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Wood Burning Sauna Stoves

light steam graphic

Some back away from installing wood burning sauna stoves, in favor of the more convenient electric sauna stove option. And this is ok. But for those of us who choose the wood stove option, we:

  • Enjoy tinkering with the fire. (much like making beer or cooking a meal from scratch).
  • Appreciate knowing where our heat comes from (vs. plugged into an electric wire on the grid).
  • Embrace the DIY aspect (cutting, splitting, stacking wood, is much like gardening).

Why does wood fired pizza taste better? Why does wood heat feel better? Why do all chefs use cast iron frying pans (vs thin metal). Why is the University of Minnesota collaborating to create SaunaShoes with thermal mass in the sole?

We ask ourselves these questions whilst “ember-izing” on the sauna bench.

It’s Okay to Be a Wood Burning Snob

If you see a wood pile, can you walk over and identify the species? Are you in tune to how different wood burns? Folks with saunas and wood burning fireplaces in cold climates like Alaska, Minnesota, Canada are in tune. These folks have to be in tune. Proper BTU management is pretty critical. Burn crappy wood, be cold. Burn good wood, stay warm.

My Favorite Wood to Burn

  • Birch – burns fairly fast, but hot. BONUS: birch bark is nature’s gasoline.
  • Red Oak – a great winter burning wood. Long lasting, compact fire, clean hot burn.
  • Maple – not as intense as oak, yet similar properties.
  • 2nd LAST PLACE: Jack Pine – takes up space in the fire box and emits little in return.
  • 1st LAST PLACE: Wet wood, or unseasoned wood, or dried out lifeless wood.

Where to Find Cheap Wood for Your Sauna Stove

Ever poke your head in construction dumpsters or those haul away green bags? Almost always, they’ve got construction wood in them. Sure, some 2x4s may have nails, but for the most part, there’s tons of potential BTUs heading right for landfills.

Grazing in dumpsters may be below most of us, but a secret pleasure for wood burning sauna enthusiasts is our ability to burn scrap wood material from our building projects. Isn’t it a great feeling to clean up a wood pile and stack it up in the changing room, ready for action? After building this 8×12 sauna, this wood pile is what was left over. That’s a good dozen saunas, gratis.

Easy Way to Light Your Stove: Lifeworks Fire Starters

I love this product. These fire starters are environmentally sound, inexpensive (27 cents each), and they work fantastic. They are simply candle wax and sawdust, wrapped in paper. I put Lifeworks Fire Starters to the test one day this winter: it was 10 below zero. The water in my sauna bucket was frozen brick solid. My wood was ice cold, my sauna stove as cold as the air outside. I lit a fire starter with a match, put it in my sauna stove, added a couple logs, then ran in the house for 1/2 an hour or so (stationary bike). Upon my return, the sauna was 130 degrees and hungry for more wood. I shuffled the coals, threw on another log, then a Rhapsody music playlist, and my sauna was 145 and climbing. I don’t know why folks think wood sauna stoves are a lot of work. Fire starters take the effort out of starting a wood burning sauna stove.

They sell versions of these at Home Depots and hardware stores, where you’d find charcoal and grills and such. I’m not sure if they are as natural and environmentally sound as the ones I use, but I’ve ordered these ‘organic’ ones online here. I don’t use them at my lake cabin sauna, as birch bark is known as nature’s gasoline. At the cabin, with a quick light, I get some birch bark going then add a bit more/thicker birch bark, throw in a couple logs and the Kuuma stove is barking within a couple minutes. In Minneapolis though, in winter especially,

Usually, I’ll start my sauna with a couple pieces of newspaper and some kindling, but damn, when you’re in a hurry or it’s friggin’ cold outside, or you’re getting ready for a sauna party, these fire starters are hard to beat!

Wood Burning Sauna Stove: Load from Inside or Out?

When building a sauna, there are three ways to consider setting up your sauna stove:

  • Load wood from the outside
  • Load wood from the changing room
  • Load wood from inside the hot room

Options #1 and #2 involve using a ”throat” add-on to a wood burning sauna stove. Also, one needs to brick around the throat and sauna, usually a three foot border, for fire retardant. In the old days, most saunas were built #1, loading wood from the outside. The main reason for this is that old saunas were inefficient, basically homemade iron boxes that burned hot and fast, requiring a pretty much constant supply of firewood. Finnish ingenuity gave way to the idea that the door to the sauna stove could be steps away from an outdoor wood pile.

As stoves became a bit smaller and somewhat more efficient, people began building wood burning saunas to feed from the changing room. The theory here is that a small amount of firewood could be kept dry in the changing room and added to the stove from there. The main advantage to #2 is that the sauna stove can provide some heat to the changing room. It is estimated that between 10-15% of a sauna stove’s heat comes from the front of the stove.

#3- loading wood from inside the hot room- is my choice. Today’s sauna stoves are very efficient. The Kuuma Stove is so efficient that I can take a sauna with 4 pieces of firewood. By feeding from inside the hot room, I capture 100% of the heat in the hot room, and don’t have to mess around with extensive brick framing. Also, I can monitor the fire from the sauna bench.

We wood burning sauna enthusiasts have to be careful. We can start waving our flag high and mighty about the virtues of a wood stove (vs, electric and especially *gasp* anything to do with an infrared light bulb). But we get it. We understand that heat isn’t heat. Yes, those hell bent on an electric stove can try to tell us that all that matters is a sauna stove’s ability to heat rocks. But we know there is more to it than just heating rocks.

Wood Burning Sauna Without the Buttons or Dials: a Psychosomatic Analysis

We may be psychosomatic. We may just be hell bent on the awesomeness of chopping wood and carrying water as part of sauna therapy because we are crazy. That feeling we get, in nature, of producing our own fuel in terms of harvested wood from our land may just be a misfire in our brains somewhere. A caveman gene resurfaced because of a bad Leave it to Beaver episode from our youth. So, we overcompensate with a plaid shirt and an axe. Maybe.

We may have a higher than average pyrotechnic tendency. Perhaps we were denied matches in our childhood, so we are driven to making our own free range organic fire starters from candle wax, recycled burlap and sawdust from cabinet makers. We marvel at birch bark, nature’s gasoline, and its ability to get a roaring fire going in our sauna firebox. A quick light and “whoof.” We smile wryly as our sauna stove fire takes hold. tick, tick, tick goes the metal.

We Watch the Flames Dancing in Our Sauna Stove

We may, if only for a moment, think about the experience of other sauna enthusiasts – those with electric stoves – who at this same moment may be “firing up” their own saunas, yet doing so with just the turn of the dial. Or flick of the switch. Or even a clever app on their smartphone. Aren’t buttons and dials fun? No, we say. They suck. We push buttons and dials all day long.

Try buying airline tickets, for example. Logins and passwords and fill out forms. Hit enter and find the red exclamation points for the boxes you missed. Try renting a car, for example. Try to get into the mindset of a new team of engineers hell bent on adding new buttons, new screens and functions just to make themselves look clever. All at the expense of us users who just want to play the radio. And how about the wood burning sauna stove enthusiast who had to abandon his rental car last week, because the parking brake button wouldn’t shut off. It took 3 drivers from the warehouse and half an hour to throw their arms up and say “it’s broken” with latino accent. And here I thought I was the crazy one who couldn’t find the button to turn off the emergency brake.

But watching flames dance inside our sauna fire box, we are a million miles away from buttons and technology and apps and engineers. We adjust a manual lever that controls the amount of air that feeds the fire in our sauna stove. We reach our hand out and move this lever. Manually. We are in control of our sauna stoves.

