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Swim spas

Various materials ranging from concrete to hard plastics have been used in constructing spas. Each material has its own characteristics in terms of spa shape, size, color and durability.

Gunite (air-blown concrete)–

Traditional, older spas and those built adjacent to swimming pools are frequently made of cement or gunite. In gunite construction, a webbing of steel reinforcing rods is used to conform to almost any shape or size of the spa. Most concrete and gunite spas have a band of ceramic tile rimming the spa at the water line to make cleaning easier. Some are completely lined with tile. The price of concrete and gunite spas depends on the size, location and difficulty of installation.

Keep in mind that concrete and gunite spas must be custom designed and individually constructed and therefore are more time consuming and expensive to build. Also, note that installation is almost always included in the total price quoted by the contractor.


Used mainly as a backing to strengthen acrylic and gelcoat spas, fiberglass can be either bonded or sprayed on the back of molded acrylic or gelcoat spa shells.


A polymer resin sprayed onto a spa shell is allowed to harden then removed from the shell and sprayed with fiberglass for strength. Gelcoat fiberglass spas cost slightly less than acrylic fiberglass but are considered less durable. Gelcoat generally requires more routine maintenance and often needs resurfacing after about five years.


Dense and non-porous, acrylic constructed spas provide a very hard, scratch-resistant surface that maintains its color and faith. Acrylic is available in various colors. However, because acrylic is not strong enough to stand on its own, it also requires fiberglass reinforcement.


Tough, sturdy and resistant to sun and chemical damages, and extreme temperatures, thermoplastic spas are noted for their strength, resistance to scratching and retention of colors. They are thicker and more resilient than acrylic and do not require fiberglass reinforcement. These plastics are also available in many colors as well as simulated marble.

Portable Spas

An addition to the spa industry is the portable spa. Constructed of fiberglass, often with an outer skirt of wood or other material, the portable model has heating, electrical, filtration and pump equipment within a self-contained unit.

The portable spa can be installed in or out of doors, and usually fits through a standard doorway. A key advantage of the portable is that it can be taken with you when you move.

Selecting a Dealer

If you are seriously thinking of buying a hot tub or spa, check with friends, colleagues or neighbors who own or have used them. Ask for their impressions and whether you can try out their facilities. Get a recommendation for a professional hot tub/spa dealer, if possible.

Contact your local Better Business Bureau for a reliability report on any dealer you are considering.

If you live in a condominium, check with your local condo association and get permission in writing before making a commitment to buy. If you live in a detached home, check to ?see what local building ordinances apply.

It is a good idea to locate several dealers and arrange to try out a number of models. Most dealers will be happy to set up a trial of soaking. Ask several dealer to submit a written list of contract specifications.

Each contract should include:

Explicit specifications for size, shape and materials to be used in constructing the spa or hot tub, and a detailed description of the equipment, including brand names;

Installation date;

Completion date with appropriate understanding regarding delays;

Written understanding as to your responsibility regarding unexpected cost, such as those resulting from the contractor hitting rock or water, or the moving of utility lines.

Schedule of payments, with the last payment tied to the completion of the project,

Description of any after care service or periodic check-ups; and a

Copy of the warranty indicating what is not covered, and for how long.

You should base your selection of a dealer on all the information you receive, not cost alone.

Financing Arrangements

Some hot tubs and spas are considered a good property investment by banks, and prospective buyers should inquire about available financing arrangements. While some spa and hot tub companies offer financing it is wise to shop around carefully because interest rates usually vary.

The addition of a spa or hot tub will often increase the market value of your home. However, keep in mind that if the addition significantly raises the potential price of your home above that of comparable homes on your neighborhood, the reverse could be true and your home may be harder to sell. In either case, you might consider talking to real estate professional about your plans before proceeding.

Choosing The Hot Tub Or Spa Site

Whether indoors or outdoors, the sitting of a hot tub or spa is a highly personal decision based on your intended use and the existing features of your home and property.

If your home has a scenic view of a secluded grove of trees, for example, you may wish to create a special area in which your hot tub or spa enhances this environment. For an indoor spa, you might have to enlarge an existing room or build an addition. This increases the total cost, but should also add to the value of your home.

If you already own a swimming pool, you may be able to make use of some existing plumbing and heating equipment by locating the tub or spa next to the pool.

As for a portable spa site, remember you can move a portable spa around to suit yourself, as long as the floor, deck or ground can support its weight and utilities are accessible.

Support Equipment

The hot tub/spa support system includes everything required to circulate, filter and heat the water and is often a separate purchase. The system consists of a water pump, filter, water heater, air blower and the plumbing and hardware necessary to hook them up.

The pump circulates the water through the system through hydrotherapy jets, commonly called “hydrojets.” The filter helps keep the water clean by removing minute particles of dirt, debris and algae.


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