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Creating the foundation for your new hot tub can be a bit of a pain. If your yard is uneven, you’re probably wondering: how important is it to level a hot tub?
Hot tubs need to sit on a perfectly level base to ensure the weight of the water is evenly distributed. If your hot tub sits on uneven ground, the lack of support creates stress on the shell and frame, which causes fractures and cracks. An uneven surface also means the water cannot drain, creating unwanted pooling.
Many believe that concrete is the best foundation for a hot tub, but it does have its drawbacks. Later on, I explain all of the pros and cons of the different foundation materials available to you.
How important is it to level a hot tub?
A hot tub can weigh more than 6600lbs (3000kg) once it’s been filled with water, which is why it’s so important that the hot tub is sitting on a strong, stable surface that’s perfectly level.
Lack of support causes fractures and cracks
Any dips in the ground where the hot tub sits puts unwanted stress on the hot tub shell and frame, which can lead to cracking, fractures, and structural damage.
In addition to being level, the foundation your hot tub sits on needs to be sturdy and firm. The most common option is a concrete foundation, but a hot tub base doesn’t have to be made from concrete.
There are a number of options when it comes to the surface that your hot tub sits on, and I’m going to take you through all these later on in this article.
Whichever base you choose, it has to be strong enough that it can support the weight of the hot tub over a prolonged period of time.
For example, placing a hot tub on an unstable surface such as grass may cause it to sink or shift as people get in and out, causing damage and making it unsafe to use.
Lack of drainage creates pooling and damage
Another reason it’s so important that your hot tub sits on a level surface is so that it can drain properly.
The base should be at a maximum of 1/2″ (1.27cm) slope in an 8 foot (2.44m) run. This slight gradient allows the water to run off freely.
When a hot tub sits on a bumpy, uneven surface, the water cannot drain, creating pools of water.
No matter how careful you are, water is going to find its way onto the ground around the hot tub as people get in and out. This is even more of a problem if youngsters are splashing around.
In regions where freezing temperatures occur, there is a real risk that pooling water could form beneath the base, shifting the support structure and causing damage.
You’ll need to perform maintenance to your hot tub several times throughout the year, such as draining all of the water and performing a thorough cleaning, so it’s important that the water can escape properly.
In addition to creating a level base, you should choose a location where the water can drain freely, such as into a nearby drain. If you don’t have a drain nearby, you can have one easily installed.
How do you level the ground for a hot tub pad?
I highly recommend that you watch the following video for an in-depth guide on how to prepare and level the ground for your hot tub. The video also shows you how to build a trench for all the electricals.
What is the best base for a hot tub?
Despite what many people think, a hot tub does not have to sit on concrete. While concrete is an excellent option, there are several other materials that make great bases and are sturdy enough to support your hot tub.
A concrete foundation is one of the most popular choices among hot tub users and for good reason. Concrete is extremely sturdy, long-lasting, low-maintenance, inexpensive, and easy to lay.
A concrete pad poured in a single layer is the best choice. Creating a single slab that is measured to fit your hot tub dimensions increases durability and works a lot better than using multiple blocks.
For many, concrete isn’t the most appealing to look at, but this can be remedied by adding a deck or patio trim around the edges where the concrete is visible.
One downside to concrete is that it doesn’t offer the best drainage solution. If the water isn’t able to drain properly, the excess water pooling on the surface can lead to cracks in the concrete.
While the go-to choice is usually concrete, gravel has many advantages over concrete and is an excellent option for a number of reasons.
A gravel base is sturdy, easy to lay, cost-effective, and offers excellent drainage. The efficient drainage means that water isn’t able to pool, so you don’t need to worry about damage.
The small pieces of gravel “mold” to your hot tub, meaning there’s no need to worry about it moving over time. Gravel forms around the base much like a memory foam mattress forms around your body.
Unlike concrete, gravel is easy to install, can be laid in a matter of hours, and has a great aesthetic appeal that’ll complement your backyard.
The only real downside to gravel is that it can be very uncomfortable if you accidentally tread on it with bare feet, so it’s a good idea to buy some hot tub steps that sit over the gravel for pain-free access to your hot tub.
Reinforced decking is a great option because of its solid structure that is likely to have already been leveled.
