OUTDOOR SAUNA GUIDE – ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW

woman in an outdoor sauna wearing a hat

There are four types of outdoor sauna – traditional, infrared, hybrid, and steam. Traditional, infrared, and hybrid saunas are dry heat environments. Outdoor steam saunas generate wet heat and operate at lower heat levels. Each of these types of outdoor sauna is available in a range of sizes, shapes, and styles. Take a look at our outdoor sauna guide below.


TYPES OF OUTDOOR SAUNA

We cover everything you need to know about outdoor saunas – the different types, designs, sizes, heaters used, and pros and cons – see below.


THE 4 TYPES OF OUTDOOR SAUNA

outdoor sauna in the snow

Are you considering buying an outdoor sauna for your home? Do you need some more information about the different types of outdoor sauna available? The good news is, you have plenty to choose from.  There are several design types to choose from – traditional, infrared, hybrid, and steam outdoor saunas.  Additionally, each of these can be further broken down by sauna shape and heating source to meet your precise requirement– more on this below.

1: OUTDOOR TRADITIONAL SAUNAS

One of the most popular types of outdoor sauna is the traditional sauna. If you’re looking for an authentic sauna experience and want to feel connected with the natural world – a traditional outdoor sauna is the one for you. These saunas are heated using either an electric or wood-burning stove – more on this below.

Traditional saunas are the hottest of the different sauna types. If you value high heat levels and want to work up an intense sweat quickly – you will not be disappointed. These saunas use dry heat to raise the temperature of the interior cabin to a sweltering 160 to 175°F. Infrared and steam saunas operate at much lower heat levels.  For more information check out our guide to the Pros & Cons of Traditional Sauna.

2: OUTDOOR INFRARED SAUNAS

woman sitting inside infrared sauna

Outdoor infrared saunas have been gaining massively in popularity over the last 10 years. They use a different heating technology compared to a traditional sauna and operate at a much lower temperature, 120°F. This makes them much more tolerable and a better option for people that don’t enjoy the oppressive heat of a traditional sauna.

These saunas are energy efficient. They achieve the same results while running at lower temperatures. Infrared saunas achieve this by heating the body directly without heating the air inside the sauna. And, they heat up more quickly.

If you’re looking for a sauna that’s super easy to use, operates at a comfortable level of heat, and is more energy efficient – then an infrared sauna could be the one for you. If you want a little from both types of sauna, check out hybrid saunas below.  For more information check out our guide to the Pros & Cons of Infrared Sauna.

3: OUTDOOR HYBRID SAUNAS

Another option for dry outdoor sauna is the hybrid sauna. As the name suggests this type of sauna combines both traditional and infrared heating technologies. Hybrid saunas are equipped with both a traditional heating stove and infrared heating panels.

The infrared heating panels are usually positioned in the back wall to deliver heat to the back and lumbar region. If you want to experience the best that both technologies have to offer – then a hybrid sauna could be the one for you.

4: OUTDOOR STEAM SAUNAS

woman relaxing in a steam room

Steam rooms are another popular form of outdoor sauna. Unlike traditional and infrared saunas that create a dry heat environment, steam saunas are high-humidity environments, often 100% humidity.

They are heated using steam generators and operate at a lower temperature compared to traditional saunas. The best temperature for a steam sauna is 110-115°F. Some outdoor steam saunas are fitted with electrical heaters to heat the tiles from beneath so that they are not cold to touch.  For more information check out our guide to Steam Room vs Dry Sauna.


DIFFERENT OUTDOOR SAUNA DESIGNS

Now that we’ve covered sauna types in our outdoor sauna guide, let’s take a look at how these can be further categorized by shape and design. Each of the four types of outdoor sauna described above are available in a range of shapes and designs. The most popular sauna shapes are cabin, barrel, cube, corner, and oval.

CABIN SAUNAS

outdoor cabin sauna

Outdoor cabin saunas look very similar to regular indoor saunas except they are designed for outdoor use. They are made from timber and are designed with slanted roofs to prevent the accumulation of rain and snow on the rooftop. They are one of the most common types of outdoor saunas on the market.

