Barrel Saunas: Your Burning Questions Answered

We know a lot goes into a big purchase like a barrel sauna. That’s why we’ve tried to address as many of those burning questions that may be rattling around in your head as possible. If you’re more interested in the pros and cons, you’ll want to check out our article here.

And as always, if you don’t see an answer to your question here, feel free to shoot us a message on our contact page. We’d love to hear from you!

Without further adieu, let’s dive in shall we?

Barrel saunas frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Based on how much space I have, how big can the barrel sauna be?

The size of the sauna will depend on the available space & the number of people that will be using it. There are models that can accommodate 1-2 people all the way up to 8-10 people. A typical 3-4 person barrel sauna is not much larger than a garden shed. Whereas a model that can accommodate 8-10 people will need significantly more room.

Before purchasing a barrel sauna, measure the available space and choose a size that fits comfortably.

Should my barrel sauna come with a wood-fire oven or electric heater?

For a truly authentic sauna experience, many sauna traditionalists would say a wood-fire oven is the way to go. However, it can be difficult to maintain the desired temperature with a wood-fire oven. This option also requires more maintenance, as you will need to chop wood and constantly monitor the fire.

Electric heaters are more typically convenient & efficient. They can be easily controlled with a thermostat & require minimal maintenance. The downside to electric heaters is that they need to be wired for electricity to operate, whereas a wood-fire sauna can be operated without electricity.

What type of wood is best for my barrel sauna?

The best type of wood used in a barrel sauna is surprisingly important as it affects the durability and longevity of the sauna. Lower-end models will typically be made from wood such as Canadian hemlock, spruce and fir, which are popular choices for barrel saunas as they are naturally resistant to warping, rot, decay, & insects.

Be weary of units made from pine as the wood tends to contain a lot of wood knots. Knots contains sap that can ooze at high temperatures and cause burns if contact is made with skin.

Cedar is typically the most desirable wood due to its pleasant aroma, durability & aesthetic, though it can be more expensive than most other types of wood.

How long will my barrel sauna last?

The lifespan of a barrel sauna will depend on a few factors, including the quality of building materials, the construction of the unit and how often it is maintained.

A high-quality barrel sauna from a reputable manufacturer can last up to 25 years or more with proper maintenance & care. Be sure to adequately protect your barrel sauna from the elements to ensure its longevity.

Do I need to insulate my barrel sauna?

Yes, you need to insulate your barrel sauna, especially if it’s outdoors and in older climates. Insulation is important for maintaining heat inside the sauna, reducing energy consumption and even protecting it from unwanted pests.

Most barrel saunas come with adequate insulation included, but it’s important to take insulation into account prior to buying a unit to ensure it meets your needs.Traditional barrel sauna with wood fire oven heat source and two small windows

Do barrel saunas get hot enough for an effective sauna experience?

Yes, barrel saunas do get hot enough to provide an effective sauna experience, especially if properly insulated. The temperature inside a sauna can reach up to 195°F (90°C), which is hot enough to induce sweating & allows you to reap the full health benefits.

This temperature range is similar to other types of traditional saunas on the market.

What power type (if any) does a barrel sauna need?

Barrel saunas typically have electric heaters that require a standard 120V or 240V electrical outlet. Be sure to check manufacturer specifications before purchasing a barrel sauna to ensure your yard or home is wired properly.

Can I get a traditional sauna experience with a barrel sauna?

Yes, barrel saunas can provide a traditional sauna experience, because they operate at high temperatures (as high as 195°F or 90°C). Water can be applied to the heat source (kiuas), either electric or wood-fire oven, which produces steam (löyly) in the tradition of Finnish sauna.

The only downside to most barrel sauna builds is that they tend to not have the high benches that traditional Finnish saunas do. “Cabin” style saunas tend to provide a more authentic experience, although barrel saunas tend to be more practical & cost effective.

Is a barrel sauna better than a cabin sauna?

No, barrel saunas aren’t necessarily better than cabin saunas and it is a matter of personal preference. Both barrel saunas & cabin saunas have their advantages & disadvantages.

