The ancient wellness practice of heat bathing is showing no sign of slowing. The worldwide interest in outdoor saunas (pronounced "sow-nuh") continues to grow in popularity as more people are drawn to this peaceful method of cleansing from the inside out. For the most American proof there is, consider that even Walmart and Amazon sell saunas now. (And don't get me started on those funky sauna blanket concept.)
Fortunately, it’s never been easier to buy and install a sauna at home—a wide range of manufacturers and retailers offer both prefabricated saunas and sauna kits, delivered to your doorstep. Most of the saunas on this list—and for sale online—come as easy-to-assemble kits, which can be built in a matter of hours with basic tools.
In this article I will cover all you need to know about buying and building a home sauna. After covering the basics I will answer common questions and offer a range of recommendations based on experience and expertise.
What Is a Sauna?
A sauna is an enclosed structure or room that uses dry heat and often humidity to increase core body temperature and perspiration with health benefits. Saunas are heated by an electric or wood sauna heater to an internal air temperature of 180 to 195 degrees Fahrenheit—bathers can increase humidity up to 25-40% by pouring water over hot stones. The heat and humidity is known to help relieve sore muscles, increase blood flow, detoxify, and increase relaxation. Inside, a sauna room typically features at least one bench, often with an ergonomic backrest. Users can sit lower for milder heat or higher for more intensity, with proximity to the heater or stone stove affecting the experience.
Cedar is the most popular wood used in saunas as it is durable, naturally resistant to mold, rot, and bugs, and holds up great against moisture. Plus the wood has a rich, earthy hue and is wonderfully aromatic during repeat sauna sessions. Scandinavian Thermowood is an increasingly popular choice, too. Thermowood is heat-treated in special chamber kilns at temperatures up to 230 degrees for up to 96 hours. The drying process makes the wood uniquely perfect for saunas, creating a rot and fungi resistant wood that wont secrete sap or resin. Home sauna costs can range between $4,000 for a small personal sauna up to $10-15,000 for designs that fit up to 6 or 8 people.
Field Mag's Top Picks:
- Best Outdoor Sauna Kit: Plunge Sauna
- Best Outdoor Infrared Sauna: Sun Home Luminar 2 Infrared Sauna
- Best 2 Person Home Sauna: Thermowood Mini-Cube Sauna
- Best Sauna Cabin: Redwood Outdoors 4 Person Thermowood Cabin
- Best Modern Cabin Sauna: Backcountry Recreation Terassi Mini
- Best Barrel Sauna: Dundalk Leisurecraft Panoramic View
- Best POD Sauna: BZB POD Sauna Kit
- Best DIY Sauna Plans: Den Outdoors
- Best Prefab Sauna: Backcountry Hut Co. System S
Different Types of Sauna
There are several different types of saunas. For the purpose of this guide, we’re focusing on the most popular home saunas, which vary in terms of heating method.
Traditional Finnish sauna - Finnish saunas uses an electric heater or wood stove to create ambient heat. To increase air temp and humidity bathers can add water to the stove and sauna rocks. Steam saunas are the most common home sauna style.
Dry sauna - Dry saunas is the same as a traditional sauna, but does not use water to create a hotter, more humid atmosphere.
Sauna tent - Assembled like a conventional camping tent but built with heat-specific materials, sauna tents offer the benefits of regular permanent saunas in a cheaper, more portable form.
Infrared sauna - An infrared sauna uses electromagnetic radiation to heat the cells of the body, instead of the surrounding air. It's similar to sitting in the sun or next to a fire, sans harmful UV rays. Infrared heaters produce a lower temperature—about 104-140 degrees Fahrenheit, which makes it more comfortable for some. Indoor and outdoor infrared saunas are common. Smaller infrared saunas are commonly used indoors.
Barrel sauna - Barrel saunas are defined more by their design rather than heating elements. The cylindrical shape makes barrel saunas naturally efficient in distributing heat evenly as there are fewer corners to trap air. This makes for a more comfortable sauna experience, though for tall users the curved walls can be a bit of a nuisance. A panoramic glass front or tempered glass door is an easy way to enhance a barrel sauna, and adding a shingle roof will improve weatherproofing, as sometimes rainfall can sneak between the curved tongue and groove slat walls and ceiling.
What are the Health Benefits of Saunas?
A single sauna session is typically 8-15 minutes long, just enough time to thoroughly heat up the body’s core temperature to increase circulation and heart rate. The health benefits of saunas include improved cardiovascular health, reduced muscle tension, lower blood pressure, and enhance mood. All of which can inadvertently boost immunity and aid in body detoxification.
Like any good sweat, the perspiration acts as a deep cleanse for the skin, giving regular home spa and steam sauna users a healthy glow. It’s recommended to enjoy a few rounds of sauna, with 10 minute breaks in between for water, cooling off, showering or even cold plunging, before going back for another session.
