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Archive for the ‘spa covers’ Category

Five Foes of Spa and Hot Tub Covers

March 24th, 2014 by

Spy vs Spy, by Antonio ProhiasA hot tub cover that is quality made should be able to last 5 years in the outdoors, or longer if maintained well. Jack Stone likes to brag about a spa cover that he owned for 12 years, although I’m pretty sure that he replaced the foam at one point.

Our Hot Tub Covers have a five year, bumper to bumper warranty covering construction faults, material defects, and even water absorption. It’s one of the strongest warranties in the business, but I’ll let you in on a little secret – we almost never have to fulfill that warranty – because our covers are so well made!

Even though we have a long and strong warranty, and even though you’ll find our returns/warranty team very pleasant to work with on your warranty, no one wants to have to make a warranty claim, and ship a heavy hot tub cover back for repair or replacement. That is why I’ve come up with this list of warranty-busting spa and hot tub cover care tips.

Avoid these Five Foes of Spa Covers, and we may lower our warranty claim rate even lower!

5 Enemies of Hot Tub Covers

Sun

angry-sun-by-ocal-clker.comUV rays from the sun gives life through photosynthesis, but they also degrade most surfaces, even with UV inhibitors added to our 30 oz. marine grade vinyl used on our spa covers. Especially in sun drenched areas of the country, and especially if your spa has very little shade to shield it from the sun, UV rays can damage your spa cover. To keep marine vinyl soft, pliable and resistant to UV rays, protect your spa cover once or twice per year, with spa cover conditioner.  Don’t use automotive products (i.e. Armor All), which are not meant for outdoor surfaces.

Wind

angry-wind-by-ocal-clkerEl Niño is coming again later this year, which can mean higher wind speeds and more frequent storms. A strong wind can flip up a spa cover and a really strong wind can send it flying across the backyard. This usually results in major damage to hot tub covers, most commonly cracking the foam cores. Protect your spa cover from winds by always latching your spa cover clips, and if your spa is in a location susceptible to high winds, invest in a pair of spa cover wind straps, aka hurricane straps for spa covers.  Perhaps a larger danger than the wind itself, are large tree branches that are thrown down onto a spa cover.

Water

rain-cloud-by-ocal-clkerRain and snow are obvious enemies, but add to it automatic sprinklers. If your cover is in good shape, and you clean and condition it regularly, your spa cover should shed water. If water begins to puddle on your cover, you will soon be looking at a new spa cover, I’m afraid! Any type of roof over your spa, a patio, gazebo or pergola will help to keep your spa cover protected from sun and rain. A Spa Cover Cap is a wonderful invention to protect frail spa covers from rain and sun.

spa-cover-cap

Spa Cover Cap

Unfortunately, water from above is not the only liquid enemy of your spa cover – the moisture beneath your spa cover, your spa water, also can damage the foam, and grow mold and mildew. This is why our spa cover foam cores are vacuum wrapped and heat sealed, to keep out moisture. To help prevent moisture absorption into a spa cover, it is recommended to remove the cover completely from the spa, and allow it to air out. If your spa cover has become waterlogged, to the point where it becomes difficult to move, time for a new spa cover!

Animals

dog-on-spa-coverBears have been known to be attracted to a scent found in some spa cover foam panels, but this is a rare occurrence. Most wild animals will not chew or scratch a spa cover. Indeed, most damage comes from large dogs. The warmth of the spa beneath the cover is what seems to attract dogs and cats. A small pet probably won’t do any damage, but a 50 lb dog could weaken and damage your foam panels and reinforcement channel.

Party animals can be just as damaging to spa covers. Kids especially, and perhaps some adults, think the spa looks like a stage, and perfect for practicing their American Idol auditions. Keep all ‘animals’ off of your spa cover – a lot of weight is an enemy that attacks suddenly, destroying a spa cover in seconds.

Chemicals

cleaning-chemicalsChemicals beneath the spa cover, from your spa water, can be harsh to spa cover materials. Low pH or high sanitizer level, or shocking the spa and then closing the cover – all can lead to a slow deterioration of seams and vinyl.

