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A Deep Dive Into the Benefits of a Wood Fired Barrel Sauna

If you’ve ever used a wood-fired sauna, you know that it’s not a novel invention. Wood-fired saunas date back to ancient times, a time when saunas were manufactured out of caves, sticks, and stones. 

The first sauna glowed quietly out of a Scandinavian cave, providing warmth, serenity, and health benefits that have been thoroughly researched over time. Modern versions of the sauna have been introduced to the world since then. However, the significance of the humble wood-fired sauna hasn’t dimmed. 

Wood-fired saunas today have an added dimension, i.e. a barrel shape, that amplifies their benefits. We explain the detailed benefits of a wood fired barrel sauna in this article. 

Wood fired Barrel Saunas Explained

2000 years ago, the world knew the wood fired sauna as the “savusauna”, the classic Finnish sauna. This sauna was the first to use a wood fired stove to create a sauna ambiance. 

It was placed at the heart of a wooden cabin to generate heat, which spread slowly but surely throughout the room. Any excess smoke was let out through a chimney. The result was a soothing, warm cabin filled with the aroma of hardwood, and a relaxed environment essential to the sauna experience.

Wood-burning Stoves/Heater

Many components of the classic "savusauna," particularly the wood fired furnace, are still used in wood fired barrel saunas today. Wood-fueled saunas contain a modern stove heated by a pile of wood. On top is a heap of igneous sauna stones. When the fire starts, it heats up the stones, distributing the heat to the rest of the room. 

Today, two of the most popular wood fired heaters are:

  • Harvia
  • HUUM

These sauna heaters provide an authentic sauna experience and are safe to use. They typically come with features like:

  • Cast-iron fire grates
  • Glass-tempered window to contain the fire
  • Removable ash pan
  • A chimney kit

It can take 45 minutes to an hour for a wood fired stove to attain a temperature of 110 degrees. Depending on whether you're a novice or a seasoned sauna user, the recommended temperature for a wood fired sauna is between 160–194ºF.

To some extent, the sauna's 'barrel' aspect is also inspired by Finland. A barrel sauna is known for its circular, barrel-like shape and can be installed indoors or outdoors. 

A wood fired barrel sauna works best outside. Its curved form provides an advantage in terms of insulation, especially when heated by a wood-burning stove.

Types of Wood Used in Wood Fired Barrel Sauna

Wooden cabins made from the following wood types are most suitable for wood-burning saunas, as they help retain heat within the cabin:

  • Hemlock
  • Aspen
  • Spruce
  • Cedar

A blend of softwoods and hardwoods is recommended for the stove itself. Softwoods are excellent for starting a fire and include:

  • Cedar
  • Pine
  • Fir 
  • Spruce

You can later add hardwoods to maximize the heat in the sauna. 

Electric stoves are starkly different from wood fired saunas in that they use a different function to heat the sauna cabin. They run on electricity and must be plugged in, but they heat up much faster than a traditional stove.

Now that we’ve covered how wood fired saunas work, let’s delve into the benefits of using one.

Health Benefits of a Wood Fired Barrel Sauna

Pain Relief

Wood fired saunas help your muscles relax and recover faster after minor injuries. They also help with inflammatory pain caused by chronic diseases like fibromyalgia or arthritis. It does this by increasing blood flow to your muscles, allowing them to relax and expand.

Immunity Boost

Sauna bathing can considerably enhance your immunity if you are prone to colds and flu. Many studies have shown that sauna bathing can cut the risk of getting the flu or cold by an astonishing 30%. 

But how exactly does it do this? 

According to research, when we use a sauna, our core body temperature rises dramatically, resulting in an "artificial fever." In response, our bodies arm themselves with a slew of antibodies to combat infections. With regular sauna use, our bodies are constantly in infection-fighting mode, keeping viruses and other illnesses at bay.

Better Sleep

Have you ever wondered why falling asleep in front of the fireplace is so peaceful? The warm, calming environment of a real fire can lull you to sleep by inducing relaxation and reducing cortisol levels. But that’s not all.

Wood fired barrel saunas raise your body temperature. When you step out of the sauna, your brain produces melatonin to cool your body down. This process induces sleep. The ambiance of a wood fired sauna helps induce deeper and more restful sleep. 

Atmospheric Benefits of a Wood fired Barrel Sauna


Wood fired sauna sessions also double up as aromatherapy sessions, thanks to the fragrance of wood that wafts through the warm air. When you use mixed firewood such as eucalyptus and pine, it releases a calming aroma. 

The hot air also reacts with the wooden barrel cabin to create a powerful fragrance that leaves you blissfully relaxed and rejuvenated. Additionally, you can use aroma oils such as the following to add to this ambiance:

  • Peppermint
  • Lemon
  • Lavender
  • Frankincense

Improved Social Bonding

Historically, wood fired saunas were more than just a way to relax. They served as a platform to foster and further social bonds. This legacy has also permeated today's social construct. 

