We recently purchased a new Hot Tub and Gazebo from Cal Spas in Minnesota. The purchase was not something we planned, just something that caught our eye when visiting the Minnesota State Fair. As a result we learned a few things that would have made our purchase smarter. In the end we're pleased with the decision but its easy to say now that all the work is done. In this article I'll outline the information I wish I had considered when making this purchase. I hope it helps you in your decision.
This isn't going to be a detailed rundown on what to look for in a good tub or who to buy it from. I'll leave that to the other articles out on the internet. There are two points I'll make of things I may have changed. We purchased the top of the line system, the only thing it lacked was an LCD monitor and DVD player. So what would I change? Well after using it for a season I find that the multitude of jets is irrelevant for me. I am more of a soaker and actually prefer that the jets aren't all blasting. Its too much noise and I don't like the splashing. So I would look for something at a better price point and give up some of the fancy jets in favor of more common ones. A friend of mine paid 1/2 of my cost for a more basic unit and he couldn't be happier. So where would I put this money? I would ALWAYS splurge and get the stereo and speakers built into the tub. My wife insisted on this and it added quite a bit to the price but I wouldn't want it any other way. The tub uses a marine radio/CD player with water proof speakers and a remote controller on the top side of the tub. You can easily hear the music and I even ran a TV in through the Auxiliary so we can hear the TV through the tub speakers. My friend who didn't buy this feature is left with setting up elaborate wiring and remote control extenders to get his stereo to play outside. Another feature I'd suggest is fiber optic lighting. There are a bunch of small lights around the top of the tub that change color. At first glance it looks like this would just be to make it fancy. Try the tub at night and you'll find they provide a great deal of light which makes the tub much easier to use. It also helps when messing around outside the tub with CD's Drinks Towels, Chemicals etc. My friend again, is stringing rope lighting. So in a nutshell on the tub, consider the stereo and fiber optics and if necessary go with less jets to cover the cost.
My wife insisted on a Gazebo surrounding the tub and for years I put off the purchase because I didn't want to spend another $7000.00 on a Gazebo. Once we took the plunge I'd say that for the Minnesota winters I'd have it no other way. I have neighbors that freeze climbing in and out and maintaining their spa. Ours is like another room in the house and is quite warm in the winter due to the heat from the tub. Now a word of advice. My buddy purchased an 8x8 Gazebo that basically encloses the tub with no extra space. They climb up stairs and go through the windows of the gazebo to get in the tub. On a showroom this looks like a fine arrangement. Well this winter his wife climbs in, closes the windows to keep the cold out and finds herself trapped in the gazebo. They had to damage the windows getting it open due to the condensation that froze the window shut. My smart wife insisted we purchase a larger gazebo. We went with a 12x12 that had racks and storage for chemicals and towels. It also has built in lights which are a bonus. The important thing to note about this decision is that I enter the gazebo through a sliding door, not the window. If anything freezes it will be the windows by the tub not the ones opposite the room and the sliding door. Additionally its just nice to have a new room on the house and the cost relative to the benefits isn't bad at all. Plus we have room for a bar and stools in there.
Preparation and Additional Costs
Here are a few things to consider in your decision they either provided additional cost or hard work on my part.
Electrical: You'll most likely need a dedicated 50 amp circuit with a breaker box in plain view of the tub. In our case this meant digging a 36 inch deep trench from the garage to the gazebo (50 feet) so the electrician could run the conduit. The cost of the electrical work was about $1000.00 and I had to dig the trench myself. My buddy did his own electrical and still spent $500.00 in parts so keep that in mind.
Cement: I also needed a new cement slab to accommodate my tub and gazebo. We put in a 14x15 slab to accomplish this. What I did not consider was that cement has gone way up in price since my last 10x10 slab. We spent almost $2000.00 for the labor and materials to have this poured. What I also did not consider was the work of removing the grass from that area. This took three days of exhausting work cutting strips of sod and hauling them to the disposal site.
Gazebo: What I did not consider and was not told by the sales rep was that immediately upon erecting the gazebo, we'd need to stain it to seal the wood from the weather. This is a 12x12 structure I hadn't considered staining. Let me just say it was a day of hard work which will need to be done at least every other year.
Additional Items to Consider
A few additional items you may want to consider purchasing.
Cover Helper: The covers of these hot tubs are not easy to move around by yourself. This is especially true in a Gazebo. They sell cover helpers which are lever type devices that life the cover mechanically and put it behind the tub. Unfortunately for me my wife wants the tub against the wall so we're stuck either using 1/2 the tub or man handling the heavy cover. This is my pet peeve about tubs. So if you have the room or consider making the room, this will make your spa much more enjoyable.
Portable Utility Pump: Tubs have a gravity drain at the bottom but these can take all day to drain a tub. My neighbor was smart and purchased a utility pump or sump pump at the local Home Depot or Menards. This drained the tub in about an hour and let us get to work cleaning and refilling fairly quick. After borrowing his I went right out and picked one up for about $70.00 For those of you who've drained a waterbed without a pump you'll know why this is a good investment.
Hose for adding water: Just like with my waterbeds, I prefer to purchase a special hose for adding water to the tub. I keep it inside so it stays clean and not frozen. Tubs evaporate water at a surprisingly fast rate so plan on adding water once a month or so.
In Home Jacuzzi Tubs
When we built our house we splurged and added one of those large two person Jacuzzi tubs with six jets. I thought we'd be in heaven and was reminiscing of nights spent in the Jacuzzi suites in a hotel. What I didn't consider is the following and because it these things, it functions more as an ornament to make the bathroom look grand.
Filling: These things take time to fill, by the time its filled do you still need or want that bath?
Hot Water: Filling these will drain your water heater down unless you've planned for extra capacity. I find that the water for my pre bath shower isn't very warm once I've filled the tub.
Cleaning: Ok so I'm lazy but just like a hot tub, you have to clean the tub and jets and the larger the tub the more work it is just to keep the dust out.
I hope my thoughts have given you something to consider and plan when making a large purchase such as a spa or gazebo. All things considered I'd do it again if I moved but I'd be a little smarter and save money and effort.
John Gall is a full time IT Manager and IT Consultant in Minnesota. He runs several websites as a hobby featuring content similar to that in this article.