Ultimate Guide to Gazebos, Pergolas, and Surrounds for Your Outdoor Hot Tub
Perhaps you’ve been thinking about how to create your ideal backyard space? Maybe you’ve been thinking about adding a little privacy or want some additional shade? Whatever you’re looking for in your outdoor experience, a spa can enhance the experience and a hot tub enclosure like a gazebo, pergola, or surround might be just the thing to top it all off.
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These eye-pleasing and functional structures offer many value-added benefits:
- Privacy from neighbors
- Extra seating during parties
- Towel and supply storage
- Protection from the wind or rain
- An increase in your home value
But how do you choose which type of spa covering is right for your space, personal needs, and design aesthetics? What do the experts advise? Do you need some style inspiration to get your creative juices flowing?
Our guide to gazebos, pergolas, and spa surrounds is the inspiration you’ve been looking for!
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Gazebos are freestanding pavilion structures with either a shingle or cedar shake roof that offer an open view of the surrounding area. A gazebo provides protection from both sun and rain and has a solid planked or brick floor that steps up from the ground. In most cases, gazebos are placed close to the home for convenience or are installed in a more reclusive spot of the yard for privacy.
Popular Types and Unique Designs
Gazebos provide an enclosed personal space for relaxation after a long day so you can disconnect from the world in your hot tub. Here are some fun ideas for creating the perfect backyard oasis with a gazebo in the mix:
- Give your gazebo a unique look by adding curtains around the structure.
- Include glass panels to provide protection from the elements without disrupting your view.
- Integrate the gazebo with your backyard design, making it an extension of your home.
- Elevate the gazebo to add aesthetic appeal to your backyard landscape.
- Install decorative lighting in and around your gazebo such as lanterns, string or solar lights, chandeliers, and candles.
- Install outdoor speakers so you can add music to your hot tub experience.
If you decide to install your hot tub inside a gazebo, take into consideration the maintenance of your hot tub. Make sure you can still access your filters and other “under the hood” sections of the hot tub for repairs and upkeep.
Expert Advice – Bigger is Better
“While a gazebo design needs to blend with the landscape and work with the style of the house, size is also a major consideration,” says Joan Honeyman, a landscape architect in Washington, DC. “A lot of times a gazebo is too small, but it’s not often that it’s too big.” It’s a good idea to consider how you plan to use the enclosure when determining what size gazebo would best fit your needs and lifestyle,
When determining where to place your gazebo, experts recommend considering the time of day you’re typically planning on using the structure. For example, if you think you’ll use your gazebo more in the middle of the day, you may want to install the structure towards the center of your yard (away from your home) so you’re shaded in your hot tub while the sun is overhead.
It’s also a good idea to consider access, ambient conditions, and the view when placing a spa enclosure. A stone or brick walkway leading up to the gazebo entrance makes the walk to the hot tub easier, safer, and perhaps even more inviting. If you place your gazebo too close to a neighbor or street, your experience is more likely to be disturbed by the sound of other people’s voices or cars going by. If mosquitos, bees, or wasps are an issue in the location, that’s okay. Shades or screens can be added to keep the insects out.
What is the view of the gazebo from your home? Is it visually appealing? How about the view from the gazebo? You can add luscious plantings around the gazebo to beautify the space year-round. Bushes, fountains, and rock patios can also be used to make an aesthetic impact on the view from the hot tub.
Before building your gazebo, remember to find out if you need a permit to build a gazebo or approval on the design from your neighborhood association or other local authority.
All gazebos have a closed roof that provides a good degree of privacy from above, which is particularly nice when you have neighboring houses that overlook your backyard. If you want a clearer view, just leave the sides of the gazebo open. Or for additional privacy, wooden lattices can be installed along the sides and still provide a view.
A gazebo built around your hot tub is a good choice if you are looking for:
- Privacy and protection from the elements
- An extension to your home or patio
- Walls, curtains, or other panel options around the structure for maximum privacy and a variety of aesthetic options
Pergolas are large, open structures built on a framework of vertical posts, cross beams, and an open-lattice roof. These decorative structures may be an extension of your home or freestanding. Pergolas not only provide shade, but also add a distinctive architectural design to the outdoor space.
Popular Types and Unique Designs
There is a multitude of pergola designs you can choose from to create the unique backyard space around your hot tub. Some inspiring ideas include a retractable canvas shade, geometric screens, and etched roof screens. For extra entertaining value and comfort, seating around the perimeter of the pergola can be built-in. You can even include hidden storage inside the benches for towels and hot tub maintenance supplies.
Most pergolas are built out of wood—redwood, oak, cypress, and teak tend to be the most popular choices. These structures are typically stained and sealed to maintain a natural look and offer protection from sun and water exposure. However, if you’re looking to add more personality, pergolas can be painted.