We are Crazy Wood Burning Sauna Enthusiasts

We are cavemen who murmur “fire good.” When we sauna, we feel better being far away from screens and apps. Buttons and dials. controls and sensors. We may wear birkenstocks and say “natural heat, man.” We may be told that electric coils produce heat through an electrical current that makes a wire glow and this, in turn, heats our sauna rocks and all is well. But something doesn’t connect us with this formula. Just as “off gassing” is presenting new concerns, beyond too much grain in the gorillas diet at the zoo, we can get worked up with the idea of electric stoves emitting positive ions as a less than natural way to heat our sauna stoves. We don’t throw water on our toaster or toaster oven.

We Think About the Term “Clean Heat”

We chuckle at the Electric Appliance Action Committee smear campaign against wood stoves. Asthma suffers on a rampage. Yet none of these folks have ever stepped outside and looked at the chimney of a well built wood fired sauna stove and could tell whether the stove was burning or not. Gasification isn’t just a term for too many beans at dinner. Thanks to decades of tinkering, at least one kick ass sauna stove manufacturer has been able to engineer a sauna stove that burns virtually 100% of all smoke and gasses through the burning process. And all this without any buttons or fancy dials.

But we wood burning sauna stove enthusiasts are just Kool-aid drinkers. What do we know about clean burning electric vs. wood heat? Why do we toss a log into our sauna stove and idle down our burn with a smile? We are just immersed in our own dogma. We feel the wood heat warming our sauna hot rooms and we believe that this heat is a better heat. We can feel wood heat in our bones. We don’t just feel it on our skins.

We Don’t Have to Be a Weatherman to Understand Thermal Mass

Electric coils vs. a raging fire. hmm. One produces a deep heat that heats through metal. And rocks. One heat penetrates through the skin and into the core of our bodies. One heat penetrates our tongue and groove paneling, hits foil bubble wrap reflective insulation and penetrates back out into our hot room. One heat produces hot rocks on top of a stove that create steam (löyly) that is different from another- steam that is heavy, soft, and rich.

But We Wood Burning Sauna Stove Enthusiasts are Just Crazy

We’ve taken thousands of saunas, and we could be let into a sauna blindfolded and though we could tell the difference between a sauna heated with a wood stove vs. a sauna heated with an electric stove, we still don’t get it. “All that matters is heating the rocks” we are told. Ok, sorry. We got it all wrong. All our years taking saunas and appreciating the subtle, optimal differences of heat are totally false. We are crazy, we are psychosomatic.

We wood burning sauna stove enthusiasts must be like those vegetarians who won’t eat anything that casts a shadow. We have brainwashed ourselves to believe a myth. Wood heat is the same as electric heat? You sure? I’m sorry! We got it all wrong after all these years! All these thousands of saunas! What do we know about wood heat vs. electric heat, anyway?

God bless electric sauna stoves for allowing us to enjoy sauna wherever OSHA regulations prohibit a wood burning sauna stove. God bless all sauna enthusiasts who have run 240v to their saunas and sauna with health and wellness enthusiasm.

But we wood sauna stove enthusiasts are just crazy. That’s all. We don’t know what we are talking about. We are psychosomatic. We have all drunk too much Kool-aid.

Is heat just heat? No. Heat is not just heat. Wood heat is our heat.

From the Mailbag: Gasification, Chimney Smoke, Hot Room Efficiency


SaunaTimes reader says: I am building a wood sauna stove to place in a barrel sauna. Half will be inside and half out. The insulated chimney will be placed outside top between the end where the feeder door is and the sauna wall. What do you recommend in inches should the chimney be placed away from the sauna wall?

I say: This is a bit of uncharted waters for me. I always build a sauna with stove feed from the hot room. The method of feeding the sauna stove fire box from the outside or from the changing room is a traditional way to go. Traditional in that all old school sauna stoves were built inefficiently. They burned a shit load of wood and most of the heat went up the chimney in the form of smoke. As up to 70% of the BTUs in a stick of firewood is contained within the burning gasses (ie smoke), old school wood burning sauna stoves required constant feeding.

Today, thanks to technology, and the tenacious tinkering of third generation Finns, most wood burning sauna stoves are built much more efficiently. How do we know? Just go outside and look up at the chimney of a quality built wood burning sauna stove in action. After you light a wood burning sauna stove, with dry kindling or a Nate’s Firestarter, you will see smoke coming out of the chimney. But after 5-10 minutes, you won’t see any smoke. “Did the fire go out?” No! What you are NOT seeing is smoke. But if you look carefully you will see the invisible heat trails.

What’s going on here? Because of gasification, all the smoke is burning within the heat chamber. This is the significant reason why a guy can take a sauna using only an armful of firewood. This is the significant reason why anal retentive sauna envious neighbors are not going to freak out when you make the commitment to build your very own AUTHENTIC sauna in your backyard. In cities, a 1′ side yard setback requirement is building code for external structures. This goes for pretty much any urban building planning rule book, but call innocently – without tipping your sauna building hat – for the ruling in your area.

Stove pipes require non-combustible material around them. So, as far as non combustible material adjacent to chimneys? If you are running your chimney to the outside and feeding your stove from the outside, you will need that entire wall to be block, ie. non combustible material. Also, keep in mind, whatever percent of your stove and stove pipe surface area is NOT going to be in your hot room will reduce the efficiency of your heating by that exact percent. In different words, stoves that feed from the hot room capture all the heat potential of the stove.

What materials are conductors and what are insulators? Cement is a heat conductor. Wood is a heat insulator. Conductors take away heat. This is why your bare feet freeze when standing on a cement patio between sauna rounds. Insulators hold heat. This is why your bare feet want to be on a wood deck between sauna rounds.

Your cement block wall is a conductor of heat, not an insulator. This means your block wall is going to suck the heat out of the hot room like crazy until the cement block is hot. Then, your cement block is going to want to cool your hot room because the other side of the block is cold as hell. Hate to be such a downer, but all these are important considerations.

From the Mailbag: Municipalities, Neighbors, and Gasification


SaunaTimes reader says: I’m in the process of building my outdoor sauna. Do you have any experience or knowledge of the Harvia legend 150 Stoves? Also, what is your experience with municipalities in general bylaws surrounding outdoor wood burning stoves in Canada or the US? I tried doing some research even called the fire department and the district and nobody could give me the bylaw. They all defaulted to the standard, you can’t burn on an open stove or fire pit etc but when pressed on a sauna they weren’t sure?

I’m wondering what happens if my neighbor calls the district by laws to complain, unlikely but just wondering what other people experience has been.

I say: Harvia 150 may be a decent stove. It is imported (hopefully) from Finland and is well road tested over there. I like how it is made with sauna rocks surrounding the heat chamber. Lots of thermal mass and Löyly potential.

Municipalities/laws: I hear you. Outdoor saunas fall into a gray area and authorities shrug their shoulders. My approach (too loosey goosey for many) is don’t ask, don’t tell. I appreciate your concern of neighbor whistle blowing and complaining, yet, what’s to complain about?

The only possible neighbor issue besides “they’re having more fun than us” is a complaint about smoke from the wood stove.

The cool thing is that modern wood stoves are (or should be) engineered for gasification – the burning off of the smoke gasses during combustion.

I have built a bunch of saunas, two for myself, all using the Kuuma Wood Stove from Tower, MN. Daryl’s stoves are all UL approved. This alone may placate some nosey neighbor or city inspector. More practically, after lighting the Kuuma stove, smoke will appear out the chimney for five minutes or so, then it will disappear completely, when the fire box becomes hot enough for gasification to kick in.

Looking out a backyard window, I will have to stare awhile at my sauna stove chimney, looking for those Sahara desert type heat waves, to make sure the sauna stove is still going.

Anyhow, big tangent there. Long story short: build it. If neighbors don’t wander over in their bathrobes with towel and nICE mug in hand, they should have nothing to complain about if you use a well made wood burning sauna stove.

