We’ve never been ones to live in the past, in fact we love the benefits of new technology, but we must admit, there’s something wonderfully traditional and reassuring about outdoor saunas and when you can combine them with the best of modern technology then you are definitely on to a winner. Here at Poshh our preferred sauna supplier is Luxwel due to their ability to deliver both quality and reliability as well as great customer service. To help our customers understand why we chose them, we’ve put together a guide to buying an outdoor sauna.
Start with the outside
Canopy or no canopy
This is probably the easiest decision you will have to make and it’s essentially a matter of personal preference. Outdoor saunas with canopies take up marginally more space than those without but the pay off for this is that you can use the front of your outdoor sauna as a seating area. It’s up to you to decide your priorities.
We could talk at length about what makes a good wood for a sauna of any description but we’ll keep it simple. Generally speaking, you want either cedar or hemlock. Cedar is the more traditional choice and, in our opinion, has the edge on appearance. Hemlock is the more modern choice and is often a bit more affordable. If you’re looking at an outdoor sauna made of any other kind of wood, then we strongly suggest that you do your homework online before you hand over your money. There are some woods out there which are suitable for use in saunas, but which are rarely used due to reasons of cost, aspen is one example of this. There are, however, also a number of woods which are used essentially because of cost or because inexperienced manufacturers genuinely fail to understand that there is a huge difference between woods which are suitable for outdoor buildings in general and woods which are suitable for outdoor saunas in particular. The key difference is that saunas get hot, really hot, which means that the wood expands and it is important that it expands at an even rate, otherwise it will warp and twist causing structural damage. That’s why top brand sauna manufacturers will only use wood which is absolutely free of knots because knots are denser than the wood around them, which means that they react more slowly to the heat and hence expand at a different rate from the wood around them, which is exactly what you want to avoid in a sauna. Knots are also a good indicator that the wood is full of sap, which is also best avoided for saunas because the heat can cause it to be released and it can deliver some nasty scalds. It’s also important to be able to have confidence in the source of the wood so that you can be sure it is free of chemical treatments, which may have a negative effect on your health.
In addition to choosing the right type of wood, top quality sauna manufacturers also pay attention to where the wood is grown. Canadian-grown wood is generally the choice of preference for the top brands, since the country has extremely hot summers and extremely cold winters as well as significant rainfall and therefore trees which grow there are, pretty much by definition, usually exceptionally robust and hence perfect for use in the demanding environment of outdoor saunas.
The overall build quality
We could also wax lyrical on this topic, but again, we’ll keep it short and simple. High quality saunas are precision cut and this is far more than just a matter of convenience for whoever has to install it. Precision cutting means that each part of the sauna will fit together with the other parts exactly as the manufacturer intended and that makes for maximum robustness in an outdoor building. Speaking of robustness, any glass used in a sauna (such as for windows and doors in outdoor saunas), needs to be up to the job. This is actually a huge point of safety because glass also expands and contracts as temperatures change and if it is placed under too much stress due to temperature fluctuations, it can shatter, which is obviously a major safety hazard. You also want to think about the quality of the components used to hold the sauna together and also the internal wiring (for lights and so forth).
A word about the barrel shape
The barrel shape is about a lot more than just attractive looks. The circular form makes it easier for the heat to circulate and the fact that barrel saunas actually have less area to heat (about a quarter less in fact) compared to box-style saunas of equivalent outer size makes them even more efficient to run.
The inside of the sauna
In all seriousness, the very first point we’d check is the quality of the seats. In our opinion, it is utterly pointless having a sauna with a great heater and everything else in place, if the seats are so uncomfortable they put you off using the sauna. While you can, of course, make seating more comfortable with cushions and such like, really there’s only so much that can achieve, so it helps a lot to make sure that there is decent seating to start with.
The key point of a sauna is the heat, so you need an effective heater. This is why top-brand sauna manufacturers will generally use heaters from top-brand heater manufacturers such as Harvia. For reasons of safety, all sauna heaters should be equipped with a heater guard. Since we’re on the topic of heat, let’s speak a little more about heat and saunas in general. Traditionally, the heat in saunas was used to generate steam, in fact the combination of heat and steam was pretty much what made a sauna a sauna. It was also what made some people love saunas while others absolutely hated them. The invention of infrared saunas was, of course, to cater to the latter and also to people who need a sauna which can fit into a really small space. The problem with infrared saunas in family homes (and gardens) is that they also divide opinion between those who love them for their lack of steam and those who think that a sauna without steam is a contradiction in terms. That’s why modern barrel saunas, such as the ones we sell here at Poshh can be a great solution when household opinion is divided on the issue of steam. These outdoor saunas work off modern electric heaters, which are more than capable of delivering the sort of temperatures needed for an effective heat treatment, which can provide a number of health and wellness benefits even without steam. Essentially our bodies speed up in heat and slow down in cold (which is why we feel sluggish in winter). This increased activity speeds up the detoxification process and also makes us sweat with the result that the toxins are expelled through our open pores. Even though our bodies become more active, our muscles actually relax, hence the use of saunas as an effective, chemical-free treatment for muscle pain. It is the heat which achieves all of this rather than the steam, so even if you’re a steam hater, you may still absolutely love the benefits of a sauna without steam. Of course, the reason why steam is used in saunas is because it brings additional benefits. Basically the nature of steam is that it can get right into the tiniest crevices inside the body, such as the ones in the lungs and thereby give the body a terrific deep clean. This is why steam is particularly recommended for respiratory conditions and is also great for improving the condition of the skin.
If we’re honest, even if we know that something is good for us, we’re only really likely to commit to doing it regularly over a long-term basis if we actually enjoy it as well. In countries and cultures where sauna use is widespread, the sauna is as much a place to relax and socialize as it is to improve your health and wellness. That being so the barrel saunas we sell at Poshh are created to be places which are pleasant locations in which to spend your time as well as places which do you good. They have robe holders to encourage a clutter-free environment, magazine holders so you can read while you relax in the heat (and steam) and, of course, that all-important beverage holder. We’d recommend you avoid alcohol while in your sauna, even relatively light alcohol such as beer, since the heat can really make it go to your head very quickly. We do, however, recommend that you consume plenty of liquid to keep yourself hydrated. Luxwel outdoor saunas are equipped with safety features such as a thermometre and hygrometre to measure temperature and humidity respectively and also a classic sand timer.