Why is Cedar Used to Line Saunas? Let’s Find Out

Cedar is an ideal wood that is popular to use inside your sauna, but some experts like to disagree. This brief guide will give you an idea of why using cedarwood for sauna interiors is healthier than you might think.

Why is cedar so popular in Saunas?

Cedar is one of the few types of wood that resists warping, moisture, and handles wide temperature changes. It’s also one of the few kinds of wood that resists fungus and doesn’t decay easily. It’s a softwood that holds up despite not being dense and holds onto its natural oils without leeching.

Everyone knows that cedar is very aromatic and is proven to have natural aromatherapy qualities. In a sauna built with cedarwood, the health benefits are very beneficial for most people who enjoy holistic and Scandinavian self-healing lifestyles. Here are some of the attributes that many people have experienced using cedar wood in their sauna:

· Managing chronic pain

Many people have repeated problems dealing with constant muscle pain. Sauna treatments often help reduce this muscle tension using a combination of sauna and then dipping into a cool tub afterward.

· Improving sleep

Not exactly for those who suffer from insomnia, but allowing deep penetrating heat to help you relax is often enough to improve better sleeping habits, by purging skin toxins before you go to sleep at night.

· Treating headaches and migraines

It’s worth mentioning that steady and steamy climates within a sauna are enough to lessen the effects of common headaches and even migraines. The increased blood flows into the extremities can lower blood pressure within the brain, reducing these problems.

· Relieves stress and fatigue

After a hard day or even a strenuous workout, relaxing inside a sauna can help with fatigue and takes away the daily built-up stress. This can be from the raised temperature a sauna offers, or the calming nature of an aromatic hideaway, or even both of these combined.

· Soothing sore joints

Any athlete in sports therapy will tell you about the benefits of heat therapy for sore muscles and joints. This allows proper amounts of blood flow to an affected area stimulating the repair of muscle tissue and natural bodily repair around sore joints.

Types of cedar that are used

· Western red cedar

This is the go-to choice for outdoor cedar construction because of the ability to resist decay. Since it’s a very light wood, the red-brown tone sometimes offers pink hues in lighter-colored versions. This version tends to have more visible knots than other cedar variants. This is the cedar that’s often recommended for lining interior saunas.

· Eastern red cedar

This type of cedar is what most cabinet makers call aromatic cedar. It’s great at keeping away nest bugs from your clothes since it’s so strong smelling. Because of this, it’s not a good choice for lining your sauna. The combination of heat and moisture will be overwhelming and likely problematic.

· Alaskan yellow cedar

Trust it to the Alaskan Indians to construct their totem poles from this type of wood. They never rotted like other woods that were carved. Now despite the lack of aromatic smell, it can be released with heat and moisture. This makes this type of cedar ideal for putting into your sauna. The only problem will be the cost issues from importing this expensive cedar.

· Northern white cedar

This is another fine lightweight cedar wood that resists rotting and is great for outdoor applications. It has a creamy line of white wood within a brown inner lining. It’s a soft wood that is also aromatic, but not very suitable for using inside a sauna. It can release too many phenols that may cause respiratory problems.

· Spanish cedar

This is one of the more attractive cedar woods that are commonly imported from Spain. It’s great because it resists moisture and is perfect for cigar boxes. It also has an attractive reddish-brown hue making it rather expensive. The smell is also very attractive if you use it inside your sauna interior.

What type of paneling is best?

Let’s face it, cedar isn’t the cheapest wood you can buy. Because it has a natural resistance to rotting and has such a great smell, it can be pricier than other cheaper wood you can buy. Some considerations can save you money if you intend to build a sauna with cedar inside. Here’s why:

· Rustic wooden planks

These are cedar planks that are unfinished and will tend to have surface wood grain. This surface isn’t the nicest surface to sit on so in any area where you have rustic wood, you’ll need to add Linseed oil, Tung oil, or Teak oil. You can also choose a sauna oil wax that keeps splinters and other wood fibers from getting onto your skin.

· Recycled planks

Talk about dumpster diving, this is what some crafty DIY sauna enthusiasts are doing to save themselves a few bucks. Reclaimed outdoor patios or cedar wood planks that are being thrown out are often sought-after items when building a backyard sauna. The cost savings is worth the extra clean-up and recycling you’ll need to take care of.

· Outdoor fence planks

Many do-it-yourself outlets like The Home Depot and hardware stores will carry cedar planks. You might be better off looking for picket fence planks that are just as attractive and one-quarter of the price of regular construction planks. You’ll need to cut off the decorative tops so your planks fit together better. The tops can be added for decoration elsewhere.

· Tongue in groove planks

If expense is not an option, the easiest solution for attaching sauna walls is to use tongue-in-groove planks. These fit together quickly with very little effort. All that is needed are wood screws to secure each slotted plank in place. Only use wood screws that resist rusting like brass screws or special plated screws.

Are there health risks to using cedar in a sauna?

Most people will rarely have adverse health effects from cedarwood. Among the most common risks include a runny nose, itchy skin from contact with cedarwood, or perhaps flu-like symptoms that don’t last more than a day. The biggest risk comes from the level of phenols in the wood itself. This can get into your lungs and act as an irritant or from direct contact with the wood surface.

If you are concerned about any reaction you have when near Cedar or any of the other medical conditions mentioned in this article, consult your doctor. I’m a woodworker, Jim – not a doctor… To borrow a phrase.

This is why you’ll need to coat these surfaces with sauna wax or natural sealing oils to reduce the number of phenols being released. If you’re one of the 5% that is sensitive to cedar phenols, you might want to switch to a different type of wood. Alternatively, you can choose cypress or basswood if you do have cedar sensitivity issues. Needless to say, being in a sauna will always require safety venting no matter what wooden material that’s used.


I have been woodworking since being introduced to the hobby in High School. I enjoy woodworking as a hobby and would like to share some of what I have learned with the world. I have recently built a CNC router system and I have enjoyed learning this new dimension of the hobby.

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