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117 thoughts on “Wood Burning Sauna Stoves”

  1. It all sounds so wonderful…..except…I need some advice. I too have a log sauna (10×12)with a dressing room that is heated by a through the wall Kuuma stove.

    The problem is the stove burns so dirty that I’m ashamed of using it during the day for fear the neighbors will call the Fire Marshal. Multiple cubic meters of thick smoke belch from the stack.

    I’ve tried everything. I burn dry seasoned pine and ash from the front like Kuuma says (sort of like a cigar). This seems to work for a short while, but when I add more wood to the stove it is impossible to make it ‘burn from the end’. The draft settings don’t seem to make any difference at all. The only thing to do is to open the ash pan door and watch it like a hawk.

    Can anybody tell me what I am doing wrong? The sauna room is about 700 cubic feet (20 CM3) with an R27 ceiling and 6 inch logs.

  2. Bruce:

    You have a unique problem and may need a sight inspection. Where are you located? Please email me separately. I have built and used well over a dozen saunas using the Kuuma, and one of it’s virtues is a clear burn. It vaporizes smoke gases (burning wood gets 60-70% of it’s BTU’s from burning off the smoke) and burns super efficient. A couple possibilities:
    1. Not enough air flow in your changing room… it could be hungry for air, even with your draft open all the way. Try burning the Kuuma with your outside door open for awhile.
    2. Restriction in your chimney,either from elbows or something stuck up in there, or too restrictive of a rain cap.
    3. If all else fails, let me know, i’ll check with Daryl Lammpa..

  3. Built an outdoor wood burning sauna (from scratch without a kit) in our Western Wisconsin backyard this year…with my part Finnish (from Duluth,MN) wife’s encouragement. What a great decision…we have a new routine with Wednesday being sauna night…while the weekend has become one long sauna party. So far I have burned white oak, red oak, ash, birch, hickory and maple. My rankings? 1)White Oak 2)Birch 3)Red Oak 4)Hickory 5)Ash and 6)Maple. — all have been good.

  4. Glenn – you’re a great resource; thanks for all the good work you do. I’ve built a couple saunas (I’ll send pics one of these days), and I’ve fed it from outside and inside. They both have pros and cons – feeding from outside keeps the sauna cleaner: you don’t have any of the ashes or dirt that comes off the wood. You also don’t get any smoke in the sauna. The major disadvantage is that you don’t see the fire. There is something elemental about sitting in a wood fired sauna, watching the flames, having the gentle light of the fire in the evening. It is also more difficult to gauge whether the stove needs more wood. Having done it both ways I’d probably stick with having the stove in the actual sauna. Just my 2 cents.

  5. Glenn
    I have never had my own sauna but have decided to put an outdoor sauna on my property. Not sure if i will build my own considering my skills but i hsve looked at some barrel saunas. I would prefer wood fired and have noticed that their are a couple different builders in minnesota. Any insight to the barrel sauna? Electric vs wood. Load wood outside or inside?

    White bear lake mn

  6. John, I’ll offer my opinion, too. I went with the inside-the-hot-room-feed Kuuma wood stove (partly on Glenn’s recomendation and partly on the stove maker’s (Daryl Lamppa). I’m very satisfied with the decision. I bought a small shop vac (fits under the change room bench!) to clean up any dropped ashes and my stove has the optional ash drawer, so clean up is fairly easy and mess free. The in-room stove captures all the heat and with a window on the door of the stove, you get can enjoy the reflective flicker of the flames from the benches. I opted for an electric wall heater in my change room, so I have no trouble with heat in either room. As Glenn advised me–“You will only do this once, so do it right the first time and you won’t be sorry”

  7. Thanks Geoff,

    I’m hoping that someone will be able to share there experiences with the Harvia Legend wood burning stove as well. Im interested in the smoke it produces or lack thereof.

    I really love the rounded design as it lends nicely the orientationthe of the stove tucked in the corner without breaking up the flow if you know what I mean?

  8. a note of caution regarding ul-listed stoves: they only maintain their listing if installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. that means maintaining all the clearances from combustible surfaces, installing air gaps, etc. as detailed in the installation manual. this isn’t to say that the stove will be a ticking time bomb if the directions are not followed but it will technically ‘void’ the listing.

  9. Good point, I’m in the process of researching tasteful heat shielding ideas of the non combustible variety for the rear and side walls adjacent to the stove.



  10. if building a sauna to meet stove ul requirements, you almost need to pick your stove first and start designing around that. stoves are similar but various manufacturers may have different clearance requirements. the clearances will dictate hot room size, bench arrangement, etc. using the kuuma stove as an example, a full 38 inches of clearance is needed between the side of the stove and a wood wall! with a heat shield on the stove, that distance drops to only 18 inches. with shields on the stove and the wall, distance drops to 11 inches. that’s over two feet closer than if no shielding is used!

    early decisions regarding the stove and use of shields clearly makes a large impact on how a sauna gets laid out…

  11. Miller is right, you NEED heat shields if your hot room isn’t the size of a small airplane hangar. I’ve been in several saunas that had blackened walls near the stove due to lack of heat shields where the stove was placed too close to the wall. It’s also important to pay close attention to the are where the stove pipe goes through the wall or roof.

  12. Thanks Miller and Mike, I’ve been looking at 3/4 inch thick Mica flag stone approx 48 w 40 high pieces they are organic shapes and have a silver and gold metallic shimmer. Basically mount with hardward lag bolts so it comes off as utilitarian and not as Martha Stewar or somet pho fake wall cladding. Also looking at doing the floor is same stone but smaller sizes/scale. Should I be concerned with high heat transfer from stone on the floor compared to say wood.

  13. Hi, I am in the planning process of building an outdoor sauna from scratch. I have wood working skills, and the project seems pretty straightforward. I would like to a build a sauna room that is 6x4x7 (this is not including a gabled roof). That would put the interior heated portion of the structure at 168 cubic feet.
    The issue I have is finding a wood burning stove rated for 168 cubic feet. All the wood buring stoves I have found seem to start at 218cubic feet or higher. Any suggestions?

    Please let me know.

  14. I am building a wood sauna stove to place in a barrel sauna. Half will be inside and half out. The insulated chimney will be placed outside top between the end where the feeder door is and the sauna wall. What do you recommend in inches should the chimney be placed away from the sauna wall?

    Thank you,

  15. So envious of the beautiful sauna stoves people use in the upper Midwest. For those on an extreme budget (and hopefully far from fire code or insurance inspectors), here is a youtube video on how I build my sauna stoves. I guess you would call these rustic rather than authentic – but they work great (six pieces firewood for two-hour sauna) and are pretty much free if you have old door hinges, and can find someone with a foam insulation business who will give you an empty heavy-duty 55 gallon drum: (Sorry about the wind noise – it dies down later.)

  16. Have any of you used a rocket heater to make a more efficient and cleaner use of wood in your sauna? Rocket heaters reportedly require a quarter to a tenth of the wood that high efficiency wood stoves use to heat the same space. Rocket stoves have an L or J shaped feed & burn chamber made from insulated fire brick, combined with an insulated heat riser that develops enough heat to burn all gasses before releasing the heat inside of a 55 gallon drum. They burn smaller dimension wood, and radiate lots of heat into the room raising temperatures quickly.

