If you’re looking to add a touch of luxury and relaxation to your outdoor living space, a wooden hot tub might be the perfect choice for you.
In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know about wooden hot tubs, including their benefits, maintenance, and how to choose the best one for you. So sit back, relax, and let us guide you through the world of wooden tubs.
How do wooden hot tubs work?
Electric heating is probably the most common way of keeping a wooden hot tub warm. You’ll need to install a 240V circuit at home to carry out this process. This circuit can then be used to power the electric heater in the wooden hot tub. With this option, you will gain control over the water’s temperature via a control panel near the hot tub.
Gas heating is one of the best options to use in colder climates because natural gas is more cost-effective. In this case, you’ll need to run a gas line to the hot tub.
When you turn on the gas heater, a small fire ignites. So the spa water is heated as it passes over the heating element. The process is similar to electric heating. The only difference is that a different fuel source is used.
Wood-fired is the most traditional heating method for a wooden hot tub. A wood-fired hot tub comes with a log-burning stove attached to the side of the tub. The stove can either be external or internal. If it is internal, it’ll be separated from the bathers by a wooden fence.
The water in a wood-fired hot tub heats up by absorbing heat from the stove. This heat absorption process depends on the placement of the stove.
If the stove is internal, the water will absorb the heat directly from the stove. If the stove is external, the water will have to flow out of the spa, past the stove, and back into the hot tub.
You can control the temperature of a wood-fired hot tub by the number of logs you add to the stove. Compared to other heating methods, this process of temperature regulation is somewhat unreliable.
This is because you have to monitor the water temperature with a floating thermometer to ensure it doesn’t overheat. Furthermore, if the water gets too cold, you’ll have to get out of the tub and add more wood.
To cool down a wood-fired hot tub, you’ll need to reduce the size of the fire by using the chimney damper, which allows you to limit the amount of oxygen reaching the flames.
When you are done with the spa, you can either let the fire burn out on its own or block the stove’s air intake. You can also decide to quench the burning flames yourself.
Wooden hot tub DIY kit
A wooden hot tub DIY kit comes with all the pieces ready to go, so you don’t need to build the spa completely from scratch. All you need to do is follow the instructions and assemble the pieces. Several wooden hot tub manufacturers offer DIY kits.
If you’re dealing with a small hot tub, you can easily assemble it by yourself in most cases. But if you’re trying to assemble a large spa, you would need to recruit a friend or two to help with the heavy lifting. You would also need an extra set of hands to help keep things in position.
Before your hot tub DIY kit arrives, choose a good spot for assembly. This spot could also be where you place the tub after you’ve completely assembled it. Ensure you plan accordingly and pick a spot that can handle the weight of the hot tub. Even a small tub can weigh as much as 1500-2000 lbs.
Most hot tub DIY kits will include the following pieces: wood slats (staves), metal banding to hold everything together, pre-assembled bench seating, a pre-assembled floor, and detailed step-by-step instructions.
Types of wood
Red cedar is the best thermal insulator among the commonly available softwood species. It has very low shrinkage and is far superior to concrete, brick, and steel. It is properly finished and maintained and can deliver decades of trouble-free service.
Because it’s free of pitch and resin, red cedar has excellent gluing properties. Furthermore, because of its high degree of dimensional stability, it perfectly accepts oils, stains, paints, and other coatings. However, red cedar has a rough texture that may require extra work. Canadian red cedar is usually regarded as the most sustainable building material available.
Yellow cedar, particularly Alaskan yellow cedar (AYC), is the toughest and most durable cedarwood available. It is highly decay resistant and has an incredibly straight grain. So if your hot tub is made of yellow cedar, you can be certain that it will last for decades.
Furthermore, yellow cedar has a beautiful pale yellow finish and a unique look. It also has excellent strength and wear properties as well as great impact resistance. All these features make yellow cedar the best material for a wooden hot tub.
Teak is a tropical hardwood that is known for its durability and resistance to rot and decay. The high oil content of teak makes it resistant to water damage, and it can withstand exposure to water for long periods of time without rotting or deteriorating.
This is one of the reasons why teak is a popular choice for hot tubs. The natural oils in the wood help to protect it from water damage, and the wood can be restored to its natural color and condition even after it has been weathered or exposed to water for an extended period of time.
Spruce wood is soft and medium-weight. It is not a long-lasting natural wood, which means that it is not very weatherproof. However, it is strong, stiff, and tough. It is also versatile, easy to work with, and easy to treat. In addition, it doesn’t leak resin. However, spruce is susceptible to rot and must be regularly treated and sealed.
Larch belongs to the heaviest and most resilient conifer wood available on the market. It is tough, durable, and waterproof. It is highly eco-friendly and people-friendly and is considered a warm building material.
Compared to spruce, larch is more resistant to insects and decay. It grows more slowly and has a higher wood density. It also contains a higher resin substance.
