Infographic of the best wood for sauna.

Best Wood for Sauna: Crafting Your Ideal Wellness Space

Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

Saunas have been an integral part of many cultures for centuries, offering numerous health and relaxation benefits.

One crucial aspect to consider when building or renovating a sauna is the type of wood used in its construction.

The ideal sauna wood should satisfy various criteria, including resistance to moisture, heat, and decay, as well as ensuring a comfortable and pleasant user experience.

Several wood options are available for saunas, each boasting distinctive features and properties.

It’s essential to carefully assess the distinct characteristics of each wood type to find the best match for a sauna’s specific needs.

Factors such as the wood’s durability, appearance, and aroma can significantly impact the sauna’s performance and overall user satisfaction.

Visit our SunRay Sauna brand page for a rich selection of our top-tier saunas, and delve into comprehensive information that guides you to your ideal wellness experience.

Key Takeaways

  • Choosing the best wood for a sauna is crucial for its durability, appearance, and user experience.
  • Different wood types offer unique properties and features that impact the sauna’s performance.
  • Careful evaluation of wood materials and design ensures comfort and long-lasting sauna enjoyment.

Understanding Saunas

Saunas have been used for centuries to provide relaxation, promote well-being, and improve health. There are two main types of saunas: traditional saunas and infrared saunas, each offering a unique experience.

Traditional Saunas

Traditional saunas are often found in homes, private facilities, and outdoor settings. These saunas typically involve a wood-lined room with a stove that heats up the air inside to a high temperature.

The experience in a traditional sauna is often characterized by dry heat, though water can be added to the stones on top of the stove to produce steam. This creates a hot, humid environment that promotes sweating and relaxation.

Sauna benches, usually made from heat-resistant wood, provide seating and allow for different levels of heat exposure.

Outdoor saunas often use wood-burning stoves, while indoor saunas may use an electric heater to maintain the desired temperature.

Traditional saunas can be either private or shared, depending on the preferences of the user.

Pros of Traditional Saunas

  • Deep relaxation and stress relief
  • Increased circulation
  • Enhanced detoxification through sweating

Cons of Traditional Saunas

  • High temperatures may be uncomfortable for some people
  • Wood lining and benches may require maintenance
Infographic of infrared saunas vs. traditional saunas.
Traditional Saunas vs. Infrared Saunas

Infrared Saunas

Infrared saunas, on the other hand, use infrared light to heat the body directly rather than warming the surrounding air.

This type of sauna is usually found indoors and can be installed as a home sauna or used in a dedicated facility.

Infrared saunas tend to have a lower temperature than traditional saunas, making them more comfortable for some people.

With infrared saunas, the experience is quite different from a steam room or a traditional dry sauna. The direct heat penetrates the body, providing a more intense feeling of warmth.

This type of sauna is ideal for those who want the benefits of a sauna without the high temperatures associated with traditional options.

Pros of Infrared Saunas

  • Direct heat penetration for a more targeted experience
  • Lower temperatures may be more comfortable for some people
  • Easier installation and maintenance for home sauna setups

Cons of Infrared Saunas

  • Different experiences may not be as relaxing for some people
  • Potentially limited detoxification benefits compared to traditional saunas

Both traditional and infrared saunas can provide health benefits and relaxation experiences. Deciding on the best type of sauna for your needs depends on your personal preferences, space limitations, and desired outcomes.

Features of Ideal Sauna Wood

Heat Resistance and Stability

Saunas experience significant temperature changes, so choosing a wood that can withstand these fluctuations is crucial.

Heat-resistant wood provides stability, ensuring the sauna’s structure remains unchanged, even as the heat rises and falls.

This helps prevent warping, cracking, or expansion in the wood, which can cause damage and reduce the sauna’s overall longevity.

Density and Hardness

A dense hardwood is essential for a sauna. It makes the walls and benches strong enough to withstand constant use, as well as providing good insulation to keep the heat inside.

Softwoods, such as cedar and spruce, are a popular choice because of their lower density and hardness levels.

These properties make them highly resistant to impact and less susceptible to scratches.

Durability and Maintenance

In addition to heat resistance and hardness, the ideal sauna wood should also be durable with low maintenance.

Woods with few knots are preferable, as they are less prone to cracking, splitting, or weakening the structure.

Additionally, wood that requires minimal maintenance, such as occasional oiling or staining, can help to keep a sauna’s appearance and functionality intact over time.

Infographic of features of ideal sauna wood.
Features of Ideal Sauna Wood

Health Benefits

Certain wood types, such as cedar and spruce, possess natural health benefits.

