Best Outdoor Saunas for Your Backyard – 2023
Jules Walters • Published: Sept 19, 2023
As our lives become more fast-paced and digitally inclined, the need to disconnect and unwind has never been greater. Outdoor saunas can be the perfect retreat, particularly if you can have one in the privacy of your own yard. Beyond the tranquility and relaxation, both traditional Finnish saunas and modern electric saunas are also gaining increasing recognition of their potential health benefits.
Best 7 Outdoor Saunas for Home: 4 Traditional Saunas & 3 Infrared Saunas (2023)
Here, I’ve reviewed my 7 best outdoor saunas for your home. You’ll find lots to choose from, including traditional saunas, both steam and electric, and some infrared spectrum ones too.
Enjoy choosing your perfect retreat from the daily hustle and bustle.
JULES’ PICKS – Best 4 Traditional Outdoor Saunas (2023)
Redwood Outdoors Thermowood Garden Sauna & Plunge Tub ‘Fire & Ice’
While not the cheapest model in this selection, Redwood Outdoors’ Fire & Ice sauna – for up to 8 people – won’t fail to impress.
Complementing the classic cabin design, the matching cold plunge tub – with an option to upgrade to a dual heater and chiller – offers the whole sauna experience in your own backyard.
There are several high-quality details that makes this a frontrunner for a best barrel sauna badge. Eye-catching details include the outdoor seating and sleek glass door. Both add to the aesthetic and practical appeal of the standard barrel sauna, in this version marketed by Renu Therapy.
The standard 4.5kW heater and hot stones mean you can use this as a dry or steam sauna. Attractive upgrades include a remote-controlled heater and optional rear view window.
This imposing barrel sauna for up to 6 people in Canadian red cedar is Redwood Outdoor’s best seller.
If you relish controlling the heater remotely, from home, office, or the ski slopes, be sure to order it from the off, as the manual heater can’t be upgraded. And, for peace of mind in the wet, opt for the roof shingles too.
Variations on this barrel sauna for up to 8 occupants, and in thermowood rather than cedar, are also available from the same supplier.
Almost Heaven Saunas, with their mountain-based factory in West Virginia, take pride in being one of the few sauna manufacturers based in the United States. They have solid corporate roots too, as they’re owned by Finland’s Harvia Group; the world’s biggest manufacturer of sauna heaters.
If you live in an area with a lot of rainfall, the optional rain cover is a must, as some of the customer reviews confirm. (Don’t expect the barrel sauna alone to be entirely watertight in wet weather.)
Outdoor Infrared Saunas
This is a great option if you prefer to take your saunas alone, and if you’re short on space – and budget.
You can also get easy payment terms.
One drawback is the limited warranty. Kisrais is not the only one you that asks you to pay extra for 5 years cover against defects.
Clearlight claim a leading edge among infrared sauna manufacturers, with their contemporary design and “groundbreaking innovation”. It does comes with a full-spectrum heating system, digital controls you can operate remotely – and it is a sleek-looking cabin.
Most of the finishing features, that often come as optional extras with other brands, are all-inclusive. And you can upgrade to a 5-person version of this sauna for only about 15% more on the price.
Sun Home claim this is the only outdoor infrared sauna in the world equipped with 10 full-spectrum heaters (and 5 far infrared) to keep your sessions hot all year around. It’s garnered great customer reviews, and been named best outdoor sauna in the world by Sports Illustrated and the New York Post.
My one quibble with Sun Home: they reckon that, with an estimated operational life of 30,000 hours, the infrared heaters should last for over 100 years with daily use. Given that, I think they could reasonably offer a longer warranty than 6 years!
Outdoor Sauna Kit
Here are some of the most popular outdoor sauna accessories. Some of these are offered as optional extra features with the saunas detailed above. Others, you’ll need to source elsewhere.
- Thermometer and hygrometer: for monitoring internal temperature and humidity
- Bucket and ladle: for pouring water over the hot stones in steam saunas
- Backrest and seat cushions: good for relaxation and comfort during longer sauna sessions
- Robes and towels: ideally made from absorbent, quick-drying materials
- Fragrances: natural oils or sauna scents to add an aromatherapy dimension
- Wifi-enabled entertainment system
- Cold plunge tub; towel rack; and outdoor shower
Outdoor Saunas – Things to Consider Before You Buy
Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing the best outdoor sauna for you.
Size and Space
Look at what space you have to house an outdoor sauna and select one that fits comfortably within the space. Consider the dimensions & shape, including the height, to get the best use of space. And decide at the outset what type of sauna you want; and whether an outdoor sauna is best for you, or an indoor sauna for your home.
