In-Ground Hot Tubs: Everything You Need to Know
When it comes to designing your backyard, deciding how and where to place your hot tub or spa can be a tough call. There are a lot of variables to consider, like plumbing, electrical, and drainage, not to mention what type of pad on which to place the spa.
By buying a hot tub, you’re adding a beautiful and functional water feature to your water that creates a soothing ambience and a therapeutic sanctuary that serves multiple purposes, so you want to get it right.
Placing a spa in the ground has been a popular option since—well, possibly the beginning of time, if you consider the use of natural hot springs in ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, and Mesoamerica. After all, an in-ground spa is easier to get in and out of, and doesn’t detract focus from other yard features. But it does make installation and future service a little bit trickier than if you were to place your spa above ground.
If you purchase the right freestanding spa, and then in a few years decide to redesign your yard and move it around—that can be an option. But installing an in-ground spa is a much bigger commitment that would be costly to undo. This is why it’s important to know all the facts and variables before you invest in the process.
Bullfrog Spas are designed to be flexible in this capacity. Though we don’t offer traditional concrete or gunite in-ground spas, any spa you purchase from Bullfrog Spas comes with all the components and functionality of a free-standing, self-contained spa which can be installed either partially or fully in-ground with some extra preparation and investment.
Benefits of In-Ground Hot Tubs
Above-ground spas can be challenging to get into and out of if you or someone in your household has a disability or limitation. This type of spa is generally molded, which means you can’t design your specific size, shape, and functionality. Custom-built in-ground spas are limitless in design and can be significantly customized as far as size and shape. They can be designed with specific seating, and made from stone, concrete, tiles, acrylic, gunite, and other materials.
In some cases, installing a spa in the ground creates a smoother aesthetic finish, meaning the spa doesn’t detract from other focal points in a yard. Your spa can be made to blend seamlessly with your space, disguised from view using boulders, waterfalls, and other natural elements in a way that above ground spas cannot. And when it’s more of a permanent structure, an in-ground spa can add value to your home.
However, there are drawbacks to this design. Custom designed spas also require having a custom designed cover made—or opt for no cover at all. Without a cover, you risk losing heat at a much higher rate, which makes the heater work harder, consuming more energy. For you, this means a higher power bill, as well as needing to replace your heating component much sooner than later.
Another downside is that in many cases custom-designed in-ground spas have a much higher potential for plumbing issues, such as clogs or leaks. Often, most in-ground spas will come standard with one pump, where most freestanding models come with two or more. And more pumps = more jet power. When you’re purchasing a Bullfrog Spa, you have the added benefit of interchangeable JetPaks, which allows further customization of your spa experience.
The good news is that you can have it all. All the comfort and incredible benefits of a freestanding spa, but installed partially or fully below ground. It won’t be custom designed to your specific shape, necessarily, but you can choose your ideal spa and personalize it with all the features and seating options that are best for you AND have that spa installed in your ideal spot, without the hassle or expense of pouring a concrete or gunite spa.
In-Ground Hot Tub Installation Costs
This is one of the areas where the differences between spa types is the largest. To have a traditional in-ground spa (concrete or gunite) installed in your yard, prices start around $10-15,000 and go up to $25,000 or more—and that’s for a small-ish, basic spa that likely won’t be able to provide even half of the features that you’d get from a self-contained above-ground model.
By purchasing an above-ground model and installing it below ground, you’re giving yourself more features and options, for a more affordable price. You can do this at a cost that starts somewhere in the vicinity of $8,000-20,000+ for the spa itself. There will then be a separate cost for installing it in the ground, and installation will vary widely depending on your area and contractor availability, as well as the specifics of your space, but expect it to cost somewhere between $2,000-5,000 or more, depending on the time of year and materials you choose to use. The upside of this is that if you’re handy, there are portions of this preparation that you might not have to hire out.
If you are having an in-ground pool installed at the same time, you could create a more seamless experience and save some money by integrating the preparation for your freestanding spa below-ground installation space into the construction process along with your pool. That way, once your spa is delivered, it can be dropped into the prepared space, filled, and be running in as little as a single day.
Planning and Installation
Installing an in-ground hot tub requires preparation and planning. Here are a few steps that will walk you through this exciting process.
Choose your hot tub
Gather some ideas of where you’d like to place your hot tub, and the size that will best accommodate your household and family members who will be making use of the spa you’re about to install. Make sure you research features and options that are important to you, so you’re getting the best bang for your buck. For instance, choosing how many JetPaks you’d like, and which ones you prefer to start with. Once you choose which hot tub is right for you, make sure you get it ordered—or at least find out the availability, so that you can have it delivered at the right time to sync with other aspects of your project.
Check and acquire building permits
Be sure to check with your local city and state government offices or officials to find out if they require a permit for a permanent or semi-permanent in-ground hot tub installation. They will probably require a small amount of information about your project plans, and then If they do require a permit, your city will likely charge between $50-500 for the permit.
Choose your location and placement
When making the final decision on where you hope to place your hot tub, make sure you take into account what is required in order to service your spa, and allow at least a foot of additional access space on all sides. In addition to this, it would be smart to make a plan for where and how you’ll drain the spa when it’s time to refresh the water.
Prepare the foundation
Depending on the size of the spa you’ve selected, the dry weight is going to vary, but will likely be a minimum of 500 pounds, and then goes up from there. Keep in mind that after it’s installed, this hot tub will weigh somewhere between 3,000-4,000 pounds, including water, and then add on a few hundred pounds for the people who will be using it.
