At some point in their lives, many people decide they want to own a hot tub. Generally, it’s the image of unbridled luxury that attracts. But, is installing a hot tub as expensive as some people think?
An in-ground hot tub costs between $6,000 and $20,000 to purchase and install depending on various factors. Additionally, regular maintenance such as chemicals and filters costs from $200 to $300/year. But, spending doesn’t end there. If you use electrical heating, your bill will increase by around $20 to $40/month, depending on how much you use the tub and which state you live in. However, although electricity is the commonest form of heating, you can also use gas, oil, or wood to provide the water temperature you crave. Alternatively, you can now use solar heating methods if you want to reduce the bills even further.
An in-ground hot tub, sometimes called an in-ground jacuzzi or spa, is a relatively permanent fixture in your home, along the same lines as an in-ground pool. Moreover, an in-ground spa is much more durable and attractive to view and use than its above-ground cousins.
In this article, we will discuss the estimated costs of in-ground hot tubs, along with the different factors that influence pricing.
How Much Does an In-ground Hot Tub Cost?
There are two types of in-ground jacuzzi or hot tubs available:
- Prefabricated hot tubs – Most prefabricated hot tub installations are much easier than building one from scratch based on a purchased acrylic hot tub shell. But, they cost more to purchase. Many prefabs are pre-plumbed, only requiring connection to the external services, so saving on installation charges. Unfortunately, they also come in standard shapes such as square, circular, oval, and kidney-shaped.
- Custom hot tubs – Most units consist of excavating the basic shape from the ground and creating the shell and details using gunite, a type of high-pressure sprayed concrete. Because each hot tub needs concrete formwork molds to produce the desired shape, they tend to have much simpler bench seating and far fewer jets. However, two major advantages are that the jacuzzi can be as large as you want and with almost unlimited designs.
Generally, prefabricated hot tubs use acrylic shells ranging in price from about $3000 to $11,000, depending on the sophistication of the finished item. On top of this, you need installation fees which can be anything up to $5,000 or more.
Because custom spas are hand-built, they cost much more. Prices start at around $5,000 and can go as high as your bank account allows. However, typical charges for custom-built hot tubs rarely exceed $15,000.
Whichever type you choose, using a hot tub cover protects the water from contamination by fallen leaves and drowned insects. Furthermore, an insulating cover improves running costs by maintaining the water temperature, especially if you use the spa in winter when the colder temperatures force the heaters to work overtime.
In-ground Hot Tub Designs
Let’s look at the different designs available for the person who wants an in-ground hot tub.
We’ve already mentioned custom-made hot tubs and the many shapes and styles that are possible. A design that complies with code must use an appropriate shell thickness and correctly install the built-in plumbing. Furthermore, the overall design affects the price. With more complicated designs attracting a higher cost, a competent hot tub or pool designer must do the initial plans. Once the designs are complete, you need a qualified and experienced construction contractor. The extra experience will further increase the cost to build an in-ground hot tub.
Alternatively, you can choose one of the prefabricated hot tubs that come in a few standard shapes.
The great advantage of a rectangular hot tub is that there will be room to stretch out. You don’t have to sit cramped up in an uncomfortable position. Instead, you can relax in molded contoured seats with enough personal space to make this an unforgettable experience. Rectangular hot tubs tend to be larger than square ones. However, you can still tuck them into a corner of the yard, out of the way of other activities you might have going on.
A square hot tub is a traditional shape and is among the most widely available in the prefabricated market. The main advantage is that there are obvious sitting spaces available for users. This design can fit neatly into a corner of the patio, yard or deck, without wasting space, unlike a circular or oval design.
Circular hot tubs are very common as they tend to be smaller, cheaper, and easily adapted to above-ground and underground hot tub versions. It’s easy to find a small area in your backyard where you can excavate and install this type. However, you must understand that users have less room to spread out because they are smaller than most designs. Instead, you’ll be sharing a more intimate space with family and friends.
