Which Wood is Used the Most in a Sauna?

Cedar, hemlock and basswood are the most often used woods for saunas. Eucalyptus and sometimes pine  or poplar be used. Some even try using walnut. Cedar has a rich aroma and is most often associated with a sauna. Canadian Hemlock and Poplar are clean and are best for chemically sensitive people.

You have options when you purchase a home sauna. An infrared sauna is designed for wellness and longevity and could last you decades, if not a lifetime. The components utilized will contribute to it longevity. The choice of components often appears like a complex decision but we will try to make it simple.  Let’s examine your choices of which type is best for you.

What Is Best Wood For Sauna?

Cedar is the best choice for richness, aroma and the look of elegance. Hemlock and Poplar are best for those individuals who are highly sensitive to even natural smells and chemicals. Basswood and Eucalyptus are also excellent choices.  Pine should not be used.

The best infrared sauna brands will typically use Red Cedar, whereas the brand that is the purest product on the market builds with Canadian Hemlock.

Healing Heat Therapy Cedar Best Wood for Sauna

Why Is Cedar Used In Sauna?

Western Red Cedar wood (Thuja plicata) is used most often as it is a soft wood that will flex and resist cracking during thousands of heating and cooling cycles. Its naturals oils are also anti-bacterial and anti-fungal and provide that familiar odor most individuals enjoy. It is also very expensive to use for an indoor sauna.

The environment inside a cabin is heat and moisture combined with microbes and toxins being expelled from the human body. In this environment cedar resists microbe growth. It also remains a little cooler than other options due to it being softer. This is the typical choice for a traditional steam room and outdoor barrel saunas using wood burning or electric heaters.  It has lower maintenance and is good for outdoor types of saunas.

It is very durable with rich tones ranging from dark cherry to light red. Those are the primary reasons Western Red Cedar wood is the most often utilized in the industry and is used as a construction material for Sunlighten, Clearlight and Vital Health. Interestingly, the Vital Health sauna price has not increased even though using Cedar.

And the aroma is hard to beat.


  1. Aromatic – resin
  2. Moisture Resistant
  3. Insect Resistant
  4. Decay Resistant
  5. Antifungal
  6. Antimicrobial agent

Some individuals who are hypersensitive or suffer from an allergy risk may have health problems with cedar.

Hemlock Wood For Clean Pure Detoxification

Beautiful Hemlock Wood Used in Heavenly Heat Saunas

Canadian Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) also known as eastern hemlock is a light colored, knot-free wood that is excellent for exterior and interiors of the cabins.

Western Hemlock ( Tsuga heterophylla) is a bit cheaper than most types and is therefore used in some products to reduce costs. It is acceptable to use.

However, it is also relatively clean. Western Hemlock does tend to crack a bit more than some other types due to its hardness and the prevalence of knots in the grain. It will also become hotter to the touch due to its hardness.  However, brands like Heavenly Heat use excellent quality Hemlock that avoid those issues.

Heavenly Heat Saunas are the purest choice for the chemically sensitive as their infrared saunas are made exclusively of this type.

It is a non-resinous wood and preferred for its purity.


  1. Uniform Texture
  2. Stain Resistance
  3. Non-Aromatic (Ideal for the chemically sensitive)
  4. Lower Cost

Poplar (Populus)

Poplar (Populus) is another commonly used type that does not contain and therefore emit phenols. It is one of the choices for an pure product.

Similar to Hemlock.  Lower cost and nonallergic.

Basswood (Tilia americana)

Healing Heat Therapy Sunlighten Basswood Best Wood for Sauna

Kiln-dried basswood (Tilia americana) is a good choice for a person that is sensitive to cedar or other resins. It is called hypoallergenic and does not emit any fragrance or toxins and is usually safe for those with allergies.

It has a light, beautiful look and is usually of a very consistent color and contains few knots as is visible in Sunlighten Amplify and Signature series.  Both of these have basswood as an option. It is a durable hardwood and is less likely to crack or warp with many heating cycles. A few brands including Clearlight Jacuzzi infrared sauna have switched to basswood instead of Hemlock. One of the reasons companies have begun to use this is that it is considered hypoallergenic.

It is known for:

  1. Minimal Grain
  2. Light Color
  3. Soft Texture
  4. Hypoallergenic

Eucalyptus Wood For Aesthetics

Sunlighten mPulse Believe Sauna with Gorgeous Eucalyptus Wood

Eucalyptus is not often used but is now found as an option with companies such as Sunlighten sauna infrared Signature series. It is a fast growing product and cheaper than many other options. Many like this choice as it is very consistent in color and is easy to stain to match many different decors. We prefer options that are not stained or that use minimal, non-toxic treatments.  This scent can remind you of healing and illness recovery.

Eucalyptus used in this industry usually does not have the strong aroma usually associated with Eucalyptus.


  1. Durable
  2. Mild Scent
  3. Quick Growth, Eco-friendly

Why We Prefer Hemlock Over Cedar

Sometimes we prefer it. Definitely for the chemically sensitive person. It resists dings and dents as it is not as soft.  It has less moisture and priced less. It is preferred by those wanting a uniform color or a lighter color.

