Saunas have long been cherished for their ability to soothe the soul and invigorate the body. But within these steamy sanctuaries, two distinct styles reign supreme: barrel saunas and traditional saunas. While both promise a blissful retreat from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, they do so in markedly different ways.

Both traditional and barrel saunas are typically made from the same material. Barrel saunas provide a more even temperature, better air circulation, and easier installation. Traditional saunas have a more contemporary look and allow users to sit at various levels within the sauna.

Now, you may be wondering if you should go for the barrel style or stick with a more traditional look. Before you slap down your cash, it’s essential to understand the differences that set these two options apart.

Let’s dig into the unique characteristics of barrel saunas and traditional saunas, exploring everything from their design and construction to their heating methods. After that, you can decide if you’re “Team Barrel Sauna” or “Team Traditional Sauna”.

4M finnish pine barrel sauna-

Traditional Saunas

Traditional saunas originate from Finland. Dating back thousands of years, these steamy retreats were originally humble structures built into the ground or dug into hillsides, utilizing stones and logs for insulation. The word “sauna” itself comes from Finnish.

The components and construction of traditional saunas

Have a careful look at the walls of a traditional sauna and you will see it may be built from one of three varieties of wood:

  • Cedar
  • Spruce
  • Pine

These provide an aromatic and aesthetic appeal to the sauna.

The walls are often built with interlocking logs or tongue-and-groove panels, providing insulation and beauty. The benches are constructed from the same wood and offer seating at varying heights, allowing you to choose if you want to sit near the heat source or not.

Heating and controlling the temperature

The heating element is the heart of the sauna experience. If you want to have a traditional and more authentic feel in the sauna, then go with a wood-burning stove.

Purists may groan, but in modern times electric heaters are becoming a more common heat source. Such heaters offer convenience without sacrificing authenticity.

To control the temperature simply adjust the intensity of the heater. Temperature control is achieved through adjusting the intensity of the heat source, with temperatures typically ranging from 70 to 100°C (160 to 210°F).

Do you want more humidity? Well, okay…You can increase humidity levels by pouring water onto the rocks. Watch the steam and humidity rise!

Roll out the Barrel Sauna

Imagine yourself relaxing in a snug, steamy wooden barrel – that’s the essence of a barrel sauna.

Like their traditional, square counterparts, barrel saunas also originate from Nordic countries, such as Finland and Sweden,

The cylindrical shape of the barrel sauna not only enhances its visual appeal but also contributes to its efficient heating and insulation properties.

The unique design and construction materials

Barrel saunas are made with the same wood that is used to build traditional saunas. The round design of the barrel sauna maximizes space and enhances heat distribution.

Having curved walls promotes natural air circulation, ensuring an even and comfortable heat throughout the inside. That means everyone in the sauna is getting the same level of warmth. Yep, barrel saunas love to be fair to all users.

Heating and Temperature Regulation

You will find that the options for heating a barrel sauna are the same as a traditional sauna. That is, you can select either a wood-burning stove or an electric one.

Also, temperature regulation in barrel saunas is achieved by adjusting the intensity of the heat source, just like it is with traditional saunas.

Additionally, barrel saunas are equipped with ventilation systems to ensure proper air circulation and humidity levels, enhancing the overall sauna experience.

outdoor traditional sauna room

Contrasting barrel saunas with traditional saunas

Though both types of saunas offer the same health and therapeutic benefits, it’s a matter of personal preference as to what style you want.

Let’s run you through the main differences

Shape and design aesthetics

As we mentioned, barrel saunas have a distinctive cylindrical shape, reminiscent of a wooden barrel, whereas traditional saunas typically have rectangular or square structures.

If you want to go for a more rustic charm, then opt for the rounded barrel sauna. Think of those wooden barrels you have seen on farms and how they made you feel.

Traditional saunas have a more contemporary look that screams out “I’m a sauna!”

Installation Requirements and Space Considerations

Barrel saunas are renowned for their space-saving design and provide a smaller footprint compared to traditional saunas. If you have a property where space is tight or installation is tricky then a barrel sauna is an ideal choice.

Additionally, barrel saunas can be placed outside which allows you to be more creative with where you would like to position your sauna.

Traditional saunas are better for indoor placement. So, go with this type if the idea of heading outside to your sauna doesn’t appeal to you.

Heating Efficiency and Heat Retention

Both barrel saunas and traditional saunas are designed to retain heat effectively. However, the curved walls of barrel saunas promote natural air circulation, enhancing heat distribution and efficiency.

Traditional saunas may require additional insulation measures to achieve comparable thermal performance. That’s an added cost for you to contemplate.

A lot of folks like barrel saunas because they’re super efficient, mainly because they’re small and heat up fast. Traditional saunas, on the other hand, can use more energy because they’re bigger and lose heat more easily, especially if they’re not well-insulated.

User Experience and Comfort

In barrel saunas, you’ll usually find benches lining the curved walls, making the most of the space and letting lots of people relax comfortably.

Regular saunas might give you more options for seating, like benches against the walls or in different tiers for different heat levels.

So, both barrel saunas and traditional saunas are all about keeping the air flowing smoothly and making sure it’s not too dry or too damp in there for a cozy sauna vibe.

Barrel saunas use their curved walls to help with airflow, while traditional ones might use ventilation systems to keep the humidity just right. But hey, in the end, it’s all about what feels good to you and the atmosphere you’re going for in your sauna time.

So, whether you’re team barrel or team traditional, just kick back, relax, and let the sauna magic do its thing!


Barrel saunas and traditional saunas each bring their flavor to the sauna scene. Barrel saunas rock that rustic vibe with their cozy, efficient design, perfect for setting up in your backyard.

Meanwhile, traditional saunas are all about that classic elegance, offering plenty of space and customization options for a truly immersive sauna session.

Whether you love the curves of a barrel sauna or the timeless appeal of a traditional one, they both promise to wrap you up in warmth and relaxation, leaving you feeling like a brand-new human when you step out.

It’s only a matter of which one that appeals to you the most.

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Welcome to our blog! I’m Sylvia Wang, your guide to saunas, ice plunge tubs, hot tubs, and accessories. With years of industry experience, I share valuable insights to enhance your relaxation. From manufacturing in China, we offer expertise in relaxation science, health benefits, and maintenance tips. Let’s relax together!