An oval design is a variation of the circle. It’s useful if you have plenty of space to fill but don’t want sharp corners. It combines the smooth curves of a circular spa with the large internal area of a rectangular hot tub.
This is a common shape to have as a below-ground level hot tub. You could liken the profile to be a variation of the oval, but much more interesting to look at and use, and generally larger. They tend to have molded ledges around the curved walls just like the other types, separating the space into two respective areas.
Three-sided hot tubs aren’t very common. Although you can tuck them away into corners of the patio or yard, they don’t seem to have much leg room like other designs. They can also be very uncomfortable if you’re wedged into a corner. However, if cozying up to friends isn’t a problem, choosing a triangular shape will fit nicely into even the smallest yard, with very little wasted space.
- Initially, the most important decision to make is to choose the location. Once you’ve excavated the hole and installed the hot tub, you’re stuck with it, so get it right the first time. If you need advice, consult your installation contractor, hot tub shell retailer, landscape architect, or another suitable professional.
- Although many people decide to have a hot tub built indoors, you probably want an outdoor area with full sun for most of the day, or maybe you want a bit of shade. Wherever you decide, try to keep the tub away from trees, as leaves tend to fall in the water as the summer ends.
- In many areas of the US, you need a building permit for an in-ground spa. Furthermore, a town hall inspector will visit and sign off the work at certain milestones. So, make sure you complete the necessary paperwork, pay the fees, and get the permit before you start to excavate.
Choose the design
- If you decide on a prefabricated model, your design will be limited to the profile of the acrylic shell. In comparison, a custom-made spa will need professional plans for the town hall building department when applying for a permit. And working drawings for the contractor. Remember that only a professional knows the thickness of gunite or concrete to use. Furthermore, both hot tub types need proper plumbing and electrical supplies coming from the house.
- Choose a contractor who has experience with in-ground hot tub installation. At the very worst, choose someone who has constructed pools. Hot tubs need plumbing and electrical services connected, so you need someone qualified and certified to the appropriate codes. Also, ask the contractor if they guarantee the work. Although pricing a job like this is unique to your circumstances and might cost a lot of money, using an experienced and qualified contractor will be worthwhile. A qualified contractor does a good job. And, the town hall inspector will insist on using certified contractors for all those parts requiring building code compliance.
- Usually, a prefabricated hot tub takes around two weeks to install, while a custom-made spa can take up to six weeks.
Types of In-Ground Hot Tubs
We’ve already touched slightly on indoor hot tubs. Usually, indoor hot tubs use acrylic preformed shells to provide the basic structure. This is often because the flooring needs to support the weight of the hot tub, water, and at least one person. The only factor you can adjust here is by choosing the most lightweight material for the tub.
However, this article is about in-ground hot tubs, usually constructed outdoors. We’ve previously mentioned prefabricated and custom-made hot tubs. Now let’s look at each one in more depth.
An outdoor prefabricated in-ground hot tub will be made from either a preformed acrylic shell or stainless steel sections assembled in situ. They come in various shapes and typically can seat up to eight people depending on the size of the shell.
Some prefabricated shells come ready plumbed and wired. You only need a certified plumber and electrician to install and connect the water, electrical, and drainage services necessary for the hot tub to function properly.
Custom-made hot tubs are usually made from concrete. Sometimes the excavation can be lined with concrete blocks and covered with cement render. Or the contractor builds formwork in the hole and then fills the molds with gunite concrete under pressure. Both versions can then be polished smooth or covered with ceramic tiles for a comfortable and decorative finish. However, laying tiles is very labor-intensive and can make the final price extremely expensive.
Sometimes, people build in-ground hot tubs made from wood. Traditional hot tubs were made from this before modern materials became cheap and easy to use. Nowadays, house owners consider a wooden hot tub to be sophisticated. Therefore, manufacturers supply wooden prefabricated hot tubs, or you can have a custom-made model.
To summarize, here is a summary of the various construction materials.
- Acrylic – This is a lightweight, smooth and waterproof material easily molded in the factory into certain standard profiles. Manufacturers offer many different sizes and shapes to suit most requirements.
