You’ve dreamt of owning one -- a personal hot tub to use at your heart’s desire. Entertaining guests, relaxing after a long work week, retreating into a warm oasis during the brutal winter.
But then reality sets in and you ask yourself: Okay, sure, but how do I get a 1000-pound basin into my backyard and then ensure it doesn’t sink into the ground and/or electrocute me once its filled up?
The short answer is – you don’t. Hot tub installation is not something you accomplish by watching a how-to YouTube video. A hot tub is a machine that involves both electricity and water. With that dangerous combination, you need to hire a pool company or a hot tub specialist to come help you with the job. The good news is, once you’ve got the right posse of professionals at your side, you’ll be one short day away from having your very own backyard spa.
Here are the 10 steps to hot tub installation: (Note: This list applies to above-ground and portable spas. Below-ground spas, while costing significantly more [$3-8,000 versus $10-20,000] also require extensive, weeks-long demolition and landscaping).
Step 1: Consult the codes.
Consult municipal codes to ensure you aren’t breaking any building codes or regulations. For example, some districts require you to build a child-proof fence around your spa.
Step 2: Choose a location.
Things to consider:
- Laws require hot tubs be at least 10-16 feet away from the closest overhead power lines and an average 5 feet from the spa’s manual disconnect panel.
- It’s also highly recommended to build a perimeter boardwalk (at least a 2-foot clearance) around the tub to allow for debris removal before entering.
- Consider all perspectives. You want the best scenic view while also maintaining the most privacy
- Adequate drainage so rainwater won’t pool around the tub and cause surface erosion
Step 3: Prepare the foundation.
This is the most critical step! Uneven ground surface is the number one cause of spa damage, and a violation of the product warranty.
Essentially, the foundation must be able to support the weight of the tub, with water, and people, a 4,000 to 8,000-pound load. For each of the top 5 hot tub bases, consult a structural engineer/carpenter to ensure a sound, level surface:
- Concrete: Best for long-term foundations. A single poured slab or customized paver stones. Must be at least 4 inches thick and support 120 pounds per square foot. Low maintenance and high value. Fully cure before use.
- Gravel/Stone: Least expensive. Ensure the subfloor is sufficiently compacted to prevent future settling.
- Spa pad: Any number of pre-fabricated hot tub pads. Removable, durable, and energy efficient.
- Deck: May require reinforcement with joists and fasteners.
- Indoor: Special considerations apply: Proper ventilation to avoid condensation build-up, sufficient flooring, floor drain, water-proof/high-grip material.
Step 4: Accommodate delivery to the spa site.
Ensure access from delivery truck by removing any obstacles. If the ground to the site is uneven, put down sheets of plywood to create a runway. The tub can be easily transported via a basic furniture/piano dolly.
If the site is inaccessible, such as a high-up deck or hillside, you can rent a crane service for a few hundred dollars to set tub into place.
Step 5: Set-up wiring.
Most full-size spas use an external, GFCI Load Center Disconnect Panel to accommodate a 220-240 volt, 50-60-amp circuit. The National Electrical Code requires the use of a qualified electrician for such hook-ups.
Smaller models (e.g. Plug-n-Play tubs) use a standard household circuit (110-120 volt). They plug right into the outlet using a dedicated circuit.
Step 6: Prep the tub.
- Turn off the circuit breaker and the spa’s electrical panel (hidden beneath its “skirt”)
- Make sure any gate valves are open
- Clean the interior of the tub using mild, non-abrasive cleaner
Step 7: Fill the tub.
- Using a garden hose (or water well hose), fill the tub with clean, cold water to the level specified by the owner’s manual. Too low levels can wreak havoc on heating elements.
- Open the carriage door and check for any leaks around the fillings. Tighten if necessary.
- Turn power back on
Step 8: Set the levels.
Balance the water’s PH level and chemical composition using store-bought spa start-up kits.
Step 9: Heat the tub.
This may take several hours or an entire day, depending on size.