Materials and Durability
Look for saunas made from high-quality materials that can withstand outdoor elements, like rain, snow, and UV rays. Cedar is a popular choice, as it’s one of the most resistant woods to rot, decay, and insect damage.
The barrel sauna is popular too with a shape and construction well suited to the rigors of the changing seasons; particularly to the fall and winter challenges of rain, hail and snowfall.
Few outdoor models, though, are 100% waterproof without an additional protective layer over the wood panelling. This is often obtained though an upgrade or optional extra; typically a removable rain cover, or an additional felt or shingle layer applied to the roof.
Decide which heating system is right for you. Traditional saunas typically use a wood-burning stove, while an electric heater is more common in modern saunas.
So, consider the heating capabilities, energy efficiency, and ease of use of each option.
Consider the overall design and aesthetics of the sauna to ensure it complements your backyard and style preferences. That could include sauna features such as door style, window options and exterior finishes.
Warranty and Support
Bear in mind the warranty offered by the manufacturer or reseller.
You will see from the saunas I have chosen here that the length and scope of warranties, particularly on the heaters and the sauna cabins, does vary.
Decide on your comfortable budget range at the outset, and compare saunas within that range. You will need to consider running costs too, including maintenance and operating expenses.
Reviews and Recommendations
Take a moment to read the reviews from customers who have already bought the saunas you’re considering. I have done that for you for the saunas listed here; but you could also ask friends and family what they think, or talk to the manufacturers, before deciding on the best outdoor sauna for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you need a permit for an outdoor sauna?
Regulations on outdoor saunas for the home vary, depending on your state, county or city.
For peace of mind, you can always check with your local building or zoning department. Usually, though, structures of up to 120 square feet don’t require permits in the United States; and that’s ample space for the saunas I’ve chosen here.
But, beware of issues with your neighbor if you place your sauna right up against the property line or a shared access route!
How much does an outdoor sauna cost?
Prices range widely, so this comes largely down to taste – and how much you want to spend.
The most popular, prefabricated options for home assembly range from around US $2,000 to $12,000. A bespoke outdoor sauna built entirely to your specifications, and with no DIY assembly, will inevitably cost more.
Are outdoor saunas expensive to run?
The cost of running an outdoor sauna varies depending on several factors, such as its size, adequacy of of insulation, type of heating system (electric, gas or wood), local utility rates, and how often you use it.
As of 2023, costs of running a 6ft-by-4ft outdoor sauna with a 6kW heater would typically be anywhere in the region of $20 to $50 a month in the United States, or around $240 to $600 a year. Bear in mind that utility rates vary widely from area to another, and that keeping your sauna at the perfect temperature in winter months will cost more.
If you want to calculate this more accurately: for an electric outdoor sauna, multiply your heater’s wattage (in kilowatts) by the number of days a year you expect to use the sauna, by the average length of your sauna sessions, by your current price per kilowatt hour of electricity.
For example: 6kW x 260 days (ie: 5 days p/w) x 1-hour sessions x 15 cents per kW-hr = $234 p/a.
Do outdoor saunas need insulation?
If you’re choosing a prefabricated model for outdoors, the answer is generally no, it won’t need additional insulation, as the natural stresses of outdoor use will have been allowed for in its design and manufacture.
Barrel saunas, for example, are designed to retain their heat without insulation; principally through the circular barrel shape and close fitting planks.
Do outdoor saunas add value to your home?
Yes. A well installed, high-quality outdoor sauna will increase your property value, if you maintain it well and you’re happy to leave it behind when you sell.
Not every buyer will value your outdoor sauna the same but, for people with busy lifestyles, the relaxation and health benefits it offers will definitely make your home stand out. If it’s well designed and integrated into the environment, an outdoor sauna will also add to your home’s curb appeal, and the overall aesthetic appeal of the property.
Can you use an outdoor sauna in the winter?
Yes! You can certainly use an outdoor sauna in the winter. In fact, many people enjoy using saunas during winter months for a cold weather experience that can both relax and invigorate.
Can you build your own outdoor sauna?
Absolutely. You only need to be moderately good at DIY to build your own outdoor sauna. You may need to hire professionals, though, if you need a concrete slab laid for the sauna to stand on, or to wire in a heater.
If you’re on a tight budget, or you’re just happy to take on the DIY challenge, the rest of the build is relatively easy; and easier still if you buy your outdoor sauna as a prefabricated kit for home assembly, like most of the ones I’ve listed here.
Why are outdoor saunas typically made of wood?
Saunas are made of wood for a few reasons, including its aesthetic appeal as a beautiful, natural product. Perhaps the biggest consideration, though, is the durability of particular types of wood, and their resistance both to moisture and heat.