- Concrete – After excavation, a concrete in-ground spa is very easy to construct to your requirements. However, the job is much more labor-intensive when compared to an acrylic shell, so it costs more.
- Gunite – After excavation, the contractor builds formwork to contain the gunite, which is then sprayed into the molds under pressure.
- Tile – This material only provides a surface decoration. Concrete and gunite feel rough to the skin, so designers use ceramic tiles to cover the surface and make it more comfortable to touch. Tiled hot tubs, although looking good, are very labor-intensive and cost more.
Benefits of In-Ground Hot Tubs
A typical in-ground hot tub will usually improve the look of your home. But, if you don’t choose the location wisely, it can be an eyesore. So, choose an appropriate design, decide on the right spot, and agree on a price so that everything augments your living and entertaining experience.
Even so, installing an in-ground hot tub on your property is a major investment. You must not undertake the project without balancing the agreed expenditure with the expected benefits.
- Durability – The materials used when constructing prefabricated and custom spas will last many years. Therefore if you build an in-ground hot tub according to accepted construction practices and the local building codes, it will last a long time. Remember, too, that designers choose the materials and design the equipment with ease of maintenance in mind. Look after the hot tub and keep it well maintained, and it will give you many problem-free years.
- Health – Many medical practitioners agree that we should learn to relax after a hard and stressful day at work. Soaking in a well-built hot tub drains the body of stress and frustration. Furthermore, it rejuvenates us mentally as well as physically. Suppose you need hydrothereapy treatment after extreme sports or for medical reasons to help with muscle and joint pains. In that case, a hot tub can provide this every day, without visiting expensive country clubs and spa resorts.
- Style – Many people regard having a private and personal in-ground hot tub as the ultimate in sophistication and luxuriousness. You can customize them to suit your requirements. And, they will fit seamlessly into the existing style created by your house, deck, patio, and garden. Although an in-ground hot tub is expensive, you can design and blend it into the existing structure much easier than a cheaper above-ground unit,
Hot Tub Additional Features & Pricing
There are many features to enhance your in-ground hot tub experience. Many hot tubs come with built-in features, while others need separate installation. Here are just a few:
LED lighting comes in underwater and cabinet varieties. Usually, standard lighting comes built into the design. But, added extras include multicolored, dimmable, and strobe lighting.
Many waterfall features are part of the filtration system. The water leaves the tub and enters the filtration system, which removes solids and disinfects the water. The water overflows a waterfall or fountain on returning to the hot tub to aerate the water to keep it fresh and oxygenated.
One important feature that should override everything else is to include a safety fence and gate. This is just common sense, especially if you have children or pets running loose or if there’s a chance of wildlife falling in the water.
Surround the hot tub with isolation fencing together with a child-proof self-closing and latching gate. Additionally, add lockable spa covers and child locks to doors and windows with direct access to the hot tub area.
Legal Permits & Permission
Usually, all construction work containing excavation, drainage, electrics, and plumbing must comply with the appropriate building codes in force in your state.
Unless your state legislation needs other permits, you will need the following:
- Generally, you won’t need a building permit for an above-ground hot tub. But you might need one if the tub requires substantial excavation.
- You will need a plumbing permit if there is a direct connection to the domestic plumbing system. Furthermore, you must only use plumbing fittings made from suitable materials approved by the state.
- You will need a mechanical permit if you use gas to heat the water. Additionally, the code allows only a certified gas installer to connect the gas fittings.
- You will need an electrical permit if you use gas or electric heating. Additionally, the code allows only a certified electrician to work on electrical fittings.
- Suppose you intend to install the hot tub more than 30 inches above grade. For example, if there is a deck built up around the hot tub. You must upgrade the structural capability of the deck to support the total weight of the hot tub, the contained water, and the maximum number of users.
- All hot tubs must have either a cartridge filter system or a sand filtration system. The effluent from the sand filter must discharge into the public sewer.
Remember that your city or state might require more or fewer permissions and compliances. Check with your local authority before starting the project.
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