The Hemlock Infrared Sauna: a popular and affordable option

Since the hemlock infrared sauna is one of the least expensive saunas for a manufacturer to produce, it’s also one of the cheapest to buy. Most hemlock saunas are mass produced in China and shipped to the US for distribution.

Nowadays, almost every internet pool company, spa dealer or health products site seems to have an inexpensive hemlock sauna for sale! Is a hemlock sauna for you?:

• What to expect from a hemlock sauna
• Hemlock infrared sauna kits
• Hemlock and your health
• Hemlock as a sauna wood

What to expect in a hemlock sauna

Do you plan to use your far infrared sauna recreationally (as opposed to for intensive

1. Hemlock has a strong scent

Do you enjoy the scent of hemlock? If you’re not sure, you may want to visit a store where they sell lumber and find out! Hemlock wood gives off a slightly sour scent which some people really like—it reminds them of the woods—and others don’t. A hemlock sauna can give off this odor for years.

sauna detoxification )? If so, then you won’t notice any performance or efficiency differences between a far infrared sauna built from hemlock and one built from a different species of wood.

There are a couple of things you should know before buying your hemlock sauna, though.

2. Hemlock is for indoor saunas

The reasons for this is that hemlock has little to no natural resistance to decay (unlike cedar wood 0r redwood). The occasional sauna dealer will tell you that if you treat a hemlock sauna with a finish, you can use it outdoors. Not a great idea! Better to choose a wood species that can handle the elements—like cedar or redwood. (See cedar saunas ).

Besides, any finish you apply to a hemlock sauna would have to be re-applied periodically, and the finish would be expected to emit fumes (outgas) into the sauna…which you would then inhale!

3. Hemlock saunas are for recreation -- they are not recommended for intensive sauna detox programs

We’ve owned a hemlock infrared sauna — it was attractive, efficient and worked well. We had a problem with the scent, however, which was still lingering heavily a year after we bought it.

Once we learned that phenols being emitted by the hemlock wood were partly responsible for this scent (see poplar infrared saunas to learn more about phenols), we realized it wasn’t the best choice for our efforts at sauna detoxification. Anyone with a known sensitivity to phenols shouldn’t choose a hemlock sauna, either.


sauna detoxification , where the object is to help your body safely reduce its toxic load, you don’t want to be inhaling unwanted chemicals (such as phenols) while you’re detoxing! (Read more about phenols on our poplar sauna and cedar sauna pages.)

How to buy a hemlock far infrared sauna

Almost all of the hemlock infrared saunas on the market are pre-built units that require minimal assembly. (See infrared sauna installation ). Almost every sauna manufacturer offers the same standard size choices (one person, 2 person , and 4 person saunas), choice of infrared sauna heaters , accessories, and options.

So how to choose?

We recommend you buy from an established dealer that is committed to the infrared sauna as a product. There are a lot of deals on line at the moment. Here’s what to look at closely:

• Workmanship—you want quality workmanship that excludes glues and other toxic finishes and adhesives (see why below)
• Customer service policies
• Delivery features (see infrared sauna installation )

Hemlock infrared sauna kits

Hemlock sauna kits and sauna building plans are very popular amongst do-it-yourselfers. The reason? Hemlock infrared sauna kits are considerably cheaper than cedar or redwood sauna kits.

Precut sauna packages—also called materials packages—are kits that contain all the building materials needed to construct your sauna, plus a set of plans. (Read more about infrared sauna kits of all types.)

Typical sauna kits supply 1” x 2” or 1” x 4” T & G (tongue & groove) hemlock, the sauna door, the infrared sauna heaters, windows, and an accessories package.

These materials kits take between 4 to 8 hours to assemble. If you choose to buy infrared sauna plans instead—where you purchase the lumber and components on your own—it can take 2 to 3 days to build, depending on your mechanical ability and the size of the hemlock infrared sauna kit you are building.

Be sure, when assembling your sauna kits, to avoid the use of solvents, plastics, and glues of any type (including the assembly of the wall, floor and ceiling panels). Also avoid using oils, stains, or adhesives in your sauna construction. All of these adhesives and finishes contain chemicals which can and will evaporate into the air of your sauna, exposing you unnecessarily to additional toxins.

Hemlock and your health

The more toxic wood species include the giant sequoia, hemlock, yews, cypress, cork oak and other oaks, beech, rosewoods, some maples, redwoods and western red cedar.

The sap present in many of these can cause skin allergies and irritations from direct contact. Saw dust from these species are sensitizers and can cause allergic skin reactions, eye inflammation, hay fever, asthma, coughing and respiratory diseases (if contact is prolonged).

If you get a blemish on your sauna and decide to sand it out yourself, be sure to wear an appropriate dust mask.

Hemlock as a sauna wood

Hemlock is moderately low in bending strength and shock resistance. It is predominantly used in the manufacture of boxes, crates, pallets, and as paper pulp for newsprint and other low quality papers like wrapping paper. Hemlock is also used occasionally in construction for light framing, sheathing, sub-flooring, and roofing.

Eastern hemlock is moderately light in weight, moderately hard, coarse grained, uneven in texture, and inclined to splinter when machined. Both Eastern and Western hemlock wood are graded into the following categories:

• Structural framing
• Appearance
• Industrial products.

Most sauna builders use hemlock graded as structural or appearance. The tongue and groove panels are typically made from 2” or 4” wide strips.


• Hemlock has little to no natural resistance to decay (unlike cedar)

• Although hemlock is one of the hardest softwoods, as a construction material it is considered one of the least hard and durable woods

• Freshly cut hemlock has a sour odor; after extensive seasoning (airing out), it eventually approaches odorless

• Socrates was killed from poison derived from the hemlock plant, not the hemlock tree

• Hemlock is notorious for ring shake, a condition that causes separation parallel to the annual rings that renders the lumber worthless

For recreational and occasional users who don’t mind the strong scent of hemlock, a hemlock infrared sauna is an affordable and appropriate choice. Move on from the hemlock infrared sauna to the poplar infrared sauna.