An outdoor traditional sauna is a wonderful way to relax. To get your own outdoor sauna, you can either build the sauna yourself, convert an existing building into a sauna, or purchase a pre-built sauna that you assemble yourself.
For the purposes of this article, we will cover everything there is to know about outdoor traditional saunas and provide some recommendations for purchasing pre-built ones that you can easily assemble yourself.
How Does a Traditional Outdoor Sauna Work?
Traditional saunas give users a more authentic feel during their session. Their build and function is quite similar to the first saunas that started it all. These types of saunas work by using an electric, gas-powered, or wood-burning heat source topped with sauna stones. The heated sauna stones transfer heat to the entire sauna room.
When you pour water on the stones, it creates bursts of steam adding to the temperature and humidity. These saunas have a more authentic feel and are very similar to how saunas have been used for centuries.
While others might use steam generators or infrared heaters (with no steam) traditional saunas still use water and sauna stones. This is where the phrase “traditional sauna” comes from.
What’s the Difference Between Traditional Outdoor Saunas and Infrared Saunas?
Here we will explain the key elements that make a traditional outdoor sauna “traditional,” and how it differs from infrared saunas.
Outdoor Traditional Saunas:
Heats the surrounding air and warms the entire sauna room
Operates at higher temperatures than infrared saunas – outdoor traditional sauna rooms can reach a temperature of 185 degrees Fahrenheit and above
Focus is on making you sweat by exposure to high heat
Heats the body directly instead of the room
Uses a wavelength of light to bring heat directly to your body
Typical temperatures are usually between 120 and 150 degrees Fahrenheit
Also causes intense sweating, but at a lower temperature
Outdoor Traditional Saunas:
Because it includes the ability to make steam, outdoor traditional saunas operate with higher humidity levels
Total DIY - completed by gathering all materials on your own and building it from the ground up
Using an Existing Building - completed by taking a shed, garage, or log cabin that is no longer in use and turning it into the exterior of your sauna
Pre-Built Sauna - selecting a pre-built sauna with the required materials on hand and many parts already assembled
For directions on how to build a sauna or convert an existing building, please click here to read our blog “How to Build an Outdoor Sauna for Two People.” The next phase of this article will cover pre-built traditional outdoor saunas and our recommendations.
The Best Outdoor Traditional Saunas On the Market
Some of the top traditional outdoor sauna brands include Almost Heaven, Dundalk LesiureCraft, Thermory and Forever Saunas, due to their wide variety of sauna sizes that can fit any budget and space.
Barrel saunas are some of the most popular outdoor sauna shapes! That’s because their shape is easy to assemble, maintain and tends to be very heat-efficient.
Here are our recommendations for outdoor traditional saunas in a barrel shape:
Thermory and Forever Saunas (pictured above) feature barrel saunas made of thermally modified lumber. This feature makes them some of the most durable and long-lasting saunas on the market.
Recommendations for outdoor traditional saunas in other shapes:
The Almost Heaven Allegheny 6-Person Cabin Sauna looks like an actual cabin and even has a large front porch! It boasts multi-level seating inside, and despite its complex look (See image below) – it can be easily assembled by two people!
The Dundalk Leisure Craft Luna models are gorgeous with beveled siding and large open windows in the front. They come in 3 different sizes along with options for wood types, including clear cedar (no knots present) and knotty cedar (for a more “rustic” look).
Also by Dundalk is the very popular Mini-Pod traditional outdoor sauna. It features a sloping tear-drop shape and is quite spacious despite being named “mini” and can fit 4 to 6 people inside.
The Wood-Burning Stove & The Electric Stove
The three possible heating sources for a traditional saunas are a wood-burning stove, electric stove and gas-powered heater. Electric and wood-burning are the most common that you will find. Wood-burning stoves can provide a more realistic feel with the crackling wood fire, but electric stoves work wonders as well! They tend to be more convenient once they’re set up and offer the most customization, such as Wifi control. Regardless of which kind of sauna stove you choose, all three provide efficient heat to sauna stones.
Electric Heater Requirements
If you opt for an electric sauna stove, here is some helpful information for your electrician provided by Almost Heaven:
Your sauna heater needs 220 volts to operate correctly. They are responsible for making sure it is hard-wired to the electrical box
A 4.5 kw or 6 kw heater needs a 30-amp breaker and 10/2 wire.
Exception: If the heater is more than 30 feet away from the breaker, it needs a 8/2 wire.
If your sauna heater has 8 KWs, it needs a 8/2 wire, as well as a 40 amp breaker.
Be sure that your electrician places the wiring hole underneath your sauna heater.
If you are using a barrel sauna, the hole can go through the floor as long as it is below the heater.
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Wood-Burning Heater Requirements
If you use a wood-burning stove, you need a chimney kit for your outdoor traditional sauna for it to safely operate.
When looking for the best logs to fuel your wood-burning outdoor sauna, you have two choices: hardwoods and softwoods. Hardwoods, such as oak, maple, and walnut, are perfect for fueling your sauna stove. They produce a long, slow burn. Softwoods, such as pine, cedar and fir, also work well but tend to have a faster burn.
Also, be sure to have sauna stones! Do not use regular everyday rocks which can explode under very hot environments. You need stones that will hold heat the right way.
When it comes to choosing the best outdoor traditional sauna out there, we have you covered. Browse our outdoor sauna collection to get inspired, and if you have any questions please reach out to our team. Saunas are our world, and we love to help customers find the best-fitting sauna for their needs!