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Choosing the right wood for sauna installations

Rédigé par SAUNASSAUNASNET

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Publié le juillet 08 2024

Saunas provide a range of major health benefits, including skin care, muscle relaxation, and detoxification. The heat releases toxins through sweating, reactivates blood circulation, and improves breathing. Depending on the humidity inside the facility, the sauna can be wet or dry. Therefore, choosing the right wood for sauna is of great importance.

The so-called wet sauna , where the temperature does not exceed 70°C and the relative humidity is very high (around 100%), is also known as a Turkish bath or steam bath. The dry sauna, with temperatures between 80º and 100°C and a minimum humidity that is not higher than 20%, is known as a Finnish sauna.

Apart from these traditional types, there are many others: tropical baths, bio saunas, Russian saunas, salt saunas or infrared saunas, which can be indoors or out. Each of them requires its own design considerations.

Wellness center distribution: a guided example 
Different types of wood for sauna installations

When designing a sauna for a wellness space, it’s important to analyze the local environment, surrounding conditions, and desired aesthetic experience, along with the project’s business objectives. These considerations are equally as important as proper ventilation, insulation, and efficient heating.

One of the most important features when designing a sauna are the materials used for the main wooden structure. Wood is the main component in sauna installations to ensure proper insulation.

Types of wood for saunas:
  • Common aspen is a deciduous tree in the willow family that grows in Europe, Asia, and northern Africa. It is an ideal material for sauna benches because it doesn’t secrete resin, splinter, or overheat. Its light tone and smooth texture are also perfect for painting.
  • Western red cedar is an evergreen coniferous tree in the cypress family. It is perfect for sauna benches and interiors for it doesn’t secrete resin or overheat, and it is also waterproof. It’s also known for its pleasant aroma and its reddish color with a range of natural shades, which make it an attractive option for exterior paneling.
  • Canadian hemlock is soft and has a coarse grain and a light buff color. Durable and knot-free, wood from this coniferous tree of the pine family is ideal for inside saunas, since it doesn’t warp and it radiates heat evenly. Besides, it produces a delicate, relaxing aroma.
  • Common alder or black alder. With a reddish tone and a pleasant texture, this wood is popular as a finishing material in saunas. This deciduous tree has hardy, waterproof wood that doesn’t overheat. It’s also used to produce a variety of interior sauna materials and products, with various thermally modified and brushed finishes available.
  • Scots pine is a coniferous tree that is most commonly used for outer walls. The wood responds properly to thermal modification, while the natural pattern of the timber can be highlighted through special brushing techniques.
  • Norway spruce is an evergreen coniferous tree of the pine family that is almost white with a light yellowish undertone. Spruce is often used as timber and for saunas, and it is generally preferred for exterior walls.
  • American ash is a deciduous tree in the Oleaceae family. It produces a durable, strong and decorative wood with an attractive texture that beautifully complements exterior sauna walls. Thermally modified ash takes on a dark brown color and brushing can further highlight this distinctive pattern.
  • Radiata pine is a coniferous tree. With no exposed knots, the wood doesn’t secrete resin, splinter, or overheat, which makes it a fantastic option for sauna benches. Wide boards, brushing to bring out the natural pattern, and the darker hue from thermal modification offer a touch of luxury for interior and exterior paneling.
  • Poplar belongs to the willow family, and it has a naturally pale yellow color and a smooth texture. It belongs to the same genus as aspen and is ideal for sauna benches and interiors, since the wood has no exposed knots and it doesn’t splinter, secrete resin, or overheat. The warm look from thermal modification and the wide boards make for a cozy, luxurious finish that also suits exterior walls.
  • Magnolia. Also known as the tulip tree, it belongs to the magnolia family and has a creamy, golden hue with darker areas, and a characteristic pattern with similarities to ash and radiata pine. Due to its low density and low heat conductivity, it is perfect for sauna benches, interiors, and exterior paneling. The wide boards and the dark shade achieved by thermal modification give this wood a luxurious finish.

Other materials, such as stainless steel and glass, can also be incorporated for entrance doors and other elements such as the lighting, heaters, aroma dispensers, speakers, control panel and the ventilation system.

Wood maintenance tips

As an organic material, wood for sauna installations requires special treatment and regular maintenance . If it isn’t properly protected and maintained, the exposure to extreme temperatures and moisture can affect its structural integrity and appearance.

Temperature fluctuations may cause cracking or warping, and materials located in parts most exposed to vapor may also darken over time. When building a new sauna, it is essential to protect wooden surfaces before using them. We recommend regular treatment of all wooden components and frames with a breathable wood preservative in order to prolong their life.

This wood preservative can be oil or wax with tinted options available. Preservatives improve wood’s resistance to dirt and moisture, making it easier to clean. Moreover, the appearance of wooden material is enhanced by such maintenance, acquiring a deeper and more vivid tone.

You should also clean your sauna regularly. Wipe all wooden surfaces, walls, and ceilings using a soft brush or cloth. Disinfectants are not suited for sauna cleaning, as they can bleach the wood, causing irreversible damage to its surface. Usage of pressure washers should also be avoided, as the pressure and excessive moisture may permanently damage the structure and surface of the wood.

Instead, you can sand the surface to remove difficult stains and dirt. First, moisten the surface, let it dry and then polish it using a fine sandpaper. Sweep up the dust and then treat the sanded surface with a wood preservative. There are also special products for dirt-repellent protection that you can apply longitudinally into the wood.

Further recommendations :

  • Leave the heater on for at least half an hour with the air vent open and the door and windows closed.
  • It’s not advisable to wear wet swimsuits in the sauna, as water from these will damage the bench. Seat covers are a good option to keep the bench looking fresh.
  • Let the surfaces dry after cleaning the sauna by ensuring good ventilation. If possible, lift up the benches so they can dry better.
Astralpool range of saunas

Through the Astralpool brand, Fluidra offers both custom projects and off-the-shelf options for saunas. These take care of every detail, offering an end-to-end service that takes into account the best wood for your sauna, according to your needs, as well as its maintenance for extending its durability.

Available in different kinds of wood, designed with creativity, accuracy, and attention to detail, we create saunas with outstanding aesthetics and efficiency , making them an excellent choice for wellness spaces.

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