Who doesn’t want a hot tub, right? They always seem to be the life of the party whether its connected to your pool, at a cabin, on your deck or on a boat (very large boat)?
People freaking love hot tubs, myself and my wife included! Because of that we are on our second spa now, we started with an above ground spa and recently went through the process of building an in ground hot tub next to our in ground pool.
I am hoping to provide some pool/spa insight to help you make your own best choice, but most of this post will be geared around our recent build. It is important to understand the individual expenses that make up the whole of the in ground spa cost. The first thing to cover is what to call the specific thing you are looking for.
Is it a Spa, Hot Tub or Jacuzzi?
What is the difference and is there a difference you might be wondering? I tend to use all three but I primarily use hot tub or jacuzzi.
However, in my research I found a mishmash of definitions, and one that is very confusing is from a maker called Dream Maker Spas that essentially tells us that a spa is a place or natural occurrence but still named the company with “spa” in it.
According to one other source, a spa in addition to the traditional definition of being a business for curative treatments, it is also accepted American vernacular. It seems to be widely know that jacuzzi is a brand name of a spa/hot tub which has become common.
I would compare it to the term “google something” no matter which search engine or source you are using to look something up. .
If you weren’t confused about spa, hot tub or jacuzzi before I am sure you are now, so for these purposes the words will be essentially interchangeable. I will use them that way, with the understanding I am making the assumption that in your hot tub you want jets, a filtering system and heating element no matter what you call it.
If it makes bubbles and does those things it falls under the purview of this post. If you want info on a jetted bath tub I will do a post about that later when we finish our master bathroom remodel. For now we are talking spa, hot tub and jacuzzi as our primary terms.
In Ground vs Above Ground
For most this might be the most important question to ask yourself, because hot tubs vary widely! Now, your location or space parameters may make the choice for you and make a built in hot tub impossible.
At this point I want to clarify a little more, because there are some cool ways to dress up a portable spa to make it look more like an inground hot tub, but functionally it is still above ground. An above ground or portable spa is a self contained unit that drops into place regardless of what you put it on or what you build around it.
Built in or inground hot tubs are scaled down from a pool with different functionality. When we first built our pool, we opted for one of the above ground hot tubs, but in order to give it the in ground look we built a waterfall feature and wall surrounding. It gave the illusion that the hot tub was emptying into the pool even though they are not connected.
For our remodel we got rid of the old above ground spa that had a crack in it (again a story for another blog post) and worked on design options for inground hot tubs to replace it.
The two biggest factors in deciding for in ground spas or above ground is location and price. In general you are going to be able to get a nice above ground spa for less than building a tiny swimming pool (That is what inground hot tubs are).
If you live in a townhouse with a small back yard obviously building in ground spas will be looked down upon by your HOA. If that’s you, the rest of the blog might not be worth much, but you can always store it for later when you have a place to build your own spa.
For the rest, below are some of the many things to consider once you have decided that price and location don’t preclude you.
In Ground Hot Tubs - Things to Consider
This route is almost always much more involved, because like I mentioned, with this type of spa you are building a pool and it requires nearly all of the same steps.
This is not a project that you are going to accomplish in a weekend or even a week, so keep that in mind. I say mini pool to ensure you go into this open minded. It is not for the faint of heart, but getting your dream spa might be worth it.
Here are a few things you should know before building an in ground hot tub:
- An in ground hot tub is custom built, which means custom built pricing rather than being able to go online and just see the new hot tub price.
- If you have a lot of open space you could possibly walk into a pool builder and get a set price of a hot tub, but I wouldn’t plan on it.
- This spa is made of rebar, concrete and some sort of plaster or pebble tech so it will obviously last longer than an above ground hot tub.
- Because you will be building it custom for yourself, you can end up with the features and look to compliment your house or your existing pool.
- There are a lot of decisions to make when it comes to building one and there is no book that lists custom hot tubs with prices because every situation is different.
- You obviously can’t take your spa with you if you move and it is not going to bring back nearly the value in your property that you spend on it, so you better make sure you love it.
- The spa filtering system is the same as a pool, and if you have an existing inground pool you can likely tie it to your current equipment and filter.
- This also means that whomever handles your pool maintenance can easily handle your new spa as well.
- Assuming your builder plans it correctly, in ground hot tubs will have the ability to fill up with water automatically, either from the inground pool or through an auto leveler. This is more important than you might think especially if your water spout isn’t that close to your jacuzzi.