Wood Burning vs Electric Saunas
When considering a sauna for your home, cabin, cottage, etc, the power source is key. A wood burning sauna heater is fun and romantic, but can be a pain to monitor while it heat up the surrounding air (plus you have to be proficient at building fires and have quality firewood on hand). The experience of heating your own sauna with wood you chopped is certainly one not to miss. And the smell of a fire while in a cedar sauna is wonderful.
On the other hand, electric saunas are efficient, fast, and can be used year round—even during burn bans in the summer. By relying on your conventional power grid, many electric heaters can be turned on remote with proprietary apps or simple smart outlets from Home Depot. Harvia makes both types of sauna stoves and is well regarded in the space.
Best New Outdoor Sauna Kit: Plunge Sauna
New from California-based company Plunge, this standalone sauna kit is the perfect compliment to their super-popular cold plunge tubs. After running pre-orders for most of 2023 the Plunge Sauna is now shipping (for free) with two sizes available in a modular kit-of-parts design, which two people can assemble in just 1-2 hours. Once completed, the sauna plugs into a standard 220V 30 amp' outlet, so users can plug and play inside or outside their home, while settings can be adjusted in advance or real-time with the Plunge mobile app.
I have had the opportunity to test the Plunge Sauna twice now—along with their namesake cold plunge tub—I really appreciated the slanted back wall, which is more comfortable for leaning on than the walls in a barrel or cube sauna. The floor-to-ceiling windows are fantastic, too. Tested & approved!
Style: Box Sauna
Number of People: 5-7 people
Material: Sustainable pine & hemlock wood
Dimensions: 7'11" H x 5' W x 5'7" D
Heat Source: HUUM 6kw sauna heater
Features: Flip-up benches, Bluetooth app, built-in speakers
Best Outdoor Infrared Sauna: Sun Home Luminar 2-Person Full-Spectrum Infrared Sauna
As featured in our best infrared saunas feature, this state of the art infrared sauna claims to be the world's only outdoor/ indoor sauna engineered for use in all seasons. Made of Japanese Carbonized wood and dura-glass panoramic windows to maintain optimal temperatures in all conditions, mobile app enabled stand alone sauna features full spectrum and FIR heaters deliver 3D infrared wavelengths for heat therapy, while medical-grade LED lights provide chromotherapy for an immersive wellness experience.
Style: Infrared Sauna
Number of People: 2 person (also available in 5 person)
Material: Japanese Carbonized wood
Dimensions: 58″ Wide 53″ Deep x 83″ High
Weight: 775 lbs
Heat Source: Electric
Extra Features: Full spectrum infrared light, Bluetooth speakers
Best 2 Person Outdoor Sauna: Thermowood Mini-Cube Sauna
I recently built this two-person sauna kit in my backyard in Maine, and can speak directly to it's high quality and easy of setup. With just my husband (and a licensed electrician to handle hardwiring) we were able to assemble the sauna kit in just one day using basic tools. Fit for two, the unique cube sauna can reach 195 F in under an hour. The shape is efficient, elegant, and perfect for two people and individual use. Also available in a more generous 6 person cube sauna for $8,999. (Use Code "FIELD250" for $250 off orders $3,500+)
Style: Scandinavian Mini Cube Design
Number of People: Fits up to 2 people
Material: Scandinavian Thermowood
Dimensions: 68” L x 50” W x 81” H
Weight: 800 lbs
Heat Source: Electric Harvia heater
Extra Features: Comes with water bucket & ladle, sauna rocks, and interior seating bench, and sauna thermometer
Best Modern Cabin Sauna: Terassi Mini Sauna
A more conventional shape for urban backyard and modern design lovers, this backyard sauna kit features three expansive windows and a glass door to invite the outdoors in and avoid the claustrophobic feeling some barrel saunas can induce. Built to last, the cabin-like sauna boasts 1.7" thick walls and 0.7" floor boards, all made of sustainably sourced Nordic Spruce. On the inside, the sauna benches, heater skirt, and backrests are made of knotless Aspen for a premium finish.
Style: Modern cabin sauna
Number of People: 4 person
Material: Scandinavian Nordic Spruce
Dimensions: 83" L x 85" W x 92" H
Heat Source: Saaku electric heater
Extra Features: 2 interior benches, backrest, bucket and ladle, available with electric or wood burning heater
Best Outdoor Sauna: Redwood Outdoors 4 Person Thermowood Cabin
Build this cabin style sauna kit like a set of Lincoln Logs—each wood panel and piece comes precut and ready for easy home assembly with only a handful of basic tools most households already have on hand. Redwood Outdoors claims just two people can build this sauna in a matter of hours (check out this sauna assembly video for proof). This sauna kit comes with a wooden heater guard, water bucket & ladle, sauna rocks, and interior seating benches. And will heat up to 195 F in under an hour. Perfect for backyards.
