Choosing Woods For Infrared Sauna

Infrared saunas have become a popular choice for persons who want the at-home sauna experience to improve their health and provide relaxation benefits. There are many units on the market now, coming in many sizes and shapes and providing a myriad of features in addition to the sauna function. When choosing a sauna you may want to consider the type of material that it is made of, as this will have an effect on your overall experience.

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What Characteristics Should You Look For?

Manufacturers look at characteristics such as shrinkage, toxicity levels, the average dried weight of the wood, and the crushing strength when selecting the type of wood that will be used to construct a sauna. How the wood shrinks gives an indication of how the wood will age; it also indicates if the wood is likely to crack open or splinter because of being repeatedly heated and cooled during the sauna’s use. These are important factors in determining the lifespan of the unit and its susceptibility to damage.

Most saunas are sold as modular units that the homeowner can assemble themselves. If the wood used to make the sauna is too heavy, it would make the panels difficult to handle and may increase shipping and other costs associated with manufacturing the unit. The crushing strength refers to how well the wood bears weight. This is critical, as you do not want any of the structures to give way under the weight of its users. Think of the seats, backrests, or floorboards breaking under pressure during use and causing harm to the user.

Traditionally, saunas were made from cedar, but as they become far more common other types of woods are used such as Canadian hemlock, basswood, and spruce have become popular. Each of these woods have their unique characteristics and the sauna experience from each type can be a little different.

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Is it Toxic?

Regarding toxicity levels in the wood, everyone uses a sauna for detoxification, thus it would be counterproductive and dangerous to use a wood type that would introduce toxins into the sauna cabin. Fortunately, when making their saunas most manufacturers are usually very careful to select only woods, and in fact all materials, that are non-toxic.

Most Suitable Types of Wood For Saunas

Cedar was a common choice because it is a soft wood that will not split or crack easily when exposed to the temperature variations of the sauna. It tends to last for a very long time. Additionally, it is used because the oil contained in cedar is known to be antibacterial and antifungal. This quality is very important for traditional saunas that generate a lot of moisture in the unit, which can promote the growth of these organisms with disastrous results. Saunas made to be used outdoors are almost exclusively made of cedar as it can withstand the outdoor environment without becoming damaged. Also, cedar is a very attractive wood and gives the unit a great look and the feel of quality.

In recent years, though, it appears that Canadian hemlock has now become the popular wood for high-quality saunas. Like cedar, it is resistant to splitting and cracking and is also nontoxic. The advantage that hemlock has over cedar is that cedar has a strong odor that can be offensive for some people, even though it will diminish and eventually disappear if the sauna is used regularly. Hemlock does not have an odor, which makes it easy to appeal to a wider cross section of persons.

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