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An Easy Guide to Wood Burning Sauna Stoves

An Easy Guide To Wood Burning Sauna Stoves

If you enjoy traditional sauna experiences, especially outdoor saunas, you simply must get yourself a sauna wood stove.

A wood-burning sauna stove will provide convection heat that’ll dial the room temperature up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. That’ll get you that high heat you like.

It’ll be easy to use with your outdoor saunas because you’re not restricted to placing the sauna near an electric source. You can place it in the garden, overlooking a stream, or any place else, get a fire going in your stove, and enjoy the deep heat.

However, just telling you to get a wood-burning sauna stove may be oversimplifying it.

To get a stove that makes it easy for you, you must consider the sauna size and the durability of the stove’s material. Getting the proper sauna wood stove for your sauna size will make it easy to achieve high and consistent heat.

Additionally, a great sauna experience depends on the quality of the firewood and your skills at lighting a fire. Before we get into the nitty-gritty, here’s a showcase of our top wood-burning sauna stoves.

Our Top Choices for Wood-Burning Sauna Stoves

#1 Best for Small Saunas #2 Best for Medium Sized Saunas #3 Best for Large Saunas
Harvia M3 HUUM HIVE Wood Narvi Wood

Harvia M3 Wood-Burning Sauna Stove product image

HUUM HIVE Wood Wood-Burning Sauna Stove product image

Narvi Wood-Burning Sauna Stove product image

  • Ideal for small barrel saunas
  • Great for cost-conscious sauna lovers
  • Tall, slim design that takes up less space
  • Stones in a cage look awesomely cool!
  • Firebox extension for easier wood loading outside the sauna
  • Long 5-year warranty
  • Fire chamber design ensures excellent wood-burning efficiency
  • Rear and top chimney connections are available

Why Do We Love Wood-Burning Sauna Stoves

Using a wood-burning stove in your sauna is for people who appreciate the entire sensory experience.

You know what we’re talking about; You gather the wood, throw in some aromatic pieces, light the fire, sit back, and enjoy an easy evening.

There’s the crackle of the fire, then its soothing yellow or orange glow (which you can watch through the stove’s firebox), the temperature slowly rising and with it, amplified scents from the burning wood.

Nothing, not even modern units can beat the cozy, immersive experience of a wood-burning sauna stove.

This is even more so because of the ease of using sauna wood stoves in remote areas where there’s no electricity.

But that’s just one facet: Wood-burning sauna stoves deliver on every front.

Let’s talk heat.

One thing that’s synonymous with traditional sauna experiences is high heat. And it doesn’t get better than a wood-burning sauna stove.

Unlike electric heaters, wood-burning sauna stoves create a more intense heat, reaching as high as 210 degrees Fahrenheit. If you crave a high heat to maximize health benefits, these stoves are right up your alley.

In this article, we are going to take a closer look at some of our top wood-burning sauna stoves and why you would choose one over another as well as a few ideas on how to get the most out of your traditional sauna experience.

These are the key takeaways from this article:

  1. You’ll get to know the best wood-burning sauna stove to serve your small, medium, or large-capacity sauna
  2. We’ll break down how to use your sauna stove to ensure it continuously serves you well
  3. You’ll learn reasons why sauna wood stoves are easy to use including the ability to function in areas without electricity and control temperature by opening and closing the firebox chamber
  4. You’ll find out how to choose the best wood, depending on your desired experience
  5. We’ll list the types of wood to stay away from so your sauna sessions are always safe

#1: Harvia M3 Wood-Burning Sauna Stove

Best for small saunas with less floor space

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Works great, cranks my 6x6 sauna up to 190 with ease!! - Kevin Deckard, Verified Buyer, May 2023

The Harvia M3 Wood Burning Sauna Stove is great for smaller outdoor saunas (up to 460 cubic feet), as it only covers 1.89 square feet of floor space.

Some more impressive features of this sauna stove include:

  • A tempered glass window that easily highlights the crackling fire
  • Stainless steel material with a cast iron door which adds a rustic touch. This is an investment that’ll last you a long time
  • A soot opening and ash box which make cleaning quite easy
  • Adjustable legs so you can easily elevate the stove and clean the ash box without straining and mount the stove firmly to the sauna floor
  • A stone capacity of 66 lbs which enables the heater to emit heat evenly and consistently

The even heat distribution is even more efficient because of the stainless steel construction of the unit.

Plus, the steel and graphite black paint ensure the heater’s durability in harsh sauna conditions.

