Hot tub

Hot tubs are up there alongside swimming pools and wine cellars when it comes to luxurious home design. Outside hot tubs are a sure sign to the neighbours that you’ve ‘made it’, but there is more to them than showing off: hot tubs can also be good for your health, help you to relax and provide plenty of opportunities for enjoying time with friends.

Just like swimming pools, it is far more practical to install a hot tub outside than inside, simply because the necessary changes to an interior’s structure and utilities to allow it to accommodate a hot tub would be too expensive to consider. Having said that, installing an outside hot tub is more than a simple matter of filling it up with a hose. It takes careful preparation and planning, and certain aspects will even need to comply with Building Regulations.

Something to keep in mind about installing a hot tub is that there is absolutely no point in scrimping on price. An improper hot tub installation can actually leave you legally vulnerable, not to mention lead to expensive issues down the line. Hot tubs can also be quite expensive to repair, which means that your best options for installation will be those that come with solid professional warranties.

If you are planning to install a hot tub outside, there are several points that you will need to consider in advance, including the base, the electrical utilities and the method of delivery. Although hot tubs require far less maintenance than pools, you will also still have to decide on how you will keep yours clean.

While an actual hot tub installation service will usually be handled by the supplier, it is still important to make sure that the installation work is properly done. Any electrical work should be carried out by a qualified electrician. The base should also be constructed by a professional, as it will need to be able to support a significant amount of weight. You may even want to have a local landscape designer design a custom ‘hot tub area’ for your appliance, so you can properly show it off!

One last thing to mention is that if your property is a listed building, or if you live in an area of outstanding natural beauty, you may require planning permission before you can have your hot tub installed.

Hot tub

Positioning an outside hot tub

The first thing to decide on when planning an outdoor hot tub installation is where exactly you are going to place it! 

First of all, the hot tub will need to be positioned on flat, even ground. There will need to be adequate space for both the hot tub itself and the base, along with any other accessories such as a heat pump. Another aspect to consider is privacy, especially if you want to have an outdoor changing area. To avoid anyone having to ‘show off’ to the neighbours, you may want to consider installing a garden fence, or even a shed to serve as a changing room.

You will also need to consider exposure when choosing where to place your hot tub. It ought to be away from any falling leaves, but it will also need to have access to the right balance of sunlight and shade.

Finally, consider the area around the hot tub. Would you consider laying a pathway to the spot from your door, or perhaps a patio to provide a clear area around the tub? Having a sizeable clean surface around the hot tub is definitely worth considering, especially if you want to avoid guests bringing grass and debris with them when they climb into the water.

Hot tub

Electrical requirements for an outside hot tub

Hot tubs run on electricity, so while you might be eager to get your tub installed as soon as possible, you will need to ensure that the electrical utilities are installed correctly, safely and in accordance with Building Regulations.

When thinking in terms of electrical utilities, hot tubs tend to fall into two categories: 13 amp models and ‘dedicated’ models. 13 amp hot tubs tend to be cheaper but smaller models which come with fewer functions. These models can usually be plugged into a standard three-pronged waterproof outdoor socket.

However, ‘dedicated’ models are another matter. They usually run on 20 amps or more, and will need to connected directly to your property’s fuse box. Naturally, this kind of work should only ever be done by a qualified electrician. Although your supplier will likely have their own installer work on your hot tub, it will still be crucial for you to check their qualifications, as the electrical work will also need to be done in accordance with Building Regulations. 

Hot tub

Creating a base for an outside hot tub

It is almost always the customer’s responsibility to provide a suitable base when purchasing a hot tub. In case you were unaware, hot tubs tend to be quite heavy: a typical spa, which is one of the smaller types of hot tub you can get, weighs around 1.5 tonnes. Your hot tub’s base will also need to be able to accommodate the necessary plumbing and electrical utilities. In other words, you cannot just order a hot tub and expect to put it directly on your lawn.

You have a few different options when it comes to choosing a base for your hot tub. Keep in mind that most of these options must be installed on flat and compacted ground:

  • Cement pavers - These can be a stylish option for a hot tub base, though you will need to check that your selected paving stones will be able to take the weight of the tub before you make your purchase. Usually, a cement paver base will also need a top layer of cement in order to take the shape of the bottom of the hot tub which, contrary to popular opinion, will almost never be flat.
  • Gravel - Gravel is a good base because it can conform to the shape of a hot tub base. The problem with this is access, since nobody will want to walk barefoot over gravel to get to your tub. If you do choose a gravel space, you will also need to ensure that there is adequate drainage.
  • Concrete - Concrete is usually the default options for hot tubs which are being set in specially designed enclosures. A concrete base may also need a shallow sand bed to fill in the spaces and shapes in the bottom of the tub. To support the weight of a hot tub, a concrete base will usually need to be around 6 inches thick. While concrete paving is a job that you can do yourself, it tends to be highly labour intensive, and so if concrete is your choice you may want to consider having a local builder do the work on your behalf.

Hot tub

  • Prefabricated - Prefab hot tub bases are usually made from several interlocking pads. They are a relatively new option which can be as effective as concrete for a lower price.
  • Decking - A hot tub can be the perfect addition to garden decking. If you already have decking, however, you will need to calculate how much weight it can take. Common decking simply is not designed to support the weight of a tub; if you have decking built directly on soil, you will definitely need to have it reinforced. Of course, if you are still waiting to book your garden decking installation service, simply make it clear to your carpenter that it will need to take a hot tub’s weight.
  • Patio - A patio can make the perfect base for a hot tub; simply make sure that your chosen slabs or tiles are flat and that they will be able to take the weight of your tub.

One final thing to consider regarding your hot tub base is that it may be worth making it larger than the tub itself. This will provide you with a clean area to walk around in, which can help to prevent people bringing mud, stones or other debris into your tub water.

Hot tub

Outside hot tub delivery

Surprisingly, one of the most awkward parts of installing a hot tub installed is its delivery. We mentioned before that even a small spa hot tub can typically weigh around 1.5 tonnes, and there are only so many ways an item of this weight can be delivered to a property. This, again, is something that you will need to decide well in advance:

  • Crane - Hiring a crane to lift your hot tub and deposit it in your garden can add at least £1.6k to your bill. Depending on how much access there is to your property, along with the shape and weight of your chosen hot tub, this may be the only option you have.
  • Hot tub carts - If your chosen hot tub model is not too heavy, your supplier may be able to deliver it by rolling it along on a hot tub cart. If this option is possible, you will need to make sure that there is adequate access to your property. Even smaller models, such as spas, can sometimes be delivered on castor boards.