Barrel Sauna FAQ

Our Barrel Saunas are entirely made in Quebec with 100% Canadian wood. Construction made with red cedar and red cedar is the best type of wood to withstand the weather, mildew and insects, perfect for outdoors year-round. Its cylindrical shape, in addition to being aesthetic and enveloping, it will also save energy and warms up faster. Indeed, the volume to be heated is 25% to 30% smaller than a square sauna. The barrel is assembled using aluminum straps.

The intake air vent of a sauna barrel using an electric heater should be located under the heater. The out-air vent or exhaust vent should be installed higher up, so that there is slow moving air circulation, this will allow the heater to work more efficiently. The gap underneath or around the Sauna door most often is adequate for this purpose. The traditional method of venting has been to take the air in down below, underneath the stove, and let it out near the ceiling using a controlled air vent. You should be able to open or close half way for it to be efficient. This type of ventilation “underneath the stove” only works well when the unit is hot and will provide fresh breathing oxygen for the people inside the barrel.

Understanding that “hot air rises”, you will understand that the flow of air in a barrel sauna will be taking the lower-level cooler air from the floor, passing it through the hot heater to create air circulation. A good ventilation system will improve your sauna experience by shortening the warm up times, and giving the sauna heater a constant exchange of air. This heat circulation, called a convection current, is more efficient at circulating air within the sauna due to the round shape of the barrel and will keep the inside at a more uniform temperature.

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Sauna is the Finnish word for “bath.” Finns who immigrated to North America brought with them a unique bathing custom, which has become popular here over the past decade. Often confused with a steam bath, a true sauna bath is very different, even though both types of baths offer the same therapeutic benefits.

The temperatures in a traditional sauna can actually exceed 90 degrees Celsius! The extremely low humidity present in the sauna makes these temperatures tolerable. Properly designed, the sauna’s relative humidity rarely exceeds 5% when operated in the “dry” mode. This permits the copious amount of perspiration produced by the body to dry quickly thus having a cooling effect.

Most saunas (except the newer infrared ceramic emitters which I will get to later) have a radiant air heater, which has a tray for volcanic stones. These stones retain and radiate heat more consistently. They may also be sprinkled with water to produce the “wet” sauna. This creates bursts of steam, which disappear quickly into the porous cedar of the sauna. Humidity climbs from a few percent to 20-30% instantly. This intensifies the sauna’s heat as if the temperature had increased drastically (although it may even have dropped slightly).

By contrast, a steam bath makes use of a steam generator. This device heats the water, not the air. The steam room enclosure fills completely with condensed vapor. Clouds of “steam” envelop the bather. The humidity exceeds 100% and the temperatures are much lower than those of the sauna. Because of their very different modes of operation, the choice of construction materials is critical. A totally non-porous material such as tile or acrylic is the choice for a steam room, which must also be made steam tight.

Although the steam room enclosure must be non porous and steam tight, the opposite is true of a sauna room. A sauna must be constructed of porous materials (meaning some type of wood), and it depends on air circulation through intake and outlet vents. The wood actually “breathes” absorbing and purging moisture. Many varieties of wood are acceptable for sauna construction, but care must be taken when selecting the type and grade due to leaching of pitch or slivers.

Whether it’s dry heat or clouds of steam the choice is yours and it is only a matter of taste and lifestyle.

Sauna is the Finnish word for “bath.” Finns who immigrated to North America brought with them a unique bathing custom, which has become popular here over the past decade. Often confused with a steam bath, a true sauna bath is very different, even though both types of baths offer the same therapeutic benefits.

The extremely low humidity present in a traditional sauna can make high temperatures such as 90 degree Celsius tolerable. A proper and well-designed sauna will have low humidity levels when operated in “dry mode” that rarely exceed 5%. This allows the bodies perspiration to dry rapidly creating a cooling effect.

The majority of saunas (with the exception of infrared saunas) use a radiant air heater that uses quality rocks or stones. These stones are beneficial to keep and radiate heat consistently through the sauna. When water is sprinkled over, this creates steam, rapidly increasing humidity to 20-30% resulting in a “wet” sauna. 

