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Barrel Sauna vs Square Sauna – Buyer’s Guide

by Max
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Barrel Sauna vs Square Sauna - Buyer's Guide

In today’s world of personal and family sauna solutions, there are two new major players who have made big moves. First, there are barrel saunas which have quickly become one of the hottest sauna choices of the decade for their slick look and easy assembly. Next, in comes the square sauna. Where the barrel sauna appeals to a classic return to form, the square sauna has an unmistakable modern look that is quick to impress. It’s natural to be caught between these two sauna styles when choosing a new sauna for your home. When it comes to price and ease of assembly, these two styles are hard to beat. Our goal today is to cover the key differences between a barrel sauna and a square sauna. Then, after knowing what really separates these two types of saunas, we can then get into the benefits of a barrel sauna and the benefits of a square sauna. Essentially, by the end of this article, you should be able to say with certainty which style of sauna better suits your needs and would give you the best experience.

What is a Barrel Sauna?

First, what exactly makes a barrel sauna a barrel sauna? The most obvious fact that makes barrel saunas distinct is, of course, their unique shape. Barrel saunas look like barrels lying on their side. While this type of sauna can vary in size quite widely, the most common barrel saunas tend to be about seven feet long by seven feet tall. Sun Home Saunas offers a great barrel sauna that shows off just about everything that a sauna like this is capable of. A sauna like this can often fit up to three people in the main chamber. Barrel saunas can be equipped with either a full electric stove or a classic wood stove. The key difference is that it is generally not safe to add a classic wood stove to your barrel sauna if the sauna is going to be installed inside. Unless you have extremely good ventilation or are willing to install an expensive filtration system along with your barrel sauna, it’s often smarter to work with an electric stove for indoor barrels. So, functionally, a barrel sauna describes only the wooden outside of the sauna into which you can install any number of stoves. Further, it is more than possible to create a full infrared sauna set up inside a barrel sauna.

What is a Square Sauna?

A square sauna is even easier to explain: a square sauna is a sauna that looks like a square! Square saunas are almost never actual squares but more realistically longer than they are wide. Square saunas can by all means be the same size as barrel saunas but there are actually generally more square saunas on the larger size. The key reason for this is that square saunas are generally built on a real foundation which means that they can support more weight and therefore be a bit bigger. Square saunas are also sometimes called cabin saunas because especially large ones can look fairly similar to a classic log cabin with a modern twist. Here is a great example of a well-built square sauna from Sun Home Saunas. The corners of square saunas are often rounded off and the majority of square sauna kits will support the base of the square with perpendicular wooden slats.

Benefits of a Barrel Sauna

Now that we have a good handle on what each style of sauna really comprises, let’s talk further about why exactly someone may come to prefer a barrel sauna and why a barrel sauna may suit certain sauna users rather than others.

Ease of Assembly

At first glance, someone may find it hard to believe that a barrel sauna is generally easier to build compared to a square sauna but it truly is. The biggest reason why barrel saunas can come together a bit easier than square saunas is that the majority of square saunas require a full foundation when being installed outside. This is both because the weight of a square sauna is spread out over more surface area and that square saunas tend to weigh more, as they require more wood to build up. Further, barrel saunas may look daunting to build considering that they lean on a curve but all barrel sauna kits actually come with metal guides that already fit the proper curve of the circle. As the builder, your only job is to attach the planks to the metal guides which then fit perfectly into your barrel. While neither sauna type is really suited to be built by just one person, it is likely easier to get a barrel sauna built with fewer people because of the lack of foundation.

Easier Mobility

While it, unfortunately, isn’t possible to just take a barrel sauna off its slats and roll it where ever you would like (or we should say, that is highly unadvised!), it is still much easier to take apart and reassemble the majority of barrel saunas compared to the majority of square saunas. This is because barrel saunas tend to be smaller, as we described before, but also because there is nothing tying them to the ground like the foundation required for most square saunas. While not recommended without a good amount of help, it is likely possible to carry a small barrel sauna from one spot to another outside. With five or six pairs of hands, it is likely more than possible to lift a seven-foot barrel sauna off the ground as long as the stove and any other loose bits have been taken out from inside the sauna. Further, if you are moving, taking apart a barrel sauna is just as easy as setting it up.

Natural Air Ventilation

Because barrel saunas are built with a strong circular curve, this means that barrel saunas allow the hot air of a sauna to circulate slightly more compared to classic sauna chambers like those found in square saunas. The logic goes like this: as your stove releases heat, it instantly starts moving toward the highest point in the sauna. The highest point in a barrel sauna is the curved top of the sauna which allows air to cycle back down to where the sauna users are more likely to be sitting. In a sauna with a flat roof, the hottest air tends to rest at that highest point and the air has no incentive to move to any other point in the room. But the curve of a barrel sauna makes a big difference in the air activity in your sauna. While not a guarantee, as we will explore later, it is technically possible for a barrel sauna to heat up slightly faster because of its more efficient shape.

Benefits of a Square Sauna

Especially after reading all about the benefits of a barrel sauna, it may sound hard to believe that there could be reasons to choose a square sauna but there certainly are. Depending on what you hope to get out of your sauna, there are more than a few good reasons to consider a square sauna.

More Bench Options

One of the most classic elements of a sauna you can take advantage of in a square sauna is the choice to have multiple benches in your sauna at multiple heights. Because of the interior curve of barrel saunas, it is impossible to have more than one row of benches in the actual sauna chamber. But since the walls of a square sauna are straight like the majority of traditional wood-burning saunas, it is more than possible to install multiple heights of sauna benches. The key reason why you may want multiple benches in your sauna is that the higher you sit in a sauna, the hotter the air is. This means that sauna pros can get more out of the heat of their saunas and sauna novices can sit in cooler spots as they get more and more used to the heat of a sauna.

