Very few activities have the therapeutic benefits of the wood-burning outdoor steam sauna.
You may already know that regular sauna use reduces inflammation and stress and helps with heart function. Even knowing this, you may still find some of the nomenclature confusing.
For example, we use the phrase “traditional sauna” here a lot at My Sauna World - what exactly is a traditional sauna? Is it the same as a steam sauna? How is that different from a stem shower?
This article will answer those questions and describe in detail how a wood-burning outdoor steam sauna works.
OUTDOOR STEAM SAUNA VS INFRARED SAUNA
When we say “steam sauna” or “traditional sauna,” we are essentially saying the same thing.
First, what is a traditional sauna? A traditional sauna uses either wood-burning heaters or electric heaters as a source of heat. These heaters warm rocks that heat the space of the sauna. If you apply water to those rocks (a process known as loyly) you create steam, which is why they are also called steam saunas!
Second, a traditional sauna or a steam sauna simply means any NON-infrared sauna. That’s because an infrared sauna uses a particular carbon heater that can NOT be used to make steam. Infrared saunas are intended to be low humidity and focus heat and energy on the body directly versus the entire room. Learn more about infrared saunas here.
OUTDOOR STEAM SAUNA VS A STEAM SHOWER
A steam shower, however, is a completely different beast than a steam sauna. They both work wonders for weight loss, blood pressure, and even your overall mood – they just differ in how they deliver those benefits. Here are the ways that they are the same, as well as how they differ:
Steam saunas and steam showers produce heat and humidity
Moisture in both structures will reach temperatures between 108 and 115 degrees Fahrenheit.
Both structures can handle extra humidity.
Steam showers are structures made of tile and glass and use electricity (and sometimes wood burning stoves) to heat water to produce heat and humidity
You can use your current shower space, hook it up to a steam generator and you’ll have your own at-home steam shower!
Steam showers heat water to create steam
Steam saunas are made of wood and use electricity or wood or propane to heat sauna rocks which can have water poured onto them to create steam.
HOW DOES A WOOD-BURNING OUTDOOR STEAM SAUNA WORK?
There are four factors involved with your wood-burning outdoor steam sauna: 1) The heater, 2) the wood, 3) the sauna stones, and 4) the process of creating steam.
So, first let’s tackle the heater. As mentioned, a steam sauna uses either a wood-burning heater or an electric heater to create heat to make steam.
You need to keep firewood on hand. Try to use wood that you have easy access to.
Controlling the temperature may be difficult until you have a feel for the process of heating your sauna.
You have to have a licensed electrician install electrical wiring.
Comes with controls, which makes it easier for you to find the temperature that you desire.
Steam saunas powered by wood burning heaters or electric heaters can reach between 175 to 194 degrees Fahrenheit during sessions and can be used indoors or outdoors. But, for purposes of this article, we’re going to focus specifically on wood-burning outdoor steam saunas.
THE WOOD FOR YOUR SAUNA HEATER
If you have a wood-burning heater, you’ll need wood to burn to produce heat. While you can use any kind of wood that you want, here are a few facts to keep in mind as you choose what type is best for you:
Softwoods are cheaper and usually easier to access. They are good for building and starting your fire. A few examples of softwoods are:
Hardwoods are the more expensive option, but they provide a long, slow burn. They are the better option for producing a long-lasting fire. A few examples of hardwood are:
You can either browse the selection at your local hardwood store or gather your own wood for fuel. Keep the following in mind:
If you use your own wood, be sure to clean and season it. Seasoning your wood lets it rest for a couple months while it dries out.
Save yourself the headache and stay away from greenwood. Freshly-cut wood from your forest will not burn properly. You need wood that has a moisture content of less than 20% for effective burning.
Check the wood and make sure that it is sap-free. Burning wood that has sap can let off harmful fumes or release liquid that can burn you.
Stained or painted wood can also release toxic fumes when burned. Be sure to avoid it as well.
Wood that has the same consistent color throughout and no broken knots is the best for withstanding drastic temperature changes.
THE SAUNA STONES
The sauna stones play a large role in heating up your wood burning outdoor steam sauna. What’s so special about sauna stones? A few things:
They’re a particular type of rock that won’t explode when heated or when water is poured on them!
Appropriate for both electric and wood-burning heaters
Allow for easy stacking for better air circulation
Allow maximum vaporization for better steam!
THE PROCESS OF CREATING STEAM
There is a step-by-step process that happens each time you step into the realm of relaxation. Here’s what happens when you use your sauna:
Before you begin, be sure to remove contact lenses or jewelry. Your lenses may dry out and jewelry can cause burning.
Assemble your sauna stones on the top of your heater.
Start the process of warming your heater. For wood-burning heaters, start building a fire.
