A hot tub is a great many things—a conversation piece, a conversation area, and a great alternative to a pool for homeowners who have neither the space nor the budget for it.
If your home has a deck, however, installing a hot tub on it will need to be planned out and executed properly.
From electrics to plumbing and, most important of all, structural support, getting your hot tub installed on your deck will need all of these and more to be taken into account.
As such, what are all of the things you need to consider when installing a hot tub on your deck, and how do you get it done both safely and effectively.
We will answer all of your questions in our quick and concise guide to hot tub deck framing.
Can a Deck Support a Tub?
Let’s get the basic question out of the way first: Can you actually install a hot tub on a deck?
Judging from the many examples of hot tubs on decks you can find at any home design catalog, it’s safe to say the answer to that is “yes”.
Of course, there are a few “buts” you will need to be aware of—after all, that’s why we even have this guide in the first place.
Some of the factors that can make installing a hot tub on your deck difficult or otherwise not feasible include:
- the weight of the hot tub
- the load capacity of your deck
- the cost of reworking your deck (if needed)
- the accessibility of electrical and plumbing paths
What Deck Can Support a Hot Tub
With these caveats in mind, what sort of decks can actually support the demands of a hot tub?
Arguably the most qualified one for the job is an outright concrete slab, which will have no trouble accommodating even the heaviest of hot tubs since it is practically raised ground at that point.
If this isn’t possible, of course, one can set up their deck to be able to support the immense weight of a fully loaded hot tub. We will go through the process of doing this later on in the guide.
Hot Tub Deck Framing: What to Keep In Mind
To ensure that your hot tub functions at its best for the longest time, your deck framing has to be able to accommodate it properly.
Just below, we’ve compiled a list of all of the important aspects of your hot tub deck framing that you will need to adjust or take into account for the best results.
Many things to keep in mind, like deck load, heights, beam size, wind direction, joist size and spacing, etc.
When it comes to hot tubs, size definitely matters. Not only will the hot tub you buy dictate how many people you will be able to accommodate with it, it will also affect all of the other considerations on this list as everything will have to adjust to make room.
From spartan but relatively effective models at around $3,000 to high-end luxury units costing well into the 5-digit range, you will want to choose your hot tub early and choose wisely—changing your mind in the middle of the build process will prove very costly.
The deck load is the first factor that you will need to adjust to accommodate your hot tub. After all, a fully-loaded and occupied hot tub can weigh as much as an SUV and will concentrate that weight over a much smaller area.
Knowing this, you have two options depending on the space you have on and around your deck—either have your hot tub on a concrete slab and build a deck around it, or install the hot tub directly on your deck with special structural adjustments.
You would also want to adjust the height of your deck such that the hot tub can be entered and exited easily and safely.
You may have seen certain designs that have the height of the deck set at the same height as the hot tub. We do not recommend this for safety reasons, as it creates the potential risk of someone falling in if they aren’t aware that the hot tub is even there.
If you do want to go for the recessed hot tub style, we would recommend keeping about 18 to 24 inches of the hot tub sticking out above the surface of the deck. That range is generally a good height that lets people safely navigate around the tub and also sit on the edge.
All hot tubs need to be connected to a power source to enable all of its functions—without it, the tub simply becomes an overpriced kiddy pool.
Of course, water and electricity don’t exactly mix well together. As such, your hot tub must be connected to a GFCI, or Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter outlet, which is designed to automatically cut power to the hot tub if it detects a short circuit (such as that caused by water contact).
In the same vein, the plumbing on your hot tub must also be set up separately from your electrical connections to ensure that the two do not come into contact with each other. The water going into and out of the hot tub should also follow the typical standards for both safety and building code compliance.
All hot tubs, no matter how expensive, will need to be serviced or repaired at some point down the line. You should therefore design your deck to allow easy access to the internals of the hot tub, such as the motor, electrics, and plumbing. We recommend working closely with a good contractor to ensure that all of this is built to spec.
You would definitely want to have your hot tub installed in a location that is hidden well away from neighbors but also allows you to take in the open air.
If the location of your deck does not make this possible, you can make use of privacy screens and other similar pieces of furniture to achieve the same effect.
Last but definitely not least of your concerns is cost. Since specific pricing will vary widely depending on your contractor, supplier, and the specific design of the frame you will use for your deck, we won’t give any specific numbers here.
What we can tell you, though, is that you should look into as many possible options as you can so you have a full picture of how much you will be expected to shell out for your outdoor hot tub.
How to Prepare Your Deck For a Hot Tub
Now that we’ve gone through all the considerations that go into setting up your hot tub, we can now move on to the basic process for setting things up.
Of course, we want to make clear that the following guide is not something you must follow to the dot—deviations from this can and should be considered if you are going for a slightly different deck setup.
1. Cordon Off Space For Your Hot Tub
For the purposes of this guide we will assume that you’ve already selected a hot tub to install on your deck. As such, you would want to have its designated area clear out and ready to take on the hot tub well before it arrives.
2. Prepare Structural Support
Depending on what sort of supports you want to have for your hot tub, you will want to have this installed and ready first and foremost. This means pouring in concrete forms or installing a dedicated wooden deck platform for your hot tub.
We would like to emphasize that, unless your deck is already built to support a hot tub in the first place, you should make a new and separate platform for the hot tub, as the weight far exceeds the standard load-bearing capacity of most decks
3. Install Wiring And Plumbing
Electrical and plumbing connections are usually installed either during or after the construction of the hot tub’s structural support. Again, electricity and water do not mix well together, so ensure both parts are absolutely safe before moving on with the next step.
4. Install The Hot Tub
With everything in place, the hot tub should come in at the end of the process and be tested to make sure that all of your installed connections, as well as the hot tub’s features, are installed