Woods Used in Traditional Sauna Designs

Nordic Pine

Finnish sauna designs have often used Nordic pine (Pinus sylvestris) or Radiata pine (Pinus radiata).  This coniferous tree has visible grain, rustic aesthetic and knots presence. Norway and eastern Europe are known for pine, aspen and adler.

Nordic Spruce

Spruce (Picea abies) is another used in some traditional Finnish sauna designs. It has a light color, smooth texture and good thermal resistance properties. Can be found in outdoor Finnish barrel designs with either steam or fire heat. This is a Nordic countries conifer similar to the firs, pines and even redwoods (Sequoioideae) found in western North America.


This resin-rich type is utilized in Finland in traditional saunas as well as modern designs due to its ability to resist decay, insects and mold if maintained properly due to its antimicrobial agents.  This is helpful in steam sauna building and outdoor saunas. White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis) is not often seen in sauna construction.

Aspen and Ash

Aspen (Populus tremula) are common hardwood trees in the Western Untied States, Canada and elsewhere.  It has a light color and is also lightweight. Due to its abundance it is also an affordable option. Known to be hypoallergenic, non-resinous and odor-free. American ash (Fraxinus americana) is not so commonly selected. These are both deciduous trees.

Alder (Alnus glutinosa)

In Eastern Europe common or black alder (Alnus glutinosa) is sometimes used hardwood.

Magnolia Wood

Magnolia (Liriodendron tulipifera), while also not being commonly seen, has gorgeous and luxurious aesthetics and appearance.  It looks similar to a golden cedar or radiata pine.

Douglas fir and Alaska Yellow Cedar

Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) is also not often utilized.  Alaska Yellow Cedar (Cupressus nootkatensis) is actually an evergreen coniferous tree but is sometimes applied due to its coloration.

Wood Types to Avoid


Pine (Pinaceae) is a conifer sometimes used in framing due to its low cost. Hemlock, pine and spruce are cheap options for this purpose. In our opinion, pine should not be used in framing construction as it tends to not last as long as others and does emit some resins. It also tends to bend and warp more than other choices and reflects a low quality design.

Pine framing is not desirable at all in a product intended to detox.  We suggest asking if the brand you are considering uses pine in its framing.

Do not buy any made form a pine tree, although it is far better than plywood.

Plywood and Particle Board

This should not even need to be said, but it does.  Your intention is to benefit and improve your health, breathe better and detoxification.

Plywood Is Not a Good Wood Type for Sauna Construction

So do not accept any product that has hidden plywood or particle board.  No matter the cheap price tag, do not buy it.  Many cheap brands, in fact use these. These will release a variety of harmful chemical substance, volatile organic compounds and vapors that you will breath in deeply.

There is one large website in the industry that includes DIY plans and practices of jumping into holes cut into frozen lakes for the “authentic” experience. However, it also has instructions on using plywood in areas of the cabin that you will not see.  This is very poor toxicity advice in our opinion.

There is one image of a person’s home built DIY sauna showing plywood walls, plywood inside the door and particle board extending our from a wall along with unshielded wires.  Sitting in this will produce sweat and make the user feel like they have an authentic experience, but are also exposing themselves to super-heated toxins that they are breathing.

Top brand such as Sunlighten and Clearlight do not cut corners like this.  They do use some glues and other “water-based” items, but are still very clean.  We have literally cut and drilled a wall of a Heavenly Heat unit and found only pure, clean Hemlock.  No wood glues.  No varnish.  No plywood.


Yew is one of the sauna wood types that has toxic properties when it is used and heated.

Walnut Wood

Walnut is not needed.  iComfort used this at one time to look different than other brands.  But it is expensive and does not have all the qualities of longevity, acceptable cost and purity.

Which Should You Choose?

Jacuzzi Clearlight Premier IS-2 in Cedar
Premier IS-2 in Cedar

Sauna Wood Selection

This usually involves a choice based on the attributes of aroma, hypoallergenic properties, and moisture resistance.  You want what you purchase to be built from materials that have been through the wood drying process. The best brands use low moisture, kiln dried that has a low thermal conductivity.  This means heat is not lost into the cold part of the walls.

Some are constructed with thermally modified wood or other form of heat treatment to further resist cracking due to the cycles of high and low humidity and temperature.  All will have good thermal insulation if constructed well.

Wood Treatment and Maintenance

Will your choice be based on the durability and appearance preservation and how much it will require to take care of? Construction craftsmanship?

Home Sauna Experience Enhancement

Do the individual wood characteristics including as thermal and aesthetic properties, electrical resistivity and conductivity affect your decision and will they affect your user experience?

In summary, Cedar is an expensive, top of the line choice and is great for 95% of the population.  When considering the health benefits, Hemlock is the best to use for a pure, clean experience and total detox.  Basswood and Eucalyptus are also good choices.  All of these handle hot temperatures and temperature changes well and will not dry out or crack easily.