    The back of the barrel (facing away from the benches) could be surrounded by rocks to capture heat needed to generate steam. The exhaust drawn from the base of the barrel can carry heat through a 20′ run of 6″ exhaust pipe transferring heat into a gravel or clay subfloor wherever you want it, including under the adjacent changing room and sauna room’s benches. Surrounding these exhaust tubes with clay or gravel works like a heat battery that radiates lower levels of heat into the space following the burn. Flooring with decking over those spaces would allow that heat to return to the room for several hours if the clay or gravel has been insulated from the ground. By using a rocket stove in combination with this heat battery results in a very cool exhaust by the time it reaches the vertical portion of the stove pipe. If the barrel is not located too close to flammable materials, the risk of burning down your sauna is minimized. These stoves can be built very inexpensively with easily acquired skills, or you can spend thousands on prefab units. Many DIY videos show how to mix mortar and set bricks in a simple pattern for the base of the J, methods for creating a heat riser, how to insulate beneath and set the vent pipes, dig and trowel clay cob or gravel to simply use gravel, and where to connect your vent pipes, ash clean outs, and the vertical stove pipe that creates some of the draw. If you do everything required by code that you would typically do around a wood stove, you should be able to get inspector approval.

  17. I have burned White Oak, Red Oak, Cherry, Hickory, Ash, and Black Locust. I will have to say that it’s hard to beat good old Oak. White Oak seems to burn just a little hotter than Red. Hickory burns the hottest but is a bit harder to split. Cherry burns hot, smells great, but burns pretty fast.

  18. Check out this website:, here they list the BTU/cord of various species of wood. Top of the list; rock elm, shagbark hickory & white oak. Not included on the list is apple which has a similar BTU rating as beech which burns slightly hotter that red oak. In the end what you have access to is what you burn. I like to burn beech, birch, oak and cherry and mix in some kiln dried hardwood scraps (solid gasoline) from the local sawmill. Beech is a pain to split but worth the heat. Oak’s draw back is the seasoning time but is nice to split.

  19. We built a wood burning sauna with back door feed. It keeps smoking inside the sauna. Smoke leaks around the chimney inside and very little comes out the top of chimney. Do you have any suggestions?

  20. Yes, Ann. You’re not getting a good draft. Something is constricting the air flow up your chimney. I’d get up on the roof with a flashlight and take off the chimney cap and look down into the chimney pipe and see if there’s anything going on in there, like a birds nest or whatever. Then, with the chimney cap removed, light a fire with newspaper or birch bark and see if that helps, as often the chimney cap can get constrained, especially if it has mesh around it for birds and bats and such. If this gets you nowhere, disassemble the black stove pipe just above the sauna stove and clean out that area. And if you’re not venting straight up through the ceiling but have elbows and such, well, this is a whole other diagnosis for another day. Hope this helps!

  21. Hi,
    I am planning to build a small sauna room outdoors, and plan to construct a smallish wood-burning pizza oven, dome-shaped but elongated design, with the back of it protruding through the wall of the sauna. Instead of rocks, I plan to sprinkle water directly onto the refractory bricks. The oven will be fed from outside, and the chimney will also be outside, close to the mouth of the oven in typical pizza-oven style. Will this work? I suppose the oven will have to be fired up at least an hour before using the sauna.

  22. Bruce, As a big fan of wood fired pizza as well as wood fired saunas, I applaud the thinking.

    But i’m fuzzy on this plan. Not sure how well this structure can provide adequate sauna heat. Tossing water directly on the bricks (vs stove rocks) may not provide the kind of “ahhh” that one enjoys during the traditional, authentic sauna regimen. If it were me, i’d build the sauna with a wood fired sauna stove, then sit on the sauna bench and think out phase II: you’re wood fired pizza oven as a separate unit.

    Trying to do both in one structure may end up being like trying to design and build one boat that is both a canoe and a pontoon. Both get compromised and you have to paddle too hard to fully enjoy either.

  23. Hello ,
    I was wondering do I ever have to clean our my sauna stove pipe. I bought a,stove from yowhat is best wsu and it works great. Should I worry about cresol build up ? I burn dry ash and dry pine mostly. What is best way to clean and how often ?

    Thank you,

  24. Mark:

    Yes. I don’t know what “youwat” stove company is, but cresol build up is scary stuff. I’ll be candid in that i’ve never cleaned out my cabin Kuuma stove pipe. The stove burns super hot and no smoke, so no cresol build up. I suggest googling cresol build up and work on a method for cleaning out your chimney to your sauna stove.

  25. Have you ever used an old fashioned cast iron wood stove for a sauna. I have one All wood building still struggles to get past 125 degrees. Room is 7 by 7 by 6 .5. Fully insulated.

  26. Paul:

    I’m a big fan of using a sauna stove vs. other ideas. New sauna stoves work, create loyly (steam), burn wood efficiently, and create the awesome experience outlined here on saunatimes and throughout the land.

  27. Glenn,
    I would like an update from Bruce – Bruce says
    September 9, 2016 at 3:56 pm. Pizza Oven fed from outside w protruding into Sauna for heat? Did he come up with anything that would work as a hybrid – as I have been thinking the same thing?

  28. Peter:

    Short answer: You can use an indoor woodburning stove as a sauna stove, but I wouldn’t. Indoor wood burning stoves burn differently. I can’t explain it but they do. And what is most critical is hot sauna rocks. You can try welding a basket and loading a bunch of sauna rocks on top of your wood stove and many do this. I have never been in a sauna with this set up that works well though. I am a big fan of investing $1k into a kick ass authentic wood burning sauna. A stove like the Kuuma was tinkered and engineered during -60f Minnesota winters. It’s built with 1/4 inch steel and is engineered to burn super efficient. And the chamber to hold rocks does just that. So, that’s my take Peter. Hope it helps.

  29. Hello, thank you for your efforts one teaching people how to build saunas. I am building my own sauna and looking for more detailed information for how to construct the wall area/opening around the throat of the stove for a through wall stove design. In this article you talk about using brick, is this the only way? I am building a mobile sauna so it will be on a trailer subject to vibration which may crack the brick. I have seen mobile Saunas which do not appear to use brick on their through wall stove section, such as in the great book Mobile Sauna compendium

    Perhaps i could use metal flashing and fireboard? If you could point me towards some resources, that would be great, thanks!

  30. Of course you are right, a wood fired sauna smells different, sounds different, and most importantly, the heat from a wood fired stove feels different, much different. The same goes for a living room heated by a wood stove versus a house heated with a central electric furnace. I believe it is the radiation of the stove, the power of fire going right through the walls of the stove. Nothing beats a wood fired sauna, the light of the fire, the peacefulness of a cold winter evening and the cold tub or garden hose outside the sauna. MS

  31. RE: “Wood stoves are a terrible way to heat a home if you’re looking for even comfort everywhere.” We are most pleased with our wood stove that heats our entire 1,500 sf cabin. The Fireplace Extrodianire utilizes an outside air intake to feed the stove, and a blower for inside the cabin such that we benefit from a positive warm air pressure (no drafts). The blower and one ceiling fan circulate warm wood heat air throughout. Evenly. Nadda terrible, but “wunderbar” as they say in German engineering class. THAT SAID: If i were to do it all again, I’d be doing radiant wirsbo cement pour with a wood fire stove supplement, and call it over, which is something i’d like to do for my $100,000 sauna.

  32. Wood stoves are a terrible way to heat a home if you’re looking for even comfort everywhere. Nothing beats the nostalgia, but there is good reason that it’s not the norm anymore. As far as sauna stoves go, I have both. They’re both wonderful experiences. I fell trees on 85 acres at my cabin, split it, and cure it. I have a Kuuma stove. It’s glorious. And I love my 30 yr old 7.2kW stove in my garage just as much.

  33. my parents have heated their home with wood stoves for almost forty years now. there is a ‘main’ stove as well as two additional stoves that get fired up in sequence as the temps drop. it is an open home concept, no ductwork or forced air units, just some ceiling fans to move air around. the place is very well insulated (actually an earth home with berm around the north side and a good chuck of the east/west sides). the back bedrooms can get a little chilly when it is super-cold and the upstairs bedroom can get a little hot but in general, pretty even heat.