Outdoor cabin saunas are most frequently built using cedar wood – either western red cedar or eastern white. Other woods that can be used include hemlock, nordic spruce, aspen, douglas fir, pine, and basswood. The timber is treated for outdoor use but will require periodic maintenance over the years to protect it against the elements.

BARREL SAUNAS

barrel sauna in the woods

Barrel saunas are another incredibly popular design for an outdoor sauna. They are characterized by their large round barrel shape and flat circular sides on either end. They can be bought fully assembled and ready to use or as kits that require assembly. These saunas tend not to be insulated – meaning they can suffer some heat loss during use. However, their small size means they heat up quickly.

Barrel saunas look great. They have a striking appearance and really stand out when placed in a garden or backyard. The construction of these saunas means they may require maintenance to prevent leaks and water egress. Many owners choose to cover them with a weatherproof tarpaulin when not in use.

CLASSIC & PORCH BARREL SAUNAS

They are available in two varieties – classic barrel and porch barrel. The difference between the two relates to the fact that a porch barrel sauna has a small roofed porch area you can step into as you exit the sauna. It is created by extending the roof beyond the sauna door to create a sheltered space.

THERMOWOOD SAUNAS

sauna bucket sitting on a sauna bench

As part of our outdoor sauna guide, we need to cover thermowood.  Thermowood saunas are made using a special type of wood that has been treated for outdoor use. The process involves treating wood at high temperatures to increase its durability and resistance to the elements.

Thermowood saunas are incredibly popular in Europe – where the treatment originated.  European sauna manufacturers typically produce saunas using spruce, fir, and pine. These woods require thermal modification to make them suitable for outdoor use.

In the US woods are prepared for the outdoor environment using pressure treatment to make them weather-durable. Barrel saunas made using thermowood are known as thermo barrel saunas.

CUBE SAUNAS

Outdoor cube saunas have a distinctive cube shape. They have equal-sized flat sides, roofs, and floors. Their module design gives them a neat finish that makes them easy to position in tight spaces. Cube saunas tend to have greater cabin space compared to barrel saunas. And, larger models can accommodate dual-height benches.

On the downside, their flat roofs can trap moisture so you’ll need to take extra care that they don’t spring a leak. Cube saunas tend to be easier to assemble than saunas with curved sides. They usually ship as self-assembly kits but pre-assembled and ready-to-go models are also available.

PANORAMA SAUNAS

panoramic sauna

Panorama saunas add an extra large window or full-size glass panel to one or more sides of a sauna. They provide panoramic views that can be enjoyed while you sit back and relax in the healing sauna heat. Panorama saunas are ideal for homes or locations that are surrounded by stunning views.

If you want to immerse yourself in your surroundings – whether it be a mountain landscape or the tranquility of a peaceful lake – panorama saunas are a great option. They deliver that breathtaking view that just cannot be matched by other types of outdoor sauna.

CORNER SAUNAS

Outdoor corner saunas are designed to fit neatly into a corner space. If you have a corner and you want to place an outdoor sauna in it – nothing will fit or look better than a corner sauna. These saunas are designed to rest snuggly against the walls of a 90-degree corner.

The two side walls of the sauna sit flush against your existing corner and the front face and sauna door joins these two walls. You can think of them as being the same shape as a slice of pie – two straight edges with a curved front section containing a door.

OVAL SAUNAS

Oval saunas are, as the name suggests, oval in shape. They are similar to barrel saunas but with a little extra room inside. If you like the look of a barrel sauna but find the inside dimensions a little tight – take a look at oval saunas. They have a flat-shaped floor which gives them a more secure feel than a barrel sauna.

And, they look great too. The oval-shaped curves strike a stunning silhouette and are very pleasing to the eye. We think they are the most visually striking of all the outdoor sauna designs. Oval saunas make a great addition to any garden. They are sometimes referred to as oval barrel saunas.

POD SAUNAS

outdoor pod sauna

Pod saunas are characterized by their distinctive high arch shape. They have higher ceilings and more cabin space compared to barrel saunas and can accommodate a two-tier bench setup. Sauna pods range in height from six to eight feet with the bigger cabins proving popular with people that want lots of space.