Over time, its density and resilience will only grow. Larch is also very light and decorative. It has a warm brown color with beautifully visible grain.
Thermo-processed wood is darker than natural wood, more resistant to rot, and more weatherproof. It is made through a chemical-free process using steam and heat vapor.
The qualities are set at high temperatures of 340-450°F (170-230°C) without applying excipients. This ensures the process of killing the timber is environmentally friendly.
During the thermal modification process, the resin is removed from the wood, preventing it from secreting resin even in high temperatures.
Oakwood is very strong, heavy, hard, and durable. It is resistant to mold and fungi and has low stiffness and medium crushing. It also has excellent steam-bending properties. In addition, oak is easy to nail, screw, machine, and glue.
Oakwood stains easily and comes in different colors. It has a high capacity for water absorption that causes it to shrink or expand.
Pines are particularly valued for their timber and wood pulp. They are denser and more durable than spruce. Pine is more suitable for indoor hot tubs because it has no insect-resistant or decay-resistant qualities, especially in its untreated state.
So if you plan on using your hot tub for outdoor purposes, you’ll need to treat the pinewood with a suitable chemical preservative like copper azole or chromated copper arsenate.
Beechwood is known for its light tones, tiny pores, and excellent performance against all types of finishes. It is slightly coarse and reddish-brown in color. It has a straight grain and a fine, even texture.
Beech is considered perishable or non-durable and can be susceptible to insect attack. Therefore, it is not recommended for outdoor applications.
However, it has a high crush strength, good nailing and gluing properties, excellent bending characteristics, and medium stiffness. It also stains and polishes well and is resistant to shock.
Wooden hot tubs range from $2,500 to $10,000, depending on the size, type of wood, heating source, and accessories.
Electric and gas wooden hot tubs are generally more expensive than wood-fired hot tubs, and they cost more to operate. However, they’re much easier to use.
Gas-powered wooden hot tubs typically cost between $5,000-$10,000, but smaller and more basic models usually start at about $4,000.
Most electric wooden spas cost between $4,500-$9,000, but basic versions (e.g., ones that have a single-speed pump) usually start at $3,000. Wood-fired wooden hot tubs usually range from $2,500-$5,000.
|Type of Wooden Hot Tub
|$2,500 – $5,000
|$3,000 – $9,000
|$4,000 – $10,000
Wooden hot tubs are sold with a pump, heater, and filter, but you can upgrade to more powerful versions if you wish. Upgrading to a more powerful heater can cost as much as $1,000-$2,000, while upgrading to a pump with multiple speeds can add about $100-$200 to the total price.
Hot tub covers are typically sold separately, costing about $500-$1,000. Adding lights to the tub can cost you about $100-$200 per light. Adding an ionizer costs about $600.
The cost of operation is also something to consider. Most electric and gas hot tubs cost $20-$40 per month to operate, while wood-fired tubs cost just a few dollars per month.
Jets are not available in wood-fired wooden hot tubs, but you can add jets to gas or electric wooden tubs. Some wooden tubs come with jets, while some may require you to install the jets yourself.
One advantage wooden hot tubs have over acrylic hot tubs is that in a wooden hot tub, you can install the jets however you like to suit your personal needs better.
Some wooden hot tubs come with already-installed wooden benches, while others may require you to install the seats yourself. And unlike the seats in an acrylic hot tub, you can adjust the benches if you feel they’re too high or too low.
Cladding is a kit of matching boards placed on the exterior of your wooden hot tub to hide the plumbing or complete the look of your tub if it has rim decks. Cladding is also used for decking if you want your deck to match your spa.
If your hot tub is going to be on display, you may want to consider matching your tub’s cladding to its surroundings. This adds extra depth to your whole setup and lets the tub fit seamlessly into its surroundings.
The basic function of a cover is to retain heat and keep debris out of your hot tub. Most wooden hot tubs come with a standard wooden cover; however, you can upgrade to a fiberglass cover that matches your hot tub’s liner and gives it a pleasing aesthetic finish.
Fiberglass covers are lighter than wooden covers, making them easier to remove and replace. You should also consider using an insulated cover, especially if you plan on using your tub often. This will help retain the heat, allowing it to heat up faster for the next use. It will also reduce your running costs.
Steps are not a necessity, but they can be very helpful when you want to get in or out of the tub. This is especially useful since wooden hot tubs are generally taller than acrylic spas.
In addition, you can make the steps match your hot tub’s exterior, thereby giving your tub a delightful finishing touch.
Swelling of the hot tub
Swelling occurs when wood absorbs water or moisture and expands, thereby closing the little gaps inside the tub. Wooden hot tubs will always have some level of leakage, especially if the tub is new, so the tub needs to swell in order to keep water inside.