For the same reasons that it is possible to add more benches to a square sauna, it is also possible to add more to a changing room too. While it is likely impossible to add more than a bench for sitting in an interior changing room, the walls of a square sauna make it more than possible to add a cabinet or other shelf storage in an interior changing room.

More Space Efficient

Because square saunas are squared off at the corners, this style of sauna is generally more efficient and uses space a bit more effectively. For example, if you are planning on installing a sauna indoors, choosing a barrel sauna introduces an entire world of problems simply because the sauna itself is circular. Only certain rooms can really take full advantage of even the smallest barrel saunas but square saunas are much more equipped to fill smaller spaces. It is, for example, more than possible to fit almost the full interior of a room with a square sauna whereas the same idea would be almost impossible with a barrel sauna. But, of course, if you are planning on fitting a sauna inside your home it is essential that you either use an efficient electric stove or have a professionally-confirmed ventilation system along with your wood stove.

More Weather Resistant

While the wood on both a barrel sauna and a square sauna are both equally resistant to degradation and weather conditions, square saunas have a big advantage over barrel saunas when it comes to extreme weather. This advantage is that square saunas tend to be tied to a real foundation when installed outside. Very serious winds have the potential to topple over a barrel sauna. And even worse, because barrel saunas have a circular curve, it’s, unfortunately, more than possible for a barrel sauna to get caught and roll out in the wind during a real storm. This could irreparably damage your sauna and even cause electrical problems if you have an electric stove directly connected to your sauna.

Frequently Asked Questions on Barrel and Square Saunas

So, now that we have a good hold over what makes a barrel sauna different from its square counterparts, let’s explore the most common questions a would-be buyer may face when making their final decision. This is a buyer’s guide after all, so let’s address everything a buyer would need to know before making their final choice.

Which Sauna is Cheaper?

Because both the barrel and square saunas can vary quite widely in size and wood type, it’s almost impossible to say with certainty that one style of sauna would be cheaper than another. But, let’s say someone is searching for the least expensive sauna configuration possible. If that were the case, then it is very likely that the cheapest barrel sauna would cost less than the cheapest square sauna in the long run. The key reasons for this come down to the reality that barrel saunas tend to run smaller than square saunas and that barrel saunas use less wood for their smaller configurations.

Further, square saunas often don’t account for the necessary foundation when listing the initial price for the sauna itself. So, after getting all of the lumber and building materials for your sauna, if you are planning on installing it outside, you will have to either contact a contracting company or build your own foundation if you are already an experienced builder. The vast majority of barrel saunas don’t require such an involved foundation on account of their small form factor.

Does One Style Work Better Than the Other?

Luckily, both the barrel and square saunas are equally capable of holding in heat and creating the perfect sauna environment for honing in on the health benefits that are most accessible in a sauna. The biggest consideration when it comes to making sure that your sauna gets hot enough is making sure that you have a strong enough stove to match the size of your sauna. If you choose a stove that is too small, that is likely the one thing that will stop you from getting a good sweat going in a well-built barrel or square sauna. The best way to know if your stove of choice is the right match for your sauna is to consult with your sauna seller directly, as they are the most likely to have a good understanding of what level of heat you would need to get the best experience out of your sauna.

Which Sauna is Easier to Build?

As we’ve talked about above, barrel saunas are generally easier to build because they often don’t require a foundation when installed outside. But this doesn’t mean that they are universally easier to build. The reality is that every sauna is different. Depending on the number of people you have helping you during the process, even the biggest square or barrel sauna could take only a few hours to bring to completion. But let’s look at the raw specifics of each kind of build. Barrel saunas are actually assembled in a way almost identical to that of a real barrel. Barrels are made up of metal rings that line the interior of the barrel and bind all of the planks. The same building method is used when building a barrel sauna. As long as you attach all of the planks of the barrel sauna in the way that your instructions show, you can have your entire outside section assembled in no time.

When it comes to square saunas, there are actually a few different ways that they can come together. The first method is to have interior metal rungs quite similar to that of a barrel sauna but instead in the shape of a square. In that example, you would assemble the exterior wall of your square sauna in almost the exact same way. But there is actually one more method common for larger square saunas which is to install several long metal rungs along the full length of the square sauna in order to fully reinforce those larger saunas. Putting this style of rungs together unquestionably will require two or three people to install them correctly.

Barrel and Square Sauna Roundup

Let’s lay out the key takeaways from this piece in a digestible way. Specifically, let’s lay out the moments when a barrel or square sauna may be a better fit.

Reasons to Choose a Barrel Sauna

  • Easier Assembly
  • Easier Mobility
  • Better Air Ventilation

Reasons to Choose a Square Sauna

  • More Bench Options
  • More Space Efficient
  • More Weather Resistant

Conclusions on Barrel Saunas and Square Saunas

The good news is that both barrel saunas and square saunas are more than capable to fit the majority of people’s sauna needs. Both styles of saunas are fairly easy to build even for beginners and both are sleek and stylish in a way that you can’t take advantage of with older styles of saunas. When it comes to choosing the style that works better for you, the biggest questions you should ask yourself are: How many people do you think are going to use your sauna at once? Will your sauna be indoors or outdoors? What is your budget? With those guiding questions and serious consideration of the info in this guide, it is more than likely that you will reach a reasonable conclusion as to which style of sauna will lead to a better sauna experience for you, your loved ones, and all those who want to take up a good sauna habit.

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