  34. Excuse my ignorance, but what is the water chamber on a wood-burning sauna stove for? I have always been in saunas with rocks on top that allow us to pour water over them, to create steam. Why would you need a water chamber inside the sauna?

  35. Lots of saunas at lake cabins, hunting shacks, and rural areas have a water tank on the side to produce hot water for bathing.

  36. One advantage to feeding the kiuas from the outside or the dressing room of a sauna is not bringing in wood debris and associated dirt on the sauna floor. One of my friends feeds his stove from the back covered deck of his sauna which is accessible from his dressing room via a covered side deck.

    That being said, feeding the kiuas from inside the sauna is fine and most common.

  37. I was convinced when building my sauna that I was going to load from the changing room. My wife insisted on a stove with a glass door and loading from the inside. I’m really glad she changed my mind. I really like the setup we have.

  38. Yes ,I agree with your wife and the glass door. It is reason #3 for feeding wood stove from inside the hot room, and it may in fact be reason #1 on a cold winter’s night while the warm glow dances off the cedar walls.

  39. Not going to debate this as it’s only a personal preference. However the firebox on that stove (pictured) looks awfully small. Seems like a pain to keep a hot fire going when only kindling can fit inside that clearance.

    Also, I do hope you omit infrared from your websites dictionary. It has no place or relation to any wood stove or electric sauna. It evolved that way because marketers didn’t know what else to call it. For people looking for stoves and infrared is ever mentioned, run away asap. The dealer knows nothing about saunas and is just selling you garbage.

  40. Eric:
    Firebox from sauna in photo: That stove takes full 16″ logs. I don’t work for them, but own two of these stoves for each of my two saunas, and am also bent on the personal preference of being able to take a hot sauna only with a reasonable stack of cord wood brought in to the hot room tucked under my arm. (4-5 sticks). Like you, I feel the pain for those trying to keep a good fire going and heat maintained with one of those cheesy stoves shoehorned as a sauna stove. We build our saunas one time, we owe it to ourselves to use a kick ass sauna stove.
    Infrared: Helping others navigate away from such a shitty abomination remains one of my deeper passions vis a vis AUTHENTIC sauna. I will continue to write about infrared light bulb closets. Well put about its evolution. I offer free sledgehammers to those who make the conversion. “the best art divides the audience.”

  41. I know you respect Darrel, but we have a problem with your statement about heat loss. No way is there as much 25% heat loss, matter of fact there is less on an outside feed stove. The front of the stove by the door is the coolest spot , not the hottest as was said. The air intake is there and the incoming air keeps it cooler. The hottest part of any stove would be near the exit from the firebox to the chimney. I have taken temperature readings all over and around installed sauna stoves while fired up hot.
    Any stove needs air to burn. This incomming air will come in from outside one way or the other. That will cool the sauna if the intake is in the sauna. A good stove will not need to be fed while taking a sauna for say one hour, no need to add wood durring. Building a fire does take two feedings, no sense at all to open your sauna door for that, you will just cool it down.
    Also you mention efficiency, a sauna stove burns effeciant just by the fact that it is burning hot. You can see this by the lack of ash left after many saunas taken. Darrel has done wonders to build effeciant home heating stoves , but any efforts to reburn left over gasses are wasted on a hot fired sauna stove. There are no left over gasses. If only he could achieve the total burn of a sauna stove in a heating unit.
    I’m pretty sure you won’t post this and I don’t expect you will.
    Anyway sorry to disagree. Have a good day. Owen

  42. I have a main sauna at my house…pentagon shaped….lrg inside feed stove with glass doors …the sauna is 122 square feet…..I have a water system in my sauna. ….a tank sits behind the stove and a mixing valve adjust the temp for shower outside….plus I have a sauna on wheels I pull behind my quad right on the beach beside the ocean…im gonna build another sauna at my float cabin

  43. In response to David Farin, I’ve thought this very thing! I’ve been doing my research and am opting for building a RMH in a wood framed ( with slip chip infill) sauna. Got a model built and holes dug. Now to nail down physics of Burn chamber, horizontal run and exit height. I’ll be documenting this in hopes of supporting others to DIY a sauna with grace, efficiency and ease.

  44. Hi, Thanks for all the comments and info on outdoor and indoor feed of a wood burning Sauna. I am building a Sauna in New Zealand were cedar wood is very expensive. I think that is it all imported. I am would like to know if a wood called Marcocarpa will be any good to use for the inside of the Sauna? It has a natural preservative in it and does not need treatment when used for ordinary building. Thanks Tony

  45. Tony: preservatives, whether natural compound or chemical based, are not good for hot room. Avoid any such shenanigans. Yet, when you say “natural preservative” I know you are referring to how, like cedar, the wood itself does not rot as its natural habitat is heavy with moisture, etc. With regards to Marcocarpa species, please forgive, as not only have I not heard of it, I can’t spell it, and if forced to guess what it is, i’d probably say it’s some kind of fish species instead of a wood species, so long way of saying sorry, I do not know. Mebbe you can call the Melbourne University Forestry Department and get them going on your question. It’s interestingly cool how wood species, (like fish) are inter related as cousins, etc. as far as properties, etc. Tony, also, I hear you on looking to save coin with wood in your hot room. On that score, check out this post:

  46. My 5×7 sauna now exists as a shell. The stove is a fab steel 12 x 14″ with a 14 x 16 stainless overlay for rocks / steam. Stove pipe is 4″ exit but I have 8″ dia class A section for exterior. Question…will the stove draw properly with the transition to large chimney?
    Note: I am building using materials on hand and donated. 8″ pipe was donated.

  47. John: Your question is taking me to the dark side. Though I applaud the resourcefulness, I can’t speak for a home fabricated stove’s capabilities.
    You could go forward as best you can, and if the stove ends up being lame, you could start saving some coin for a better sauna stove. Just a thought.
    Take pics, hope it works out!

  48. Hi Glenn,
    We’re building an outdoor sauna & trying make a final decision on the inside/outside feed… I know the pros & cons as I’ve stoked many of both…
    my question tho… we’re trying to decide if the location of the sauna (compared to house) matters as far as the direction of most common wind and smoke goes? Thinking to put sauna NW of the house, but that we’re most common wind in MN is… should it be in another direction? Or is this a matter of getting a good stove, chimney & type of wood you burn? We’re hoping to not get smoked out in the house! Or just skip the wind direction idea and build it where there’s nice privacy and seclusion? Thanks!

  49. Jeff. You answered your own question, and here’s your answer:
    This a matter of getting a good stove, chimney & type of wood you burn.

    I’m 100% confident that if you follow above, that you will be fine. After lighting either of my wood burning sauna stoves, after 5-10 minutes, it’s hard to tell if it’s going or not. One has to look for the heat waves emanating from the chimney. And another thing, this efficient burn means less wood needed for a good hot sauna session. This innovation has allowed for sauna stoves (with glass window) to work perfectly awesome with inside feed. And another thing, inside feed means 20-25% greater efficiency, too.

    Lots more on this on saunatimes. You can learn a lot about wood burning and “gasification” via the Daryl Lamppa Sauna Talk or searching some of these relevant terms on this website. Glad you asked, and hope this helps.

  50. If you have the means… nothing like a traditional Finnish Sauna that is wood fired. It’s the whole process from gathering the wood to feeling the löyly creep across your body that cleanses the soul…Life is good!

  51. Chris: Agreed, savusauna is the pinnacle of experience, yet for me, the quality made wood burning sauna stove hits on an optimized level of both wood consumption minimization as well as clean burning.maximization. But dangerous to compare the two saunas, of course.

  52. Agreed, Tom. We have a lot of switches and dials in our life. It’s nice that we leave these behind with our wood fired saunas. And another thing: with the efficiency and clean burning of these new stoves, it’s amazing how 1) little wood is needed and 2) how hot it gets, meaning 3) our wood pile lasts that much longer.