Chemicals on the top of your spa cover can also be harmful to the vinyl. Spills of spa chemicals, or using harsh cleaners or the wrong kind of conditioner (like Armor-All), can dry out the vinyl and cause it to shrink, which eventually leads to splits in the fabric.

Don’t let these enemies of our spa covers hatch their evil plans! Protect your cover and it will protect your spa – much longer!

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works

 

Spa Safety: Keeping Kids Safe around Hot Tubs

March 13th, 2014 by

spa-covers-newDrowning is the second leading cause of accidental death for young children, and spas and hot tubs account for 5-8% of all drownings nationwide. Other statistics, from a National Institutes of Health 26-year study:

  • 70% of spa drowning victims were 10-24 months of age.
  • Most incidents occurred during the months of May-August.
  • Half of hot tub drownings occurred between 4-8pm
  • 2/3 of hot tub drownings occurred Friday-Monday

 

Hot Tub Safety

Keeping your hot tub safe from small children is a combination of constant supervision and effective barriers to entry, and making sure that your spa has no unintentional hazards to small children living in, or visiting a home with a hot tub.

Hot tub hazards – There are two main concerns, drowning and entrapment. Entrapment is when hair, body or limb becomes suctioned down onto the spa drain. Single drains with flat grates can be unsafe, with some powerful pumps able to hold even an adult underwater. There are two other concerns for spa and hot tub safety, namely exposed electrical hazards, and poor water chemistry that can be unsanitary for young children.

Hot Tub Barriers – In the study referenced above, the authors concluded that locking hard spa covers were an effective barrier, and soft covers were certainly not. They also suggested that fencing ordinances be enforced for outdoor spas, and that spa drains be multiple (more than one), and low suction grates be installed. It is unlikely that a small child would have the strength or height needed to remove a hard spa cover, especially one that is strapped with clips. For added protection, use hurricane straps or a come-along type of ratcheting strap across the top of your spa cover.

In Ground Spas – No mention was made of inground spas during the study, but I think we can safely assume that they can be less safe than aboveground models – and most certainly when they are uncovered. Hard spa covers can be secured to the pool deck or floor surrounding a sunken spa in a variety of ways, making them non-removable by children, or even adults. Small spas can be more attractive to small children than a large swimming pool. They are so easy to cover safely, and should always be – covered safely.

Most Importantly…stay-super-safe

  • Keep your spa tightly covered with a hard cover when not in use.
  • Lock doors or gates that lead to the spa area.
  • Keep your spa electrical power dry and tidy.
  • Check that your spa drain covers are in place.
  • Test spa drains with a kitchen sponge for entrapment hazard.
  • Practice constant supervision of children (I know…)

 

Keep your Spa Safe!

- Jack

 

Spa Maintenance & Safety for Rental Home Hot Tubs

February 24th, 2014 by

cabin-spa

 

Do you own or operate a rental cabin or B&B with a hot tub for the guests to use? If so, you know that a spa can significantly increase the appeal of the property for renters, but that it also brings with it another layer of maintenance in between guest stays.

My husband and I have had a mountain home near Mammoth Lakes, Ca that we rent out when we are not using it, through a rental agency. Over the past 15 years, I have many stories to tell about our little mountain spa.

Like the time we found broken champagne glasses in the bottom, or the time we discovered it missing nearly 1/3 of the water, or the many times we have found it left uncovered, cranked up to the max and low on water.

Here’s a list of ways to improve management of your rental home hot tub, and reduce surprises and potential conflicts with your guests.

Signs

I’m a big believer in signs all around the house – small, tasteful signs that I print up and laminate. Here’s a sample of some useful signs around your spa:spa-rules-sign

  1. Spa Rules – Standard sign warning of potential health dangers.
  2. Spa Operation – Custom sign telling how to remove cover, turn on jets, air, heater, lights. How to add water if needed. How to shock if needed.
  3. Spa Closing – Sign by the door, reminding users to turn off the spa, replace the spa cover and latch it securely.
  4. Spa Heating – Tips on spa heating, troubleshooting checklist of simple fixes for the spa temperature.

