Wood-fired hot tub

11 Different Hot Tub Options (By Design & Function)

Let’s dive right in – here’s a quick list of hot tub options:

By Material

  • Concrete
  • Fiberglass
  • Acrylic
  • Soft-Sided (Inflatable)
  • Wood
  • Vinyl-Lined Aluminum Shell
  • Stainless Steel
  • Floating (no joke)
  • Jetted Bathtubs

Power Source:

  • Electricity
  • Gas
  • Wood-Fired

Portable, subterranean, or spa?

Hot tubs are classified into two types: portable and in-ground. Spas are also a market sector within the business. Because the phrase “hot tub” has evolved to signify “tub of (comfortably) hot water,” you may want some more exact definitions when out shopping.

Typically, a hot tub is a wooden vessel constructed of redwood, cedar, or another natural material. Water is added to the hot tub. Heaters, air blowers, pumps, and other conventional equipment are used to serve it. While hot tubs may seat up to ten people, they are typically designed to accommodate no more than four people at a time and to contain no more than 1500 gallons (5.7 cubic meters) of water. Every hot tub, under this definition, is above-ground.

A spa is a pool of water that has been stirred by jets or bubbles placed into it. Spas may be far larger than hot tubs, ranging up to 3300 gallons (11.4 cubic meters). A spa, like a hot tub, can be built above ground as a self-contained device that typically includes a fiberglass tub, pumps, air blowers, filters, motors, and controls.

A portable spa, sometimes referred to as a portable hot tub, is any spa that can readily packed up and transferred to a new site. There are soft-sided, lightweight, portable spas that fit in the trunk of a vehicle, as well as “portable” hot tubs that weigh up to 1,000 pounds (450 kilos).

A new hot tub, spa, or portable hot tub/spa can cost between $500 to $50,000, or even more. Installing in-ground is usually more expensive than installing above-ground, and only above-ground units are movable (or available at lower prices when used). Additionally, there are so many material options that selecting the appropriate hot tub or spa for your house requires some research.

Materials Have a Significant Impact

Almost every waterproof material has been utilized to construct a spa. Manufacturers are continuously incorporating new materials into new designs to create more pleasant, durable, and cost-effective hot tubs and spas than ever before. Consider the materials you may come across while planning the perfect hot tub or spa.


in ground concrete hot tub

If you’re building a pool in the backyard, you might as well dig another smaller hole for a built-in concrete hot tub.

Concrete and plaster are probably terms you’re already familiar with. These materials are utilized in the construction of the vast majority of swimming pools. What is the difference between a concrete and plaster swimming pool and a spa or hot tub constructed with the same materials?

Spas require less room than swimming pools. They are less costly to construct than swimming pools. They require less maintenance and are less expensive to operate. Additionally, hot tubs are more compact and affordable than spas. However, regardless of whether you purchase a swimming pool, a spa, or an in-ground hot tub, there is a strong possibility that you will want some space away from the water for your equipment to function quietly, and the piping will be installed underneath. Bear in mind that subterranean pipelines are more expensive to replace when they break.


When a certain design need exists, fiberglass is the material of choice. If you desire a heart-shaped hot tub or a spa with an unusual geometric design, fiberglass can be used to create it (at considerable expense). Fiberglass sheets offer strength, while a resin application adds stiffness. The last coat of fiberglass, referred to as the gel coat, renders it resistant to the chemicals used to inhibit microbiological development.


A hot tub made of acrylic is essentially a large glass bowl. As with a fiberglass hot tub, it can be embedded in the ground, elevated on a stand, or put on pedestals and surrounded by a deck. Self-contained acrylic hot tubs require only water and a 30-amp circuit for equipment plugging in. Although these self-contained devices are theoretically portable, their weight, even when empty, is comparable to that of a grand piano.

Inflatable (Soft-Sided)

Coleman 15442-BW SaluSpa 4 Person Portable Inflatable Outdoor Square Hot Tub Spa with 114 Air Jets, Tub Cover, Pump, Chemical Floater and 2 Filter Cartridges, Gray

If the weight of a portable hot tub discourages you from purchasing one, try a lightweight, extremely portable, and also self-contained soft-sided type. A soft-sided spa or hot tub is constructed of rigid yet malleable foam rubber mounted on an aluminum frame. The hot tub’s inside is coated with a waterproof fabric to ensure that it can hold water. Additionally, foam rubber is used to cover the pumps and other equipment in the hot tub (or spa) to decrease noise. Soft-sided hot tubs are portable and affordable enough for apartment dwellers to enjoy.


You’ve probably seen several fiberglass hot tubs and spas wrapped in wood for cosmetic purposes, but it is also feasible to construct a fully wooden hot tub or spa. Many individuals prefer a hot tub constructed of birch wood, similar to that used in European saunas, or one built of redwood in the American manner. While wooden hot tubs are attractive, they require extensive care, are not portable, and seldom survive more than 20 years.

Aluminum Shell with Vinyl Lining

A vinyl-lined aluminum pool is essentially a tiny above-ground swimming pool with added features such as heat and bubbles. The metal shell provides structural support for the hot tub, while the vinyl liner protects it from the elements. The tub is then encased in a wood or other visually attractive material cabinet.

Stainless Steel

ASTM International, formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials, predicts that a stainless steel hot tub will require no maintenance for at least 50 years if it is not filled with saline water. Stainless steel is both attractive and durable, and portable stainless steel hot tubs and spas are also available. However, they are prohibitively expensive and repair and maintenance need particularly qualified welders and technicians.

Power Source Options


Electric hot tubs are very popular as you can imagine because it’s less hassle to hook up. No gas line is needed. Just plug n’ play.  The biggest downside is they take longer to heat than gas-powered hot tubs.


