Build a Hot Tub!

Here's the story of how a not especially handy couple successfully followed through on their decision to build a hot tub.

| March/April 1980

  • 062 build a hot tub - construction steps
    PHOTO 1: The hot water heating coil. PHOTO 2: The 55 gallon wood burning water heater. PHOTO 3, PHOTO 4, and PHOTO 5: Laying the tub's foundation and building the walls.
  • 062 build a hot tub - sitting in tub
    The authors and a friend enjoy a soak in their finished tub.

  • 062 build a hot tub - construction steps
  • 062 build a hot tub - sitting in tub

When our neighbor set up an elaborate steel tank, water pump, and heater complex in his back yard, my wife Joan and I wondered if the poor fellow was losing his marbles. And—when he then filled the giant bath apparatus with 110°F water . . . and asked us to join him in a dip—we knew he was crazy. Somehow, though, we finally agreed to shed our clothes and slowly (verrrry slowly) lowered our bodies into the steaming pool. The heated liquid made our hearts race and our limbs turn into limp rubber bands but—amazingly enough—felt delicious!

After a few blissful minutes, Joan and I both felt the urge to cool off, so we languidly dragged ourselves out of the tub. The night air felt unusually warm . . . then a wee bit crisp . . . and soon so downright cold that we were eager to plunge right back into the steaming vat and begin the cycle all over again.

In other words, we had both become as "crazy" as our neighbor ... we'd been stricken with the divine madness of hot tub bathing.

The human pastime of soaking—or steaming—oneself in sweltry water has a long and respectable pedigree. The Finns have a tradition of drenching themselves in hot saunas (and then rolling in the snow!), while the Japanese bathe in ofuros warmed to as high as a scalding 120°F ... and health-seeking people of all nationalities and classes have—for eons—lowered themselves into natural hot springs. Now, more and more Americans have choosen to build a hot tub and share the relaxing joys of soaking. Many of these hot tub enthusiasts will tell you the experience is good for the circulation, for inducing a sleep that rivals the untroubled slumbers of childhood, for bringing body and soul together, and for providing a sense of warmth and community with others. But—even though everything these zealots say is true —we think the real reason folks sit in heated vats is simply because it's pure, unadulterated fun.

Bathing Bliss for $250

As you may have guessed by now, we Campbells were so infected by hot tub madness that we became determined to have a "poaching pool" of our own. We soon discovered, though, that we'd have to build—not buy—our bath of bliss ... because most commercial hot tubs cost well over $1,000. (We wanted to soak, but not get soaked!) Once we'd reached that conclusion, we had to decide what material to use for our hot tub's vat and figure out a way to warm the bath water. Neither Joan nor I can claim to be much of a "handyperson" when it comes to carpentry or welding, so homemade wood or steel tubs were out of the question. We needed a material that could hold a ton of heated H20, yet one that amateur do-it-yourselfers could work with. We settled on concrete.

Our next question was what energy source to use for the hefty task of heating our planned tub's 250 gallons of water from 60° to 110°F. Most hot tubs are fired by natural gas, but we opted for a renewable fuel: wood.

5/13/2013 1:57:09 AM

How do we get started in building a hot tub? Isn't it time consuming plus, i'm not sure if my husband is skillful enough to build our own hot tub. I think i might as well purchase a hot tub. There are hot tubs available in the market that are easy on the budget.


Phyllis Mathison
1/22/2012 8:42:05 PM

Hello ....I took an old water tank that holds about 150 gallons .....It had steel legs so I didn't have to weld any on. Cut the top off added hinges to the side of the tank and put the part I cut off back on to use it as a lid to keep the water hot as I fill it.. put wood under a part of the tank and it heats up in about a hour.To empty the water drill a hole in the bottom and use a ear plug to block the hole or drill a bigger hole and just use a sink plug....I have had many relaxing days in my hot tub and also invited a friend over too .Mine fits 2 comfortably.

Art Glick
7/30/2010 12:21:05 AM

Greater caution should be urged with respect to maximum temperature. It can be downright dangerous to bathe in water hotter than 104 F unless you've painstakingly acclimated yourself to such temperatures. Pregnant women, especially in the earliest part of their term, should not bathe in water hotter than 100 F. The main item missing from this design is hydrotherapy. Steeping in hot water is one thing, but add in some good powerful jets and it really is almost like heaven. Your sore muscles will love you for it. The need for chlorine can be totally eliminated through the use of a metal ionizer (e.g. copper/silver/zinc). Ozonaters are as harmful as the halogens. Your health, your equipment and the environment will appreciate this. A fellow named Paul Maunders who lives in the U.K. built a similar vessel and described each step of the project in even greater detail (complete with pictures)...

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