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What to Know About Building a DIY Hot Tub

During the cold winter months, a hot tub can bring the warmth that you crave. Even during the summer, a hot tub can feel refreshing on the cool summer nights. But for a lot of people, a hot tub is too expensive to buy.  Hot tubs can cost thousands of dollars, and even cheap hot tubs are hundreds of dollars.  If that price is not within your budget, a homemade hot tub may work better for you.  DIY hot tubs are so easy to make.  Today I will go over the different types of hot tubs, how to build them, and the advantages of a homemade hot tub.  I hope that this article helps you build your own hot tub, have fun, and save lots of money.  Let's get started.

Types of Hot Tubs

Let's start with the first major topic:  The types of hot tubs.  This will give you an idea of which type of hot tub you would like to build.  Here are the types of homemade hot tubs:

  • Galvanized Stock Tank Hot Tub (Cowboy Hot Tub) - This type of DIY hot tub is often called the cowboy hot tub.  That is because it is easy to make and is pretty cheap compared to more expensive hot tub versions.
  • Rubber Stock Tank Hot Tub - This type of DIY hot tub is similar to the galvanized stock tank hot tub, except that this stock tank is made out of rubber.  However, it is very similar to the cowboy hot tub.
  • Wood Fired Hot Tub - If you are wanting to get a little more creative, the wood fired hot tub is for you.  The wood fire is what heats the hot tub.
  • Wood Hot Tub - A wood hot tub is made from wood, hence the name, and looks like a large wooden barrel.  Keep in mind that wood hot tubs can rot if they are not stained every few years.

Those are the main types of homemade hot tubs.  In just a little bit I'm going to go over each type and how to build them.  But before we do that, let's take a quick look at the types of hot tubs (not homemade).  Although they are not homemade, they can give you an idea of what regular hot tubs are made from and how you can build your own hot tub similar to it.

  • Vinyl Liner Hot Tub - Also known as soft tubs or portable tubs, these are inflatable hot tubs that are easy to move.  This type of hot tub is usually less expensive than other types, but it still has the same features of other hot tubs.
  • Unicast Hot Tub - A unicast hot tub consists of the tub and the surrounding cabinet which are molded as one single piece.  Unicast hot tubs are not always as big as other hot tubs.
  • Acrylic Hot Tub - This is the most popular type of hot tub on the market.  It is especially durable for outdoor use and comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.
  • Swim Spa Hot Tub - A swim spa hot tub is specifically designed for exercise with a rectangular shape and jets that create a continuous current to swim against.  Some hot tub manufacturers even offer models with underwater treadmills for jogging.  This type is going to be more expensive since it has these features.

Wood Hot Tubs

Now let's take a look at how to build a wood hot tub.  Although it may seem difficult to build, it can actually be fairly easy if you follow the instructions correctly.  Here is how to build a wood hot tub:

Step 1:

The first step is to buy some cedar wood.  You'll want to find clear boards with few knots.  Once you find the cedar wood, you’ll then need to cut them into staves.  Look for the clear sections in the boards you have bought and cut those out with a crosscut saw, or start with a table saw to rip the boards in half before harvesting the clear sections.

Step 2:

Now it’s time to fit the staves together, so that they form a circle around the floor and can hold in the water.  For this you’ll need two router bits and a router.  The joint you’ll need to make is what’s called bead and cove, or sometimes a canoe joint.  This is what it should look like:

Image Source: Wooden Spa Solutions

You’ll need to run the board through the router four times in total.  Additionally, it may need to be run through a planer.

Step 3:

Now it is time to build the floor.  For the floor you’ll also need to use cedar wood boards cut into tongue and groove joints.  You will want to have a thick floor, so make sure the wood you chose is thick.  Use four-by-four cedar joists below the floor to support it, two five-feet in length and two three-foot at the outer ends, each placed at equal distances from one another under the floor.  Mark a five-foot circle in the floor and cut it out with a jig saw.  Now glue the staves together with wood glue.  The glue will expand, but you can scrape it off later.