 

Equipment

In order to be sure that our spa stays as sanitary as possible, we have a small inline brominator installed under the skirt, an ozonator, and we use a mineral stick. In most cases this amount of overkill is not needed, but it can be a little insurance against the occasional group of guests that really push sanitation to the limit, with heavy spa use.

The spa filter cartridge should be replaced every 6 months in a heavily used spa, or at least that’s the schedule we keep. We buy 6 at a time, and keep them stocked at the property. Same with the mineral sticks, which gets replaced at the same time.

Draining Schedule

We have a formula that we use to calculate when to drain the spa, based on the number of guests, but we also try to tell whether or not the spa has seen heavy use. The water level is always a good indicator, since most guests will never add water. If the water level is close to the level where we always leave it at, and other indicators don’t point to heavy spa use, we don’t drain the spa after each guest, but we vacuum, clean the filter, balance the chemistry and shock the spa.

However, in order to maintain a sanitary spa in your rental, you should drain and refill the spa if it looks like your guests really enjoyed it! Our spa gets drained about every month, but sometimes twice per month, if the unit has seen heavy usage, or if we rent to snowboarders (jk, lol).

Spa Safety

First off, the spa should be isolated on your property. If there are adjacent town homes or condos, a safety fence should be built around the patio, to cordon off the spa, and also add some privacy.

Secondly, a covered spa is always safer than an uncovered spa. Make sure your cover clips and straps are in good shape. A spa cover lifter should be installed to protect your spa cover and prevent guest injury.

Third, our Spa Rules sign makes these specific restrictions:

  1. Children under 14 with Adults only
  2. No single use, 2-4 people only
  3. No alcohol or drugs
  4. No pregnant women
  5. No Hypertensive people

Fourth, keep all spa chemicals safely stored, and out of the reach of children.

Fifth, make sure that your spa is in good electrical condition, without any chance of accidental electrocution.

What’s a Spa Worth?

Adding a spa or hot tub to your rental property will add another recreational element to your offerings, and will allow you to charge a premium – to at least cover the additional costs and maintenance involved. In our case, our property management company raised their price a set amount, and we have figured out our annual expenses for the spa. From there, we were able to figure out a fair amount to add to a night’s rental, which has by now, over the last 10 years ~ paid for the spa many times over!

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

 

Your Hot Tub Cover Stinks!

February 10th, 2014 by

smelly-spa-coversHey, no offense, but your hot tub cover smells bad. Maybe you’ve gotten used to it?

Don’t worry, it happens to most spa owners at some time or another; water is one of nature’s most erosive substances. Moisture seeps in and becomes trapped between the outer vinyl shell and the plastic wrapped foam cores. The warm, moist environment is perfect for mold and mildew and other forms of smelly stuff.

If moisture has penetrated further into the plastic wrapped foam core, the cover becomes waterlogged, which can quickly grow all sorts of dark and smelly slime, but also make the cover really difficult to remove, and not as effective at keeping the heat in the spa. Time for a replacement spa cover.

 

Smelly Hot Tub Cover ?!?

  • Broken or damaged. Cracked foam cores, ripped or worn spots, torn seams. A spa cover that loses it’s arched roof line, to keep water draining off correctly, will eventually begin to puddle water, which is probably time to buy a new spa cover! A spa cover with threadbare spots in the vinyl is also bad news, and although you can stave off the inevitable with a duct tape repair, the water will win, eventually.
  • Not Removed Regularly. Remove your spa top weekly for 2 hours of airing out. A better cover can withstand longer periods, but it’s a good habit to remove the cover and let it get some air on a weekly basis. If you can easily open the zipper to allow moisture to escape do so, but don’t remove fragile foam panels unless absolutely necessary.
  • Poorly Made. It’s easy to make a spa cover with tape and staples, but it won’t stop moisture very well. The best spa covers have foam panels vacuum-wrapped in 6 mil PE, with a single, continuous heat welded seam. Some covers don’t even try to keep the intense moisture from your spa from reaching the foam core, but a better spa cover uses a thicker vinyl cover, backed in 3 layers to keep outside moisture out, and on the inside, thick vinyl scrim heat welded to a thick internal barrier.
  • Bad Spa Water. If the spa water is not maintained regularly with sanitizer and filtering, or is not shocked often enough, bacteria and algae can take advantage of a hospitable environment to flourish. Low pH, high chlorine or high ozone levels can also deteriorate the underside of your spa cover. Because the cover is so close to the spa, it absorbs the chemistry of the spa. Clean, clear and sanitary water is the best environment to prevent smelly spa covers.
  • Not Cleaned / Conditioned. For outdoor spa covers, unless your back deck is covered or your spa is in a gazebo (which if it is, I’m jealous!), you have sun, rain, pollen, dust, pollution, and animals to contend with. If you have a partial roof, that can be worse than no roof at all, if an overhanging eave drains water onto the spa cover. Clean and condition a spa cover 2-4 times per year, so that it always looks great, and is protected from the elements.