Harvia M3 Wood-Burning Sauna Stove product image

#2: HUUM HIVE Wood Wood-Burning Sauna Stove

Best for medium-sized saunas

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If anyone is looking for an awesome product… consider the HUUM sauna stoves and stones! I purchased two stoves from Sun Valley and everyone there was great to work with! These HUUM stove and rock combinations make for super smooth steam and with the mass of rocks, your sauna box does not cool down like other stoves…I have to say that the HUUM setup I have now is hands down the best yet! - Grant McDonald, Verified Buyer, USA

HUUM offers an amazing wood-burning sauna stove—the HIVE Wood. The smallest one is slightly larger than the Harvia M3, occupying only 2.23 square feet of sauna floor space. However, it can still be used in saunas of up to 460 cubic feet.

You can get this sauna heater in two other sizes:

  • A 17 kW heater of dimensions 22" L x 23.25" W x 23.25" H. It occupies a footprint 3.55 square feet
  • A 17kW heater of dimensions 22" L x 29.125" W x 29.125" H. This one occupies a footprint of 4.45 square feet

Though the second one occupies more footprint, both of these sauna heaters can be used in saunas between 280 and 565 cubic feet.

Featuring a simple, elegant "basket" design, the HIVE wood-burning sauna stove is made up of a large stainless steel basket (kind of like a cage) that holds between 200 and 286 pounds of stones.

Once the stones are hot, the sauna can easily heat up to over 200 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s the sweet spot.

What’s more, it’s easy for the stones to hold the heat for some time, elevating your experience even more. For one, you can easily maintain the desired heat and steam in your sauna longer, and you can enjoy consistent temperature throughout the session.

Let’s talk about the practicality of its design.

It allows for just a little wood to be used during a sauna session. Not only is that great for the environment, but it also means you’ll spend less of your sauna session refilling the stove and more enjoying the heat.

For traditionalists, the wood-burning HIVE will be a solid alternative to the HUUM electric sauna heaters, which are Red Dot Award-winners, and perhaps a more modern alternative to the wood-burning models like the HIVE that we really love.

One add-on that is well worth considering is the external firebox extension which allows more convenient wood loading from outside the sauna.

By positioning the firebox extension outside the sauna, you can just stack your chopped wood next to it. So you won’t need to have a wood pile taking up space inside your sauna or risk getting small pieces of wood on the floor of your sauna.

HUUM HIVE Wood Wood-Burning Sauna Stove product image

#3: The Narvi NC Wood-Burning Sauna Stove

Best for large saunas

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I chose this website to order our sauna stove after some research and this site was the cheapest. The shipping was surprisingly quick...I would definitely order from here again! - Hanna, Verified Buyer, USA

The Narvi NC Wood-Burning Sauna Stove is a traditional stove from one of the oldest sauna companies in Finland.

Narvi makes some of the highest-quality wood-burning sauna stoves on the market. As such, the Narvi NC wood-burning sauna stoves are regarded as a beefier version of the Harvia M3, making them a great option for larger saunas.

The Narvi NC 20 is perfect for saunas occupying 350-700 cubic feet while the Narvi NC 24 best serves sauna room sizes of 350-850 cubic feet.

Here are some of the reasons that make this sauna stove easy to use:

  • No matter which one you choose, the heater features a tempered glass window that creates a beautiful natural fire atmosphere in your sauna. Watching the embers light up will provide an all-round traditional sauna experience
  • You can easily check the fire without opening the door, so you won’t lose heat
  • The glass traps heat inside the firebox which maintains a consistent temperature

Right about now you’re probably wondering, “What about the heat?”

The Narvi NC’s steel casing retains heat to provide even and continuous temperatures throughout the sauna. So you enjoy a lasting heat intensity which is further ensured by the solid 100 lbs capacity for the stones.

Furthermore, you can easily control the temperature in the sauna by closing and opening the firebox door. If you want more heat, simply open the stove door to let more air in, and close the door to reduce wood-burning.

You can get your Narvi wood-burning stove in black or shiny stainless steel.

Saunas from this incredible company are a relative newcomer to the USA market and they are sure to become the leaders in sauna wood stoves (among other sauna products) as they are back in Finland.

While the warranty isn’t as long as the HIVE Wood, Narvi still offer a generous 2-year money-back guarantee.

Narvi Wood-Burning Sauna Stove product image

Best Wood-Burning Sauna Stoves Compared

Let's take a look at how these three titans of the wood-burning sauna stove world compare to each other, and which could be best for your cozy retreat.