Gas-powered hot tubs rely on propane or natural gas.  You must run a gas line to the tub.  While these cost more up-front you will likely save money on the energy source over time.


If you live off the grid and lack electricity and have limited or no gas, you can still get a hot tub in the form of a wood-fired hot tub.

Wood-fired hot tub

Floating Hot Tubs

If you live on the water and like the idea of a floating hot tub, they exist.  Check it out:

Floating Hot Tub

Tubs with Jets

If you lack the space for a hot tub, try purchasing a jetted bathtub instead. A jetted bathtub, as the name indicates, is a conventional bathtub that has been equipped with a pump and jets to generate bubbles. Jetted bathtubs are typically intended to accommodate two persons and are more often than not circular in shape. Due to the fact that a jetted bathtub is connected to the same plumbing as the rest of the house, it does not require additional heating or water treatment. Skimmers, filters, or strainer baskets are not required with jetted baths.

Everything Else

Almost any watertight container may be utilized as a hot tub and has been. Hot baths constructed from livestock watering troughs, rain barrels, and cisterns are all examples. However, if you are not living off the grid, you are likely to select one of the materials described above for your future hot tub or spa.

Selecting a Good Hot Tub (for you)

Now that you’re aware of the various types of hot tubs and spas available, how can you pick the perfect one for your home? Four factors must be considered: site, shell, plumbing, and cost.


The first consideration when purchasing a hot tub is the location.

What location do you have in mind for your hot tub? If you want to install it in your garden or among the trees, you may select a more natural design with a wood tub or an acrylic hot tub with a wood surround.

What will provide stability for your tub? If your deck is unable to handle the weight of the hot tub you desire, you may need to go for an in-ground tub.

The type of weather you experience in your area also has an effect on your hot tub selection. If you live in an area with harsh winters, an in-ground hot tub may be necessary to avoid damage to the plumbing. If you reside in a windy desert region, you may choose a covered hot tub or spa to avoid evaporation or muck collection during dust storms. If you live in a hot area, you may want to consider placing your hot tub or spa beneath an umbrella or in the shade to avoid using it when the outside temperature is already rather warm.

If you often change houses, a portable tub may be your first choice.


When selecting a shell for your hot tub or spa, you must consider how many people will be utilizing it simultaneously. Hot tubs are available in capacities ranging from two to 10 persons. When looking at models with lounges or molded seats, you can quickly get a sense of how many people the tub will accommodate.

Consider the hot tub’s general use, not only for parties. Consider whether you really want to invest in a ten-person hot tub that you will only use once or twice a year, when you just require seats for one or two people on a regular basis. Your financial investment in a hot tub is not limited to the purchase price and any finance costs if you finance it. Additionally, it includes the cost of electricity, cleaning, maintenance, and liability insurance.

It is critical to consider your intended use for your hot tub. While benches are excellent for mingling, you may prefer couches if your hot tub is mostly used for therapeutic soaks.

Additionally, don’t forget to conduct a test soak before to purchasing. My buddy is particularly petite. She purchased a lovely wooden hot tub with seats and had it delivered and plumbed before she ever used it. She stepped in, sat down, and realized she was submerged to her eyes in water. (She purchased a booster chair and joked about bathing naked except for a flotation device in her tub.)


Additionally, there are critical considerations when selecting the plumbing for the shell of your hot tub. It’s not difficult to locate a shell that has already been configured to match the requirements of a “average” user. Typically, each individual who is anticipated to utilize the tub will have two jets for water circulation. These jets will be positioned in a variety of heights. Additionally, a bubble ring will almost certainly be included to provide a massaging sensation with turbulent water.

If you have special preferences about the quantity, kind, or placement of these jets, for example, if you are 4’1″ or 7’2″ tall or have a wide-bodied build, it makes more sense to have a shell custom-fitted to your requirements. Your dealer may be able to provide bigger massage jets, smaller “pinpoint” jets, or jets that may be activated or deactivated to increase pressure in a specific area of the tub or spa.

Certain hot tub owners are simply concerned with the overall turbulence of the water and prefer a hot tub without massaging jets. Certain hot tub owners are solely concerned with the water’s massaging function and prefer only massage jets. They are unconcerned about the water ring. Additionally, some hot tub owners desire the addition of a blower to “turbocharge” the massage jets. Consider what you want in a hot tub or spa and speak with various sellers to ensure you receive the best value.

A last word of caution about pre-installed plumbing: Bear in mind that fixtures may break or shift during shipment and delivery. Purchase a pre-plumbed hot tub or spa only if you are certain it can be delivered without snapping or shattering exposed fittings and piping. Ascertain that the vehicle is large enough to securely transport the hot tub and that the delivery firm provides sufficient personnel.


Finally, cost is a problem for almost everyone. If you’re not fussy about aesthetics, you can get a secondhand hot tub for as low as $500, but the majority of hot tubs cost thousands of dollars ($5,000 to $10,000+). Bear in mind that a custom-built spa might cost up to ten times as much.

However, avoid excessive expense reductions. Ascertain that the pump you purchase offers appropriate water pressure. As a general rule, each jet requires 14 horsepower from the pump. You are not truly saving money if you get a unit with a less expensive pump that lacks the power necessary to enjoy your spa fully.

Spare no expense on filters. If you want to often use your hot tub or spa, you may wish to get a bigger filter than indicated to avoid costly yearly tear-down and maintenance.

Additionally, invest a few additional dollars in timers. Having a heater that automatically turns on an hour or two before you arrive and wish to use your spa may result in thousands of dollars in gas or electricity savings over the life of your hot tub or spa. A small hot tub can be heated with an electric water heater, but bigger hot tubs and spas should be heated using natural gas.

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