Sauna Guide, Sauna Heaters

How To Convert an Infrared Sauna to a Hotter Traditional Steam Sauna

Infrared saunas lack steam and top out around 120-130 degrees F.  After experiencing an authentic sauna, many IR owners start to ask if they can convert the boxes to traditional saunas.

The short answer is no, but you can find ways to increase the heat.

Infrared sauna boxes are often made of the same wood, so it seems to make sense that they could be converted.

However, a traditional sauna has rocks that can be used to create steam by pouring water on them.  Finding a balance between heat and relative humidity is important – essential for a true sauna experience.

Unfortunately, an infrared sauna box is simply not designed to handle humidity.  Since there’s no vapor barrier in infrared saunas, a lot of humidity would escape and create problems in the surrounding rooms, and it could lead to mold and rotting wood.

As long as your basement sauna doesn’t share exterior walls that already have one, you should use a vapor barrier like bubble foil.

Once your insurance adjuster traces the problem to your Frakensauna, you will be out of luck.

Converting to a traditional sauna would also create some airflow issues, which admittedly could be solved by adding proper ventilation.  Traditional saunas, especially wood-burning saunas need good airflow through the sauna rocks, and to feed the stove with oxygen.  They would typically require a ventilation inlet under the stove or low on the wall behind it, and another exhaust hole high on the opposite wall.

If you could create a vapor barrier and connect the exhaust hole to the exterior of the home, you might successfully convert an infrared sauna to a traditional sauna but we’ve never seen it done.

You can hack your infrared sauna to get hotter by insulating the top and adding another heater.  However, without the humidity you are not getting the steam required for a traditional sauna session.

Is an infrared sauna even a sauna?

Most Finnish people and sauna enthusiasts would reject calling infrared rooms or steam baths saunas at all.  According to SaunaDigest, it’s not a sauna unless it can reach good temperature (160-200F), has rocks, and can create steam.

By definition, this is basically true – here’s from



bath that uses dry heat to induce perspiration, and in which steam is produced by pouring water on heated stones.

Note: the pronunciation is another debate.

Thank For Ruining My Dream, Now What?

I know, we poo-poo’d a lot of peoples easy solution, but in the long run you will be much happier with a well thought out traditional sauna, we promise.  So put that old microwave sauna on Craigslist and let’s get started.

If you like the ‘box in room’ style of infrared saunas, you can buy one that’s made for traditional electric heat.  Here are the best electric sauna heaters reviewed.

We recommend the DIY eBook from Glen at SaunaTimes if you’re interested in building an outdoor sauna.

Traditional saunas can also be custom made to fit your space perfectly, and you will be much happier in the long run.  You can build them from scratch or custom order a sauna built to your specs.