Barrel saunas are more compact, energy-efficient, & easy to install. While cabin saunas are more spacious, can contain the high benches of a traditional Finnish sauna & are much more customizable.

Ultimately, the choice between a barrel sauna and a cabin sauna depends on individual preferences & needs.

Will a barrel sauna leak in the rain?

No, barrel saunas will not leak in the rain if properly constructed.  They are typically designed to be weather-resistant and should not leak in the rain if they are properly constructed and maintained.

However, it’s important to note that no sauna is completely waterproof and some moisture may seep in through small gaps or cracks.

To minimize the risk of leaking, it’s important to choose a high-quality barrel sauna that is constructed using durable materials and features a tight-fitting door & lid. It’s also important to regularly inspect and maintain your sauna, sealing any gaps or cracks as needed.

In addition, you should consider constructing your barrel sauna in a protected area such as under a canopy or next to a building to further reduce the risk of leaks.

Should I add a roof over my sauna?

Adding a roof over your barrel sauna is not necessary, but it can be a good idea depending on your specific situation. A roof can protect your sauna from rain or other harsh weather conditions, which can help prolong the life of your sauna. It can also provide shade in hot weather and a place to hang towels or other items.

If you plan to keep your sauna outdoors and exposed to the elements, a roof may be a good investment.
However, if you plan to keep your sauna indoors or in a protected area, a roof may not be necessary.

Are barrel saunas better than traditional saunas?

Both traditional-style saunas and barrel saunas offer unique benefits and advantages. Traditional saunas are can be made of a variety of material, often including tile, brick, or concrete. Barrel saunas on the other hand are typically made of solely of wood.

Another difference between the two is the shape and design. Traditional Finnish-style saunas are often shaped like cabins or sheds, while barrel saunas have a more uniform cylindrical design. The curved shape that allows for better air circulation and heat distribution.

A huge benefit of the traditional sauna is that they can be completely customized to fit your space and aesthetic. Barrel saunas tend to look similar no matter which brand you purchase.

Ultimately, the choice between a barrel sauna & a traditional sauna comes down to personal preference & individual needs.

Outdoor traditional Finnish dry sauna

Does the type of wood actually matter?

The type of wood used in your barrel sauna can impact its durability, appearance, and overall performance. Cedar, hemlock, and spruce are some of the most commonly used woods for barrel saunas.

Cedar is known for its natural resistance to moisture and insects, making it a popular choice for outdoor saunas. Typically, cedar saunas tend to be more expensive than other types of wood due to the quality of the wood.

Hemlock is another popular option, known for its natural beauty and durability. Spruce is a more affordable option and can be a good choice for those on a budget. Pine is also used but it’s important to note that pine wood can be quite knotty. The knots in the wood can release sap, which can heat up and cause burns if it makes contact with skin.

Traditional barrel sauna on a dock by a lake in the forest

Is assembling a barrel sauna difficult or time consuming?

Assembling a barrel sauna can be a challenging & time-consuming process, especially if you’re not experienced with DIY projects. Some brands, like Almost Heaven, offer the option to hire contractors to assemble your barrel sauna for you for a fee. This can be a good option if you don’t have the time or wherewithal to build it yourself.

Some barrel saunas also come pre-assembled, while others require assembly on-site. If you’re not comfortable with assembling the sauna yourself, we recommend to hiring a professional.

Do it yourself (DIY) or barrel sauna kit?

Building a DIY barrel sauna can be a super cost-effective option for those who are handy & have some construction experience. However, it’s important to keep in mind that building a sauna from scratch requires significant time & effort.

Unless you’re a skilled carpenter, it’s probably recommended that you purchase a barrel sauna kit instead. See our recommendations for the 5 best barrel saunas in 2023 for more information.

If you are a skilled woodworker, here’s an awesome DIY barrel sauna that YouTuber Michael Sounart showcased. You can even by his step-by-step build plan instructions off Etsy for $20.

A message from Sauna Squad

As always, hit us up on Instagram or Twitter @thesaunasquad if you have any questions or comments. Or shoot us a message on our contact page. We’d love to hear from you!

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