What Is the Best Type of Wood For a Sauna? ( Tips & Advice)

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

Basswood

Scientific Name: Tilia Americana highest

Abundant In: North America (east portion)

Scent: None

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 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.
PROS
  • Durable
  • Nontoxic
  • Easy to work with
  • Odorless
  • Mild colors fit will with most room designs
CONS
  • If you prefer a material with a natural fragrance, you’re better off using a different one.

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

Western Red Cedar Wood

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 option are highly regarded because they boast high-durability and effective relaxation.
PROS
  • Aromatic
  • Durable
  • Heat-resistant
  • Natural insect repellent
  • Moisture-resistant
CONS
  • Might be harder to work with design-wise
  • Might cause mild eye or skin irritation for aromatherapy-sensitive individuals

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

Eucalyptus Wood Sauna

Scientific Name: Eucalyptus globulus

Abundant In: Australia

Scent: none

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 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 lasting for 24 years. So this material is sure to last you a long time.
PROS
  • Odorless
  • Multiple color options
  • Durable
  • Affordable.
  • Rot-resistant
CONS
  • Lack of scents might be a disadvantage to some
  • Non-hypoallergenic

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

Hemlock Wood Sauna

Scientific Name: Tsuga canadensis

Abundant In: North America (east portion)

Scent: Present

Hemlock 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 infrared 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.
PROS
  • Very budget-friendly
  • Can look good in most homes
  • Strong scent
CONS
  • Not as durable as Basswood or Cedar
  • Only recommended for indoor units

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

Poplar Wood

Scientific Name: Populus

Abundant In: the Northern Hemisphere

Scent: None

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.
PROS
  • Highly available
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Modern look
  • Durable
CONS
  • Not the best choice for those who prefer an aromatic experience

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

Pine Wood Sauna

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.
PROS
  • Affordable
  • Broad color range
  • Moisture-resistant
  • Unique scent
CONS
  • Not as durable as Basswood or Cedar
  • Best for indoor units

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.

Heat Insulation 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.

  • Hygiene

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.

  • Aesthetics

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?

Types

hemlock, cedar, basswood and poplar are often used woods for saunas. Pine & Eucalyptus can be used. Cedar possess a rich aroma and is often used to build sauna. Poplar is a 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 bath houses use odorless materials to account for hypoallergenic or smell-sensitive individuals.

What Factors Are Considered When Picking Sauna Wood?

  • Scent

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.

  • Lifespan

Not every material can last the moisture and heat-heavy environment of a sauna without getting damaged.

Lifespan

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.

  • Availability

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 type 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.