    And I agree with you, the whole process is cleansing of the soul. Well said.

  53. Good afternoon I made my donation this morning. I do believe the email is not working at this time could you send me the book at this one thank you.

  54. I have come to believe the laying and tending of the wood sauna stove is as much of the sauna experience as the loyla. I lay the sauna fire with care, using the top down fire build. Once started I make sure it well started, and then visit and tend it frequently until it is sauna time. I love it.

    And of course you have to obtain the firewood, split it to size, and then stack it to dry properly. Being a bit OCD I have separate wood racks for kindling, one for rounders or large split long burners, and yet another for mid-size to make sure the long burners get going, and to add to the stove if you need a little quick temperature surge in the sauna. If you use anything other than a wood burning sauna stove, you miss half the fun.

  55. Hello Glenn;

    Thanks for this web site! I just donated $20.00 via PAYPAL for your ebook. My name is Dave Shattler, e-mail is w…… Planning on a 14X8 building with a 8X6 “hot room” and a 8X4 changing room and a 4 foot porch for cool downs. Live just outside of Lansing, Michigan. Address is … Grand Ledge, Mi. 48837.

    I know you like Kuuma wood burners, but do you have any comments on the Superior Sauna KARHU 16CK With Glass Door? Attractive price, and it looks like it will be just right for my size sauna. I will start building as soon as I can pour the concrete piers.

  56. Dave: Great to visit with you. Glad the book is “exactly what you’re looking for.” What an amazing story, and excited to share the details of your build via a guest post on saunatimes. You will be just fine with the Karhu, given that you are building your sauna with so many of the critical/right elements in place:
    well insulated
    changing room
    vapor barrier
    decent, well aged and dried wood (ash!, maple!)

  57. I way prefer an outside feed. Way cleaner. No smoke and no muss to clean up inside the sauna. Might not be as efficient, but I feel that feeding the stove is almost as much of the sauna experience as the sweat itself. It is part of the ritual, not a chore.

  58. Hi Glenn, I’m in the process of designing a mobile sauna. I really want to use wood. Are there any stoves you would recommend for a mobile situation that can be fed from the outside? Any things I should be wary of if I’m leaning toward this style? I’m looking for any info I can find especially on how to heat proof the area where the stove penetrates the wall in such a small structure. Are there any stove brands better suited for mobile situations ie: lighter?

  59. Joey:

    Feeding wood stove from the outside. You can do this. It will be tricky, however, to align this wall with non combustable and framing (aluminum) so that when you’re bouncing down the road, the shell of your unit doesn’t bounce and bend and crack your wall. I can explain more if you like, but this is primary concern with mobile sauna and outside feed. Try this for more biased reading:

    Stove brands: The Kuuma stove is a 400# beast. But we are driving them all over Minnesota right now (and with great success). If you’re looking for a lighter stove the Helo is featherweight by comparison and should work fine for your mobilization. This stove (from memory) was used to heat the Traveling Sauna.

  60. Dylan: If it were true that you can run out of oxygen with an inside loading stove, i’d be dead a long time ago.

    I’ve been taking saunas 3x a week for close to 30 years now (all via an inside feed). I don’t have an oxygen meter, but if I did (and someone should do this), I would put money on the fact that both an electric stove and an outside feed wood stove contribute to a hot room with LESS oxygen than an inside feed. Why? draw. Wood stoves draw oxygen in order to burn.

    When we build our saunas, we install venting – intake venting via a generous crack along our hot room door. As wood burns it draws in fresh air, creating a current of fresh air. Electric stoves and outside feed will draft only via the principle of “hot air rises.” So, there you have something to think about, albeit counterintuitive. And I’d be happy to wrestle this concept to the ground further with your neighbor as I prescribe not to be an expert but an interested student who also appreciates fresh air in my sauna sessions.

    PS.. With that same oxygen meter we could see what happens when we toss water on the rocks. Steam is just liquid H2O… that’s 2 parts Oxygen and I gotta think that action should crank the oxygen meter higher, as we lean back on the bench and “aaaaahhhhh” take in the steam.

  61. Hey Glenn,

    Looking to build an outdoor sauna with my father this spring/summer. He wants to set up an inside loading wood stove. A neighbor raised a safety concern saying that you run the risk of running out of oxygen with an inside loading loading stove – how much truth is there to this? Does it come down to the type of stove you are using?

  62. glenn touches on the key point: ventilation. if the hot room was super-tight with no intentional ventilation, then inside feed would not work very well and the neighbor would be correct. but you don’t want the hot room super-tight, regardless if electric, wood, natural gas, whatever.

    my parents in northern wisconsin heat their home exclusively with wood stoves. the house was built in 1980 and insulation/sealing knowledge back then wasn’t what it is today and the house was ‘leaky’ enough that combustion air supply wasn’t an issue. they put in all new windows/doors a couple years ago, with much better insulation/sealing around the frames. they were having issues with their stoves due to the house being so tight. they actually had to add an outside air vent to bring in fresh air so the stoves would work.

  63. Hello,
    I have a quick question. I am also looking at building a sauna with a through wall wood fired heater design. I like the idea of some of the heat heating the adjacent room as a change room. I am also curious about wall separation. I was looking at constructing that wall with steel studs, concrete board and tiled. Would this work or does that wall need to be masonry?

  64. mike: you’re on it. steel studs, concrete board, tile.. i’ve done exactly this. Actually cultured stone. This works!

  65. Glenn,

    Thanks for the reply. One other quick question. What insulation do you use for the sauna walls (also the sauna wall between the stove opening and stove body if using the through wall design). I was thinking Roxul Rockwool which is non combustible. Would you recommend that?

    Sorry one other question that is not related to this thread but hoping you could help out. Would you ever recommend an electric heater for an outside sauna? Do electric heaters generate enough heat for this application?

    Thanks again.

  66. Still Confused: I’ve downloaded the ebook and read through it. I’m now considering wood burning instead of electric heat, which I may regret…we’ll see. But, I’m still left without actual measurements for adequate placement of the stove from the walls. Hence, if I go to all the work of cement board placement (double wall on the back) and buy the heat shields from Kuuma, (for all 3 sides) what are the appropriate distances I’m to be working with? Kuuma states some incredible distance of 18″ per side (even with heat shields). Not sure how this is suppose to fit within the 8’x6′ hot room design.

  67. I didn’t mean to sound negative above. I love the book and am looking forward to designing my own (second) sauna using several of these ideas.

  68. All good Brent. There are dimensions as prescribed by UL certification and dimensions that most people go with. If I were to show photos of my two saunas, as example, well, “cobblers kids shoes” come to mind. I built these saunas in 1996 and 2003, and use extensively.

  69. Glen, Are there reasonable measurements that most folk go with? I plan to use the heat shields on all three sides. Does 8″ sound reasonable. I understand there may well be a liability issue at stake here…I’m not looking to sue anyone, just get a reasonable feel for what has worked for others. In fact, I’ll consider your answer to “be at builder own risk” and “builder beware”. That being said, I’d still love ballpark measurements of what others have successfully used.

  70. If your neighbor is being cool, well, that’s a good thing. One thought is that as you frame your sauna building, consider where a wood sauna stove would go, and box out a 12″ x 12″ in your hot room ceiling and roof above and mark it. After awhile, when your neighbor joins you on the sauna bench, you can, over time, move the conversation towards the adjacent possible of converting the sauna from electric to wood… and your framework for this will be all ready for you both.

    Lots of content on this site regarding the UL certification and “safety first” of the Kuuma wood stove. And as far as smoke goes: even more good content. After a couple few minutes of ignition, the Kuuma emits zero smoke. Nadda. Gasification. Really clean burn.

