12 Backyard Saunas to Bring the Spa to Your Home
When choosing a home sauna there is much to consider. Do you want a wet or dry sauna? Wood-burning or electric? Traditional or infrared? And, if you do go with infrared, do you want near infrared or far infrared?
If you are considering an outdoor home sauna as a backyard improvement project, be ready to do more research than usual before you make a purchase. Folks who have lots of experience with saunas and who are familiar with the different types and which may be best for their health issues may already know which type of sauna they need. For others, it will be necessary to consider the health issues you want to address and to gain an understanding of the differences between each type of sauna prior to investing in one.
Most backyard sauna options require a significant initial investment but, if you have been paying for a sauna membership or for individual sessions, you may find that you recoup your investment quickly.
Backyard Sauna Health Benefits
Saunas are generally considered safe for most healthy people, and proponents believe there is a long list of benefits that sauna bathers enjoy. Some of these claims are supported by research, which shows that sauna use may reduce cardiovascular issues, dementia, symptoms of rheumatic ailments, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). There are two benefits that just about everyone agrees on: relaxation and feeling better overall.
Here are some of the many potential benefits of having a backyard sauna:
- Improved quality of life
- Reduced muscle soreness
- Improved heart function
- Improved lung function
- Reduced risk of dementia
- Reduced risk of stroke
- Reduced inflammation
- Increased calorie burning
- Improved circulation
- Reduced arthritis pain
- Reduced risk of high blood pressure
- Reduced tension headaches
- Reduced joint pain
- Improved skin texture
There are, of course, some risks involved with sauna use, particularly regarding dehydration and related symptoms, such as low blood pressure, dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea, heat exhaustion or stroke, seizures, and kidney failure. Because of this, you should consult your healthcare provider before using a sauna and especially before investing in a home sauna. If your healthcare provider approves your sauna use, you should still leave the sauna, cool down, and rehydrate if you begin to feel dizzy, lightheaded, headachy, or just not quite right.
Before you use a sauna, you may also want to consider that sauna bathing is not recommended for people who are pregnant or who have heart disease, respiratory ailments, or blood pressure issues (high or low). Sauna use has also been found to temporarily reduce fertility in men.
12 Backyard Sauna Ideas to Consider
1. Sauna for One or Two
Size is an important consideration when it comes to saunas. A sauna built for one or two is ideal for someone who does not plan on entertaining. This size will take up less room, so it is good for people with limited space in their backyards. It is also generally less expensive and, if you are putting it together yourself, it is likely easier to put together.
2. Sauna for Four or Six
If you have the space and the budget, you might want to consider a larger sauna that will allow you to enjoy sauna bathing with friends.
3. Sauna Built for Entertaining
Some saunas come equipped with entertainment systems that allow you to charge your phones, listen to music, or watch videos while in the sauna. You will not be spending much time in your sauna during a single session, but if you tend to get bored or just like having access to media at all times, you might want to splurge a little for a sauna with added tech.
4. Traditional, Wood-Burning Sauna
In this traditional sauna option, a wood-burning stove is used to heat the sauna rocks. If you prefer using wood as a fuel or if you have steady access to wood for burning, this might be a good option for you. It does not require running electrical to the area where you want to install your sauna (unless you need it for lights or other features), so this option is more flexible in allowing you to choose a location.
5. Traditional, Electric Sauna
Some sauna enthusiasts prefer electric heaters over wood-burning stoves for their safety, their ability to heat up quickly and maintain the desired temperature, and the fact that they don’t have to tend to a fire. Depending on the heater model, you may also be able to program settings so that your sauna is ready for you when you get home or when you finish your workout. The downside to electric heaters is that they must be hooked up to electricity and you will see your power bill increase with use.
6. Infrared Sauna
A more contemporary counterpart to traditional saunas is the infrared sauna. Traditional saunas use a heat source to heat the air in the sauna space. Infrared saunas heat your body from within. Infrared saunas work at lower temperatures, so this is also a good choice for people who are sensitive to heat but would like to experience the benefits of sauna bathing.
Within this category of saunas, you will need to choose between near infrared and far infrared. Far infrared bulbs are less expensive, but near infrared penetrates much deeper and gives off less EMF (electromagnetic field).
7. Dry Heat Sauna
This category includes wood-burning, electric, and infrared saunas. What differentiates these from other saunas is that you do not pour water over rocks to create steam and increase humidity. The air in the sauna is dry.
8. Wet Sauna
Wet saunas are similar to dry heat saunas, except that they have heating elements that include rocks that you can pour water over. Pouring water over the rocks creates steam and increases the humidity in the room. This causes you to reach your desired level of sweating faster. Many sauna enthusiasts prefer this type of sauna over dry saunas.
9. DIY Sauna Kit
Sauna kits are basically the inside of the sauna, so you will need to build and insulate the exterior. Or, of course, you could hire a contractor to build it for you. Sauna kits allow you to build a custom backyard sauna to suit your needs, so these are a more flexible option.
10. Pre-Fab Sauna
A pre-fabricated sauna is exactly what it sounds like: You receive a complete sauna that you assemble or hire someone to assemble. These are easier to put together than a sauna kit, since a sauna kit requires you to build an exterior shell. These are not as customizable, so what you get is what you get, but one of the benefits is that you can take it apart and move it to another spot in your yard or take it with you when you move.
11. Barrel Sauna
Another consideration is shape. While most saunas are some form of rectangle, there are some that offer much more visual interest. One of these options is the barrel sauna, which looks exactly like you expect it to look: like an oversized wine barrel on a stand. Barrel saunas offer a country or old-world look, so this might be a good choice for you if this look works with your landscaping or your home’s architecture. However, these generally take up more space than square or rectangular options, so if you have limited space, you will need to consider that.
12. Sweat Lodge
Most home saunas are fashioned after traditional Finnish saunas, but you could also choose an option inspired by Native American sweat lodges. The concept is the same, but there are several differences, including construction materials and heat source. Sweat lodges typically use a wood-burning heat source, but the rocks are heated outside of the space, and then brought into the space to heat the air. Once in place, you can pour water over the rocks to create steam and increase humidity.