- This type of spa, although generally having a higher cost, is much better for entertaining in my opinion. If you plan to have more than you and another person in there to enjoy the relaxing functions, a built in spa might be a good option for you.
- We have yet to heat our new tub up in the cold months so I can’t yet speak to the cost or ease but we do have a propane heater.
- For those of you in cold places, in ground hot tubs can obviously pose a different set of problems than in the desert so do some research on that.
Building an In Ground Spa - Checklist
These are the steps of the process as my family experienced them. Our build took so much longer than expected partly due to poor communication by the builders and starting construction as Covid was hitting the country. In each of these steps there are some things to consider and plan for.
- You need a design for your hot tub, so pay attention to details. You might be wowed by a 3D rendering or something similar and not realize they didn’t put tile for your spa where you wanted it or didn’t plan for the right decking, etc. Take the extra time to be familiar with the design.
- A design will turn into plans that will either need permits or will just be needed by the sub contractors to know where and how to build.
- Somewhere in the “design and plan phase” you will get a bid, and at this stage your contractor should be able to be pretty close to accurate regarding cost.
- Keep in mind that making changes will change cost. It seems obvious, but it is something that can be forgotten in the middle of the build.
- We had to have demo work done to the facade we had set up around our old hot tub. It was more work than I realized to get back to dirt for our new spa.
- We ran into issues with the sub contractors not taking enough care to keep our pool clean, so communicate with your contractor about that if you have a pool or any other things nearby.
- After demo, we had excavation to dig down the rest of the way for the hot tub construction.
- As the process got going we were getting very excited about using our new hot tub, and almost forgot about the cost. (No we didn’t)
- The excavators also set up forms and level lines so that the next sub contractors can work from.
- Plumbing came next which is the heart of the new spa, and you will see that it will look more like a little pool.
- Something I learned about hot tubs is that the plumbing has two levels around the sides. The top layer of pipe allows air in the lines which gives you the bubbliness of a hot tub that you are used to.
- Your equipment is hooked up when your plumber and electrician do their other work.
- You may see water pressure meters on the top of some of the pipes to ensure it is producing what is needed
- An air blower creates the intense spa type feel for those sore bodies and backs.
- At this stage you will see that all of the pipes are capped because there is water in the lines and because the next stage for your hot tub is very messy.
- The next group is the rebar team that will turn lengths of steel into a form that gives you the first in person visual of what your new spa will look like.
- After rebar was the spa electrical, which in this case is literally just one light.
- Shotcrete is exactly what it sounds like, it is concrete that is shot in as a slush into the walls and floors of your new hot tub.
- This is a stage that caused us difficulty in the next step because the walls were not nearly as straight as we would have liked.
- After the concrete my brother in law that does amazing tile work offered to do our extensive spa tile work in the scorching heat.
- This is a stage where we realized that our design did not have exactly the look we wanted. The builders were planning a coping to match our current pool coping when what we wanted was tile all around.
- We were able to get that resolved but the tile store we bought our original pool tile from 3 years before was out of stock of what we needed, so we had a small delay because they had to order what we need for the spa. (It turns out it is actually not exactly the same tile, but you would probably never notice)
- After your tile work, a different team comes to do the interior work of your hot tub. For me I like the traditional plaster feel and look, but many people opt for pebble tech.
- What you may not know is that plaster is never supposed to be dry, it is always supposed to be submerged.
- Pool tile serves the purpose of providing a design element but it is also the dividing line between the water and the air. The pool tile can be wet or dry without issue. Generally your pool tile is half submerged. It is also easy to clean.
- The interior crew is who I believe also cuts the plumbing lines down to the level of the plaster and drop in your cleaning heads. When the interior team leaves the hot tub has water in it for the first time.
- In the situation of our hot tub, the plaster was not very smooth and we complained and the interior team had to drain the spa and smooth down the plaster and refill it.
- Once you have the water, your pool company will probably send someone to do a start up. During this time they should also be able to get your spa really tuned in.
- There are a lot of valves, and actuators for a built in spa with the features we talked about so getting everything dialed in is important. This is even more important if you already have an inground pool that you have since connected your new hot tub to.
- Most modern electronics will include wireless access. This will give you the ability to control the functions of your in ground hot tub from your phone. It does need to have connection to your wireless network so make sure you can get signal to your new panel.
Now enjoy the relaxation that these kinds of hot tubs bring you because if you really love the end result, the cost is something you will be able to live with. Hot tubs are awesome so take the time to use your new one. Believe me when your friends hear spa or inground hot tub they will come running.