The Best Wood for Barrel Sauna Construction

The Best Wood for Barrel Sauna Construction

The Best Wood for Barrel Sauna Construction: A Clear Cedar, Knotty Cedar and Pine Comparison

Since you already understand the massive benefits of having a barrel sauna, it's time to look at the right wood to choose for your barrel unit. Choosing the right type of wood for your sauna is an important step if you want your investment to last a long time.

That being said, there are several factors to consider before choosing the right type of wood. The material, knots, stains, and paint are all vital factors to look at when considering which type of wood to pick. However, among most types of wood, clear cedar, knotty cedar, and pine are the most used when constructing barrel saunas.

Below we look at the pros and cons of using each.

Clear Cedar

Used for both infrared and traditional saunas, cedar is a great pick because of its natural resistance to temperature changes and moisture. Saunas sometimes reach temperatures of up to 150 degrees or more. When building your sauna, you want to pick softwood that is flexible and durable even under moisture and heat. One of the most popular choices for this type of wood is clear cedar.

Clear cedar planks have a beautiful look, pleasant smell, and remain cool enough to sit on comfortably. This type of wood is also preferred for its anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.


    • Lightweight
    • Excellent working properties
    • Can be sanded to a smooth satin finish
    • Planes and shapes well
    • Glues easily
    • Has moderate screw and nail holding properties
    • Appropriate for outdoor usage
    • Beautiful aroma


  • Slightly expensive compared to other woods

  • Some users find the scent overpowering

Knotty Cedar

Sometimes referred to as "Rustic" or "Heritage" cedar. Knotty or select tight knot cedar can be used to build saunas, but is a much lower quality when compared to clear cedar. This is because of two main reasons, the sauna will expand and contract over time and the knots can come loose and fall out leaving your sauna with unplanned ventilation holes. The knots are also very dense and dense  means heat retention, these dense knots can burn skin and make the sauna seating almost unusable. Knotty cedar is coming more and more common in eastern Canada as access to clear cedar in most parts of the country is getting very hard to come by.

Knotty cedar cost around 60%-70% less than a clear cedar sauna and  any finished product should be 60-70% less than a Backcountry clear cedar barrel sauna. If you are trying to keep costs down, knotty Cedar will work for walls but clear Cedar should be used for benches and backrests at a minimum. What you save in price you loose in longevity, beauty and long lasting enjoyment, 


  • Different grades offer different looks

  • Cheaper compared to clear cedar

  • Durable under harsh temperatures and moisture

  • Provide a natural feel


  • The varying colors might not be appealing to all users

  • Lower grades might absorb moisture through knots

  • Knots can fall out over time

  • Knots are very dense and can cause burns if used on benches


Pine's rapid growth and excellent quality make this type of wood among the most cultivated coniferous species around the world. With no exposed knots, pine never secretes resin, causes splinters or overheats. This feature makes pine great for sauna benches.

With wide boards to bring out a natural pattern and darker hues from thermal modification, pine offers a touch of luxury for both interior and exterior paneling. Just like cedar, pine produces a sweet aroma when exposed to high temperatures and most users enjoy this scent.


  • Slightly cheaper compared to cedar

  • Rot-resistant

  • Easier to get

  • Great for humid conditions

  • Soil resistant


  • Less durable compared to cedar

  • Shorter lifespan compared to cedar

  • Provides a less natural look

  • Requires more maintenance compared to cedar

The Bottom Line

Choosing the right wood for your barrel sauna is the most important aspect of construction. Wood makes up the bulk of your sauna, so it is important to choose wisely. We recommend any of the three wood types above for your next sauna. However, every sauna user wants something different. But with this comparison, you are one step closer to picking the right wood for your specific sauna.

If you would like more detail on different wood types, visit this page here

For more information, contact us by phone at 877-446-3565 or by email

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