Harvia M3 Wood-Burning Sauna Stove


HUUM HIVE Wood Wood-Burning Sauna Stove

Narvi Wood-Burning Sauna Stove

Sauna Size (In Cubic Feet) 460 cubic feet 565 cubic feet 847 cubic feet
Number Of People Up to 6 Up to 7 Up to 10
Casing Material Graphite black stainless steel Brushed stainless steel for a sleek look Black-painted stainless steel
Price From $761 From $1,678 From $1,795

Sun Valley Saunas has 100+ 5-star reviews on Trustpilot. Find out why other buyers love our traditional wood-fired sauna stoves.

How to Use Your Wood-Burning Sauna Stove

At their core, wood-burning sauna stoves are pretty self-explanatory to use. You put wood in the firebox, you light it on fire, wait around for 45 minutes, and you've got yourself a nice, hot sauna.

While the basics are pretty simple, some pro tips can help get your sauna running nice and hot every time.

  1. Always start with a clean firebox. Pull the ashtray out of the firebox, empty it, and clean it before every use. This will help keep the logs you put into the firebox burning cleanly.
  2. Firewood. Load your logs into the firebox. For the best outcome, use dry firewood as it burns cleanly. I like to use a version of the upside-down fire method where I place the largest logs on the bottom and the smallest on top. I also add very small fire starters, paper, and kindling at the very top. As the kindling and paper burn they trickle down and get the larger pieces going.
  3. Wait! Once you have your fire going in your wood-burning sauna stove, let it do its thing for 45 minutes to an hour, with the damper open. This should be enough time for the wood to burn nice and hot, and for your coals to form. At this time you can throw another log on the coals if need be, but your sauna should be around 150 to 175 degrees Fahrenheit by this point.
  4. Damper Closed. Since your fire will be burning hot, you can experiment with the damper on your wood-burning sauna stove. Closing the damper will let less oxygen into the firebox and increase the temperature in the firebox.

A few other tips to make sure the temperature is consistent:

  • Keeping the size of your wood pieces roughly the same gives a predictable burn rate
  • Keep the door to the firebox closed as much as possible
  • Use the air intakes to adjust the airflow to your fire

Finally, when you're done with your sauna and the firebox has cooled down, rinse and repeat by cleaning out your firebox for the next sauna session.

Troubleshooting Issues in Your Wood Burning Sauna Stove for the Best Experience

If you’re having issues with the fire quality or sauna experience, troubleshooting is pretty easy.

For instance, if there’s smoke getting into the sauna, it may mean there’s an obstruction in the chimney.

Or if you’re having challenges maintaining a fire, maybe there isn’t enough air. This can be easily remedied by opening the damper. And if it isn’t, you can try other quality woods.

Some other issues with quick solutions include:

  • Getting insufficient heat: Check that the damper is open; good air quality will light a good quality fire and ensure the wood is loaded properly.
  • Overheating: Control the heat intensity by opening and closing the damper. When the damper is open, there’s more air and a higher heat intensity. Close the damper and you can lower the temperature.

To have the best experience, follow the manufacturer’s guide to installing and operating your stove.

Quick Tip: Seasoned or kiln-dried firewood plus kindling are a must to ensure a clean burn and avoid smoke. You want a sauna, not a smoker!

The Best Wood for a Wood-Burning Sauna Stove

Not all wood is created equally, and that is certainly true when we're talking about heating up your wood-fired sauna. Let's first talk about the quality of the wood you should look for and then the types of wood that best fit that criteria.

  • Moisture content - When you're looking for wood that burns efficiently, you can’t go wrong with choosing those with a moisture content of 15% to 20%.
  • Energy efficiency - Some wood contains more burnable energy than others and in general, hardwoods are a better option for this than softwoods. For example, Birch and Oak are great.
  • Resin content - Resin tends to smoke so if your wood has a lot of it, it can be a problem for use in a sauna stove.
  • Environmental sustainability - Locally sourced wood from regrowth forests is a better choice.
  • Cost - Some woods are more expensive than others. A good compromise between cost and burn quality is Birch or Fir.

All hardwoods, some of the woods we like to use in our best wood-burning sauna stoves are:

  1. Birch - Smells great and burns really hot. The downside is that it can burn quickly.
  2. Oak - Everyone loves oak. A hardwood that burns long and hot, you can't go wrong with oak in your sauna stove.
  3. Apple Wood - Producing very little smoke, Apple Wood burns long and hot. The downside is that it's not easily available, but if you can find it it's a great option to use in your sauna stove.
  4. Maple - Easy to find, this is another hardwood that burns long and hot. An easy choice for your wood-burning sauna stove.