These woods contain compounds with antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties that can help maintain a clean and healthy sauna environment.

Additionally, they can release natural fragrances when heated, enhancing the overall sauna experience.

Cost and Affordability

While selecting the best sauna wood, it’s essential to consider your budget.

Some woods are more affordable than others, so finding a suitable balance between quality and cost is important.

Cedar, spruce, and aspen are some of the more budget-friendly options that still provide the necessary features for an effective sauna.

Aroma and Scent

The aroma and scent of the wood also play a significant role in the sauna experience. Some woods, such as cedar, have a pleasant and relaxing fragrance, enhancing the atmosphere.

Additionally, essential oils derived from these woods can offer therapeutic benefits, such as stress relief and relaxation, further elevating your sauna experience.

Exploring Wood Types for Saunas

When choosing the best wood for a sauna, there are several factors to consider, including durability, resistance to moisture, and aroma.

This section will explore the various wood types, their features, and their suitability for sauna construction.

Cedar Wood

Cedar is a popular choice for saunas due to its resistance to moisture, decay, and insects. This evergreen conifer wood type releases a pleasant aroma and has excellent insulation properties when heated.

Cedar wood is also known for its attractive appearance and minimal warping.

Infographic of sauna woods that produce less toxins.
Woods That Produce Less Toxins When Heated in a Sauna

Hemlock Wood

Hemlock wood is another suitable option for saunas. It is a softwood with less noticeable knots than cedar, making it visually appealing.

Hemlock wood is naturally resistant to decay and has good heat retention properties. However, it does not have the distinctive aroma associated with cedar wood.

Pine Wood

Pine is a softwood less expensive than cedar or hemlock. While it is not as resistant to decay and moisture, pine wood is still a viable option for sauna construction if properly maintained.

The light color and distinctive pine wood grain can add a cozy ambiance to a sauna.

Spruce Wood

Spruce is another softwood often used in saunas. It offers good heat insulation and is lightweight, making it easy to install.

However, spruce may not be as resistant to moisture and decay as cedar or hemlock.

Eucalyptus Wood

Eucalyptus wood is a hardwood known for its resistance to decay and moisture. This makes it suitable for sauna construction, and it also releases a pleasant aroma when heated.

Eucalyptus wood is a sustainable option due to its fast-growing nature and lower cost than other hardwoods.

Poplar Wood

Poplar is a deciduous hardwood that makes an excellent choice for saunas due to its low thermal conductivity and resistance to warping.

However, poplar wood is not as visually appealing as other wood types and may require more maintenance to prevent decay.


Basswood is a light-colored hardwood that is perfect for sauna construction. It has excellent insulation properties, is resistant to warping, and is lightweight.

This deciduous wood type is also hypoallergenic, making it a great choice for sensitive individuals.

Aspen Wood

Aspen wood is known for its light color and silky texture. It has excellent insulation properties and is resistant to warping.

This deciduous wood type is a great option for sauna construction as it does not emit a strong aroma when heated and is hypoallergenic.

Oak and Teak Wood

Oak and teak are hardwoods that are highly durable and resistant to moisture.

While they may be more expensive than other wood types, their high-quality finish and long-lasting nature make them excellent choices for sauna construction.


Redwood is a softwood highly resistant to decay and moisture, making it suitable for saunas.

It is an attractive wood type with a rich color that can add warmth and elegance to a sauna. However, redwood is a more expensive option compared to other softwoods.

Highlighting Wood Properties

When choosing the best wood for a sauna, certain properties can make a difference in the overall performance and quality of your sauna experience.

In this section, we will discuss a few key aspects to consider, such as antibacterial properties, moisture, and temperature resistance, susceptibility to fungus and pests, and interactivity with essential oils.

Infographic of important properties of wood for saunas.
Important Properties of Wood for Saunas

Antibacterial Properties

Some woods possess natural antibacterial properties that can help keep your sauna clean and free of harmful bacteria.

This is particularly important when using a sauna for detoxification purposes, as it can aid in the removal of toxins from the body while reducing the risk of allergies and infections.

Hypoallergenic woods, such as cedar, are often recommended for their ability to resist bacteria and fungi growth.

Moisture and Temperature Resistance

Sauna woods should be able to withstand the high levels of moisture and temperature that are typically encountered in this environment.

A wood that offers good moisture resistance can help prevent problems such as cracking, shrinkage, and warping over time.

