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Should I Stain My Sauna?

Should I stain my sauna or use a sealant?

A common question that we receive here at Almost Heaven Saunas is how to treat the exterior of a barrel sauna — should I stain my sauna or apply a sealant? The first thing to know is that the lumber we use for our outdoor saunas (rustic fir, rustic cedar, or clear cedar) is functional, beautiful, and designed for the elements. There is no need to treat or stain the exterior of your sauna. It is designed to last. That being said, over time the wood will weather due to sunlight and precipitation. This will not alter the integrity of the lumber in any way, but the color of the sauna might change to a soft gray. If the look of weathered wood does not bother you, then nothing needs to be done. However, if you choose to preserve the original color and properties of the lumber then here are two things you can do:

Before a stain has been applied to the sauna

Before picture (natural rustic cedar)

  1. Low-pressure wash the exterior of your sauna periodically. This can leave your sauna looking brand new! 
  2. Apply a stain to the exterior of your sauna that contains a UV inhibitor to resit the effects of sunlight.

If you decide to apply a stain to the exterior of the sauna, make sure you follow these tips:

  1. Consult your local paint store. They know better than most which stains to recommend for cedar or fir in your specific geographic location. The type of stain that you use really does depend on the amount of sunlight and precipitation that your region gets. 
  2. NEVER TREAT THE INTERIOR OF THE SAUNA. Keep the interior clean and free of any chemicals. 
  3. NEVER USE VARNISH OR PAINT ON THE EXTERIOR. You want to make sure that the moisture from your sauna has a way to escape. Varnish and paint can inhibit this. Also, depending on the season, the lumber will expand in heat and humidity and contract in the cold and dry weather. With the expanding and contracting, the paint will chip and crack over time. 
After a stain has been applied to the sauna

After picture (stained and UV protected rustic cedar)

*Quick note: If you live in an especially sunny region, you may have to reapply stain on a more frequent basis than someone living in a cloudy region. Examine the degree of fading your sauna experiences every few months, especially the first few months of owning your sauna, so that you can respond accordingly.

Notice more water seepage than normal? Here is some advice on minimizing it: 

When you’re putting your sauna together, put as many staves under the bands as possible and make sure the bands are nice and tight so that there are no gaps in the barrel. Feel free to watch our installation video for a visual. Substantial, driving rain may cause a little water to seep into the sauna, but this is normal and will not harm your sauna in any way. However, if a great amount of water is coming in, make sure to add more staves under the bands. When the inside and outside of the sauna room are dry, remove the top portion of the sauna and reconstruct it adding more staves. If you live in a humid climate, the wood should expand over time to create a tighter seal within the bands. If you live in a dryer climate, the wood may shrink, necessitating that you add more bands. Every few months, check the tension of the bands, especially in the first few months of owning your sauna.

Hopefully this was helpful. We would love to hear your experience with staining the sauna — if you send in a picture, you may even see it featured on our social media or installation gallery! As always, give us a call at 888.355.3050 with any questions!

October 23, 2019 •