Although they may increase property value, the main reason to build a deck is leisure; sundecks are about creating a space for family and friends to make the most of leisure time in the great outdoors. And one of the best ways to maximise this leisure potential is to include a hot tub in your deck plans. In my opinion, there is no experience so grand as the opportunity to soak in a pool of warm water while staring up at the night sky, sipping a glass of wine, enjoying good company.
There are practical considerations about decks with hot tubs that are not quite as exciting as using the tub itself, but need to be considered, nevertheless. The first question I ask homeowners is the height they envision of the tubís top relative to the deckís level. I prefer the tub to appear sunken in the deck partly because they simply look slicker sunken. This means the tubís top will be mere inches above deck level. Installed this way, the hot tub may not be as easy to enter and exit for some as the user will need to be at deck level to get in and out. Alternatively, if the tubís base is at deck level, one will need to climb in and out, which is not as safe in my opinion in the innately slippery environment hot tubs present. This point of consideration is up to users, but is certainly well worth thinking about at the design stage. Fortunately, most modern hot tubs can be positioned so their bases are either on or below deck level. If sunken, the builder needs to ensure under-deck access to the tubís wiring port.
One of the most important elements of hot tub installation is how its weight will be brought to ground. Naturally, if done improperly, results from inconvenience to calamity are possible. We would never, for example, place a tub on anything but a concrete foundation. Under no circumstances should a tub be placed on deck joists, then filled and used. Only the most skookum of wood-frame supports would suffice as a hot tub base, and most deck joist systems are not designed to support much more than people and BBQs. Further Ė and this is an important consideration in colder climes Ė the foundation should not be subject to frost heave: a situation in which water beneath a foundation can freeze, expand, then distort the structure it supports.
Ensuring good support or "bearing" for the tub is a relatively simple calculation. First, the weight involved is, in engineering terms, considered a live load, and being less easily predicted, should be considered all the more carefully. Unlike a roof load that will remain relatively constant, and can be designed to allow for snow, for example, a hot tub load will change depending on the volume of the tub and number of users it allows.
Letís take a moment with a pencil. The tub weighs, say, 300 pounds (136 kg) out of the factory. Letís then assume this smaller of tubs will hold 500 gallons of water at 8 pounds (3.62 kg) per gallon. Thatís 4000 pounds or approximately 2000 kilos in water weight alone. Next weíll add the load of the number of users. We consider that each user weighs 250 pounds (113 kg). Four hot-tubbers will then add an additional 1000 pounds (453 kg) to the load. Adding it up, when full of water and people, the weight load on this tubís foundation will be around 5,300 pounds or approximately 2500 kilos. I mentioned "live" loads. Four people Ė or perhaps eight good friends Ė frolicking in the tub and shifting that water around is roughly equivalent to having a juvenile elephant dancing on your deck. Clearly, with this Dumbo-like weight considered, it is crucial to determine how your hot tub will be supported to ensure the overall load gets to ground safely.
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