Fix Your Hot Tub Cover!

  • Remove to Safe Location: This first step may seem obvious, but you need a good place to allow the cover to sit undisturbed from pets, wild animals, and winds. It should be a sunny location if possible, or a dry indoor location with low humidity can also be used.
  • Deodorize & Disinfect: You may not need to do both, it’s best to be as gentle as possible. Don’t use household cleaning products on your spa cover, strange chemicals can end up in your spa water. Gently clean all exterior surfaces with spa cover cleaner, and allow the panels to dry.
  • Remove the Panels: Again, this should be avoided if possible, because the panels could become damaged during removal or cleaning. But if you determine that there is something slimy inside, you can usually unzip and remove the panel for a cleaning inside and out. spa-cover-cleaner

Use a Spa Cover Cleaner to gently clean and deodorize your spa cover without phosphates, bleach, alcohol or who knows what. Follow label to gently clean with a soft cloth or dish sponge, rinse clean and dry. It removes most anything, from tree sap and berry stains to bird poop, pollen and pollution. Used regularly, it also protects against stains and repels dirt.

For extreme mold and mildew stains, a stronger disinfectant may be needed. If the initial cleaning has still left dark spots of mildew or mold on the inside surfaces of the spa cover vinyl, or on the outside of the wrapped foam core, you may try a diluted mix of bleach. Pour 1/2 cup of bleach into 1-2 cups of water, and use a sponge to apply bleach to small areas. Quickly wipe dry with a paper towel, rinse off and dry again.

spa-cover-conditioner-It’s best to use as little water as possible on the spa cover during cleaning, and to do it as often as needed. How often? If your spa is protected from most sun and rain, maybe twice per year. If it’s out in the open like mine, it should be 3-4 times per year. It only takes a few minutes to do honestly.

I clean my outdoor spa cover every 3-4 months, and then I let it dry. I come back a few hours later, put it on the spa and rub on the Spa Cover Conditioner, which goes on in under a minute. It always looks great!

And, I do remove my cover regularly, twice a week usually – and, I do keep my water balanced and sanitary. So, I’ve been lucky to have no odor problems with my spa cover lately!

Sometimes, the easiest cure for a smelly spa cover is to just buy a new spa cover – especially if the cover is 5 years or older.  A smelly spa cover simply means that your cover is taking on moisture, and things are beginning to grow!

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

 

6 Embarrassing Spa Problems to Avoid

January 2nd, 2014 by

spa-problems - image purchased thru PresenterMediaWhen you own a spa or hot tub, you want it to be in tip top shape, especially if friends come over to enjoy it. They may not understand all of the complex mix of water chemistry, filtering and heating that is going on – they just magically expect the hot tub to be… magic!

A spa or hot tub is not that much work, maybe 30 minutes per week, to keep the water clean, and all systems go, ready for any spur of the moment entertaining you may do.

Based on my years of being a spa owner, and just as many years working for spa companies in customer service, I have curated this list of the Top 6 most embarrassing spa problems.

