Here’s an informative article on planning tips for a home spa or hot tub by Sheryl Geerts for Better Homes & Gardens.
Home spa or hot tub? In-ground or portable? This guide will help you maneuver through these tough decisions before you purchase and install a spa or hot tub.
Whether you are planning a backdoor retreat or an indoor getaway, you’ll need to consider a variety of issues before you purchase and install a home spa or hot tub. Although less involved than planning for a pool, installing a spa or hot tub isn’t a task to be taken lightly.
Key issues you’ll need to consider before building your home spa include:
- Should I get a spa or hot tub?
- Do I want a portable or in-ground unit?
- Will it be indoors or outside?
- What level of disruption will the installation entail?
- What zoning restrictions will I face?
- How will my insurance be affected?
- How can I keep my family and guests safe?
What’s the Difference Between a Hot Tub and a Spa?
You might have noticed that the terms “spa” and “hot tub” are often used interchangeably. This overlap in classification can be confusing, but for ease of explanation, the distinction really comes down to how they’re installed and constructed.
The term, “spa” is often used to describe an in-ground spa, which is a heated body of water built into the ground (like an in-ground pool) and used for relaxation and hydrotherapy. In residential settings, in-ground spas are often attached to an in-ground pool and are similar to what you might see at a hotel or gym. The term, “hot tub” is typically used to refer to an above-ground portable spa. A hot tub or portable spa also is used for hydrotherapy but it’s a completely self-contained unit. All components of a hot tub, including its plumbing and electrical system, are built inside the hot tub cabinet.
How Much Does an Outdoor Spa Cost?
The overall cost of buying and installing a hot tub or spa will depend on its location, type, size, and materials. According to Home Advisor, above-ground hot tubs average between $400 and $35,000 before installation depending on the material. A $400 above-ground hot tub, for example, is typically inflatable and portable, but less reliable and comfortable than other options. A $20,000 to $35,000 model typically seats 5 or more people and includes features like sound systems, built-in bars, top-of-the-line insulation, and several massage jets.
In-ground spas cost between $15,000 and $20,000 on average. It is often more cost-effective to build in-ground spas in conjunction with an in-ground pool. Aside from costs, the advantages and disadvantages of portable and in-ground spas vary.
Pros and Cons of Portable Spas (Hot Tubs)
Portable spas, otherwise known as hot tubs, can be either an inflatable or hard-sided style. They’re considered portable because they can be installed anywhere and have the versatility to be drained and moved elsewhere. Hot tubs are designed to fit in a variety of settings, whether you choose to use your portable spa on your patio, yard, or indoors. Here are some pros and cons to buying and installing a hot tub:
Advantages of Hot Tubs
- All-in-one unit equipped with the spa, support equipment, and skirting that hides the equipment
- Easy to install. They can be operational in a matter of hours.
- Suitable for small yards
- You can take it with you if you move—unless you have built it into a deck or patio.
- Typically very energy efficient
- They often have more jets than their in-ground counterparts.
- Because of the standard shapes and sizes, purchasing accessories like covers is easy and economical.
Disadvantages of Hot Tubs
- Difficult to disguise. Many portable spas become an unwanted focal point of a landscape, sticking out above the surface.
- You are limited to the size and shapes offered by manufacturers.
What Is an In-Ground Spa?
An in-ground spa can be custom built to fit your specific design and size requirements. Its structure is built into the ground as a stand-alone spa or integrated into an in-ground concrete pool. They can permanently enhance the appearance of your outdoor space when designed to blend with your yard or landscape. Keep in mind that the equipment to operate the spa is not built-in and can be bulky and noisy. Before each use of an in-ground spa, you’ll need to preheat the water, unlike a portable spa’s continuous heat system that keeps the water hot all the time.
Advantages of an In-Ground Spa
- You can customize their shape and size.
- Easily integrated into a deck or patio
- Teamed with a pool or other features, they can turn your yard into a dramatic landscape.
Disadvantages of an In-Ground Spa
- They are more costly because, essentially, you are building a miniature pool with water jets.
- Must be built by a professional
- The more features, such as additional jets, increase the cost because of the construction and additional fittings involved.
Indoor spas are typically made of formed acrylic. However, outdoor spas come in a variety of materials, including:
- Acrylic: Acrylic spas come in preformed designs, though manufacturers offer a large variety of shapes and sizes to suit your needs.
- Concrete: These in-ground spas are easy to customize to your site.
- Tile: Tile often adds a nice decorative touch to a spa. Tile spas are labor-intensive and tend to cost more.
- Gunite: For this material, the site is excavated, forms are put in place, and the gunite product is applied.
Pros and Cons of Outdoor Hot Tubs
It’s easier to install and deliver a hot tub in your backyard than in your home. A level concrete pad or a reinforced deck are the most common surfaces hot tubs are installed on. Installing a foundation and making the required outdoor electrical connections is a lot simpler than moving a wall in your home. Thus, the overall cost of installation should be lower than an indoor hot tub. Being outside, there’s also no need to worry about proper ventilation.
Advantages of an Outdoor Hot Tub
- Outdoor hot tubs can become an integral part of the landscape like a pool. The experience is enhanced by being surrounded by nature.
- The cost is often less than installing a hot tub indoors.
Disadvantages of an Outdoor Hot Tub
- Poor weather conditions might keep you from being able to use the hot tub when you want.
- Hot tubs must be covered when not in use to keep debris from settling into them.