The highly sloped shape of the roof helps protect the sauna from weather damage. However, you will still have to perform periodic maintenance to prevent weather damage and deterioration of the timber beams. Sauna pods are sometimes referred to as igloo saunas and raindrop saunas.


TYPES OF HEATERS

Next up in our outdoor sauna guide is types of heaters.  There are four types – electric heaters, wood burning stoves, combi heaters, and steam generators.

electric sauna heater

ELECTRIC SAUNA HEATERS

Electric heaters are the most common form of heater used in outdoor saunas today. They began to overtake the more traditional wood burning stove heater in the late 80s and early 90s. These heaters are very easy to use and can be powered on with just the flick of a switch.

Electric heaters are available in a wide range of sizes and styles. The most common electric heater used in an outdoor sauna is the pillar heater. This heater uses an electric heating element to heat a stack of sauna rocks that in turn heat the air inside the cabin.

Infrared sauna heaters are also powered electrically.  These heaters are fitted to the walls and are available in three types – ceramic, carbon, and combination.  Each type has a unique set of characteristics, pros, and cons.  For more see our full guide to Infrared Sauna Heaters.

WOOD BURNING STOVES

Many outdoor saunas are equipped with wood-burning stoves. This is a very traditional setup and is the preferred option in places like Finland. Wood burning saunas are a great choice for people that want an authentic experience and feel a close connection with their environment. However, they require a little more work than an electric heater.

You’ll have to stack the stove with wood and fire it up to begin heating the sauna. Then when you’re finished there’ll be some cleaning up to do. A small price to pay for the authentic sauna experience. And, they are often fitted with a water heater that provides warm water for the sauna bather.

STEAM GENERATORS

Steam generators are used to deliver hot steam to steam rooms. They operate at lower temperatures compared to traditional saunas, 110-115°F. Steam generators often require the installation of a water purification system to make sure they work properly. The generator will reside outside the cabin.

Piping is used to transport steam to a valve located in the sauna exterior – usually tucked away safely in a lower corner. The hot steam creates a very high-humidity environment, usually 100% humidity. The warm steam feels great against the skin and can help clear out the airways.

COMBI HEATERS

Combi heaters are a relatively new type of sauna heater. These heaters contain both an electric heater and a steam generator. They can be used to hit the sauna cabin and generate steam. They are a good choice for people that want the option of introducing steam into a traditional dry sauna.


DIFFERENT SIZES OF OUTDOOR SAUNA

outdoor sauna with spectacular view

What are the different sizes of outdoor sauna? What sizes are they available in? Outdoor saunas come in all shapes and sizes. From ultra-small, mini, and compact to wide-open spacious cabins that can comfortably fit a group of people.  The most common outdoor sauna sizes on the market are 1-person, 2-person, 4-person, 6-person, and 8-person.  The precise size of these saunas will vary from one supplier to the next but the table below will give you an idea of the size of each.

table showing dimesnions and size of outdoor saunas

1-person and 8-person saunas can be a little more difficult to source.  But, you’ll have no problem finding 2,4, and 6-person outdoor saunas.  If you are looking for the odd numbers you may have to contact a supplier.  People looking for a 3-person sauna tend to buy a 4-person unit.  And, those wanting a 5-person sauna opt for a 6-person model.  This way you have a little more room and greater comfort.


PROS & CONS OF OUTDOOR SAUNA

woman sleeping on a sauna bench

What are the advantages and disadvantages of an outdoor sauna? Outdoor saunas come with a set of key benefits that make them an excellent choice for some homes. However, they are not a good choice for everyone.  Next up in our outdoor sauna guide – the advantages and disadvantages.

ADVANTAGES

The key advantages of an outdoor sauna are their authentic feel, how they can reconnect you with the great outdoors, and how they can be used as a private oasis to retreat to when you need some calmness and quiet. Placing an outdoor sauna on your property allows you to immerse yourself in nature while relaxing in a sauna. And, they don’t take up any precious indoor space.

DISADVANTAGES

The main disadvantages of an outdoor sauna are installation and maintenance. Most outdoor saunas will require some kind of technical installation. For example, if they use an electric heater – you’ll need to provide an outdoor power outlet. You’ll also need to perform periodic maintenance to protect them from the elements and prevent any leaks.


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