Step 4:

To attach the staves to the floor you’ll need to create a dado joint.  A dado joint looks like this:

Image Source: Craftsman Space

Once this is done, slot the staves into the floor.  Next, you’ll need to strap on some aircraft tension cables to the side of the tub.  Make sure to get enough extra cable just in case you need it.  With the pressure of the water they should swell up and seal against one another, making the hot tub watertight.

Step 5:

Now it is time to install the drain.  To do this, use a 2-inch hole saw to make a hole for the floor drain.  Then install a push button drain.  After you have done that, put the tub support joists on and attach a ratchet strap around the top of the tub.  Before adding water to your hot tub, you may want to put a sealant on it so that it doesn't leak water.

Step 6:

This step is not necessary, but if you want you can add benches so that your hot tub is more comfortable to sit in.  Use leftover staves that have blemishes and knots to make benches that are four sides of a hexagon.  The stove will be placed where there are no benches.

Step 7:

Now it’s time to install the stove.  You will need to purchase a snorkel stove.  Use stainless steel bolts to attach it with the flanges to the side of the tub.  You don’t want the stove to float up to the surface of the water, so you need it to be strongly attached.  Use rubber washers where the bolts make a hole in the stave to help seal up the hole.  Try setting the stove on masonry bricks above the floor.  Build a fence around it so you can’t accidentally touch the stove with your feet.  It’s best to leave a little gap at the bottom of the fence to help water circulation, but that should leave only the bricks exposed rather than the stove itself.  Now install the rest of the chimney pipe if you haven’t done this yet.

Step 7:

Fill your hot tub with water.  You may want to build a lid so that water doesn't evaporate.

Step 8:

Try out your new hot tub, and enjoy!

Image Source:  ​Wooden Spa Solutions

Cowboy Hot Tub

Making a stock tank hot tub is fairly easy.  Here are the steps to making one:

  1. Cut two holes in the side to install thru-wall ports.
  2. Cut a hole in the bottom for a drain.
  3. Place the tub and heater on solid foundations to create a level surface and provide the proper elevation of tub to heater for efficient heating.
  4. Connect the hot tub heater to the tub using the connecting tubes and clamps provided.

Rubber Stock Tank Hot Tub

This type of hot tub is similar to the cowboy hot tub.  If you are interested in making this hot tub, watch this video below.

Wood Heated Hot Tubs

I already went over how to heat your hot tub with wood when I was instructing you on how to make a wooden hot tub.  But you don't have to make a wood hot tub in order to use fire heat. You can use rubber stock tanks, galvanized stock tanks, and pretty much anything else that comes to mind.  All you need to do is make a hole in your hot tub, install the fireplace, and attach it to the sides.  Make sure the fireplace you use is for hot tubs.

Advantages of a DIY Hot Tub

Whether you have found a design you like or not, you may be wondering if there are any benefits.  The answer is yes, there are indeed many advantages to having a homemade hot tub.  I'll go over some of those benefits here.

  • Affordable Cost - Like I said earlier, the cost of a hot tub can be thousands of dollars.  Homemade hot tubs on the other hand are not too expensive.  Of course, it depends on which type you decide to build and what materials you use.  But all in all, homemade hot tubs are cheaper.
  • Durable - Homemade hot tubs are durable.  Each type is going to be different, but all in all they are pretty durable hot tubs.
  • Attractive - Just because a DIY hot tub may be considered a hillbilly thing doesn't mean it can't be pretty.  You can have fun landscaping around it with rocks and flowers.
  • Fun To Make - Building a hot tub can be a fun project for you to try.  Even if it may seem hard to build, you will learn a lot and will enjoy the experience.

In Summary

Well, I hope that this article has inspired you to build your own hot tub.  A DIY hot tub is not nearly as hard as you may think it is to make.  First, consider which type you want to build.  You could make a wood hot tub, or stock tank hot tub.  Also consider if you want to heat your hot tub with wood.  After that, you build your hot tub following the instructions I gave you.  Lastly, remember that a DIY has so many advantages.  It is much cheaper than buying a regular hot tub, it can be attractive, and it is fun to make.  So have fun making your hot tub!  You'll be glad you built it.

Mariann Foster

I am one of our content writers for Everything Backyard. I am a mother and business owner of Big Horn Mountain Alpacas in Wyoming. I love farm life, cutting my own firewood in the mountains, and participating in local trail run races.

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