The difference between a traditional sauna and a steam room is the heating method. A steam room will make use of a steam generator, heating the water rather than the air. Humidity will exceed 100% and temperatures will be much lower comparable to those of a traditional sauna. The materials of a steam room must be non-porous, using steam tight materials such as tile or acrylic contrary to a traditional sauna which must use a porous material, specifically some type of wood. The reason being that wood breathes and absorbs and rids of any moisture. However, not any wood is suitable for sauna use. Care must be taken when choosing the type and grade to have a durable, properly sealed from the outdoor elements and to avoid moisture. Some lower grade, inexpensive wood will be used and treated with some hardeners or stains, which in exchange can release toxins in the air when heated. 

Aesthetics beauty – Western red cedar’s vibrant color and rich grains make it a beautiful choice of wood for any sauna.

Its strong – Western red cedar has high endurance and stability, making is less likely to crack or twist than other wood products, such as treated lumber. 

Its long lasting – Aside being completely natural and beautiful, western red cedar’s tannins make it more resistant than most other woods. These natural oils act as a preservative, repelling bugs and decay. 

Its non-toxic – Western red cedar contains no toxins and is safe for all uses. It requires no chemical treatment unless the wood is in direct contact with ground or moisture, which then a sealant would be applied to the outer layer only.

It smells amazing – Western red cedar is well known for its distinct sweet and pleasant smell. The wood remains subtly aromatic over time and this characteristic adds another reason why many choose western red cedar.

A Barrel sauna made with Western Red Cedar will age gracefully and last for many years to come. We use STK Cedar wood grade, it stands for “Selected Tight Knot”.  Carefully maintained, a red cedar barrel sauna will last for over 30 years. Perfect for outdoor environments and its natural aroma makes it a perfect choice for the barrel sauna.

Solid wood should be the only choice when it comes to the construction of a sauna. It is important to avoid buying or making saunas from hollow walls of studs or from veneer. The layer of wood may be too thin, will not absorb moisture properly and will cause mildew, and or decay.

The inside of the sauna walls should also never contain a plastic vapor barrier. This will cause higher, unwanted humidity.

A sauna should be able to “breathe” and use the “dry” heat method. The walls should be able to breathe out and expel moisture, and this is why we only opt for the Western red cedar.

There is no need for insulation in a sauna. The sauna is only heated when in use, and a properly functioning sauna should be designed to expel hot air through the outlet vent, creating a constant circulation. There is little sense in adding insulation to a sauna wall other than to fill the hollow spaces between studs which as discussed above, is not the ideal material for a sauna. Adding insulation saves little to no energy.

All our saunas are freestanding which can save hundreds of dollars by greatly simplifying the entire installation process. There is no need to provide any support framing whatsoever. Our saunas can easily be set up in the corner of a larger room or outside on an existing deck.

No special tools or skills are required, and our instructions are written with the do-it-yourself customer in mind. All pieces are precut, and complete assembly takes less than 3 hours.

There are several factors to consider when choosing the ideal location for your sauna. Easy access, quiet location, surrounding landscape, proximity to a water point to alternate hot and cold, and more. Plan the space you need to rest and cool off during your sessions. Keep in mind that if you choose a location far from your home, you may need a longer electrical wire that in turn may incur additional costs.

Preparing the ground is an important step. Several choices are available:

Concrete slab
Wood patio
Crushed gravel
Patio slabs
Piles
Wood Structure

Most installations are done on regular bases, either on gravel, cement slabs, paving stones, wooden patios, etc. Everything must be flat and level. Ready before installing or before our installers arrive.

Approximate weight of saunas:

6 Feet: 1076 lbs (488 kg)
7 Feet: 1186 lbs (538 kg)
8 Feet: 1296 lbs (588 kg)
9 Feet: 1406 lbs (638 kg)

Your sauna is sold undyed and freshly sanded out of our workshop. Red cedar wood, in addition of being a wood of choice for the outdoors, will offer a good protection resistant to bad weather and insects, also contains rich aesthetic qualities. It’s up to you to choose the finish that best matches your decor! If you prefer, you can keep it as is. When the unstained red cedar is aged in the sun, the wood takes on a silvery tint, and cracks slightly as it dries. This does not affect its strength. However, we recommend that you protect the exterior of your sauna. Applying a lightly pigmented oil-based stain helps maintain the look of new wood, and in the case of red cedar, brings depth to the nuances of color. For product choice, we recommend CETOL 1 PRIMARY COAT RE WOOD FINISH (COLOR NATURAL). Cetol is an oil-based stain that penetrates deep into wood for lasting protection. A maintenance coat is recommended every 3 to 5 years.