The safest foundation is going to be a flat, solid foundation surface that is thick enough to hold up that amount of weight without cracking. Concrete slabs (at least 4-6 inches thick), spa pads, gravel, and even a reinforced deck are potential options you can consider, as long as you’re working with professionals who understand the purpose of the space.
*Note: if you are considering placing your spa on a deck or other elevated surface that is not reinforced by concrete or solid ground beneath it, please consult with a licensed engineer to make sure the structure is built and reinforced to hold the filled weight of the spa.
Install electrical system requirements
Hire a professional electrician to wire your power source. Most spas require a separate GFCI circuit breaker with specific amp and voltage requirements, and not having the correct wiring can be a significant safety hazard. A typical spa requires 220V and a 50A or 60A breaker depending on the size.
Have the hot tub delivered to your home and position it in the prepared space
Your local spa dealer should offer delivery, and the people who bring the spa are generally pretty knowledgeable about what it takes to get your spa placed, filled, and then running. Be sure to ask questions and have them walk you through any maintenance and water care instructions while you have them there.
Have a professional connect all the electrical circuits
Be prepared to have the electrician visit your home or yard one last time to get the spa fully connected.
Fill your spa
Be sure to follow the instructions laid out in your owner’s manual or other instructions provided by the manufacturer. This usually requires a garden hose and spigot connection, but there might be other instructions.
Test hot tub functions and prime pumps
See your owner’s manual (and actually find and read this specific section of instructions) to find out what needs to be done to help your spa start out right and give it the best chance for longevity.
Once your spa is up and running, add in the spa water start system of your choice in order to keep the water clean and clear and ready to enjoy once the spa heats to the temperature you’ve set. Then study your water care instructions carefully, as spa water reacts differently according to who is using it and the environment in which it is functioning.
Why Consider a Bullfrog Spa Installed Partially or Fully In-ground Spa
As mentioned above, there are pros and cons to every spa type. While a concrete or gunite spa might sound appealing for the potential aesthetic benefits, this type of in-ground spa simply cannot offer the therapeutic benefits that an above-ground spa can offer. This is why more and more people are choosing to purchase freestanding spas and install them below or partially below ground.
Let’s review some of the features available on a Bullfrog Spa that are not available in any other spa—of any type—on the market.
JetPak Therapy System
Choose between up to 16 interchangeable JetPak® massages. Each Bullfrog Spas JetPak provides a unique hydromassage experience by targeting different areas of your back, neck, and shoulders and varies in power and intensity. With up to 16 different JetPak options to choose from, you’ll be sure to find the perfect massage for you.
Place the JetPak in your favorite seat and interchange at any time. No matter your height or preferred seat depth, Bullfrog Spas has a comfortable seat just for you. Relax in a premium lounger, enjoy a full-body massage in a deep seat, or hang out in a shallow seat to avoid getting your hair wet. With varying seat types and depths, your whole family can enjoy the spa together. This unique, patented system is simply not available in any other spa product, and cannot be imitated in a gunite or concrete spa.
Ergonomic seating options tailored to individual needs and preferences
All layouts, seats, and jet placements in Bullfrog Spas have been carefully designed to provide optimal therapy experiences for the largest variety of people and situations. This includes a thoughtful mix of seat depths in each model, improved seating ergonomics, better jet alignment, a focus on safe entry/exit, and enhanced premium seating in proximity to conveniences like auxiliary controls and cup holders. You simply cannot design a gunite or concrete spa that has the functionality as a self-contained model.
Your Bullfrog Spa will come with water care features that will make quick and easy work of maintaining your spa in the long-term.
The FROG @ease water care system creates fresh clean mineral water, while self-regulating SmartChlor® technology maintains low chlorine levels. With FROG @ease in your spa, you’ll use up to 75% less chlorine, reducing the need for shock treatments to once a month, while protecting swimwear and skin.
EOS O3 is a revolutionary automatic water purification system that eliminates impurities using the powerful oxidation properties of O3 gas. This unique three-part system works by generating ample amounts of O3 gas, combining it with spa water in an isolated high-contact mixing chamber, and then filtering out over 99% of excess ozone to prevent negative off-gassing effects.
The dedicated Wellspring filtration pump is a quiet, vibration free, circulation pump that is more than eight times as effective as standard filtration pumps. Your spa will filter better, while consuming up to 60% less operating energy, saving you money.
The Bullfrog Spas Natural Mineral Cartridge is a simple way to enhance your spa water with the natural benefits of minerals. These long-lasting cartridges are designed to fit inside of the filter cage* on all new Bullfrog Spas. Mineral cartridges are a great option for those that prefer a simple and natural water care solution.
The WellSpring™ Ozone Purifier System features corona discharge electrode technology that creates ozone which increases the purifying oxidation potential of your spa’s own water. Keep your spa clean and significantly reduce the amount of sanitizing chemicals needed.
Since your Bullfrog Spa comes with some of these options pre-built into the spa price, and provides others that can be be added, your spa water will require less effort, less money, and less worry all the way around.
Whether you choose to install your hot tub above ground, below ground, or halfway between, the whole point is to have a spa that can offer multiple massage options that will benefit your physical and mental health, while enhancing your yard or space for the better. Once you’ve done some research and decided which spa is the right choice for you, the rest of the project should be all about creating a peaceful space. After all, that’s the Bullfrog Spas mission, Create Peaceful Lives.
Design Your Own Spa
Purchasing a hot tub isn’t just an investment; it’s a lifestyle change that will benefit your entire family. Only you can decide if a spa is a good investment for you. Use our online Design Studio tool to select your model, JetPaks, and accessories. Once you’re done, you’ll receive an instant price quote.
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