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When I look-up cedar boards on various home center web sites, I see many choices, but I'm not sure which most closely matches the typical sauna prefab and pre-cut kits. My situation is such that a standard kit would not fit, and it seems custom kits are not being shipped quickly, I want to get started quickly, so I don't want to buy a kit. Some sauna stores offer just the planks, but those are the same stores that are not offering quick shipping, so I thought I'd look at large home center stores that are able to ship within a day or two of ordering.

Wood available at the home center stores include 1"x6"x8'six pack of "siding", but that looks rough (not planed), and I think the standard sauna cedar is smooth. Then there is 1/4" x 3 1/2" x 8' generic "cedar", "v-plank", but I wonder if that's thick enough. There's also 1/4" x 3 3/4 x 48 "eastern red cedar" "planking", which looks really nice, and most like the wood in the kits, but is only 1/4 inch.

From a kit description:

Tongue & Groove Western Red Cedar Boards are knot-free Grade A and Better, Vertical Grain and kiln dried. This 1/2 thick (nominal 7/16") by 4" material has a 3 3/16" face (actual wall coverage).

The kits also might use even thicker boards:

3/4" thick (nominal 11/16")

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You will not find Grade-A kiln-dried T&G cedar at a "home center".

Call a lumber yard. Not only will there be a competent human familiar with woodworking to talk to, they will likely be able to get almost anything you want and deliver it too.

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  • I need to try harder. The one I tried wasn't picking up the phone.
    – Dale
    Apr 26 '20 at 21:21
  • Yeah, prolly not there on Sundays... Apr 27 '20 at 0:40
  • Yup. The lumber yards near me (well OK, they have 3 aisles of electrical gear, so they're more like family owned baby Home Depots), only one is open on Sunday, and only very short hours. They refused to be open after 5pm on a weekday until the last HWI/ACO store in town closed. Apr 27 '20 at 2:07
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There’s three issues: 1) size, 2) grade, 3) shape (for nailing purposes)

1) The size of the board is important because the board will be in a constant mode of stress (wetting and drying). The thicker the board and the narrower the board, then it will be more stable.

If the board is too wide (like 6”-8”) or too skinny (like 1/4”) then it’s more likely to twist and deform under stress. You could decrease the stud spacing to 8” or less, but that may not be effective either.

2) The better the grade, then the less twisting under this wetting and drying stress. A Vertical Grain (VG) kiln dried (KD) board without knotholes will be more stable.

Likewise, you want a S4S (surfaced four sides) so that you don’t get splinters, etc.

3) A T&G shape will allow for concealed fastening and still keep the board secure so it doesn’t twist and deform. Use the recommended spacing for supports and fasteners and the project will perform as expected. (I’d think studs at 16” oc with 3/4” thick and 3 1/2” net wide material would be standard, if not listed in the manufacture’s installation instructions.)

Summary:

I suppose you could use a different size and grade of lumber, but this has been field tested. Why take a chance?

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  • You hit all the right points for the sauna. I would suggest that the OP checks out a siding provider. Out here in the NW, cedar is aplenty. and even when I was on the east coast, local lumber yards has "V joint" cedar in the sizes needed for saunas. It may take some looking to find 1X4 nowadays, but it is out there, not just at sauna places. 1X6 seem to be the choice that most places keep in stock. This material will have 2 finishes and are reversible. Smooth one side, rough sawn on the other.
    – Jack
    Apr 26 '20 at 21:09

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