Red Cedar Wood for a Sauna Build

red cedar for a sauna build

Red cedar is an excellent choice of wood for building a home sauna. The timber is strong, doesn’t shrink or warp when exposed to sauna heat, and has outstanding heat distribution properties – meaning it doesn’t get too hot to touch. Its pleasant aroma and attractive reddish color help make it a very popular choice for a sauna build.

Red cedar, and especially western red cedar, is the most popular choice of wood for a sauna build. It has many qualities that make it the first choice of timber for home sauna cabins in North America.


Is Red Cedar Wood A Good Choice For Building A Sauna?

legs in a western redcedar sauna

Yes, red cedar is an excellent choice for building a sauna. It is the most popular type of wood in North America for both traditional and infrared saunas. Here’s why…

Strong & Light Weight

Red cedar is a lightweight and strong wood. Properly maintained it will last for decades. Native Americans treasured it for its strength and durability and used it for most of their construction needs. 

With a bending strength of 7,500 psi, cedarwood saunas are built to last. It is easy to work with and will provide solid structural strength for your cabin. 

Timber Stability

Red cedar timber has excellent shrinkage and warp resistance when exposed to heat. This makes it an ideal choice for use in a sauna. It holds its shape and integrity. 

The timber boasts better shrinking and swelling resistance compared to other types of wood. And it is resistant to fluctuations in moisture content – a great quality for a wood being used in a sauna.

Thermal Insulation

It is an excellent thermal insulator. This means it will help keep the heat inside your sauna and prevent it from escaping. 

Good insulation means your sauna will heat up more quickly and retain the heat for longer. Red cedar is the best thermal insulator among the commercially available softwoods and even outperforms concrete, brick, and steel.

Excellent Heat Distribution 

It has excellent heat distribution. This means it won’t get too hot when the sauna heats up. Red cedar won’t overheat, it will be comfortable to touch and sit on at all times.

Great To Work With

Redcedar timber is a great wood to work with. It contains no resin and is naturally straight-grained. It’s easy to work with using both hand and machine tools, and it glues and finishes well.

Microbe & Moisture Resistance

Red cedar is microbe and moisture resistant. It contains natural compounds that are toxic to fungi, bacteria, and termites. It is renowned for its high decay-resistance and is classed in the highest category of decay resistance for any softwood.

Appearance & Aroma

Cedar has an attractive reddish-brown, rich tone. This warm color is aesthetically pleasing and ideal for sauna construction.

Cedar is also noted for its pleasant aroma. It has a very distinctive scent that’s popular amongst sauna and furniture makers. To protect its natural aroma it should be left untreated.

is red cedar good for sauna benches?

Is It Good For Sauna Benches?

Yes, it is an excellent choice for sauna benches. Due to its thermal properties and low-density profile, it does not become too hot when the sauna heats up. This means it’s comfortable to touch and sit on.

Where Does Red Cedar Come From?

Red cedar is a tree native to North America. Although there are two types, western and eastern red cedar, western red cedar is the type used for a sauna. They are completely different species and should not be confused. 

The western red cedar tree comes from western North America, especially British Columbia and the surrounding areas. It is a large, slow-growing, softwood tree. It can also be found in western Europe and Australia.

Eastern red cedar is a species of juniper and is found in eastern North America stretching from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. It is a dense, slow-growing coniferous evergreen tree and no relation to the western redcedar.

What Does It Look Like?

The heartwood of western cedar timber has a warm reddish-brown color, while the narrow sapwood has a pale yellow and sometimes white tone. 

It is an evergreen coniferous tree that grows up to 70 meters tall and has a trunk diameter of 7 meters. It’s a big tree!

Its foliage is green with faint white bands on the underside. The cones are slender and quite short, growing to just 0.7 inches in length. The tree has a life expectancy of over 1,000 years.








smiling happy lady

Red Cedar Physical Properties


Cedar has a crisp reddish-brown color which can sometimes have streaks of darker red. Narrow sapwood cedar is pale yellow and almost white. Its appearance works well for many different styles of furniture and décor.


Cedar is an evergreen coniferous tree with a straight grain and a uniform medium to fine-grain texture. This makes it a good timber for working with – easy to cut and saw with common tools.  Red cedar wood for a sauna build is a good choice given its texture.


Cedar is a lightweight softwood. It is one of the lightest commercially available softwoods in North America. It has a density of 21 pounds per cubic foot when oven-dried. And it has a specific gravity, (also known as relative density), of 0.32. Its low density makes it an excellent insulator.


Maintained correctly, western redcedar will last for decades. It has long been a highly valued construction timber by Native Americans. It is prized for long-lasting build qualities and is a popular choice for construction needs. Red cedar has a crushing strength of 4,560 lbf/in2 and a Janka hardness rating of 350 lbf (1,560 N).


Red cedar has excellent stability qualities. It displays very low shrinkage values and outperforms all other coniferous timbers in resistance to warping and twisting. It is resistant to moisture and therefore suffers virtually no change to its original dimensions, making it a great choice for dimensional stability.


Western red cedar is a great timber to work with. It is a straight-grained wood that contains no resins and is easy to work with both hand and machine tools. The timber dents and scratches easily due to its soft nature, so care should be taken to avoid handling errors.


Red cedar has a pleasant and distinctive aroma. Many people choose redcedar for a sauna build because of its unique scent. Sealing should be avoided if you intend to keep its odor. And sealing should always be avoided for a sauna build to prevent the release of volatile gases when the heat builds up.

Flame Safety

Red cedar flame safety and flame spread ratings compare well against other similar softwoods. This makes it a popular choice for interior finishing and general building applications. And its good fire prevention score is a very favorable quality for sauna construction.

Microbe & Insect Resistance 

Red cedar has a natural resistance to microbes and insects such as fungi, bacteria, and termites, It produces chemicals that are toxic to these organisms and protects the timber from them. This protects the wood making it more durable and increasing lifespan.

Red Cedar Wood for a Sauna Build?  Yes, great choice!


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5 thoughts to “Red Cedar Wood for a Sauna Build”

  1. It looks good. It smells great. Western cedar is your wood if you’re planning a sauna cabin. Cheap too.

  2. It’s tradition to use red cedar. It looks good and smells like a sauna and that alone make it a good timber to be working with

  3. Cedar is very good but it costs a bomb. You didn;t mention hemlock, it’s a really good option for a sauna. Doesn’t get too hot and moisture resistant.

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