Style: Scandinavian Cabin Sauna Kit
Number of People: 4 person
Material: Scandanavian Thermowood
Dimensions: 59″ Wide 78 Deep x 96″ High
Weight: 800 lbs
Heat Source: Harvia electric heater
Extra Features: Two benches, tempered glass door
Best Barrel Sauna: Leisurecraft Dundalk Pano Sauna
Leisurecraft is well known as one of the best home sauna manufacturers. Available in a range of sizes and styles, we especially love the panorama barrel sauna for its energy-efficient design, efficiency, and of course, big bubble window that invites the outdoors in. Each USA-made kit is made from durable western red cedar and arrives ready for easy assembly in 4-6 hours with minimal tools.
Style: Barrel Sauna
Number of People: Up to 6 people
Material: Western Red Cedar
Dimensions: 7' x 6'
Heat Source: Electric or Harvia wood burning
Extra Features: Panoramic bubble window, interior benches
Best POD Sauna: BZB POD Sauna Kit
BZB offers a large selection of prefabricated cabin, hot tub, and sauna kits—of the latter you can choose from a classic barrel sauna, oval cabin sauna, igloo-shaped sauna, even a spacious two-room sauna and a portable sauna on wheels, with prices starting at $5,850 USD. The Estonian company offers customizations and even a rental service for those who want to try out a sauna for the day. For us, the POD igloo-style sauna is our pick for its unique style and efficient design.
Style: POD / Igloo
Number of People: 4-6 Persons
Material: Nordic Spruce
Dimensions: 13' L x 7'6" W x 7'6" H
Weight: 2,500 lbs
Heat Source: Harvia Electric or Stoveman Wood Burning Stove
Extra Features: Separate enclosed changing room, benches
Best DIY Sauna Plans: Den
Hudson Valley-based Den caters to those looking for a more DIY approach to the sauna experience, offering sauna plans for those who want to build their own. Best part is, plans start at just $199 ($1,395 for full DIY plan package) and are styled in the same sleek modern design as their A-Frame cabin plans. The Den sauna features separate changing and sauna rooms and is configurable for on or off-grid locations, and does not include the additional cost of materials and labor.
Style: Cube Sauna
Number of People: 2-4 people
Material: Local wood
Dimensions: 12' L x 8'6" W
Heat Source: Electric
Extra Features: changing room, 2-tier benches, large window
Best Prefab Outdoor Sauna: The Backcountry Hut Company System S
This freestanding prefab outdoor sauna can easily fit four people and is crafted in British Columbia from sustainably sourced clear cedar and clad in a durable stainless steel. But the best part? It's plug-and-play design is delivered on a flatbed truck ready to connect to your existing electrical system and fire up same day. No assembly required. Though the high design and easy of use comes with a similarly elevated price tag. (More on Backcountry Hut Company here.)
Style: Preassembled Nordic Sauna
Number of People: Up to 6 people
Material: Sustainably sourced Clear Cedar
Dimensions: 8’ x 10’
Heat Source: Tylo Sense Pure 8 heating system
Extra Features: Plug and play prefabricated design
Outdoor Sauna FAQs
How do I Buy and Install a Sauna?
There are essentially two options when purchasing a home or backyard sauna: prefab saunas delivered fully assembled and ready to use, and sauna kits, which are delivered flat packed and require assembly on site. Sauna kits are more common, and we can say from experience, relatively easy to install.
Whether you're interested in an indoor sauna or an outdoor sauna, the primary factors to consider before buying are how much usable space is available, the flooring or foundation, and access to electricity. Indoor saunas need a good waterproof floor or foundation, and enough space for the sauna itself, as well as room for a tempered glass door or wooden door to swing open. For an electric stove, it’s essential to make sure that the sauna has adequate and safe electric hookups.
Before buying an outdoor sauna, check your local regulations and building codes as sometimes permits are required. The top priority for installing a freestanding outdoor sauna is finding a safe and reliable source of power for the electric stove and lighting. If you’re using a wood stove to hear your sauna, you have more freedom of placement. Regardless, always check with the manufacturer for install information.
What’s the History of Saunas?
Saunas originated in European countries with colder climates some 2,000 years ago—traditional Finnish saunas preceded the Estonian, Russian, and Latvian sweat baths, and are still the most popular style today.
Primitive and functional, they were built into a mound of earth and heated by a fireplace with sauna stones to throw water over. Over the years, the technology changed and designs evolved (you can even get your hands on a gondola converted into a sauna), but the traditional Finnish sauna remained as a way of life and ritual in Nordic and Scandinavian culture. Today, saunas are still considered a regular part of everyday life that improves wellbeing, promotes relaxation, and offers a communal space to gather and simply be. In public, sauna etiquette usually means being respectful of other bathers’ peace and quiet, always sitting on a clean towel, and of course, giving a nod or grunt if you fancy pouring more hot water over the sauna stone.