every kind addresses a specific need, so take your time and choose wisely.
- I recommend Basswood if you want a reliable odorless option.
- Hemlock is useful if you’re on a tight budget.
- My favorite, however, is Cedar. Its brightly colored design, calming scent, and highly-durable properties make it an excellent choice for any type of sauna.
Established sauna brands like Sunlighten or Clearlight offer you plenty of material options, so you won’t have any trouble finding the one you want.
If you don’t want to go through the process of choosing the right material, you can find infrared sauna pods for sale as a good alternative.