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Guest Post series continues.  Thanks Christian for your oneness and candor in reviewing wood stove options, below.  Christian is in the midst of his own backyard sauna build and in return for his research, I am sending him a free copy of my ebook.

Enter Christian:

As you’ve probably discovered I pride myself on researching the finer details, benefits, pros and cons and most recently I’ve been exploring a popular topic. Sauna wood burning stoves. Some of my opinions or pros and cons will be unique to my decision criteria’s but in the spirit “your word” of sharing some information with my brethrens I thought the following matrix would be helpful to anyone considering a new wood burning stove.
Quickly, some context of what was important to me.
Firstly, it was imperative to source a stove that would be extremely efficient and one that would not produce a ton of smoke so I may maintain a stealth Zen like status.
Secondly and key, was a stove that was hand built and built to last 20 plus years. In particular, the thickness of the steel and the components used.
The following is a comparison matrix chart of the beautiful Harvia Legend 150 and the Clydesdale “my word” Kuuma wood burning stove:
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27 thoughts on “Wood burning sauna stove review and comparison”

  1. between the steel, the rocks and the water in the tank, the kuuma stove is a monster. if it will rest on a floor with wooden joists, consider additional blocking and/or sistering in the area under the stove to help minimize floor sagging.

  2. I cannot say enough great things about my Kuuma. Well built, and i absolutely love it. I hit the exterior with some stove paint every two years, still looks great – and it is incredible. In fact – it’s 40’s and raining – i think i’ll go outside and light a fire in it right now… Thanks for making me think of it.

  3. Thanks Miller. Exactly, Clydesdale seems appropriate too eh 🙂 I built a concrete foundation which is approx. 4 inches thick so I’m hopefully she’ll hold.

    Does your Kuuma stove have adjustable legs for leveling side to side or back to back?

  4. I own two Kuuma wood burning sauna stoves. My cabin sauna stove is 20 years old. My Minneapolis sauna stove is 11 years old. I have taken over 1,000 saunas with each of these two stoves, as I sauna 3x/week.

    Like sharing the appreciation of a good microbrew, I enthusiastically endorse the Kuuma stove.

    PS: I have had Finlanders in my saunas and they have all given the Kuuma an enthusiastic thumbs up.

  5. We just got our Allwood barrel sauna model 250-WHP with wood heater. Have not yet fired it up, just put it together. It’s beautiful! Looks like a long lasting quality sauna, and the oven looks perfect. Will report in a bit when we try it.

  6. Hi Glenn,

    Great information on this site. I’m planning a sauna build. Wondering what your opinion is on the Harvia M3? I’m concerned with clearance dimensions for my build, and like that the M3’s are very small.

    Related to this. Wondering what your clearances are for your Kuuma to get it to fit in your 8×12 with 2 benches.



  7. Hi Shawn: I hear you on clearances. Both stoves you mention perform. I am a nut for the Kuuma as evidenced throughout my writings. The clearances detailed in the hand written Kuuma manual conform to UL certification. Not sure, but is the Harvia M3 UL certified? IF yes, you’re comparing apples to apples (clearance wise). Either way I’ll tell you that I own two small Kuuma wood fired stoves in my two saunas, and like the cobblers’ kids shoes having holes in them, I nudged the stoves closer to the wall than detailed in the owner’s manual. I built my cabin sauna in 1996 and have that up North of 200f. many, many times. I”m not telling you to do this, i’m just saying…. (as when I have built saunas for others I have applied a more safety first non combustable, sleep at night, no lawyer waiver form needed mentality).

  8. You discuss the Kuuma stove a great deal on the site. I have sent the company multiple emails trying to get shipping rates to Portland Oregon and have yet to receive a reply. I suppose I remember to inquire again every couple of months, so I’m probably 3 emails in…
    Noticed today you list the stoves for sale on your website. Can you provide a quote to Portland?
    Otherwise I probably will go with the Harvia 150. The Finlandia office is a few miles away and I can easily pick up everything there.

  9. Hi Wes: Yes, i’m a nut for the Kuuma Stove. My cabin sauna stove is from 1996, my backyard sauna stove is 2003, and i’ve enjoyed thousands of saunas in my 2 saunas. And what’s more is that i’ve taken thousand(s?) of saunas in other saunas with other stoves. All this 25 years of ranting and raving, and, yes, now saunatimes is an official distributor for Lamppa Manufacturing. Your freight quote to Portland is $379.65 including crating, residential lift gate.

    As you compare sauna stoves, it’d be fun to consider the price/pound. (your Kuuma ships at 400lbs. including fire brick). Also, consider “country of origin.” Harvia (God love them) is a Finnish company with great production rates in China, included which are great rates on lower cost thin steel.