Smelly Spa Cover

Woo-Wee! What is that smell!?! If your spa has a smelly, musty odor of mildew, chances are – your spa cover is to blame. Remove it from the tub completely so that you can give it a good whiff, away from the spa. If the smell is coming from the spa cover, you have some cleaning to do. Spray the inside plastic and vinyl with a diluted bleach solution, to kill any external mold and mildew. Then allow it to dry, with the spa cover off of the tub, for several hours. For extreme cases, you may need to gently remove the inner foam panels, and apply the treatment to the panels and to internal surfaces. If you have any rips or separations that is allowing moisture to get inside your spa cover, patch them properly, or start thinking about replacing your spa cover!

Foaming Spa Water

cloudy-spa-water-smWith the jets on full blast, a small amount of surface foam is nearly impossible to avoid, and is completely normal, like the white caps on ocean waves. What I’m talking about here is when the foam begins to build on itself, and become noticeable. Hint: When children begin giving themselves foam beards in your hot tub, it’s reached a problem stage; time to take action. First, check your pH and Alkalinity and adjust if necessary, to 7.5 and 100, respectively. Be sure that your test strips are not expired, old strips can give false readings.

Second, use a spa filter cleaner to will remove oils and grime. Advanced spa foam can be caused by excess biofilm – use a spa purge like Jet Clean to strip the pipes and jets clean. Afterwards, drain the spa, refill and balance the water. If your spa is used heavily, begin using an enzyme like Natural Clear to control organics. I don’t believe in using Foam Out, by the way – that just covers up a problem.

Noisy Equipment

When something doesn’t sound quite right, just like in your automobile, that’s a good clue that something is wrong. Loud spa pumps are the most common noisemaker, and this usually means that the bearings are shot. At this point, you can have a motor shop rebuild the motor, or you can replace with our spa motors. You could also replace the entire pump, for a simpler, but more expensive repair. Spa blowers can also become noisy over time. They also have motor bearings and brushes, internal to the motor. Most blowers are inexpensive to replace, so they aren’t usually repaired, but some motor shops will work on them. A loud chattering is usually the sound of a contactor and a quieter clicking is often a relay. This could be a connection or voltage problem, or these spa parts could be defective.

Privacy Problems

namarata privacy panel

If your spa is visible from other people’s houses, that’s kind of a bummer. There are a few spa cover lifters that will hold the spa in an upright position, providing a nice bit of privacy, but only on one side of the spa. Other ideas are cheap window treatments, like bamboo blinds, or using lattice wood, to block some light, but still allow a breeze to blow through. Using a pavilion or a pergola around an above ground hot tub helps to design more privacy around the spa. It goes both ways remember – your neighbors want their privacy too, so make efforts to block noise from the spa – like loud laughter, music and other sounds of frivolity. Having the Police called to your hot tub at midnight, by a tired and sleepless neighbor, is definitely best to avoid!

Heater Problems

No one likes a cold spa, and even worse is a spa that’s only 95 degrees or so. Most spas will begin to lose temperature when the cover comes off, and people enter the spa, soaking up the heat. If your spa heater is having trouble maintaining the heat in your spa, it could be a problem with the thermostat, or some other part. Daniel wrote Top 5 Spa Heater Problems, which covers some common mechanical failures, and some embarrassingly easy fixes to the problem.  Low heat could also be caused by a very cold night, and a very small spa heater. Some spas just don’t seem to hold their heat in very cold weather. If this spa problem happens to you, consider upsizing your heater element (call us for help). Another cause of heat loss in the winter, is the lack of sufficient insulation under the spa, around the tub. Some spas are packed in with insulation, and some have barely nothing.

Itchy Rash

spa-rashes-
Uh-Oh! If your guests complain to you hours or days after using the spa, of a red, pimply rash on their skin, your spa may be harboring some recreational water illnesses. We go into it in much more detail in our article about waterborne illnesses in spas and hot tubs. Essentially, you want to drain the spa and do a complete and deep clean. Use Jet Clean in the pipes, and replace your spa filter. Most importantly, to prevent it from happening again, maintain good water balance and keep enough sanitizer in the water – at all times. Shock weekly, or at least every other time you use the spa to kill such things as pseudomonas aeruginosa in your spa.

Don’t sweep spa problems under the rug, these symptoms are your hot tub’s way of telling you there’s a problem. If we can be of any help to you sorting out your spa problems, give us a call or send an email – spa techs are standing by!

