Sunday, October 5, 2014

Do you have to let Cedar dry before installing it in a sauna?

Q:

Do you have to let Cedar dry before installing it in a sauna?

A:

There are a lot of woods that you should let acclimatize to the interior environment of the building that they are going in, but cedar is usually not one of them. Cedars measures in usually around 13% moisture content when it is stored properly out of the rain, that is a lot higher moisture content then other wood species. Pine for example if stored properly will have a moisture content around 8%, if for some reason it measures higher then it will have to be allowed to acclimatize until it reaches that 8% point before installation.

With cedar if you let it dry it will actually become brittle and can break or splinter when installed.

The reason that you dry a wood is so that it will not shrink in a warm dry space. A sauna is not that at all, it is a warm wet space; this means that the cedar will take on moisture, expanding slightly making the joints between individual boards tighter. You also have to remember that when using cedar it will move (shrink and expand) because it is in a room that is not temperature and moisture regulated.

Do not be surprised if the cedar shrinks a little bit (after initial installation) showing gaps between the wood at the joints. This is normal because the room that it has been installed in is currently dryer then the wood. Once you start using the sauna on a regular basis then the wood will expand as it takes on new moisture and the joints will tighten back up. Remember that a sauna is made to give off excessive moisture and heat, since wood is a natural product it will shrink and expand depending on the level of use that the sauna receives over time.

The nice thing about cedar other then the smell is that it has natural resins in it that allow it withstand moist climates like sauna’s and hot tub rooms.

So unless the cedar has been soaking in a ditch you should be able to install it as soon as it arrives on site with little to no acclimatization needed.

If you are worried about what moisture content within the cedar you have bought then have your contractor test it with a moisture meter, this will give you an exact measurement of the wood when it is placed in the home. Once you have an accurate measurement of the cedar then you can make the decision on what you want to do with the wood.

Remember that your cedar will move (shrink and expand) regardless of what you plan to do.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.

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