There’s nothing like a long soak in a hot tub, especially when it’s outdoors overlooking the view. Summer or winter, the warm water, and massaging jets ease tired muscles and melt the stress away.
Maybe you’ve been attending pool and spa shows, looking at all the models and options available. Before you get too far along your buyer’s journey, there are a few things to figure out, like if you need a permit, where you’ll locate the tub, and if you need to hire someone to install it. If you plan to add a hot tub to your backyard oasis, these how-to instructions will help you get started.
Do You Need a Permit to Install a Hot Tub?
Check with your local building official to see if you need a permit. They’ll likely ask you a few questions about the location, foundation, and wiring before giving you an answer. If all you need is an electrical permit, most likely the electrician will pull that for you and include it in his fee.
Also, ask your local zoning official and homeowners’ association for any rules regarding the placement of outdoor spas.
Best Location for an Outdoor Hot Tub
The best location for your backyard hot tub is where it will bring you the most joy. Consider the following points before making a final decision.
- Proximity to the house. To reduce the risk of electrocution, place your tub at least 16 feet away from overhead power lines. To protect your home and outbuildings from potential flooding, keep it at least 5 feet from any structure. Also, locate the spa close to a doorway into the house or provide a small changing area close by for wintertime use.
- Plenty of space. Leave adequate space for removing and storing the cover and accessing the maintenance panel.
- Optimum privacy. If you don’t want the neighbors watching you soak away the cares of the world, hide your hot tub behind a hedge, privacy fence, or wall. Remember a view hidden by trees could change when the trees drop their leaves. Mark the location you’re considering, then walk the perimeter of your yard, viewing it through your neighbors’ eyes.
- Protection from the elements. In addition to privacy, windbreaks make using your tub more enjoyable, particularly in cold weather. A sheltered location also reduces operating and maintenance costs.
- Breathtaking views. Stand where you think you want the spa and turn around, taking in each view. Ask yourself if this location provides the calming power you need. The stress will dissolve much easier if your view includes a gorgeous sunset rather than a brick wall. If your property doesn’t offer picturesque landscapes, consider a garden location with flowers, bird feeders, or the soothing sound of wind chimes.
Types of Foundations for Hot Tubs
According to the home services marketplace HomeAdvisor, a 4-person tub filled with water could weigh as much as 4,000 pounds. So, before adding one to your back deck, consult with a general contractor or structural engineer to make sure the deck can handle the load. Other foundation ideas include:
- Concrete—Pouring a concrete pad is quick and easy. Jacuzzi recommends a reinforced concrete pad at least 4 inches deep.
- Spa pad—Install these interlocking pads on grass or soil and level with sand for a sturdy but moveable foundation. They’re ideal for temporary situations, such as rental houses.
- Concrete pavers—Because they tend to shift, stone patio pavers aren’t the best choice for your hot tub foundation. Instead, use interlocking concrete pavers[SZ1] [AC2] and have the pad they form inspected by a structural engineer or contractor to make sure the tub is properly balanced and level.
Shade Your Hot Tub
A shaded hot tub protects you and the tub itself from the ravages of the sun. Also, any heat deflected from windows or other reflective surfaces could damage the tub’s cabinet. For this reason, locate your spa inside or under a gazebo, pergola, or awning.
Although trees provide a natural setting, you don’t want leaves and twigs in your tub. Nor do you want branches to fall and damage it.
Installing Your Hot Tub
Clear the path
Delivery personnel need an unobstructed path to transport your hot tub from their truck to your location, using a dolly. Help them before the big day by:
- Choosing a path clear of any water or gas meters, air conditioning units, low-hanging roofs, and gutters, and free of six or more consecutive stairs.
- Measuring gates and doorways beforehand and comparing those measurements with the unit.
- Measuring to make sure the unit will fit around any 90 degree turns, bends, or corners.
- Removing patio furniture, potted plants, or play equipment blocking the way.
- Checking for and pruning overhanging branches or shrubs blocking the path.
Hot tubs come with 120v or 220v connections. If your tub has a 220v connection, it must be hard-wired to the power supply. If it has a 120v connection, it can be plugged into a dedicated grounded outlet using the unit’s 10-foot cord. If the outlet is further than 10 feet away, the unit must be hard-wired. In both instances, the unit requires a dedicated circuit with no other appliances sharing the power. Make sure all electrical work is complete before filling the spa.
You can fill your hot tub with a hose from an outside tap. And to drain the water for periodic changes, attach a hose to the drain port and route it away from the spa and your home’s foundation, to an area that can absorb a large amount of water quickly, like a storm drain.
Steps to Fill Your Hot Tub
Once your hot tub is delivered, assembled, and wired, it’s time to fill it with water.
- Turn off the electricity.
- Clean the spa per the manufacturer’s instructions and open the air valves.
- Make sure the drain port is closed.
- Fill the tub with cold water 6 to 8 inches from the top edge, remembering the water level rises when occupied.
- Turn on the power and heat to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Follow directions for adding the sanitizing chemicals.
There’s nothing like a hot tub to create a sanctuary in your backyard. Follow these guidelines for the peace of mind that takes your relaxation experience up a notch.