3 keys to buying a hot tub for your cottage

Hot tub

Water is a key element of many great cottage memories: the peace of an early morning canoe. A sunny, sandy day at the beach. Watching the sun set over the lake after dinner. A soothing, bubbling hot tub can certainly add to those memories—if you do a little homework and make the right choice based on these three factors.

1) Budget

A good hot tub will likely run between $7,000 and $9,000, which should cover the basics like delivery, a cover, and set up. However, keep in mind that there are extra costs associated with installation, including electrical hookup with a dedicated ground fault circuit interrupter (which has to be done by an electrician) and, potentially, a concrete or gravel base.

If you’re considering putting a hot tub on an existing deck, you’ll likely have to reinforce the structure—and that’s safest when done by a pro.

Finally, factor in ongoing costs like chemicals, maintenance, and electricity—even if your hot tub is only running seasonally, that’s still an extra load on your energy usage.

“Don’t let anyone tell you a hot tub is maintenance free,” cautions Earl Flood, owner of Muskoka’s Hot Tub Service in Bracebridge, Ontario. “I’ve come across owners who were told there would be no weekly maintenance, and that’s just not true.”

Saving money by buying a cheap hot tub can end up being an expensive proposition. Inexpensive models may have less insulation, a thinner cover and less efficient pumps and heaters, meaning your running costs will soon outstrip any upfront savings. Bigger doesn’t always mean better, though, especially when it comes to pumps. Buy a pump that’s just the right size for your tub and your operating costs will be lower.

2) Location

It’s true in real estate, and it’s true for hot tubs: The three most important things to remember are location, location, location. Where do you plan to place your hot tub? Make sure its parts—the pump, electrical equipment, and plumbing—are accessible for maintenance and repair. The tub has to be level, so unless you’re installing it on a ground-level patio, you might need a base of concrete or gravel.

And think about what you want to look at—there’s no sense in investing in a spa if your view is going to be your neighbour’s siding or compost heap.

If your cottage is in a northern area and you’re using your hot tub seasonally, winterizing it properly will keep it in good repair and save you hundreds of dollars in service calls.

“In most cases, simply draining the tub won’t be sufficient,” says Flood. “Leave the drain open, disconnect all pumps, blow all the water lines out if possible, and use a winter cover to protect the tub and stop water from seeping through.”

3) Preferences

Most hot tub retailers will allow you to climb inside the tub you’re considering—and, with advance notice, some will let you put on your suit and take a trial dip. Height and weight can affect how comfortable a hot tub is, so make sure the seats are comfortable, there’s enough room in the foot wells, and the hot tub isn’t too deep or too shallow.

You should also be realistic about the number of people you’ll be entertaining in the tub at a time. If you regularly have family and friends visiting, a larger model might be a smart choice—but don’t buy something that’s bigger than you need simply because you might have a crowd.

Finally, consider extra features carefully. Many hot tubs can be equipped with sound and video systems, illuminated cascades and lighting features, and even waterproof protection for your smartphone. Safety guidelines recommend not sitting for more than 15 minutes at a time in a 104-degree tub—so think carefully about what will truly enhance your hot-tub experience.