    Good luck Nathan, and keep up the positive sauna vibrations burning bright.

  71. I live in a big city. my neighbor has asked me to not put a wood stove in my back yard detached shed sauna citing fire safety and smoke disturbance. my neighbor is otherwise being very cool about my sauna which is important in the city because one phone call to the city planning dept could complicate my hot box. my main home does have a wood fire but the chimney is 30 ft+ tall. In such an urban environment I don’t see any other way but electric. I grew up with wood, just not very likely here.

  72. Glenn I have to go electric. the Kuuma is $1800- a bit more than I want to spend. Do you have a 2nd place option for closer to $1000?

  73. My husband and I are in the planning phase for an urban outdoor sauna. For cost concerns and green-ness we’re trying to source used material for as many of the elements as possible. I know you are a serious fan of Kuuma stoves. Can you speak to the pros and cons of a traditional wood stove with rocks applied to the top? Maybe create an add-on welded basket?

  74. Heather: Appreciate the resourcefulness of trying to source used material wherever possible. There are lots of used stoves out there, so I get the appeal. With my friends bent upon deploying traditional wood stoves, i’ve generally stayed quiet and let them figure it out for themselves, as a sauna is a good thing (and the adjacent possible to a really good thing).

    When the money allows, most trade out to a real sauna stove. The pros are a very long list.
    heat up times.
    quality of heat.
    control of hot room temp.
    great loyly (steam)
    lampomassa, etc.

    We build our saunas one time, and the good news is you can start with your used stove and look to trade out when the spirit moves.

  75. 7’2″x7′ is a very good hot room size, and ideal for a small Kuuma. A small Kuuma is like a pickup truck: perfectly capable for many applications. The medium Kuuma is like a dump truck: more fuel and more of a monster, overkill for many applications, but exactly what you need for some applications (larger hot room).

  76. Hi Glenn, I just downloaded your ebook. Thanks for all the info. I am planning to build a sauna with a dimension of 7’2″ by 7′ (heated room), not including changing room. Would you go with the Small or medium Kuuma stove? The Kuuma site indicates the small is big enough but I am leaning toward medium. I also have the same question asked above – If I have cementboard with masonary, is 8″ clearance enough? I saw that on the Kuuma site but did not see that in your info.

  77. Dmitry: Glad you’re enjoying I gotta say, your fear of carbon monoxide is dwarfed by my fear of cobbling ANY sort of gas burning contraption as a sauna stove. Gas is tricky stuff, even when all is working well. Neil Young has seen the needle and the damage done, i’ve seen gas stoves and the damage done. It freaks me out just typing about it. There’s backdrafting and buildups and, well, it’s just not the kind of heat that I feel comfy with at all.

    Chicago Sweat Lodge uses gas. With three gas burners, they fire the hell out of thousands of pounds of rocks through 4 heat cycles all night long. Then, everything is shut down well before opening, and sauna bathers (banya bathers) benefit from the lampomassa all day long (and well into the night).

    This scenario is the only time i’m at all comfy thinking about gas and sauna.

    Hope i’m not a buzz kill, but that’s my honest feedback.

  78. Hi Glenn,
    First of all thanks for one of the king blog.

    I converting the old shed into the sauna.
    Due to lack of budged I used army camp stove with load from outside (due to fear of Carbon Monoxide) and when I tested this stove, as you said it “burned a shit load of wood and most of the heat went up the chimney in the form of smoke. ”

    So I decided to buy Gas Cast-Iron Burner Head from Amazon:

    Would this work if I will insert this gas head into burner chamber?

  79. I lost you on Neil Young 🙂

    “i’ve seen gas stoves and the damage done.”
    What do you mean by that? Explosion?

  80. Neil Young’s song was ringing in my ears, yes. My friend burnt his hand something fierce trying to ignite. I’ve heard other stories along these lines, and you’re going to go down the propane in small spaces road, i’d be visiting with ice fish house and camper manufacturers and knowledge servicepersons for getting the proper gear to monitor stuff.

  81. I have a Vermont Castings Aspen C3 (see website for more info: )wood burning stove lying around. I plan to use it to heat an outdoor sauna. I’d like to use rocks on top to add steam to the sauna, but I’m having difficulty finding a cage to contain the rocks. Any suggestions?
    (By the way, I read the advice on using stoves made specifically for saunas. This is our first experience with a sauna and want to make sure we’re actually going to use it before spending lots of $ on it.)
    Thank you.

  82. Hi Celeste: I applaud the idea of you reusing your home wood stove, and others have tried this. The downside, from what others tell me, is that the iron metal doesn’t take to water well (rust) and the design of the stove is such that it takes a long time to heat rocks surrounding the stove, with the makeshift cage design, and ultimately the rocks don’t get hot enough to produce loyly.

    Don’t meant to be a buzz kill, yet this is the feedback others have shared with me on this matter.

  83. Hi Glenn, what is your best advice for getting a wood stove sauna to fire up and be ready for use quickly?

    Air flow is what we are after here, I imagine, but perhaps there’s a particular stove that does this best?

    I am just in the beginning of my first build, and am loving your site and podcast to guide me along. Luckily I just found out my house won’t support an electric heater, so now I’m doing it the right way, with wood 🙂

  84. Mark:

    Congrats on the wood stove sauna solution.

    I have a couple tips for you.

    And as you may know, i’m a huge fan of the Kuuma stove. I’ve taken thousands of saunas and with all the stoves around. And after my trip back to Finland last year, I realize how important good heat is, and how the Kuuma, frankly, kicks ass. So, anyhow, as to tips, beyond good, dry wood, this is the best tip:

  85. Can I get a Kuuma stove with setups for outside or exterior wood loading? I just want to make my sauna more Fireproof of a burndown by keeping wood and sparks for loading misuse by others to a minimum.
    What is Kuuma’s product or solution or kit for this need?

  86. Hi Glenn – Amazing site! And really appreciate the book. I live in the northwest so winters are wetter rather than colder here. For me that means I am going to load from the change room rather than inside the hot room as efficiency in 40 degrees is less of an issue. Definitely going to go with a small Kuuma stove as my heat source (btw do you sell these…?)

    So my question: if I build a brick/stone wall around the throat what my bare minimum clearance needs to be to the walls? Looks like the stove needs to be 11″ from combustible but if I am using concrete board and tile can that distance be reduced at all?

    I will use concrete board and tile on the wood framed walls and planning on the heat shields for the sides and back of the stove.

    Thanks a million!

  87. Ernest:

    Glad you are appreciating saunatimes.

    Yes, we sell the Kuuma stove. I’ll email you separately for that.

    Stone surround for outside feed: The common wall must be built using all non combustibles. This means metal studs (vs. wood), fire retardant insulation, cement board, and stone. It sounds like a drag, but you can do it.

    Alternatively, you can take a breath and revisit the idea of inside feed.

    Either way, i’ll help you and we’ll get it right, as we build our saunas one time and get to enjoy them the rest of our lives.

  88. Ernest, I checked with my spiritual advisor and high school basketball coach, and they each suggested I “bounce pass” your question over to Dale at Lamppa Mfr. Please call him at 218-753-1211. Tell him that Glenn has his head wrapped around metal studs for outside feed wall, and let’s see what he comes back with. Thanks for advancing with this, as I appreciate your diligence to do it the right way.

  89. Thanks Glenn – The Operator’s manual for the stove Page 9 ( seems to tell me that I just need:
    * 16″ of brick all around the throat
    * cement board on the inside front and ceiling 1″ and 2″ space respectively.
    * Cement board reflector horizontal just above the stove on the inside wall.

    No mention of special insulation or metal studs.

    Is there any reason I can’t get away with that?