Some of the most popular sauna woods, such as cedar, hemlock, and aspen, are known for their ability to maintain their structural integrity even when exposed to high humidity levels.

Similarly, woods with high-temperature resistance can keep the sauna visually appealing and structurally sound.

Susceptibility to Funguses and Pests

Another important factor to consider when selecting wood for a sauna is the wood’s susceptibility to fungi and pests.

A wood species that is resistant to mold and other fungi can help maintain a clean and healthy sauna environment.

Woods like cedar are naturally resistant to pests and insects, which can contribute to their durability over time.

Interactivity with Essential Oils

Incorporating essential oils in your sauna can provide various health benefits, such as enhancing relaxation and helping with congestion or sinus issues.

Nonetheless, not all woods respond well to the application of essential oils. Some woods may absorb the oils, which can lead to long-term damage or may release toxic resins that are harmful to the skin.

Choosing a wood compatible with your preferred essential oils is essential to ensure a safe and pleasant sauna experience.

Woods such as basswood and aspen are known for their compatibility with essential oils, while cedar produces its own pleasant aroma without requiring additional oils.

Choosing Sauna Materials and Design

When building a sauna, it is essential to carefully consider the materials and design aspects to ensure a safe, enjoyable, and long-lasting experience.

This section will guide you through various options and their benefits.

Glass and Ceramic Elements in Sauna Design

Incorporating glass and ceramic elements in a sauna design can enhance its visual appeal and create a more open and modern atmosphere.

Glass walls or doors allow natural light to enter the sauna and can provide a feeling of spaciousness. Ceramic tiles are often used for flooring due to their water resistance and durability.

However, be cautious with these materials, as they can get hot to the touch, and proper insulation must be used to prevent heat loss.

Wood Staining and Sealants

Selecting the right wood is crucial for a sauna’s longevity and performance.

Timber like Canadian Hemlock is a popular choice due to its mold resistance and natural insulating properties.

To protect the wood from long-term damage and decay, stains and sealants can be applied. Be mindful when choosing a wood stain or sealant, as some products can emit harmful fumes when heated.

Opt for a non-toxic, water-based product to ensure the safety of all users.

Use of Leaves in Sauna

One traditional practice in sauna design is the use of leaves for a more authentic and natural experience.

Birch or eucalyptus leaves, tied together into a bundle, can be used for gently tapping the skin to stimulate circulation and release natural oils.

Leaves also add a pleasant aroma to the sauna environment. Make sure to choose fresh, pesticide-free leaves and replace them regularly to maintain hygiene.

To achieve the best sauna experience, focus on the materials and design aspects mentioned above. By doing so, you can create a functional and stylish sanctuary, perfect for relaxation and rejuvenation.


Which woods are most resistant to moisture in saunas?

Certain wood species have higher moisture resistance, making them suitable for sauna use. Common choices include cedar, hemlock, spruce, and aspen. These woods possess natural decay resistance and dimensional stability, preventing them from warping and cracking when exposed to high temperatures and humidity.

How does cedar compare to other woods for sauna use?

Cedar wood is widely considered one of the top choices for sauna construction. It is a softwood with a subtle aroma, natural decay resistance, and excellent dimensional stability. Cedar also has a lower density than hardwoods, resulting in better-insulating properties and reduced heat transfer.

What factors should be considered when choosing wood for sauna construction?

When selecting wood for sauna construction, it’s essential to consider the material’s moisture resistance, stability, strength, thermal properties, and possible health effects. Ideally, the wood should have low thermal conductivity to prevent burns, easy workability, minimal shrinkage, and low susceptibility to decay and insect damage.

Are there affordable alternatives to cedar in sauna buildings?

While cedar is the premium choice for sauna construction, alternatives like hemlock, spruce, and aspen can offer similar benefits at a lower cost. These woods are also moisture-resistant, durable, and thermally stable, although they may not provide the same insulating properties and aroma as cedar.

What woods are least likely to emit toxins when heated in a sauna?

Woods that contain low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and naturally occurring toxins are less likely to emit harmful substances when heated in a sauna. Cedar, hemlock, and aspen are safe options for sauna use. It’s best to avoid treated or engineered wood products which may release undesirable chemicals when exposed to high temperatures.

Is it better to use hardwood or softwood for sauna benches?

Softwoods, like cedar and hemlock, are preferable for sauna benches due to their low thermal conductivity, comfort, and scent. Hardwoods tend to absorb and transfer heat at higher rates, making them less comfortable for seating. Additionally, softwoods offer adequate strength and durability for bench construction while also being easier to work with.

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