April 06, 2021 5 min read 0 Comments

To build the best traditional outdoor sauna possible, you need to know exactly what it is and how it works. First you need to know what factors set the infrared sauna apart from a traditional sauna.  You might also have questions on what materials you need.  Knowing what you need to complete your project will make the process a lot smoother. To help you breeze through your home improvement project with ease, here is your guide to the best outdoor traditional sauna. 

The Infrared Sauna Compared to The Traditional Sauna

In order to have a full understanding of your new therapeutic investment, you need to be familiar with the difference betweeninfrared sauna and atraditional sauna. Here are a few ways they differ:

Heating Method

Traditional Saunas: 

  • Bring heat to the surrounding air and warm the room
  • Causes your body to begin its ownnatural cooling process
  • Makes your blood come to your skin’s surface, which causes your pores to open

Infrared Saunas:

  • Do not bring heat to the surrounding air
  • Use a wavelength of light to bring heat directly to your body
  • Causes your body to begin its own natural cooling process without the use of steam

How Heat Functions

Traditional saunas:

  • Operate at higher temperatures than infrared saunas  
  • Focus on making you sweat by exposure to high heat
  • Sometimes reach over 185 degrees Fahrenheit

Infrared Saunas:

  • Heat the body directly instead of the room
  • Stay between 120 and 150 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Cause intense sweating as well 

Humidity Levels 

Traditional Saunas:

  • Operate with higher humidity levels
  • Open pores and rehydrate skin by way of steam
  • Promote better sleep

Infrared Saunas: 

  • Operate with lower humidity levels
  • Cause benefits by way of sweating 
  • Promote detoxification and weight loss

How Does an Outdoor Traditional 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. Here is more information on how the process works:

  1. First, you need some sort of building that can hold the heat in. (Log cabins are the original standard and are still seen today.)
  2. Next, the sauna heater brings heat to sauna stones. (A fire pit with rocks on top is the original method for heating a sauna.)
  3. Users throw on the rocks, causing an abundance of steam and high heat.

While many modern saunas use steam generators as an alternative, many traditional saunas still use water and sauna stones. This is where the phrase “traditional sauna” comes from.

Methods for Building a Traditional Sauna

You have 3 options for building your sauna: 

  1. DIY (Do It Yourself) - completed by gathering all materials on your own
  2. Using an Old Building - done by taking a shed, garage, or log cabin that is no longer in use and turning it into the exterior of your sauna 
  3. Pre-Built Sauna - comes with the required materials on hand and many parts already assembled

Traditional Outdoor Sauna Requirements

Before you begin your project, you need the necessary materials. While the possible methods for building your sauna differ, the required equipment remains the same for the most part. Here is more information on what you will need: 

Wood for Building the Sauna

Softwoods such as pine, cedar, fir, and spruce are better for building the exterior of your sauna. The red cedar sauna is a commonly used example. They are good for extra heat absorption and have no problem withstanding drastic temperature changes. 

While building the interior, be sure to use wood that is knot-free, known asclear-grain wood. Pine is thecheapest sauna wood.


Here is some helpful information for your electrician provided byAlmost 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 kwor 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 abarrel sauna, the hole can go through the floor as long as it is below the heater. 


While barrel saunas do not require insulation, other traditional sauna types do. You will need to properly insulate your sauna walls using fiberglass insulation. You can also use recycled cotton, which is the safer option. Be sure that the ceiling and floor both have insulation as well. You will also need a foil vapor barrier to keep heat inside the sauna.  

The Wood-Burning Stove & The Electric Stove

The two possible heating sources for a traditional sauna are the wood-burning stove and the electric heater. They both provide heat to sauna stones. Wood-burning stoves are what makes wood fire saunas unique. While they provide a more realistic feel, electric stoves work wonders as well. 

Sauna Wood Type & Sauna Stones

Hardwoods, such as oak, maple, and walnut, are perfect for fueling your sauna stove. They produce a long, slow burn. Also, be sure to havesauna stones available seeing as though regular everyday rocks will not work. You need stones that will hold heat the right way. 


If you use a wood-burning stove, you need a chimney for your sauna. While the kit comes included with a pre-built sauna, you need to purchase your own materials if you are building the sauna yourself.

 Apitched ceiling support kit can help you finish your project without a headache. You will also need aWETT inspection after your chimney installation to make sure that it follows local guidelines. 


The traditional outdoor sauna is a wonderful way to relax when builtcorrectly. They work by adding heat and water to sauna stones, causing steam. These saunas give a more authentic feel and have much more in common with previous versions. You can either build your sauna yourself, use a building that is already in your yard, or purchase a stress-free, pre-built sauna. 

Softwoods, such as pine, cedar, fir, and spruce, are best for building your sauna. Pine is the cheapest option. Also, be sure that you follow local guidelines when wiring for electricity and building your chimney.With a carefully constructed building, the correct heat source, and the right sauna stones, you will be well on your way to relaxation.

For the best results, easy customization, and a simple building process, consider a pre-builtoutdoor sauna for your relaxation needs.