    Wes, if after you purchase and install and toss water on the rocks on your new Kuuma sauna stove, if you don’t completely rave about your decision, i’ll come out to Portland and haul your stove back to MN on my back. That’s how confident I am in this stove. It’s the best sauna stove in the World. How do I know this to be true? I partook in 50 of the best saunas in Finland. The Finns know good heat. Daryl Lamppa does too. He is a 3rd generation sauna stove maker who understands (and taught me a lot about) lampomassa.

  10. We used to live on Lake Vermilion and had a Kuuma stove in our sauna. We now live in Montana and are in the process of building a sauna. In my research I came across a company in Michigan that makes sauna stoves, since 1930. Was wondering how the Nippa stoves compares to the Kuuma, if you have any experience with the Nippa.

  11. Hi Jim:

    Hi Jim: Yes, actually. I know the Nippa fairly well, have taken a few saunas with this stove, and the Kuuma I know very well. Both are solid and produce very good heat. The Kuuma, my experience, burns a bit more efficiently – less smoke – but some of this may just be my familiarity with the Kuuma and how it operates best. Have you checked out my interview with Daryl Lamppa? He’s the 3rd generation sauna builder behind the Kuuma stove.

    Full disclosure: I’m helping out the small family company, you can purchase Kuuma stoves from this website, please click “shop” above, for full details.

    Hope all is well out in Montana. You can shoot me an email for more discussion if you like. Our cabin is on Pine Island.

  12. Glenn
    Thanks for the info on the stoves. We are also very familiar with the Kuuma since we had that in our sauna on Lk Vermilion (we lived across the road from Shamrock Marina).
    We have decided to go with a Kuuma stove for our sauna (the small one). We are building a “portable” sauna, that would go on a trailer if we moved. Therefore we have some restrictions on how big it is.
    Because you are a distributor we will probably order thru you.

    But first, there are a couple of questions.
    1. Can the water tank be made for the short side (back) of the stove?
    a. Dimensions For the standard tank, if the one for the back of the stove is not an option.
    2. What would the clearance be from the side of the stove with a heat shield installed to a non combustable wall.

  13. Hi Glenn ad Corinne,
    I have similar questions and situation as Corinne.
    I would like to make the small Kuuma stove work in my sauna but I am not sure it is possible. It might just be overkill for the small size of my space.
    I am building a mobile sauna on a 5.5×8 foot trailer. It is solid 2″ steel frame, made by a welder. Since it is home made I can’t be sure of the weight it can carry, it was estimated at 3000-5000 lbs. That said, I am a little concerned about the weight of the small Kumma stove. We would put it in the front corner of the trailer. Was uneven weight distribution an issue for anyone using the Small Kumma in a mobile sauna?

    My other big concern is space! The interior of our sauna would be 4.8×7.3 ft with a slanted roof (max height TBD somewhere between 6.5-7 ft) : so it would be about 230 cubic feet. We don’t want to make it too tall since it is already siting on a trailer.

    I have emailed Kumma about how to reduce clearance required around the stove and have not heard back yet.
    I have also looked at these stoves:
    IKI Mini (not sold in USA)
    Harvia M3:

    Ideally I would love to have room for an “L” shaped bench and room for 4 people. From my sketches this is possible with the IKI Mini and with the Harvia M3 but I am not sure it is possible with the Kuuma.

    Both the Harvia and the IKI Mini stoves require far less clearance than the Kumma stove. If you buy the heat shields for the Harvia M3 it greatly reduces the distance. The IKI Mini stove, even without wall shielding says it only requires 4 inches clearance to the sides and 10 inches behind (this is largely due to the fact that it is surrounded by rocks). The IKI Mini is also designed for a smaller space than either the Harvia or the Kuuma, the IKI is designed for a minimum 176 cubic feet. I have not found anything in the US (that isn’t home made) similar to the IKI Mini. If anyone knows of something, please let me know.
    Since I am making a mobile sauna I want to avoid using concrete/tile because it could easily crack while being driven around, also it is quite heavy. So I would use sheet metal with 30mm air gaps to protect the walls. The floor, I am also planning on using stainless steel with removable duckboards on top.

    All that said, in this forum’s opinion is there any way to fit the small Kuuma stove in a space this small and without concrete/tile protection on the walls/floor?
    Does anyone know of any high other quality wood stoves that are designed for 230 cubic feet saunas?
    Thanks for any advice.

  14. Hi Emma:

    Sauna stove is best oriented over the wheels. I know this messes with the design but putting the stove at the tongue or the back creates a pretty substantial trailer weight distribution. Dry test it first.