  90. Hi Glenn – Dale confirmed my original understanding. As long as I have 16″ of masonry there is no need for extra wall protection.

    My foundation and beams are laid. Tomorrow the joists and floor go in. Almost ready to order that stove!

    My next question is about ventilation. If I am feeding the stove from the change room I am thinking I will vent the hot room back to the change room at the top of the internal wall (as well as the gap in the door) so the air circulates. Should I also have a vent going outdoors from the hot room?

    Also, what’s your take on venting the roof? With such a small footprint (12’x9′) typical building code would require about half a square foot in the ridge and half a square foot in the soffit. Does the hot room application change this at all?

    Thanks a million,

  91. Ernest:

    Great questions and fabulous timing. Post regarding ventilation is just published here. Venting the roof: yes to ridge and soffit vents.

    Venting hot room: Best move, my opinion is to treat the entire structure as a system. cool air through gap along hot room door and vents to the outside eye level. Then, vents into changing room down low. Danger with this is that your feet will be cold with air movement along the floor, so you may want to encourage air intake to feed your stove via either a raised floor (couple inches) or the intake vent out of traffic lane. But i like the gentle blowdryer effect. You’re going to like this post, it’s written by a pro, and it’ll help you.

  92. Hi Halley…

    Interesting. We helped install a Kuuma wood fired stove recently, Gerhard won the free Kuuma sauna stove give away prize. He took out his old sauna stove where the ash pan door doubles as the air intake/damper. Anyhow, I wish we had a video to share for you here, but basically he told me last week on the phone that after installing the Kuuma, with inside feed, he noticed an immediate “clarity” with lack of any particulates whatsoever in his hot room.

    He went on to explain how in the afternoon the sun shines in his hot room window. It used to be unsettlingly particulate noticeable. Not any more.

    This is important stuff. We sauna to be and feel healthy. The idea of any particulates and smoke in our hot room is a buzz kill at minimum, and nadda healthy for sure. So, this is Gerhard’s straight up experience. And I believe him. I’ve been taking sauna for 30 years and my hot rooms with internal feed Kuuma are entirely particulate/smoke free. I know this to be true.

    Here’s Gerhard talking about shaving. He’s a sensitive guy who is aware.

  93. I became interested in feeding the wood from the outside to avoid breathing in smoke. Although I love the smell of campfire I realize it isn’t healthy. What are your thoughts on this? Does feeding wood from the inside make for a Smokey space?

  94. Charlie:

    Don’t hate me, but after I read “used barrel sauna online..” my mind went into sledge hammer mode.

    Trying to retro this barrel for a Kuuma is no bueno. The clearances to non combustibles will never get you there. And it’d be like putting a jet engine into a 1776 Ford Pinto.

    You can try a homemade steel wood stove, and applaud this effort. With this retro, there is a chance that you can get good sweat going and also a chance that you may feel, sitting on the bench, like you’ve beaten the system and “that saunatimes guy is full of shit.”

    I see sauna options as steps to a ladder. As we go up the rungs, from light bulbs, to health clubs, to barrels, to marginalized toaster ovens, we find the level that best suits our passion and desires.

  95. This looks like a great resource! Thanks for taking time to answer these questions. I’ve already had many of mine answered just looking through here.

    Here’s my situation: I bought a used barrel sauna online, but didn’t realize how small it was until it arrived. It’s only 6 x 4, which is about 100 ft3. I want a wood stove though. I plan to open the back wall (in a way that is similar to the door in the front) to frame out a place for the stove. It looks like all these saunas only come with an electric heater. Woodfired is not an option if you purchase new. Is this a bad idea? I think outside feed is the right choice in this situation due to not being too concerned about heat loss and the size of the sauna. What is the smallest stove you’d recommend? You seem partial to the Kuuma. I like the small one you have on here. How about the Harvia m3? Or maybe something homemade with 1/4″ steel?

  96. if you are rocking with a wood fired pizza oven, you’ll fit right in with a wood fired sauna stove. A kick ass one, like the Kuuma.
    45 mins.
    stoked only every other hour.
    electric: as hot as you need it/want it, if sized right.
    i’m a huge fan of wood vs. electric, but whatever works.
    yes, you can build a sauna with both wood and electric, it’s a good move, given your corundum.
    cool down is critical, a room for it is dependent upon your climate.
    no go on eastern red cedar, too pungent.
    time to season t&g depends upon moisture content, but i’d say 2 wks.
    60 days to build you benches. and they’re expensive as cedar is expensive.

    hope this helps, Peter.

  97. 1st post. Thank you for any replies. I am 57 yo. I live in Costal VA. I am in the beginning phases of building my own sauna. The book will be of great help. I have harvested 3 cedar trees to mill to future specs. Mill. Kiln. Tongue n groove… Initial inner dimension intention is 7′ x 11′ (close to the Golden Ratio of 1.6). I LOVE fires. I love my wife. She will NEVER build a fire for herself (scares me as well…). She will sauna with her girl friends when I’m not around. I’m crazy-busy in my life. I do see myself trying to sauna 3 to 4 times per week. Heat shock proteins, detox, destress… jump in cold pool. ZZZZZ I see myself coming home and flipping a switch to preheat the sauna, and entering 30 minutes or so later. I have a home made pavilion with a wood burning pizza oven. Fires take time. Yes, stoking is great and therapeutic but…
    So, questions:
    #1: How much time does it take to get a fire to temp in such a space?
    #2: How often does it have to be stoked in 1 hour?
    #3: How hot can an electric with rocks heater get?
    #4: Given the above: what are other reasons to talk me out of electric?
    #5: Can I build a sauna which does both wood and electric?
    #6: How important is the cool down pre-room?
    #7: Is the fragrant Eastern Cedar a plus or minus?
    #8: How long of a tongue should the T & G boards be given expansion and compression?
    #9: If I wanted your business to make the benches, what is the current time delay to delivery?

    Thank you, Peter

  98. We are in the process of building a sauna and we are going to have it fed from the outside of the building, Not even through the changing room. Growing up in Vermont we had an old sauna that was fired from the inside of the hot room. I would like to avoid the mess that carrying firewood through the changing causes. We bought a 16X10 enclosed shed made with rough cut lumber. I am using cement blocks to encase the stove through the wall. This is a total internet search made sauna as I am not a builder. My big regret so far was deciding to go with 6″ cement block rather then 8″.

  99. Hi Chris,

    Yes I am familiar with the Harvia M3. The good news if your buy this one, is that it won’t hurt your back if you need to move it around, as a child can lift it into place (ie thin metal construction). If you’re using this stove regularly, begin saving up for a replacement as a couple few years is its lifespan. *source: several Finnish friends, including Sauna Sherpa, Kimmo, Jarmo, and a couple others I met last time I was in Finland.

  100. I am in the process of converting a small (5’x5′) shed into a Sauna. So far, the smallest wood-burning stove I can find is the Harvia M3. Are you aware of a smaller stove or do you think that this one will be fine..? Many thanks in advance, Chris

  101. Ostend We have a cabin in the woods of Leelanau Michigan w a nippa sauna stove that you feed from outside. The sauna is just under 10’x6’ in size and is built under the roof overhang sharing part of an exterior wall and porch overlooking a lake. We have 23 acres of mixed hardwood of mostly beech sugar maple and ash w some hornbeam mixed in. They all burn excellent but the ash is easiest to split. The hornbeam burns hottest and we only use it sparingly since I’ve read it can create stove-warping temps if used all alone.

  102. Hello I’m looking for design on line for a good build sauna that sits 2 to 4 persons
    Should I be using cedar and can I get away with a potbelly stove

  103. John,

    Please look up at the top and see “search bar” and type in the numbers “8 12”, then noodle around there.

    Yes – cedar.
    No – potbelly.

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