Long history of saunas and their origins

Posted Sep 15, 2020, Category: Cabin production

Finland has given us many things, related to woodworking, log cabins, log houses and other, practical cultural marvels. Arguably one of the healthiest, oldest and most widespread tradition that the Finnish people have given to the world through their ingenuity are saunas. While many iterations of saunas have risen throughout history, in different locations around the world, Finland currently houses the “Sauna Capital of the World” in Tampere city.

The very first and oldest saunas in Finland were made from pits that were dug into the ground on a slope and primarily used as living quarters during winter. This type of sauna had a fireplace where stones were heated to very high temperatures. Water then was thrown on the hot stones to raise the steam and to produce a sensation of higher heat than actually was. This would raise the temperature inside the dwelling so high that people would feel good enough to take off their clothes. The Finnish brought their sauna culture around the world, starting very early in the Neolithic age, on the islands surrounding Scotland, to Central and Western Europe during the Industrial Revolution and WWII, to today.

Although the very first saunas were built for protection against the elements, nowadays, they are mostly used in order to maintain one’s health and as a social pastime. In 1938, the first electric sauna heater was introduced to the world, and since then, saunas become accessible to many more people. Now, they are built in people’s back yards, offered as an activity in recreational and health facilities, in Finland and the Scandinavian countries, the miniature versions of saunas are even installed in flats, as part of the bathroom set.

The oldest saunas were called smoke-saunas, due to the high amount of smoke that the burning rocks produced. The soot from the smoke would settle everywhere and needed to be cleaned before use. Humidity was also very high and the whole experience caused eye irritation and had to be aired out before use. This practice, using straight up rocks without any protection, died out, before being revived by enthusiasts. However, even they use such ancient smoke-sauna traditions only on special occasions, such as Christmas, New Year’s Eve and similar.

Nowadays, the smoke-sauna stove is used with a sealed stone compartment and a chimney and is know as a heat-storing stove. It eliminates the smoke, soot and eye irritation of the traditional smoke-sauna. Because the stone compartment has an insulated lid, this type of stove doesn’t provide much heat in the sauna before bathing. As the bathing process starts, the stove shutter is opened, from which a soft, warm flow of heat emerges into the otherwise relatively cold, 60 °C sauna. Unlike its predecessor, this heat is much softer and totally clean. Thanks to combustion, the stove stones glow red, and in some cases white-hot, and they have no dust on them. In time it takes to bathe, this type of sauna will become as hot as a continuous fire sauna (80–110 °C), but will retained higher humidity. The upper part of the stove is often insulated with rock wool and firebricks for safety. Heat-storing stoves are also found with electric heaters, which provide a very similar experience, except there’s no need to maintain a constant fire.

Now saunas come in many shapes and sizes. Our own catalogue contains saunas in shape of a barrel, smaller saunas that are shaped like a camping pod or a camping bus. Finally, we have the traditional Finnish grillikota or BBQ huts – a direct descendent from the dug up pits, which led to people sitting together around hot rocks and fire, cooking food and socialising. As construction technologies advanced, we were able to give them some modern twists, a bedroom connected to the sauna area, a changing room, more compact or bigger diameters, windows and lights. Sauna heaters also advanced. Now we offer heaters that are electric, or fuelled by wood, based on the partner’s preference.

We are proud to carry on this wonderful and age-old tradition. Our saunas come with heaters, some of them pre-assembled, ready to be used. Our partners are happy with their quality and we are happy to keep offering them to new generation of bathers.