Simply put, wood hot tubs can be credited as the origin of the modern day hot tub. The first wood hot tubs were fashioned almost 60 years ago using augmented oak wine barrels as personal soaking tubs. This clever adaptation soon garnered more attention and eventually led to the introduction of cedar and red wood hot tubs. More so than oak, cedar and redwood have natural water resistance and insulating properties making them ideal materials for wood hot tubs. Using high quality 100% knot free boards (also called staves), they are cut at precise angles to create a water tight joint. All of the wood is also kiln dried to less than 7% moisture content to prevent rot/decay. With wood hot tubs precision of manufacturing is critical as poor craftsmanship can result in premature failure and reduced longevity. Furthermore, a wood hot tub absorbs water once it’s filled and the wood staves swell up and expand up to 6 inches creating a water tight seal around the inside of the entire tub. It’s important that these tolerances are considered during the manufacturing process for obvious reasons. It’s also ideal to find a manufacturer that use thicker and wider staves which results in fewer joints and better structural support.
Wood hot tubs have also come a long way since their inception. Today’s wood tubs are available with technological advancements such as digital controls, therapy jets and pumps, and filtration systems.
Another consideration when looking at wood hot tubs is the type of heating source. You can get a gas heater, wood fired heater, electric heater, and in some cases a hybrid heater which uses some combination. Selecting a heating source is more of a personal preference although there are some performance differences with regard to warm up times. For example, a 450 gallon wood hot tubs will heat up at approximately 10 degrees per hour with an 11 kw electric heater versus 25 degrees per hour using 100,000 BTU gas heater. The type of heater chosen can also be a result of a limitation with the house or property where the tub is located. For example, the home may not have enough room in the breaker box to handle the amperage required by an 11kw heater which leaves gas or wood fired as the only two options.
Wood hot tubs also vary greatly in terms of sizes available. They can be as small as 3 feet in diameter (200 gallons) to as much as 8 feet in diameter (1000 gallons). They can also be 3 feet in height or 4 feet in height. The 4 feet height is ideal because you can submerge most of your body inside the tub for deeper soak.
Although not nearly as popular as traditional hot tubs, wood hot tubs remain a desirable option for discerning buyer’s looking for a classic, old world aesthetic that cannot be matched by todays plastic and fiberglass models.
Below is a simple pros and cons list for this type of hot tub when compared to a traditional hot tub;
- Unique Aesthetic – wood hot tubs have an old world aesthetic that is appealing to some discerning buyers
- Natural Aromatherapy – cedar and red wood have heavy oil and resin content that provides a nice aromatherapy during a soak
- Expensive – The price range for wood hot tubs can vary from $3000-$10,000 depending on the size, type of heater, upgrades, and accessories. Traditional hot tubs are priced very similarly but they are a better value pound for pound because they are more of commodity.
- Bulky – Wood hot tubs are not self-contained like a traditional hot tub. They come in several pieces and components that are separated when installed which takes up more space.
- Assembly Required – Wood hot tubs require assembly versus a traditional hot tubs that is prebuilt and turnkey.
- Less Performance – Wood hot tubs either come with no hydrotherapy massage jets or they are available with very few jets (4-10).
- More Maintenance – Wood hot tubs can grow bacteria in the water more easily because of the wood surface. They also require staining every couple of years. Traditional hot tubs have smooth acrylic surfaces and don’t get as much bacteria build up. Traditional spas also have synthetic exterior cabinets that don’t require staining or painting.
- Less Comfortable – Most wooden hot tubs have a flat bench seat and straight walls to lean up against which aren’t nearly as comfortable as the ergonomic and contoured seats of a traditional hot tub.
- Less Efficient – Wood hot tubs aren’t nearly as well insulated traditional hot tubs which boast fiberglass shells, foam insulation, and exterior cabinet panels.
- Limited Features – Wood hot tubs are very bare bones and simple versus traditional hot tubs that feature options such as stereos, LED lights, waterfalls, water purification systems, and wireless controls. Traditional hot tubs come in more colors, shapes, and sizes.