Hot Tub Heaven
Are You Ready to Take the Plunge?
It's a vision that's hard to resist as you walk past those spas on display in front of your home improvement store: you're stretched out, soaking away the stress, hands just above the water cradling a book, the night sky twinkling up above.
For centuries, people have recognized the healing powers of warm water for relaxing and rejuvenation. More recently, the science of hydrotherapy has promoted warm water for physical therapy, alleviating stress, improving circulation, promoting better sleep and finding relief from back pain and arthritis. In terms of home improvement, hot tubs can be a valuable asset, helping to increase the resale value of your property.
Buying a hot tub is probably a once-in-a-lifetime purchase that can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $20,000 (and up if you include extensive landscaping and remodeling of your deck or backyard.) There are over 100 manufacturers in the U.S. and Canada and thousands of available models. Like cars, hot tubs feature a wide range of accessories, options, workmanship, and materials. If you are thinking of purchasing a hot tub, or merely dreaming of getting one sometime in the future, you've got a few things to consider before taking the plunge.
- Size and Accessories:
Spas come in varying sizes ranging from seating for two people to room for seven. Figure out how many you will want to accommodate. Also, you can get many different accessories such as colored lights, additional jets, a built-in stereo system, coordinating bar and stools, and control and engineering systems for keeping the water clean and reducing energy bills. Spas come in many different colors and finishes to complement the style of your home.
One accessory you will definitely need is a cover for your spa. Made from hard insulating foam encased in vinyl, a cover will last between 5 and 10 years before needing replacement. The larger the spa, the more costly the cover. Look for durable covers with finished vents to drain excess moisture. You can also purchase systems that will remove and replace the cover automatically. Covers that lock are a must for homes with children or if you are away from home for extended periods of time.
Although they can be installed inside, 90% of spas are placed outdoors—even in places with cold climates. Typical spots include in the back yard, side yard, patio or even on the deck of a loft space. If you are installing yours indoors or on a balcony, make sure a) it will fit through your front door and b) the structure of your house or balcony can accommodate the weight—a typical 3-person spa can be over 2,500 pounds when filled with water. For outdoor placement, find an area that provides privacy and has easy access to your house. You might want to consider installing a bamboo wall around your hot tub.
Wherever you chose to place your spa, you will need a firm, level surface strong enough to support it. While the spa can be placed directly on the ground, most manufacturers recommend a 4-inch thick concrete slab, brick surface, wood decking, pea gravel or crushed rock, railroad ties or pre-cast stepping stones. Soft surfaces can shift and an uneven spa will not drain properly. A spa surrounded by dirt and grass will increase the amount of debris inadvertently brought into the water so think about surrounding your spa with some kind of decking or stonework.
Rainwater should flow away from the base of your spa in the same way that it (hopefully) flows away from your house. Standing puddles of water are never good. You may need extra grading or a drainage system for your spa and this can cost extra money so be sure to check with the manufacturer.
Whatever style spa you chose, it will need access to an electrical outlet to run the pump, motor, filter system and any decorative lighting. Questions to ask your dealer include: Is it necessary to hire a licensed electrician or can you plug the unit into an existing outlet? Does the spa use 115 volts or will you need to install a 230-volt line for operation? Make sure you are clear on your needs before talking to an electrician. Think about installing outdoor speakers by yourself to save money.
The good news is that your spa shouldn't require any additional plumbing as long as there is access to a garden hose.
Spas require work to keep their water in proper chemical balance. If your salesperson tells you otherwise, just walk away Rene! Most manufacturers recommend that you drain and clean your spa 3 or 4 times a year, which takes about an hour. Also, you will need to work on keeping the water clean with chemicals and testing. Though it's not especially difficult, it does require some time and the willingness to work.
- Warranties and Delivery:
Make sure you read the manufacturer's warranty before buying, and compare coverage with other spas you are considering. When in doubt, asking the following questions can save you a considerable amount of time and money. Does the dealer deliver and set up? If not, can the company recommend someone reliable who can? What is the warranty on the spa? Does the warranty include the cover and all operating systems?
- Before Buying:
Ask your dealer if you can "wet test" the spa you are considering. This means getting into the spa with water in it, an after hours service that any reputable dealer will be happy to provide. Look for comfortable seating that supports your back and legs and a water level that comes up to your shoulders. Make sure the jets are positioned in the best place for your body and are strong enough for your liking.
The best advice is to do some research (neighbors, friends, online), shop around, and get all of your questions answered before you plop down your hard-earned dough.
If you skip the research and simply act on impulse, you could suffer a case of very damp buyer's remorse. Visit America's Hot Tubs and Spas to compare top hot tubs and spas for all major brands, features, prices, warranties and dealers and find out which features the majority of consumers really buy.
Good luck with your dream spa and whether you will be shopping next week or next year, happy soaking!
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