What to consider before installing a hot tub

This past spring my wife and I added a hot tub to the deck outside of our bedroom. It’s a wonderful luxury; I can think of few better ways to relax. But while enjoying a home spa provides many rewards, plan ahead so the reality lives up to everything you imagine.

Accessibility, safety and privacy

The more desirable tubs are taller and can be difficult to climb into. One way of ensuring easy access is in-ground installation. Another is incorporating the tub into a new or existing deck design. Generally speaking, buyers are wise to focus their search on models that come equipped with stairs and a handrail.

For peace of mind and to promote the well-being of your family and neighbors, insist on such basic and essential safety features as automatic shut-off and a strong, locking cover. Remember that some municipalities’ building codes require a barrier (e.g., fencing) to surround hot tubs, not just swimming pools.

Locate your spa in a private area of the yard, ideally one that is close to the required utilities. If it helps, use a length of rope or garden hose to mark out the hot tub’s approximate dimensions, and track the sight lines from different vantage points around the yard, inside the home and even off the property.

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Cost to build and maintain

Standard two-person spas start at about $4,000, while six-person tubs go for $8,000 and higher. (Portable "plug and play" models are available for less.) Many dealers provide installation at 5 or 10 percent of the product cost, and because both water and electricity are involved, professional installation is strongly recommended.

Often the largest expense for a first-time hot tub purchaser is site preparation. Even an empty one can easily weigh close to a 1,000 pounds. Be smart and consult with a qualified contractor or structural engineer to make certain that whatever the support structure, it will be sufficient to carry the spa’s load size.

The determining factor in cost of maintenance is whether you choose to hire out the work or do it yourself. For many hot tub owners around the country, supplying enough but not too much chlorine/bromide (or non-toxic water treatment) and maintaining the correct pH level is a tedious though unavoidable chore.

Therapeutic value & will the novelty wear off?

Doctors don’t usually prescribe "30 minutes of spa time," but hydrotherapy goes back thousands of years, with more and more studies showing its link to good things like joint pain relief, increased blood flow and better sleep. Now I can’t vouch for all that, but few would disagree that hot tubs are relaxing -- as well as fun.

So why do folks shy away from moving past the planning stage when it comes to home spas? Many fear the allure would fade too quickly, and while there’s no way to know for sure, it’s a question -- perhaps the most important one -- to ask yourself. For us in Florida … so far so good.


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Bob Vila is the home improvement expert widely known as host of TV’s This Old House, Bob Vila’s Home Again, and Bob Vila. Today, Bob continues his mission to help people upgrade their homes and improve their lives with advice online at BobVila.com. His video-rich site offers a full range of fresh, authoritative content -- practical tips, inspirational ideas, and more than 1,000 videos from Bob Vila television.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.