Building a Spa on your Deck

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traditional-patioHot tubs and spas come in an array of shapes and sizes, and can be equipped with scores of accessories. Choosing the right spa depends on its intended use, how big your deck is, and what structural alterations will be required for your deck. You’ll also need to know the cost of installation,

Before long, fiberglass versions with circulating jets appeared called “spas.” Today the terms “hot tub” and “spa” are used interchangeably, but because most units are jetted, spa is the term more commonly used. Spas range in size from two-person models costing about $2,000, to 20-foot-long swim spas costing $18,000 or more. In between are those most popular for decks: 4- to 8-person models costing from $2,500 to $10,000. full-foam” insulation—a high-density, closed-cell polyurethane foam that fills the cavity between the fiberglass tub shell and the outer cabinet and helps reduce heat loss. In addition, full-foam insulation helps reduce noise and adds stability to the entire unit. Check installation costs as well. They’ll be dependent on the size of the spa and the ease of getting it where it needs to be. In some cases, limited access may require the use of a crane to lower the spa into place.

Adding structural components to carry the weight

The safest—and most cost-effective—location for a spa is the lower level of a deck. A deck only a few steps above ground, if built to code, Check your local codes for any restrictions governing the installation of a spa on a deck. If you want the tub on a deck more than a couple of feet above ground or on an upper level of a deck, things get more complicated. You’ll need to hire a structural engineer to provide specs for a site-specific framing structure to support the weight.
Accessing power and water

Spas require a nearby source of electricity. Because water is involved, any electrical hookup for a spa must include ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection. This nifty device shuts down the system within milliseconds if it detects the tiniest change in current flow caused by a short circuit. Some spas come with an extension cord with a GFCI built in that can be plugged into a 110-volt, 20-amp circuit.

Larger units require at least one dedicated 220-volt, 50-amp circuit. In addition, there must be an emergency shutoff within sight of the spa, but not closer than 5 feet or farther than 50 feet. Water access is simple; spas fill with an outdoor hose. The spa then heats and circulates the water. Insulated tub covers limit evaporation, but the tub will need occasional topping off. When it’s time to empty the unit, all spas have built-in hose bibs so you can drain the water

Safety

Getting in and out of a spa provides opportunities for mishaps. A handrail is a good idea for older—and younger—users. A cover with a lock is must if you have children. If you plan to build your spa into the deck, it may seem best to drop it into the deck so that the rim of the tub sits on the decking. Unfortunately, this makes it easy for people to fall in or step on the cover, and also complicates getting into the tub. The ideal arrangement is to set the spa partially into the deck so the rim is 17 to 24 inches above the decking. That way, bathers can sit on the rim, swing their feet over, and enter the water.

If you live in a region with a climate moderate enough for year-round use, a deck equipped with a spa should give you a slight edge in selling a home. Spas normally are assets as long as they have been properly maintained and there is no evidence of leakage or deferred maintenance. People react differently to the prospect of purchasing a house that has a spa. Some buyers may ask that it be removed as a condition of sale. Others will hardly be able to wait for that first soothing soak.

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