7 Types of Home Saunas
A home sauna lets you recreate a relaxing spa experience. From Finnish to steam saunas and more, here's a look at the seven main types of saunas.
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Buying a Sauna
If the time spent sweating in a sauna is your favorite part of visiting a spa, it might be time to bring that wellness and relaxation experience into your home. From easing sore muscles to improving circulation and respiration and de-stressing, a home sauna is an investment in your well-being. And for sauna-lovers, it’s the ultimate indulgence.
If you’ve got the space — indoors or out — and you’re certain that you’ll use the sauna frequently enough to justify the expense, then there’s a sauna out there for you. Here’s a look at the main types of saunas suitable for home installation.
Note: Unless otherwise noted, prices shown do not include professional installation, which can add between $700 and $1,500 to your bottom line. If you need electrical or plumbing work done, figure in the costs of hiring those tradespeople as well.
A traditional wood-burning sauna, also called a Finnish sauna, is a “dry” sauna, meaning there is low to no humidity inside. It’s powered by a fire in a wood stove that heats stones, which in turn heat the small, wood-clad sauna compartment. The stove heats the sauna to between 140 and 200 degrees F. With the requisite bucket and ladle that are part of every sauna, small amounts of water are poured over the stones to create steam.
A wood-burning sauna is best suited for outdoors, and for a single-family home in an uncongested area where the smoke won’t bother neighbors. Expect to pay around $3,000 to $4,000 for a basic model.
An electric sauna experience is similar to that of a wood-burning sauna, except there’s no fire to stoke. The stove and stones are heated with electricity. Water can still be poured over the stones to create steam.
Electric saunas are great for urban areas where wood-fired versions aren’t suitable, and they can be installed indoors. One example is this three-person electric sauna kit ($3,915). You can also find larger electric saunas for outdoors, such as this fun four-person barrel design ($4,265). They are priced similarly to wood-fired saunas, with an average cost of $3,000 to $5,000.
Sauna purists don’t consider infrared saunas to be the real deal. But for those who want the benefits of a sauna without the high heat, infrared may be the way to go.
Instead of heating the air, infrared saunas heat the body directly, meaning you get the same benefits of a sauna in a less hot, more tolerable ambiance. Infrared saunas can be installed indoors and are also cheaper, starting at around $1,300 for a compact, one- to two-person model you assemble yourself.
Here’s a type of sauna you’re not likely to come across often, although proponents of traditional Finnish saunas say this is the most authentic. Smoke saunas don’t have a stove or a chimney. Instead, a fire is built under a pile of rocks. Once the rocks are heated and the fire goes out, the smoke is aired out of the sauna and the sauna session can begin. You might need to go to Finland to experience one of these!
Also called steam rooms, Turkish saunas or hammams, steam saunas use moist heat derived from boiling water that releases steam into the chamber. Steam saunas are usually clad entirely in ceramic tile or some other non-porous surface. Their hot, steamy air — usually around 110 F — is said to be especially beneficial for the respiratory system.
Steam saunas cost an average of $4,000 to $6,000. Because of the moisture, humidity and risk of mold, this type of sauna is best installed by a professional, so figure in those additional costs.
If you love steamy heat but don’t want to add a bulky sauna to the interior of your house, a shower-sauna combo might be the best solution. This allows you to convert an existing shower area into a steam shower or steam sauna. You can still use it just as a shower, or with the added steam and heat features.
There are a number of options for these combos, from two-person steam showers ($3,811) to deluxe models with whirlpool tubs ($4,699). There are even models that combine dry saunas with steam showers ($4,999). If you’re not an experienced plumbing DIYer, we suggest professional installation.
Portable Steam Saunas
If you just want to get your feet wet — sorry, we couldn’t resist! — in the world of steam saunas, consider an inexpensive, portable steam sauna ($150). These one-person, soft-sided contraptions look a little silly; you sit down in them and your head sticks out of the top. But they offer the benefits of a steam sauna without the expense or commitment of a regular steam sauna.