Hemlock vs. Cedar Saunas: Which Wood is Best for Your Sauna Experience?

When it comes to creating a relaxing and rejuvenating sauna experience, the choice of wood is a crucial factor to consider. Hemlock and cedar are two popular options for sauna construction, each with its own unique characteristics and benefits. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the differences between hemlock and cedar saunas, and help you make an informed decision on which wood is best suited for your sauna.

Choosing the Right Sauna Wood

Selecting the right sauna wood is crucial for ensuring the longevity, safety, and overall experience of your sauna. With sauna temperatures reaching up to 212 degrees Fahrenheit, it's essential to choose wood that can withstand such extreme heat without warping or cracking. Additionally, the selected wood should be comfortable to touch and free from emitting toxic vapors when heated to avoid potential health issues. The wood lining also plays a key role in creating a steamy environment by absorbing excess moisture, preventing condensation, and maintaining balanced indoor humidity. Furthermore, choosing wood with natural antibacterial properties, such as cedar or Nordic spruce, can help resist microbial growth in the sauna. Lastly, the wood should be able to support high weight without compromising its structural integrity, making it especially important for commercial or public saunas.

Hemlock Saunas

Hemlock, a type of wood known for its straight grain and uniform texture, is a popular choice for sauna construction. The light color and natural elegance of hemlock wood can add a touch of sophistication to any sauna room. In addition to its aesthetic appeal, hemlock is also highly durable and resistant to warping, making it an excellent choice for sauna enthusiasts seeking longevity and low maintenance.

One of the key advantages of hemlock saunas is their ability to retain heat efficiently. The dense nature of hemlock wood allows it to hold heat effectively, creating a consistent and comfortable sauna experience. Furthermore, hemlock is known for its minimal expansion and contraction in response to changes in temperature and humidity, making it a reliable choice for sauna construction.

Cedar Saunas

Cedar is another popular wood choice for saunas, prized for its distinctive aroma and natural resistance to decay and insects. The rich, reddish-brown hue of cedar wood adds warmth and character to any sauna space, creating a welcoming and inviting atmosphere. Beyond its visual appeal, cedar is renowned for its aromatic properties, which can enhance the sensory experience of sauna bathing.

In addition to its aromatic allure, cedar wood is naturally resistant to moisture, making it an ideal option for sauna construction. The natural oils present in cedar wood act as a protective barrier against moisture and humidity, reducing the risk of rot and decay. This inherent resistance to moisture makes cedar saunas a popular choice for outdoor and high-humidity environments.

hemlock vs cedar sauna

Comparing Hemlock and Cedar Saunas

To make an informed decision about the best wood for your sauna, it's important to consider the specific characteristics and benefits of hemlock and cedar saunas.

Heat Retention

Hemlock wood is known for its exceptional heat retention properties, ensuring that the sauna maintains a consistent and comfortable temperature. This makes hemlock saunas an excellent choice for those seeking a sauna experience with optimal heat distribution and retention. On the other hand, while cedar also offers good heat retention, it may not match the level of heat retention provided by hemlock. However, cedar's natural insulating properties make it an excellent choice for outdoor saunas or environments with fluctuating temperatures.

Aesthetic Appeal

Both hemlock and cedar saunas offer distinct visual appeal. Hemlock's light color and uniform texture exude a sense of natural elegance and sophistication, while cedar's rich, reddish-brown hue adds warmth and character to the sauna space. The choice between the two woods ultimately comes down to personal preference and the desired aesthetic for the sauna environment.


Cedar's aromatic properties are one of its most distinctive features. The natural oils present in cedar wood release a pleasant, soothing aroma when heated, enhancing the overall sensory experience of sauna bathing. For individuals who value the aromatic aspect of sauna bathing, cedar may be the preferred choice. Hemlock, while lacking the strong aromatic qualities of cedar, offers a more neutral and understated scent, which may be preferable for those seeking a more subtle fragrance in the sauna.

Durability and Maintenance

Both hemlock and cedar are durable woods that can withstand the high temperatures and humidity levels present in saunas. Hemlock's minimal expansion and contraction make it a reliable and low-maintenance option, requiring less frequent upkeep. Cedar, with its natural resistance to decay and insects, also offers excellent durability. However, cedar may require more regular maintenance to preserve its natural properties, such as resealing or refinishing over time.


The cost of hemlock and cedar saunas can vary depending on factors such as availability, sourcing, and quality of the wood. Generally, cedar is known to be slightly more expensive than hemlock due to its natural resistance to decay and insects, as well as its aromatic properties. Hemlock, while still a high-quality wood, may be a more cost-effective option for those working within a budget.

Environmental Considerations

When it comes to sustainability, both hemlock and cedar can be sourced responsibly from certified forests. It's important to ensure that the wood used for sauna construction is obtained from sustainable and ethical sources to minimize environmental impact.

cedar vs hemlock sauna

Making the Right Choice for Your Sauna

Ultimately, the choice between hemlock and cedar saunas depends on a variety of factors, including personal preferences, budget, environmental considerations, and intended use. For those seeking a classic, elegant look with excellent heat retention and minimal maintenance, hemlock saunas may be the ideal choice. Conversely, individuals who prioritize the aromatic qualities of wood, natural resistance to moisture, and a rich, warm aesthetic may find cedar saunas to be more suitable for their needs.

It's important to consider the specific requirements and conditions of the sauna space when making this decision. For example, if the sauna will be located in an outdoor or high-humidity environment, cedar's natural resistance to moisture and insects may make it the more practical choice. Conversely, for indoor saunas where heat retention and minimal maintenance are top priorities, hemlock may be the preferred option. 

When investing in a sauna, it's advisable to consult with experienced sauna builders or suppliers who can provide expert guidance on the best wood choice based on individual needs and preferences. Additionally, visiting showrooms or model saunas constructed from hemlock and cedar can provide valuable insight into the visual and sensory experience offered by each wood type.

In conclusion, both hemlock and cedar saunas offer unique benefits and characteristics that cater to different preferences and requirements. Whether you prioritize heat retention, aesthetic appeal, aromatic qualities, durability, or environmental considerations, the decision between hemlock and cedar saunas should be carefully weighed based on individual needs and preferences. By considering the specific attributes of each wood type and how they align with your desired sauna experience, you can make an informed decision that enhances your overall enjoyment and relaxation in the sauna.

In the end, regardless of whether you choose hemlock or cedar for your sauna, the most important factor is to create a space that promotes relaxation, rejuvenation, and well-being. With the right wood choice and attention to detail, your sauna can become a cherished retreat that provides a multitude of physical and mental health benefits for years to come.

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