The great thing about decking is that it’s one of the most aesthetically appealing choices, and it’s really comfortable underfoot as you get in and out of the hot tub.
Most well-built decks should be able to handle a hot tub, but it’s important to have the decking inspected by a professional before installing your new hot tub.
The decking will need to have the proper supports in order to be able to withstand the weight of a hot tub filled with water and people.
Extra joists will have to be installed, and you’ll need to ensure the foundations below are sufficiently strong. The foundations can be strengthened with concrete or another type of hardcore.
Unfortunately, there are a few drawbacks to decking, such as issues with longevity and noise. Unless you have have decking made from modern composite materials, decking has a short lifespan.
If the decking is attached to your home, you’ll experience more vibration and noise from your hot tub pump. One option to reduce the noise is by using hot tub floor matting.
Ideally, what you really need if you’re going to sit your hot tub on decking is a model that comes with silent circulation.
Patio and block paving
If you’re fortunate enough to already have a patio or block paving in your yard, then the great news is that the surface is already likely to be reinforced and able to support the weight of a hot tub.
It’s always best to err on the side of caution though, so consult a specialist before you install the hot tub on your patio to ensure that it can definitely take the weight. The benefit of using an existing area is that it’ll save you time and money.
However, a potential downside is that the slope gradient may exceed 1/2”, making it unsuitable for your hot tub. Most patios are built to slope away from your home to ensure proper drainage.
As a temporary solution, you could level the hot tub using these composite shims. However, the issue with shims is that they rot over time, causing the much-dreaded dips to occur beneath your hot tub.
And if the shims aren’t properly installed, it’ll create extra tension on the hot tub shell and frame that will cause damage over time.
By far the quickest and easiest alternative to all other materials are hot tub pads, such as the EZ Pad.
These prefabricated pads are made from high-density plastic that’s lightweight and portable, making it easy to change the location of your hot tub.
The pads come in square panels that lock together with plastic connectors and are then screwed in place on the underside of each panel. Once connected together, flip the panels over, and put them in place.
Although these pads are about as fuss-free as you’ll get, don’t think it’s quite as simple as ordering online, assembling, and throwing down in any old place. You still need a flat, level surface to sit the pads on to avoid damaging your hot tub.
The great news about prefabricated pads is that they can be laid pretty much anywhere so long as you’ve leveled the foundation first. Place them on grass, dirt, sand, pavers, or concrete.
Just like materials such as gravel, they provide excellent drainage so you don’t have to worry about pooling water.
Where is the best location for a hot tub?
Deciding on the right location to place your hot tub is more difficult than just finding the sunniest spot in your yard. Depending on where you live, there are certain codes that need to be obeyed.
Location and local code
You want to ensure that the hot tub is at least five feet away from your home. This is actually law in states such as Minnesota and California, so make sure to check local code.
The GFCI needs to be adjacent to the hot tub on an outside wall that is at least 5 feet (2m) from your hot tub.
It’s important to make sure that you accurately measure for the above requirements. For an above-ground hot tub, you need to measure the distance from the property line and GFCI to the edge of your hot tub’s structure.
Make sure to never install your hot tub under or near any power lines either. For safety, the hot tub needs to be a sufficient distance away from any horizontal and vertical power lines. Check the local code in your area to find out more.
On a more practical note, it’s more convenient to have your hot tub as close to your home as possible. Here are the reasons why.
Close to an electrical and water source
While it’s vital to obey local code when deciding on a location for your hot tub, you don’t want the hot tub too far from an electrical source.
The further away your hot tub is from your house, the more expensive it’ll be to run a cable to power it.
Ensure that you’re as close as possible to your water source to make filling the hot tub less of a hassle. You probably have a garden hose located near one of the entrances to your home, so look to keep the hot tub as near as possible.
Close to a drain
You’re going to need to drain your hot tub several times a year, so it’s a good idea to make sure you have a drain close by. Also make sure that the location of your hot tub isn’t blocking access to utilities such as your septic tank or sewer lines.
It’s best to avoid areas where there are trees or shrubs nearby as the roots could extend to beneath your hot tub base, which could end up being a huge headache years down the line.
Also, consider how level the ground is before you begin creating your foundation. The more uneven the ground is to begin with, the more work you’ll have to get it level.