How We Built a DIY Wood-Fired Hot Tub from Cedar (With Instructions)

Reader Contribution by Alyssa Craft
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We are a young couple that left our previous lives behind to build an off grid homestead deep in the Idaho mountains. In ten months we have accomplished so much, from building an off grid cabin, starting a garden, and making our own lumber.

But one big project we haven’t started yet is building our house. In a strange twist of priorities, we built a wood-fired hot tub first (click here to see our step-by-step instructions).

If you think we’re crazy, then read on. This was actually a well thought out decision on our part that we couldn’t be happier with.

Building a house is going to be an enormous amount of work. It’s going to be physically and mentally taxing and will demand lots of skills that we haven’t learned yet.

Before we started such a daunting project we wanted to build something to get our confidence up — something that could help make our house-building process a little more enjoyable. And if we can save money by avoiding the chiropractor, all the better! We decided that building a wood-fired cedar hot tub from scratch would be the perfect project.

Completely done-for-you cedar hot tubs (even kits) can cost upwards of $3-$7 thousand dollars. Including the wood stove, we built ours for less than $850. It certainly wasn’t easy, but by taking the time to build up our skills and having the patience to thoroughly search for good deals, we have created a hot tub we hope to enjoy for years to come.

One big challenge with this project was that we chose to build it with #2 grade cedar. We saved lots of money by pulling out usable boards from the cast off pile at a local lumber yard, but we did have to be incredibly intentional with every cut to ensure we didn’t waste our wood or use pieces with knots that could be prone to leakage.

Each stave for the sides of the tub was carefully cut and joined together to create a water-tight seal once the boards swelled. Of any part of this project, cutting the joints for the staves was the part where it most paid to take our time!

We managed to use scrap wood from the stave construction to build a four-sided bench for the inside the tub, and we had the great luck to score a used stove off Craigslist for only $250. This stove runs off the wood from our yard and the six foot chimney keeps the smoke far above our heads.

Our hearts almost broke when it was time to fill the tub because it didn’t hold water. Water gushed out the sides faster than we could keep it filled. Surprisingly, that’s normal for cedar tubs when they are first filled.

After we were able to figure out a way to keep our tub filled for three full days (involved going on a two-week detour of trying to get a cistern installed on our property so that we didn’t have to fill up the tub with buckets), we finally won the battle!

Since we’ve completed our tub we’ve been enjoying soaks almost every night. We love our tub and the journey we have taken to complete it. If you’re in any way inspired and want to learn more about how you can make your own tub for a fraction of the cost of buying one retail, then hop on over to our nine-part video series where we share every step we took to complete our own DIY wood fired hot tub.

Alyssa Craft moved to Idaho after purchasing 5 acres of land where she will build an off-grid homestead from scratch. She is blogging about the journey from start to finish in hopes of inspiring others that wish to take a similar path. Follow her many DIY projects including building with reclaimed materials, building an off-grid hot tub, milling lumber with an Alaskan chainsaw mill and starting an organic garden. Keep up on the journey by following her blog Pure Living for Life, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube channel. View Alyssa’s other MOTHER EARTH NEWS articles here!

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