What’s the best wood for an outdoor sauna? The best wood for an outdoor sauna is Western Red Cedar. It’s the most popular choice of wood for an outdoor sauna for a reason. It’s highly durable, weather-resistant, heat-resistant, and looks great!
WESTERN RED CEDAR – THE BEST TIMBER FOR OUTDOOR SAUNA
Western Red Cedar is the best wood for an outdoor sauna. The wood is highly valued for its strength, lightweight, and ability to withstand the elements. These characteristics make it ideal for outdoor sauna construction.
Western red cedar is a subspecies of the cedar family – a type of coniferous tree. It is native to the Pacific region of North America where it can be found in plentiful supply. It is one of the most popular timbers in the construction industry and is often used in home construction, fencing, and outdoor furniture – especially saunas.
Known as Thuja plicata, Western red cedar is native to the west coast of the USA and Canada. It is found in forests stretching from southern Alaska through Canada to California and inland to Montana. It is a sustainable eco-friendly resource that naturally replenishes itself every 35 years.
FEATURES OF WESTERN RED CEDAR
Let’s take a closer look at the characteristics of Western red cedar wood and examine why it is the best wood for an outdoor sauna. It’s not just its authentic feel and rustic good looks that have made it a mainstay for sauna builds over the decades.
Western red cedar is highly durable. It has a natural resistance to moisture and rot. This is a key characteristic that makes it an excellent choice for outdoor saunas. The timber is known to withstand harsh climates and rough treatment. Western red cedar outdoor saunas are built to last.
It’s also able to withstand dramatic changes in temperature without warping. It can heat up with the internal sauna temperature and then cool down to ambient outdoor temperature without shrinking or swelling. Western red cedar sauna cabins are prized for how they maintain their shape and structural integrity.
DOES NOT OVERHEAT
Another critical feature of Western red cedar is that it doesn’t overheat. As the temperature inside the sauna cabin intensifies the cedar timber resists overheating. This makes it a great choice for not only the wall panels – but also the sauna benches.
Western red cedar is a natural insulator. The wood does a great job of keeping the heat in and cold out – an excellent property for a sauna wood. Especially an outdoor sauna! If you want your sauna to heat up quickly and stay hot, you can rely on Western red cedar.
EASY TO WORK WITH
Western red cedar is an excellent wood to work with. It is both lightweight and strong – meaning it is easy to handle, cut, and assemble. And, once construction is complete its strength ensures long-lasting durability. If you’re planning on building your own outdoor sauna, you won’t find a better wood to work with.
Western red cedar looks great. It delivers the authentic look and feel of a traditional sauna better than any other type of wood. Red cedar has a warm reddish-yellow color that matures to a silver grey over time. And, it has a straight pattern grain that looks great when panels are assembled in parallel rows.
Cedar is renowned for its distinctive aroma. It has a pleasant fresh scent – similar to that of a pine tree. It’s a highly popular aroma amongst sauna enthusiasts and many consider it an integral part of the sauna experience. Many people find the scent calming and relaxing.
DOES IT HAVE TO BE TREATED FOR OUTDOOR USE?
Does Western Red Cedar have to be treated for use outdoors? Yes, the wood should be treated to enhance its durability and resistance to the elements. All wood used in outdoor projects should be treated to protect it from the elements. Although Western Red Cedar is naturally resistant to moisture and rot it should still be treated before use outdoors.
WOOD STAINING & SEALING
This is one of the most common and cheapest ways of protecting wood from outdoor elements. It involves applying multiple coats of wood stain or sealant to the outer surfaces of the sauna cabin. Anything that is exposed to the outdoors gets a protective coat.
One of the most effective methods of treating wood for outdoor use is thermowood treatment. This method involves exposing the wood to very high temperatures (350°F – 420°F) to alter its physical and biological properties. The structural changes that occur under heat duress make the wood highly resistant to moisture and decay.
Pressure treatment involves the use of chemicals to increase the durability of the timber. Under high pressure, preservatives are infused into the porous structure of the wood. This protective method is very common in North America.
Kiln drying is used to help prevent warping in wood that will be exposed to high temperatures. It is not a method of preserving timber for outdoor use. The drying process removes all moisture from the timber so that it won’t warp or split when it is later used in a sauna.
- Best Outdoor Saunas 2024
- Pros & Cons of Outdoor Sauna
- Types of Outdoor Sauna
- Outdoor Sauna Wood Treatment
OTHER POPULAR WOODS FOR OUTDOOR SAUNA
Western Red Cedar is the best timber for an outdoor sauna. But, it’s not the only one. Several other types of wood do a great job too. Let’s take a look at the next best wood options for a sauna build.
Canadian Hemlock is another excellent choice for an outdoor sauna. It tops our list of contenders and performs superbly in a sauna setting. Hemlock is native to Eastern America and can be found in home saunas right across the nation. It is highly moisture resistant, making it a great choice for outdoor use. Canadian hemlock saunas are durable, heat resistant, and have a neutral color tone that many find calming.
Nordic Spruce is another excellent choice of wood for an outdoor sauna. It is the most popular wood for a sauna in Finland. And, Finland is THE home of sauna. The wood is sourced from Northern and Central Europe from the Picea abies tree. It’s a naturally moisture-resistant soft wood with a pale whiteish appearance. It’s highly durable and has a tight grain that provides excellent insulation.
Douglas Fir is highly valued as an outdoor sauna wood due to its strength, appearance, and durability. It has a light brown appearance with a straight grain. Douglas fir is native to North America and is most widely recognized as the common Christmas tree. It has that distinctive ‘Christmas scent’. It’s a soft timber that performs well in high-humidity environments – such as a sauna.
Black Alder is a great wood for an outdoor sauna. It is naturally water resistant and often found in boats and outdoor furniture construction. It is a lightweight and high-strength timber – making it ideal for construction projects. Black alder is often used as an A-frame in construction projects. It’s also temperature and warp-resistant, ideal characteristics for a sauna.
Common Aspen is one of the most popular woods for saunas in Europe. A member of the willow family, Aspen is found in abundance in Northern Europe and Asia. It is a resin-free, moisture-resistant, and heat-resistant wood. It is also naturally hypoallergenic, making it a great choice for allergy sufferers. And, its light color tone is prized by outdoor sauna enthusiasts in Scandinavia.
Pine is a low-cost wood and one of the cheapest options for a sauna construction project. The timber has a similar appearance to spruce but with a slightly darker color profile. It performs well as an outdoor wood and will last many years if treated with care. However, it tends to have a lot of knots that can affect its overall appearance. And, it is more likely to warp compared to the other woods on this list.