    Iki Mini is a fabulous stove! I’ve used it. Good Lampömassa. The Kuuma will cure all your ills, but it is 350lbs. without rocks. The small will heat up to a 400 sf hot room with no problem, so you’ve got some thinking to do on your stove.

    Surround: We are having great success with durarock with 1″ air gap to wall. And the Kuuma heat shields.

  15. Hi Glenn
    I am building 12×8 sauna in Oregon with 6x8x7 hot room, following your instructions. Is small Kuuma stove strong enough to hit the room? In Siberia, where I am from, we normally get 210-240F hot room temperature.

  16. Slava: Love the question. If you insulate and vent properly, the small Kuuma will kick your ass. (in a good way). ie. 210-240f.

    I have some tips for you for achieving this fire breathing temp.
    1. Well insulated walls and ceiling (as detailed in my ebook).
    2. Foil bubble wrap (as detailed in my ebook).
    3. Triple bench system – you can do this with 7′ ceiling. (43″ upper bench to ceiling. 16″ upper bench to lower bench. 16″ lower bench to raised floor. 3rd bench/raised floor:5″ off sub floor.)
    4. Lampomassa inspired surround around stove – i.e. durarock and air gab and 2nd course of durarock with cultured stone. (very banya like).
    5. Good firewood.
    6. shot of vodka.

  17. Thanks Glenn, got your ebook.
    Banya, vodka and jumping in a snow pile bring good memories and warm my heart

  18. If you’re asking me, Shane, well, with this stove, it could end up being like launching a row boat to cross Lake Superior. You may have a great journey and all could work out fine, or, a few hundred feet from shore, you may wish you picked a different vessel.

    What I would do is save more money and pay twice this amount for an actual kick ass authentic sauna stove, made for kick ass authentic sauna action.

    Please note that I have been drinking the Kuuma Kool-ade for 30 years. I take saunas where and when it is -40°(both in C. and F.). This is when nuances are felt like 20 foot waves. I am a nut for good heat. I’m actually certifiable (crazy). I took 50 saunas in 12 days in Finland, and felt the universality of good heat. I came home more convinced that good heat makes all the difference.

    I want you to have good heat, Shane. I’d like to start the $870.00 Shane fund for you to save up for a kick ass sauna stove that’s twice the price of this Tiny Wood Stove.

    Hope you are taking this all in good spirit, Shane, as I mean it to be so (for you!).

  19. The Russian banya’s I have experienced have been commercial ones, like the Chicago Sweatlodge and Red Square in Chicago, and a couple others. These banyas are lämpömassa producing machines. They heat a shit ton of rock, usually during the night, then the heat is shut off in the day, radiating that mass through the bones of anyone daring to ride it out on the upper bench for an extended period of time.

    You may enjoy my Sauna Talk episode with the GM of Chicago Sweatlodge who shares some secrets about the heating process.

  20. Glenn – following your suggestion on the contact page, I’m posting here, and hoping to get in contact directly. per the topic of the post, I’m offering a plug for the stoves from Royale Inc:

    I’ve been using one for 5 years now in my sauna, which was built in the mid 80s. heavy, well built and quite affordable – their large version was $600 when I bought it and roughly half price of the Kuuma and other stoves, which to me seemed more elaborate than was needed to heat a sauna. I chose it when I realized the makers are ace metal fabricators who are based in the heart of the UP of Michigan – big time sauna country! have had zero second thoughts on that choice – it’s been an excellent stove that I expect will serve well for decades.

  21. I installed a large Kuuma sauna stove in 2015, and am in the process of getting another stove for a new house.

    It is a superb product – five stars. I use it in an off-grid passive house, so it provides sauna heat, as well as the sole heat source for the bedroom and bathroom. We have a “deluxe” model, with hot water piping, glass door, and ash tray.

    Draws great, even with the soft, usually damp, spruce wood we have. We never have smoke problems. Due to our crappy firewood, we usually run it full blast. Two full loads of firewood get the room to temp (> 180˚) in an hour or so.

    We have a large sauna/shower room (seats 6 easily), and often light a fire just to warm the room for a shower in the winter. We use it a lot. Absolutely no regrets.

  22. Ricardo,

    Reading your comment above, I get this image of Daryl Lamppa and his father Herbert in the garage, standing in front of their test Kuuma, testing and tinkering with their design on a 0 degree f. winter’s day. Maybe talking Finnish, maybe talking English.

    PS.. love the concept of lighting a fire just to warm the room. Such a practical approach. hashtag: kindred spirits!

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