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What to know about buying a hot tub or spa for your backyard

Whether you’re looking for entertainment, romance, exercise, stress-relief or just a warm, soothing and bubbly soak to refresh your senses, hot tubs or spas are a good investment to suit a variety of needs and desires. The terms hot tubs and spas are used interchangeably, though spas are usually considered to be in-ground, permanent units often installed in conjunction with a swimming pools. Hot tubs are normally above ground portable units. Hot tubs and spas come in a variety shapes and sizes with added features and accessories to suit every taste and budget.

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There’s a wide selection of styles and features. If you want to entertain family and friends, consider a unit that seats four or more people. For a family of two or less, a smaller unit that seats two or less with no formal will be a better and less expensive choice. If you want to exercise, consider a model that is deeper and less contoured for more flexibility and range of movement. 


There are many sizes of hot tubs on the market. The two most popular sizes are 7 x 7 feet and 8 x 8 feet with an average water capacity of 300 and 400 gallons, respectively. A simple way to decide between the two is to determine how many people you expect will use the unit simultaneously. The smaller units typically accommodate four or five bathers, while the larger units will accommodate more. You should also consider where the hot tub will be located and the load-bearing strength of the supporting structure. 


You should determine the primary use of your hot tub to select an optimal seating arrangement. For instance, if you plan to entertain often, you would want to maximize seating by selecting bench-style or “barrier-free” seating. This type of arrangement may also be preferred if exercising in the hot tub is a priority. If you want to maximize therapeutic opportunities, molded, bucket-style seats that are often outfitted with massaging jets for the neck and back are for you. Loungers are another type of seat that is popular with hot tub users. If young children will be using the tub, look for “cool-down” seats – those having shallower perches to allow the bathers to transition from the warm steaming waters of the hot tub to their regular body temperature. Find the right fit for you with help from the industry experts in your area: 


The location and type of hot tub seats are combined with jet placement to deliver varying degrees of massaging action to soothe, relax and stimulate muscles and joints. The number and location of jets vary depending on whether you want to target a specific area of the body, such as the neck or lower back, or if you prefer just general massage. Many hot tub manufacturers offer jet menus that allow you to customize your massage by varying the location and pressure of the water delivered by the jet through the simple adjustment of a lever. If entertainment will be your primary use, you might consider a jetting system that provides a more even flow of water to the entire tub, thus providing a relaxing environment for the whole body. 


Assessing the available space in your backyard or on a deck will help you determine the best style for your lifestyle and family. Select a location on firm, level ground that can support the weight of the unit. Don’t forget the view! Choose an appealing place with just the right amount of privacy. Based on the style you select, you’ll be able to determine the features that will turn your ordinary backyard into an extraordinary retreat from the daily grind. 


The National Spa & Pool Institute recommends a safety cover for your spa or hot tub that is easily locked. Check to see if this is included in the price of the unit, and make sure that it meets the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM International) F1346-91 safety standard. Also, always remember there is no substitute for constant responsible adult supervision when children are around water. You also can install automated controls that prevent anyone from turning on the jets or adjusting the temperature beyond a safe limit. Some are also equipped with an automatic shut-off device should the water temperature exceed the recommended maximum. 

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