Several other choices of protective tinctures and oils are available to you. Consult your paint store who will be able to guide you.

Do not use stains on the wood or other products, nor any types of cleaner inside your sauna. The reason is to avoid breathing any possible toxic products when the wood exposed to heat. The interior of the sauna does not require any particular finishing. Bare wood gives off a characteristic relaxing scent.

The manufacturer does not guarantee that the sauna sold is completely waterproof. Since wood is a porous material, it is normal for water to seep in during heavy rains, especially on the ceiling and walls. If the sauna is not used during a rain, it will dry naturally. If the sauna is in use during a rain, the infiltrated water will dry on contact with the heat inside the sauna. The water infiltrated in this way may causes pigments in the wood, which, on drying, form rings or stains on the wood. This is normal and does not interfere with the use of the sauna. The only way to avoid these dark circles would be to place the sauna under cover. If you want to keep your sauna as dry as possible, it is possible to position it under a roof, shelter or other, as you would for a spa. If the water seeps in at such a rate that it forms drops falling from the ceiling, this indicates that the boards have too much space between them. You will need to tighten the bolts of the aluminum straps. In the unlikely event that the problem persists, or the bolts are at their maximum torque. Please contact us by email.

Here is a guide for a traditional session. Feel free to adjust this ritual as you wish.

Take a shower at normal temperature to wash and relax.

First sauna of 10 minutes, intense. You can pour a small amount of water over the stones to moisten the air slightly. The sweat should be rolling on your skin. The heat can be surprising during the first sessions.

Cooling: fresh air, cold bath or shower.

15 minutes of relaxation.

Second 15-minute sauna.

Cooling: fresh air, cold bath or shower. 15 minutes of relaxation. Third sauna of 15 minutes.

Cooling: fresh air, cold bath or shower.

20 minutes rest, and maybe even a nap.

Each bath or shower should be as cold as possible in order to benefit from the beneficial effects of the sauna.

The sauna cooling relaxation cycle can vary in duration and number of repetitions. Enjoy your sauna as you see fit. Listen to your body.

Wood is a so-called “living” material: it reacts to its environment. It expands in moisture and shrinks when dried. Before using your sauna for the first time, it is recommended to “break” it, as one would with a new pair of shoes.

Turn on the sauna heater to maximum heat for an hour. Do not enter inside during this process. Let your sauna heat up to it’s maximum, then cool down on its own without adding water to the stones or any other intervention on your part. Following this treatment, tighten the nuts a few turns.

For a month following its installation, your sauna can continue to move or work. This is normal. Tighten the nuts when necessary.

If necessary:

Tighten the nuts between seasons.

Maintain the exterior finish.

Clear snow or ice from the structure in winter.

The main risks are linked to overuse leading to dehydration, or to people with blood pressure or heart problems.

Children should always be under the supervision of an adult.

Sauna use is known to be safe for anyone in good health.

People with medical problems should get their doctor’s approval before using a sauna. Using alcohol or drugs can interfere with your body’s ability to regulate its temperature. Excessive consumption combined with the use of a sauna can therefore pose a risk of severe hyperthermia which can lead to injury and/or death. It is therefore prohibited.

Stay tuned to your body.

Unlike a pool, spa or hot tub, a sauna is only heated when it’s in use. This means that you are using electricity only for an hour or two per day at most. Even in areas where electric rates are rather high, regular use of a sauna will add only pennies per day to your utility bill. We also offer a wood burning sauna heater.

All our saunas are sold with a 3 years warranty from the manufacturer. The electrical heater itself has a one year warranty. If you have any questions or you would like additional information or have a question answered, please contact us at: 1-888-494-3218 or local: 514-704-3239