Reasons to Choose an Outdoor Sauna: Pros and Cons

Once you’ve decided to add a simple outdoor sauna to your home, you’re on the way to being able to enjoy outdoor heat therapy any time you want. At Divine Saunas, we’re honored to help you through the buying process in any way we can.

The process involves making a few important decisions. But it’s all fun and stress-free because these choices come down to your dream sauna experience.

One of the first things to consider is the physical location: an indoor or outdoor sauna. And don’t worry, the benefits of a sauna are virtually the same regardless of your outdoor location. It really does come down to what works best for you.

In just a few minutes, you’ll have a crystal-clear understanding of the pros and cons of a wood outdoor sauna, and you’ll know how to determine if it’s the right choice for your lifestyle.

What is a Sauna?

A sauna is an enclosed, wood-paneled, temperature-controlled room used for outdoor heated therapy. Saunas are most often lined with cedar or spruce, can be heated by one of a few different fuel types, and have a wide range of customization and capacity options. Many electric or custom saunas today even feature app control to change the heater temperature.

The purpose of a sauna is to help people relax through thermotherapy, also known as heated therapy. While official studies into the potential health benefits of regular sauna use are relatively recent, the positive anecdotal evidence is strong for custom built saunas over hot tubs or other sources of heated therapy.

When you enter a sauna, the interior is usually made up entirely of cedar or spruce planking. When you order from Divine Saunas, you can choose between a few different upgrades for the interior. Most saunas come standard with benches, but you can opt for more configurable seating too.

All saunas require a certain amount of heating time, depending on the heat source. Once warmed up, you go inside and get comfortable. The next thing you’ll do is pour water over stones heated during the warm-up time.

This creates the steam and humidity most people think of when they imagine a sauna. There’s actually a Finnish word for the steam produced when you do this: Löyly. It translates loosely to “Spirit of Life,” which makes sense considering the reported health benefits of traditional Finnish saunas.

What is a Simple Outdoor Sauna?

An outdoor sauna is a small room, separate from the rest of your home, where you can enjoy a steamy and relaxing sauna session. Many people think the term “outdoor sauna” refers exclusively to saunas built into caves or other natural features, but that’s not entirely accurate.

Especially in these modern times, it’s most often used to mean a completely self-contained room that isn’t attached to nor inside your home. An outdoor sauna can use either electricity or wood, depending on what your location requires. Infrared or wood are the most popular choices for heaters, especially in barrel saunas. A barrel sauna is named aptly after its circular shape.

This type of barrel design is an ideal 2-6 person and can be made out of any type of wood like cedar, making the barrel smell great whenever you step inside.

Does a Wood Outdoor Sauna Need Electricity?

Any outdoor sauna may need electricity, but you can typically choose whichever kind of heater works best for you. When you purchase from Divine Saunas, you’ll have the option of a traditional wood-burning heater or upgrading to an electric one.

This is because saunas are beneficial in many different locations and climates. Some areas are so remote that an electric heater isn’t an option. Other locations are small, so storing firewood would be impossible, while an electric connection is fairly easy to install.

If you choose a traditional wood-burning heater for your sauna, you don’t have to worry about running electrical wires. Instead, a wood burning heater will give you the most authentic Finnish sauna experience, plus chopping firewood before your session helps you appreciate the hot air even more.

What’s the History of Saunas?

The history of saunas is long and widespread, plus archaeologists seem to discover previously unknown ancient saunas every few years. The word “sauna” is Finnish in origin, meaning “bathhouse.” (1)

While Finnish saunas can be found in spas and gyms around the globe today, ancient saunas have also been discovered in quite a few countries. For example, the sweat lodges long used by Native Americans are remarkably similar to ancient Finnish saunas—despite the two cultures having no knowledge of each other at that time.

“A nation of 5.5 million people, Finland has as many saunas as television sets — around 3.3 million. Most of the saunas are in people’s homes, although they’re also standard amenities in offices and factories.”
–Harvard Health Publishing

That said, sauna culture seems to have not taken root in most past civilizations outside of Finland. Currently, archaeologists theorize this is why Finnish saunas are now synonymous with traditional saunas. The Finns upheld and passed down their sauna practices from generation to generation, leading us to where we are today.

What are the Health Benefits of Saunas?

There are quite a few reported health benefits of saunas, such as detoxification, better sleep, weight loss, improved cardiovascular health, relaxation, stress reduction, a healthier immune system, pain reduction, and reducing chronic inflammation.

Many of these positive results are purely anecdotal for now. But as Finnish saunas continue to gain popularity worldwide, more and more studies are finding the truth to the benefits people claim to get from sauna sessions. (2)

“Researchers found reduced risk of sudden cardiac death, fatal coronary heart disease, fatal cardiovascular disease (CVD), and all-cause mortality in sauna users.”
USA Today

You should also know that the studies being performed focus purely on Finnish saunas rather than infrared or Turkish saunas. There seems to be something especially impactful about the effects of steam created by pouring water over heated stones, which is the cornerstone of a traditional sauna experience.

Luckily, our outdoor saunas are all traditional Finnish saunas. You can expect to enjoy some or even all of the health benefits when you take a sauna every day. Studies also find that sessions every other day can benefit your health, too.

Pros of Choosing an Outdoor Sauna

Thanks to advances in technology, an outdoor sauna is compatible with most situations and locations. Modern sizing, materials, and customization options make it easy to find a sauna that meets your specific needs. Here are some of the biggest benefits you’ll enjoy with any outdoor variety.