Swelling a new wooden hot tub usually takes about 2-5 days. During this process, you can pour sawdust into the water to fill the gaps and eliminate water leakage faster. You should avoid using the hot tub until the whole process is complete.
Filling the wooden tub
Unless you plan on using the tub for three days straight, refill the tub after every session. You should also take a bath or shower before using it as this helps prolong the use of the spa water.
Cleaning the wooden tub
Scrub the inside of the hot tub regularly using a soft brush and soap. Do this when the tub is empty. When you’re done scrubbing, rinse the tub thoroughly.
You should also sanitize the hot tub water after each use to kill the bacteria in the water. However, do not use chlorine in a wooden hot tub because it is too harsh and can cause stains and faster deterioration.
You can use a copper/silver/zinc mineral ionizer or a hot tub ozonator since they’re less reactive than chlorine. You can also use bromine and add some algaecide for algae control.
You should shock your hot tub water once a week using non-chlorine shock. This will help oxidize the water and eliminate organic matter like dead skin cells, body oils, cosmetics, and lotions. Lastly, ensure you clean the filter every month and change the filter at least once a year.
Balancing the water chemistry
The hot tub water can become too acidic or alkaline due to regular use and chemical treatments. Acidic water irritates the skin and eyes. It can also corrode the wooden hot tub and its components. Meanwhile, alkaline water can cause stains and deposits on the wood.
Therefore, it is vital that you balance the water chemistry in your wooden hot tub. You would need to test the water to determine the pH level. From there, you’ll know whether to add a pH increaser or decreaser.
Impregnation helps to increase resistance to the negative effects of moisture and chemicals, thereby reducing cracking. This should be done twice a year (before and after winter).
Wooden hot tubs should be kept moist all the time to prevent shrinkage, which eventually leads to leakage. It is advisable to always keep water inside the tub, especially during the warm season, unless the tub needs to be repaired or cleaned.
It is advisable to drain your wooden hot tub during the cold season. This is because water increases approximately 9% in volume when it freezes, which could lead to the destruction of the wood.
Another reason you should drain your wooden hot tub during the cold season is that the moisture content in the air is higher during the winter season. Therefore, the wooden tub remains moist even without water in it. However, you would need to swell the tub after winter.
How long do wooden hot tubs last?
Wooden hot tubs can last for 20 years or longer. But it’s unlikely that a wooden hot tub will last for more than 30 years. This is especially true if the tub is not well maintained or is left outside in the elements.
Wood is a tough material; however, it will eventually weaken when constantly exposed to heat and water. No matter how much you maintain your wooden hot tub, the wood will eventually rot. However, 20 years of use is still a very long time for a wooden hot tub. Most acrylic spas don’t last that long.
The pros and cons of wooden hot tubs
Here is a list of some of the pros and cons of owning a wooden hot tub compared to an acrylic model. Make sure to check out my guide for more comparisons between wood and acrylic hot tubs.
Wooden hot tubs don’t change much with time. In fact, some hot tub owners argue that wooden hot tubs look better after years of use.
On the other hand, acrylic spas usually need to be replaced after a few years, especially if you want the latest styles, technology, or features, because the only way to get them is to upgrade.
Wooden hot tubs are cheaper than acrylic hot tubs, especially if you’re building from a DIY kit or from scratch. However, an assembled wooden hot tub with a heater and filter is more expensive than an acrylic spa of the same size.
Variety of custom sizes and depths
Wooden hot tubs come in different sizes and depths, offering you several options to choose from and allowing you to get the size and depth that is right for you. For example, if you want a small tub, you can get an Ofuro hot tub, which is a design inspired by Japanese soaking baths.
Wooden hot tubs also work well for larger groups. In addition, because of the barrier-free bench seating in wooden hot tubs, a 5-foot wooden hot tub can fit the same number of people as a 7-foot acrylic hot tub.
Wooden hot tubs are worse at retaining their heat than acrylic hot tubs. This is because they don’t have the kind of insulation acrylic spas have. However, you can offset this somewhat by choosing a hot tub with extra thick wood and by buying a modern insulated cover.
Since wooden hot tubs have poor insulation, your heating system will need to work in overdrive to keep the water warm, especially during the winter.
If you empty your hot tub frequently, you’ll be wasting a lot of water. This would also require using more energy to heat the water every time you refill the tub. This can lead to higher running costs.
Lack of features
Wooden hot tubs have fewer features than acrylic hot tubs. For instance, you won’t find waterfalls or integrated sound systems in a wooden hot tub. In comparison, some modern acrylic spas have lighting, waterfalls, controls, and audio/video.
Upright seated position
Most wooden hot tubs are circular in design and come with a simple bench instead of ergonomic seating. Sitting in the same upright position for too long can be uncomfortable. On the other hand, acrylic spas have comfortable seats, molded lounges, and even headrests.