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Advantages of Barrel Sauna

Barrel sauna are relatively new design addition to the choice of outdoor sauna rooms. The barrel sauna originated in the early 1970’s about the same period that wooden cedar barrel hot tubs became popular. The cooperage design originating from wine and whiskey barrel construction was an ideal manufacturing technique that could be applied to an outdoor sauna chamber helping reduce the overall costs.

The barrel sauna has many significant advantages in its design aside from its architectural uniqueness. To begin the barrel sauna construction forms both the framing of the building as well as the interior and exterior lining. Unlike a traditional sauna room that needs a frame, insulation, interior lining etc.., a barrel sauna provides both the interior wood lining in cedar and the exterior lining or finishing. This greatly reduces the overall construction costs.  

Another big advantage of the barrel sauna is the time frame that is involved in its construction. A barrel sauna is usually sold as a DIY kit that can be easily be assembled on site with minimal carpentry skills. The straps of the barrel are used to bring the walls or otherwise known as staves together forming a watertight sauna room. Usually the end walls that form the door and opposite wall are pre-constructed so that the staves are simply places around the vertical end pieces. A traditional sauna room especially an outdoor sauna requires proper framing experience, roof and shingle experience and a good deal of strapping and siding experience to line the interior walls and finish the exterior walls.

socket stave design

Unique ball and socket stave design shed water on both sides

Roof construction – Northern Barrel Saunas design protects the sauna so that it should not leak when it’s raining. This is because the round top part of the roof is formed using a ball and socket design that overlaps each other on both sides. This forms a natural shingle effect so that the water always drains off to the next stave. The cedar used in a barrel sauna design is very important as cedar will expand when wet forming a water tight seal. This is evident in traditional cooperage where by barrels are used as water tight vestibules.  

Naturally insulated- Because our saunas are made from 1 ½” thick clear Western Red cedar, they provide a natural insulation property similar to that of a log home. Cedar fibrous construction contains lots of air pockets in is cellulose construction. This provides a natural insulation barrier. There is no need to add insulation that can be come moldy or infested with rodents in other outdoor sauna rooms. Even in -30 degrees the barrel sauna room will hold heat well enough to quickly heat up and maintain the heat for hours.  This is why cedar is considered the best wood for saunas.

Overlapping Staves

Better Air Flow – Overlapping Staves - 25% less interior space

Another advantage of a barrel sauna design is the way the air flow naturally circulated through the sauna room. Unlike square or rectangle rounded corners provide a vortex that stops the air flow to naturally flow through the sauna room. The hot air rises in the sauna room and gently curls down each side of the sauna providing a natural convection. This provides a very even heat distribution.

The final advantage of a barrel sauna is cost of operation. The barrel design is the standard 7’ height that is recommended for most sauna rooms, however, because of the round design, there is actually 24% less air space to heat while still providing the same interior room. Ultimately this results in a sauna room that heats up 24% quicker and requires 24% less energy. This is means that the overall ownership of a barrel sauna is less than any other type of sauna room.


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