In addition to wood, modern-style pergolas today are being designed out of low-maintenance CPVC and vinyl. If you want a material that most closely resembles the look of real wood, CPVC would be the best bet with its sharp, crisp edges. CPVC is actually easier to paint than wood and holds the color longer.
Vinyl has a nice sleek look but doesn’t have the longevity of wood or CPVC. Over time, sunlight and other elements can cause the vinyl to take on a dull look and become brittle. Vinyl also doesn’t paint as nicely as wood or CPVC.
Alternative pergola materials include steel, aluminum, and fiberglass.
“The most important tip when creating a pergola is to take note of morning and evening shadows and sun positions over your hot tub area,” says an industry expert at AHC Painting and Remodeling.
Our expert goes on to say, “The benefits of a pergola over a gazebo are the openness and ease of maintenance since there’s no roof to clean.”
If you want to include an additional layer of beauty, shade, and privacy around your pergola, plant climbing vines around the base of each post. Some popular climbing plant varieties include bougainvillea, sweet peas, morning glory, trumpet vine, and clematis. Each of these vines will grow up and over your pergola for a functional, yet natural look. If you’re building a pergola around your hot tub, remember to put the cover in place when the hot tub is not in use to prevent leaves from dropping in the water. Regular pruning of the plants also helps.
Check out the pros and cons of using climbing plants (aka climbers) around your gazebo or home before you plant. Certain climbers can damage your foundation, exterior walls, or roof, so you’ll want to take a moment and ask:
- How high is the climbing plant going to grow and how aggressive is it?
- How often are you going to have to prune them?
- What types of walls is it okay for these plants to grow on?
Since the sides and top are open, pergolas don’t offer much built-in privacy though climbing vines can help. Options like fabric curtains, wood slabs, or a decorative screen can also be used to add privacy along the sides.
A pergola is a good choice if you want or are looking for:
- Open views
- Partial shade
- An easy-to-maintain, interesting architectural element in your backyard
- The aesthetics of climbing vines and overhead plantings
Hot Tub Surrounds
A hot tub or spa surround is any structure that encloses the lower exterior space around a hot tub for a more customized, built-in look. When designing a surround, you can use various types of wood, stone, and other easy-to-care-for composite materials.
Popular Types and Unique Designs
A functional hot tub surround adds to the natural design of your backyard space rather than detracting from the aesthetics. Teak and cedar wood offer that natural look while not requiring much maintenance. Otherwise, prefabricated surround kits made from plastic composites or faux wood are available. These fit around any size hot tub and are easy to install. Some kits even come with a built-in bar that could be perfect for entertaining guests.
With a brick or stone patio, create a hot tub surround out of the same or similar material for a stunning, luxurious look that will last a lifetime. One popular option, if you’re looking to save money without compromising on appearance, is using travertine veneer panels instead of stone.
For additional hot tub surround and deck ideas, check out our article 63 Hot Tub Deck Ideas: Secrets of Pro Installers & Designers.
When designing a hot tub surround, Paul Lafrance, founder of design and build firm Paul Lafrance Designs, cautions people not to place their hot tub to the side of the home because it can leave the hot tub experience less appealing. Instead, create a private space that’s more cozy and welcoming. Not only will this ensure you’ll use your spa more, but should allow you to create something that hides the sides and “harmonizes the hot tub with the entire deck design.”
“If you wish to recess the spa in the deck, you may want to consider how deep. Fully recessed hot tubs may actually make entering the spa a challenge,” advises Mel Higgins of Aquarius Pools and Spas in Maine. A contractor will know about specific stair and handrail measurements that provide safe access into and out of the hot tub.
Again, you’ll want to make sure the filter and other parts of the hot tub that require maintenance are easily accessible. One way would be to build removable sections of the deck or surround, or you could recess only half of the spa. It’s also important to ensure the structure supporting the recessed hot tub can hold the spa’s weight once full.
Blend your hot tub into your landscape by planting shrubs, flowers, and other greenery around the area. You can also place decorative pots to add a burst of color and sophistication to the space.
If you’re looking for a truly integrated design, the surround can be built up with “naturally-placed” rocks and native plants. In a wooded backyard, granite boulders, shredded bark, and evergreen shrubbery would look right at home. If you have more of a xeriscaped backyard, using pea gravel and a cactus or two to cover the embankment would fit well.
Most spa surrounds don’t include privacy screens unless you build one yourself or have a contractor include some kind of trellis or lattice feature within the design. To take advantage of “built-in” privacy, place your hot tub near an existing wall or fence.
A surround is a good option if you want or are looking for:
- To build your own, unique hot tub deck or patio design
- An attached bar for entertaining guests and additional storage
- A more natural looking landscape
Gazebos, pergolas, and surrounds are a wonderful option to add to any backyard design. To determine which option is best for you, consider your lifestyle and needs. Are you a young professional looking for a private place to relax after a long day? Perhaps you want an open space where the whole family can hang out. The more you can identify what you want, the better you’ll be able to design your ideal outdoor space.
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