Versatility

If you try to install a sauna in your home, you could be dismayed to find how few options you have. The dimensions can be adjusted to work in almost any room shape. The thing is, your home’s structural integrity, electric supply, flooring type, and ventilation are all huge factors.

Essentially, what you envision as the perfect place for your indoor sauna may not be an option.

When you choose to install an outdoor sauna, you have far more choices. You have a much wider range of sauna sizes to choose from and more space for customizations like a change room, overhang, or porch. Building your sauna outside makes it much easier to achieve the exact sauna you envision.

Separate from Your Home

The purpose of a sauna and accessories is to aid in relaxation and allow you to disconnect from the drama of the day. But if your sauna is inside your home, how much can you really disconnect from everything going on?

Indoors, you’ll have to deal with sounds from pets, guests, children, a loud TV, and a myriad of other distracting noises, which is a common problem in commercial steam sauna areas. If your sauna is located near your home office, odds are you’ll struggle to let go of thoughts about work and deadlines.

But when your sauna is outside, you get to create your own self-care ritual and truly disconnect from stress. As you make your way to your outdoor sauna, spend a moment on the porch or in the change room, and relax into the steamy air, the weight of the day will roll off your back.

As you slowly relax on one of the warm seats inside, you will see your problems stay far away. By the time you’re done with your session, those problems and stresses will seem much more manageable.

Outdoor Saunas: Affordable and Easy to Maintain

You might be surprised to learn just how affordable sauna maintenance is. Most people spend just $1 a day heating their sauna, and that’s if they use it daily. You also don’t need to stain, seal, or varnish any part of your sauna although sealing can be beneficial with some models.

We use cedar for most of our outdoor saunas because the material is so adaptable and low-maintenance. When your sauna is complete, just wipe down the seats, any other gear or accessories inside the room, and shut your heater off. Simple as that.

There isn’t much expense in the way of maintenance. While some sauna owners like to pay special attention to their vents and door hinges, you absolutely won’t find yourself having to constantly pay for service technicians and upkeep.

Don’t stress about being nickel-and-dimed on accessories, either. At Divine Saunas, we include a basic accessory kit with most saunas to save you money. It includes a bucket and dipper to pour water over your hot stones, and a 2-in-1 thermo-hygrometer to measure temperature and humidity.

You can always choose to purchase our Deluxe Comfort Set of accessories, but it isn’t necessary to enjoy the wonderful health benefits of taking a sauna. You most likely have all the other basics you might want, like nice towels.

Cons of Choosing Outdoor Saunas

It’s a simple fact that an outdoor sauna won’t be the best choice for absolutely everyone. If it were, we wouldn’t need other types of saunas for different locations and lifestyles. As you read through the short list of potential drawbacks, consider how much they might affect you.

Additional Electrical Work if You Want an Electric Heater

The nice thing about an indoor sauna is that you can easily connect it to your home’s electricity. Some infrared saunas are even “plug-and-play,” meaning you plug the infrared sauna into an outlet and you’re all set.

But with outdoor sauna designs, there generally aren’t any electrical outlets or hookups to control the temperature. This might not be an issue if you want to control classic heaters like a wood stove outdoor sauna, but it can make a big difference for electric heater systems.

At the same time, in some outdoor locations a wood-burning heater just isn’t an option. Whether local regulations forbid it, or your property doesn’t have the space for firewood storage outdoors, there are definitely cases where an electric heater is the only option. You may have no choice but to hire someone for electrical work to power your sauna’s heater and create a sauna control system.

Consider your own location, where you’d like the sauna to go, what different sauna designs feature, and how you feel about the expense of electrical work as you narrow down your options.

Exposed to the Elements

To be clear, garden sauna features include weather resistance, meaning the outdoor weather will have no negative impact on your sauna performance whether its cedar or spruce.

Our saunas, like the wood Dundalk kit or Luna garden sauna, include robust heaters and are made with sustainable materials that can handle the stress of hot and cold temperatures. Every cedar or spruce wood sauna also comes with a manufacturer warranty.

If you like the fresh new look, applying a water sealer or UV protective oil, depending on the model and on only the exterior, helps keep the wood from turning into a distinguished silvery wood design.

On the other hand, you will have to walk from your home to your sauna and spend at least a moment in the outdoor air. If you live somewhere with extreme weather, you’ll be walking through it to and from your sauna.

Most people combat this by adding a changeroom or other accessories to their outdoor sauna rooms. This allows you to wear something that protects you from the weather in full, rather than crossing the yard in a towel and sandals.

The Bottom Line

Deciding to shop for an outdoor paradise means making a series of choices based on your lifestyle, needs, and desires. There are quite a few options, and deciding whether to buy an indoor or outdoor sauna is just one of the options you’ll evaluate.

But remember that you can’t really choose the “wrong” sauna here. There isn’t a specific way to rank the different varieties because everyone’s unique situation is different.

If you still aren’t sure if an outdoor sauna is right for you, revisit the pros and cons specifically. Do the pros match up with the benefits you wish to get from your sauna design? Do the cons sound like dealbreakers, or do you not really mind them?

These insights are the best way to decide if you’d be happiest with an outdoor or indoor sauna. If you’d like some expert advice, please contact our team of passionate sauna experts at 888-554-4332.

References:

1. Harvard Health Publishing, Sauna Use Linked to Longer Life, Fewer Fatal Heart Problems https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/sauna-use-linked-longer-life-fewer-fatal-heart-problems-201502257755

2. USA Today, Can Spending More Time in the Sauna Save Your Life? https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/health-wellness/2022/02/10/sauna-heart-health-life-expectancy/6733339001/