Allow your sauna some time to warm up to the desired temperature. This process can take 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Start your session by applying water to hot sauna stones. (The heater itself becomes cooler, but causes hot air to rise.
The area that is closest to the stove will be the hottest area. The heat will rise, so be sure to fan the air for circulation so that the cooler air is not left at the bottom of the sauna.
As the steam flows, your body begins to sweat. This is your body’s natural way of cooling. For maximum results, lay flat on the sauna bench. This will help your whole body heat evenly.
Fresh steam rises to the roof of your sauna, then makes its way to the far corners of the room. For the best results, remain close to the corners if possible.
If certain areas of your body become hotter than others, use extra towels on your skin to reduce the amount of heat absorption.
Be sure to only use your sauna for as long as your body will allow. Staying inside for too long might result in dehydration or other adverse health effects. Beginners: It is important that you get an understanding of your body’s limits early on. Try starting with only 5 to 10-minute sessions. Maximum Session Time: Do not use your sauna for longer than 20 minutes.
Post Workout Session: Be sure to wait for a minimum of 10 minutes before starting your sauna session after a workout.
After your session, take the time to allow your body to cool down properly. You can either wait a few minutes and take a cold shower or opt for a dip in your pool. Cooling your body too quickly causes circulatory stress, so be mindful.
Benefits of using a barrel sauna for our outdoor steam sauna needs:
Nice visual addition to your yard
Circular design keeps heat flow even
Walls are 1 ½ inch thick, no insulation needed
Can add porch or changing room
OUTDOOR STEAM SAUNA: POD SHAPE
One example of a pod sauna that is charming, durable, and efficient is the Dundalk Leisure Craft Clear Cedar Pod Sauna. You can enjoy its classic appeal in standard form, or add your own windows, porch, or change room for extra flair.
The “newest sensation”
Unique rain-drop shape
Provides extra head space
Triple layer roof (no insulation needed)
Option to add a trendy overhang cove
OUTDOOR STEAM SAUNA: THE LUNA
Dundalk Leisure Craft provides a great example with their Luna Outdoor Sauna. Try adding a front porch with two benches for your own custom cool-down area.
Modern design with spacious interior
2-tier benches with rounded corners
2 huge bronze-tempered windows for lots of natural light
OUTDOOR STEAM SAUNA: THE PANORAMIC
The Panoramic Sauna by Dundalk Leisure Craft is a timeless beauty for any space.
Unique bubble back acrylic wall
Half moon shaped bench in dome for spectacular views.
Western Red Cedar made with 1 1/2″ cedar boards
Includes Premium benches with arch seat
OUTDOOR STEAM SAUNA: THE EAGLES NEST
The Eagles Nest Outdoor Sauna by Dundalk Leisure Craft is reminiscent of an outdoor clubhouse with a polished, practical appearance.
Unique design resembles a clubhouse
Comes in 3 sizes 8’x6’. 8’x7’ and 8’x8’
Features full-tempered glass door
OUTDOOR STEAM SAUNA: DIY (DO IT YOURSELF)
If you are brave enough to take on the task and have enough time on your hands, you can build your own sauna yourself. You can also use a building that is already in your yard. This will help you save space and will be a little less stressful than taking on the whole project on your own. A few examples are an old garage, storage shed no longer in use, a small log cabin.
You can start from scratch and gather all materials that you will need.
Keep in mind you will be responsible for electrical wiring and plumbing as well.
Be sure that your yard has enough space.
Also, be sure that you have the correct foundation before you begin.
SIZES AVAILABLE FOR OUTDOOR STEAM SAUNAS
Each family is different, so be sure to choose the sauna size that works best for you and your needs. If you live alone or plan to be alone for your sessions, a small traditional sauna will work for you.
On the other hand, if you are more of a social butterfly, you might want to opt for a bigger option. For example, say you, your spouse, and two children (if they are old enough) plan to bond as a family with sauna time. A larger sauna would be a better pick. If you plan on entertaining multiple guests with relaxation tactics, a 6-person outdoor sauna is best for you.
SUMMARY OF HOW OUTDOOR STEAM SAUNAS WORK
The outdoor steam sauna works by using bursts of steam during your sauna session.
To make heat, your sauna needs either an electric or wood-burning heater, sauna stones, and wood for fuel. The steam sauna is created when you apply water to hot sauna rocks. Steam begins to rise and flow, causing your body to sweat.
If you want to start enjoying the benefits of a wood burning outdoor steam sauna, have a look at our large selection of outdoor saunas that can fit every space and budget. Rest assured, whichever brand you chose, your outdoor steam sauna will work efficiently and provide the ultimate relaxation experience with every enjoyable session.