Wood fired saunas provide a warm atmosphere to relax with friends and family. Spending time in a sauna with your loved ones can help build relationships and instill a sense of togetherness. 

Authentic Sauna Experience

One of the main draws of a wood fired sauna is the atmospheric vibe it creates. A wood fired sauna has a hygge-like feel that no other form can match. Besides the cozy setup, other elements of a traditional sauna work together to create a 100% authentic experience. 

The steady hum of the stove, the warm glow of the crackling fire, the serene aroma of wood, and the powerful heat contribute to an enjoyable experience. Wood fired saunas also encourage the process of löyly. It refers to the act of pouring hot water on the heater stones to produce hot smoke. This further contributes to an authentic sauna ambiance. 

Cost & Convenience Benefits of a Wood Fired Barrel Sauna

Faster Heating

A wood fired sauna takes longer to heat up than an electric sauna, but the barrel-shaped construction helps to speed up the process. The barrel's circular design provides more usable air space than a standard square-shaped cabin. 

Unlike ordinary saunas, barrel saunas contain a single layer of inner and outer wood. This has little effect on its insulation. But because of its circular form, it has 23% less air space to heat than a cabin. 

What does this mean?

It means that, with the same-sized stove, you can achieve faster heating levels in a barrel sauna. On average, a stove can reach the maximum heat level in just 45 minutes. 

Even Heat Distribution

A traditional sauna traps heat in the upper section of the chamber, causing the room to be unevenly heated at times. The curved form of the wood fired barrel saunas keeps the heat constantly moving. When the stove generates heat, the sauna does not allow it to accumulate at the top. It pushes it to the sides and bottom of the space, allowing it to be spread equally throughout. 

Wood fired barrel saunas are often built with cedar staves, which expand as the heat enters the room. The wood expansion forms a seal that effectively traps hot air inside the sauna. This allows you to experience the full extent of your sauna's heat. More heat equals more health benefits.

Low Maintenance

Because they are resistant to the elements, wood fired barrel saunas are ideal for use outside. If you're concerned about weather exposure, don’t be. Because of their unique construction, these saunas can withstand most adverse weather.

Snow and rain roll off a wood fired barrel sauna's curving roof. They're also structurally sound, so the weather outside doesn't affect their insulation. Some of the wood used in this sauna is naturally resistant to insects and moisture. As a result, maintaining a wood fired barrel sauna requires little time and effort.

Easy to Install

Wood fired barrel saunas appear simple, but their classic design enables easy installation. A wood fired sauna can be installed by almost anyone with reasonable assembly skills.

They are simpler to install than an electric stove sauna, which would require professional assistance to set up wiring or electrical hookups. That said, you must factor in the costs of installing a chimney kit for your wood fired sauna.

Perfect for an Off-the-Grid Lifestyle

Given the hectic lifestyle people lead today, most seek the solace of a slow-paced lifestyle. Wood fired barrel saunas support this mindful approach. The slow burn of the traditional stove, combined with the rustic method of sourcing wood, all encourage a patient and mindful approach to sauna use.

The beauty of wood-fueled barrel saunas is that they do not require electricity and run entirely on natural energy. They're a wonderful choice for anyone looking for a true sauna experience, or for those who prefer an off-the-grid lifestyle.

Cost Effective

Wood is a low-cost fuel source. Although obtaining wood in a city setting can be difficult, it will likely cost you less than the monthly utility costs of an electric sauna. 


How to Maintain a Wood-Burning Barrel Sauna? 

The exterior of a wood-burning barrel sauna requires very little upkeep. Keep an eye out for perspiration stains or dirt patches within the sauna. You can remove these with a clean, soft cloth. You can also wipe down benches or smooth them with sandpaper once a year. After each session, the coal and ash deposited in the stove must be cleaned. 

How Hot Do Wood Fired Barrel Saunas Get?

Temperatures in wood fired saunas range from 160 to 195 degrees Fahrenheit. Other factors that influence heat include the type of wood used in its construction and the size of the heater. 

How Much Wood is Required to Heat a Sauna? 

Hardwoods often keep the sauna hotter longer, so an armload of these will suffice for a brief sauna session. For longer sessions, it's critical to load wood as and when the heat level drops.

Final Words: Why Wood Fired Barrel Saunas are Great for You 

Wood fired barrel saunas provide a seamless blend of ancient sauna practices with modern health benefits. They’re a holistic wellness retreat, appealing to those seeking an authentic and mindful sauna experience. 

They provide a range of health benefits, from pain reduction to enhanced immunity and better sleep. These saunas are also energy-efficient and simple to install.

If you wish to enjoy the benefits of a wood fired barrel sauna, we recommend purchasing one for your home. Only with consistent long-term use will you be able to observe its health benefits. Forever Saunas is a trusted brand that features a collection of wood fired traditional saunas. Browse our website to select the most suitable one for you. 

Feel free to contact us for more details, and we’ll be happy to assist you. 

Use coupon code WELCOME10 for 10% off your first order.


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