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The Dos and Dont's of Designing Decks For Hot Tubs

July 2015

This top tips for building hot tub decks post is from the experts at Real Cedar.com, check them out to see why you should consider authentic cedar for your deck.

Designing a deck specifically for a hot tub requires a lot of forethought. There’s additional engineering considerations, ergonomic factors, aesthetic principals – to name just a few building-plan issues.  These added challenges are something that Stéphan Beaulieu understands better than most. That’s because the Montreal contractor and president of Patios et Clôtures Beaulieu, Inc has more than 200 hot tub decks under his tool belt. And these aren’t your average slapped together platforms. His fully integrated outdoor living spaces are renowned for maximizing the soakers’ experience - year round! 

“I have a good understanding of what works and what doesn’t work when integrating a hot tub into a deck design,” says the award-winning landscape carpenter, who was recently featured as the “Pro of the Week” on RealCedar.com.

As someone who is truly passionate about his craft, Beaulieu is always willing to share some of his tricks of the trade. Here, then, are his top tips for building hot tub decks:

Choose the Right Material

Beaulieu uses Western Red Cedar for most of his projects. That’s because it’s naturally resistant to rot, decay and insects. Plus, it just looks beautiful – especially  when paired with a brand new hot tub!

“Considering the quality/price ratio, Western Red Cedar is the best material you can use to create beautiful and long-lasting outdoor structures. Period.”

Think Location, Location, Location

In terms of placement, Beaulieu’s number one rule of thumb is the closer the hot tub is to the home, the better – particularly if you live in a colder climate.

“The further the hot tub, the less you will use it – especially during winter, unless you like to shovel snow as a workout before relaxing in your hot tub! Also, electrical wire used to supply power to the hot tub is very expensive by the foot. Another reason to place the hot tub close to the house.”

Elevate Your Soaking Experience

It’s the age-old question: Should you place your tub atop or plumb with the deck? Beaulieu says neither. For him, 20” from the floor of the deck to the top of the tub is ideal.

“This height allows you to get in and out safely because your hips stay level with the deck; and therefore optimal for balance. Often the mechanical arm anchoring system to help lift and put back the cover goes down to about 20 inches or more, depending on the cover.”

Make Room for Tech Support

Beaulieu always builds removable floor panels into the frame to ensure accessibility for pump maintenance, etc.  Sometimes, only one side is needed, but depending on the hot tub model, you may need to do this on all four sides.  

“Homeowners should get a professional technician to do the maintenance work. With that in mind, the panels need to create a clearance of 18” – minimum. Less than that, and you’ll need to look for an ex-contortionist from Cirque du Soleil to do the tune-up work.”

Gage your Gap

As for spaces between the deck and the hot tub, you need to factor in, among other things, soaker safety and lumber longevity. 

“The gap should be small enough to prevent your toe from entering, but large enough for water to drain and the wood to expand and contract. We leave ½” space on our projects.”

Build a Solid Base

When it comes to structural support, the safest bet is a solid base independent of the deck. But if you want to go the post and cement footing route, Beaulieu recommends consulting a professional to ensure your load calculations are correct.

“All our projects usually feature a concrete slab or a compacted crushed stone base. If the hot tub absolutely needs to be resting on the deck, an engineer should be hired to approve the plans.”

 


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