These are also the options I'd go with if I were looking to heat a wood-fired hot tub too. I’ve summarized each of their qualities in the table below.

Wood Type Birch Oak Apple Wood Maple
Moisture Content 15% 18% 12% 16%
Energy Efficiency High High High High
Resin Content Moderate Low Very Low Low
Environmental Sustainability Moderate Moderate High High
Cost Moderate High High Moderate

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is the best wood sauna stove for a small sauna?

For people with saunas that have an interior space of up to 460 cubic feet, the Harvia M3 Wood Burning Sauna Stove is the best choice. That includes barrel saunas.

Which is the best wood sauna stove for a medium sauna?

The HUUM HIVE Wood is a great option for medium-sized saunas up to 565 cubic feet that can host up to 7 people.

Which is the best wood sauna stove for a large sauna?

You should get the Narvi NC Wood-Burning Sauna Stove to help you heat a large capacity sauna of up to 847 cubic feet.

Which is the best wood sauna stove for an outdoor sauna?

Depending on the size of your sauna, both the Harvia M3 and the HIVE Wood are ideal for small and medium-capacity outdoor saunas, respectively.

How long does a wood sauna stove last?

Typically wood sauna stoves have a warranty of around 1-5 years depending on the manufacturer you choose.

Of our featured options, the HUUM HIVE Wood has the longest warranty of 5 years, while the Harvia M3 and Narvi NC each have a warranty period of 2 years.

What is the best wood to burn in a sauna stove?

We recommend seasoned or kiln-dried oak for burning in your sauna stove as it’s known to be more energy efficient than most other hardwoods. It also has moderate moisture content and low resin content. So it’ll burn hotter for longer.

Is it safe to use any wood in your sauna stove?

No, it isn’t. Some woods, especially those that have undergone chemical processes can release those chemicals into the air when burned.

These chemicals can cause irritation and even cancer.

On the other hand, softwoods may not burn well due to their high moisture content. That can lead to creosote buildup in your stove’s chimney, which can cause various health problems including skin irritation and respiratory issues.

How far should a sauna wood stove be from the wall?

Leave a minimum of 48 inches in front of your wood-fired sauna, then 8 inches on each side, and 8 inches to the fire shield. If in doubt, add a few more inches, but don't have less space than we’ve just advised.

When you receive your sauna wood stove, check the instructions in the box. Your specific model will have accurate information about the required clearance distances. Safety first.

Embrace Tradition With a Sauna Wood Stove!

Sauna wood stoves are best suited to people who want to embrace the classic essence of the traditional sauna experience as it has been practiced for thousands of years.

The rich smell of a well-built fire with the pulsating intense heat and steam of a quality sauna is difficult to replicate with modern electric or infrared saunas.

Numerous reasons make wood-burning saunas easy to use including; you can use them in areas without electricity, easily control the heat by closing or opening the firebox, and install it easily as you don’t require help from an electrician.

While our favorite three selections are above, you might like to also take a look at our best wood-burning sauna stoves as there are a lot of options.

With an A- BBB rating since 2021, join over a hundred buyers and explore all our best-selling sauna wood stoves.

It takes more effort to run a wood-burning sauna, but the payoff is worth it in every possible way. Enjoy and sauna on!

Author's Note: Updated on 15th December, 2023 with a helpful comparison table and other product features. Pointed readers to other relevant pages and expanded the information about the best wood to burn in a sauna stove. Added a relevant FAQ section based on customer questions.


Wes McMahon

Wes McMahon, is the founder of Sun Valley Saunas and a seasoned ski town sauna enthusiast. In early 2021, Wes transitioned from being an attorney and sauna aficionado in Sun Valley, Idaho, to founding Sun Valley Saunas. His deep appreciation for the Finnish sauna tradition has helped him understand and select high-quality, hand-built saunas for customers throughout North America. Combined with his understanding of the therapeutic and communal benefits of sauna culture, he advocates for the wellness practices that saunas can bring to your overall health. Got questions? Get in touch by calling 1-855-963-5665 or info@sunvalleysaunas.com


Important: The information provided in our articles about saunas and related topics is intended for general informational and educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult your healthcare practitioner before using saunas, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions or are pregnant. Individual health needs vary, and what benefits one person may not be suitable for another.

 

2 comments

  • Woodburning sauna heaters. For 8×8 feet

    Lembit
  • Where can these stoves be purchased in Canada?

    Nathan Nicholson

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