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

 

The Winterized Spa – How to Close a Spa for Winter

December 12th, 2013 by

hot-tub-in-winter

There comes a time for many hot tub lovers in the north, when they need to ask the question – close the spa for the winter, or keep it operating?

If you think you’ll use the spa occasionally, even if it’s only a few times per month, I would suggest that you keep it open. But, if no one is using it, or worse – maintaining it. You may want to winterize the spa.

For many spa owners, it’s the fear of extended power outages that will warrant emptying the spa. Heated and covered, a hot spa should be able to resist freeze damage for 24 hours, but beyond that you could face  expensive repairs to plumbing and equipment.

How to Winterize an Above Ground Spa in 4 Steps

step1 to winterize a spa or hot tub Step One: Remove the spa filter cartridge, and clean it thoroughly with spa filter cleaner like Filter Fresh, and allow it to dry for winter storage. Next, apply a spa purge product like Jet Clean, to clean biofilm and bacteria from the pipes, which will continue to grow in the moist interior of your pipes, unless cleaned before you drain the spa. Don’t skip this step, or you may have funk and gunk in your pipes when you start up the spa again.

 

step2 for spa and hot tub winterizingStep Two: Now it’s time to drain the spa. Shut off power to the spa, and switch the heater off. Find your drain spigot and allow the spa to drain completely, through a hose, so the water drains away from the spa. When almost empty, turn on power again, so you can turn on the air blower (if you have one), and let it run until no more droplets spray out the jets. Use a sponge or shop vac to get every last drop from the bottom of the spa. If you have air jets in the seat or floor, lay a towel over them to absorb water mist as it sprays out.

 

step3 to winterize a hot tubStep Three: Use a powerful shop vac, to suck and blow air through the system. Place a sheet of plastic over a group of spa jets and use shop vac suction on one of the group’s jets. The plastic will suck to the other jets, so you can pull water out of one jet. Repeat until all jets are vacuumed. Switch the vac to a blower, and blow air through all the jets. Now blow air through the skimmer and spa drain. Under the spa, open all unions (don’t lose the o-rings), and use the shop vac to blow and suck air in both directions. Remove the drain plugs on the pump(s), and filter.

 

step4 in winterization of a spaStep Four: Spa covers perform an important function during winter, keeping any rain and snow melt from getting inside the spa. Over winter, some areas can receive two feet of precipitation, and it’s important that this doesn’t get into the spa. If your spa cover is a leaker, and in bad shape, cover it with plywood cut to shape, and then wrap it tightly with a sturdy tarp that will repel water. If your spa cover is in good shape, use a conditioner like our Spa Cover Cleaner, to protect it from winter weather. Use a Spa Cover Cap for the best spa cover protection.

 

Other Thoughts on Winterizing a Portable Spa

  1. Consult your owner’s manual, or find it online, to read specific tips for winterizing your particular spa.
  2. Using non-toxic antifreeze is discouraged, but if you must, refill and drain the spa before use.
  3. Draining a wooden hot tub is discouraged, but if you must, leave a foot of water, to resist shrinkage.
  4. Be sure to shut off power at the breaker, so there’s no chance that the pumps will run without water.
  5. If you have doubts and worry, consider calling a spa service company to winterize your spa.
  6. Inground spas require different procedures, not covered here.

 

- Jack

 

 

DIY Hot Tub Cover – Make Your Own Spa Cover

November 21st, 2013 by

wood-circlesSpa Covers are a large part of our business here, that’s why when we heard about people making their own spa covers, we had to look into it. Is this a threat to our core business? No, we don’t think so at all – well, at least I don’t think that.

I think that American individualism has always led people to can their own food, sew their own clothing, and even make their own spa covers. In some cases, it’s born of necessity, necessity to save money that is. Even though a new spa cover from Hot Tub Works can be less than $300, for many cash-strapped spa owners, making their own spa cover for under $100 sounds a lot better.

I apologize to the wives and girlfriends out there, if I’m giving your “handy” man some kooky ideas. Most people would rather have a proper hot tub cover, I understand. At the end of the article, I have some talking points for you – reasons for not building your own spa cover.

Materials Needed to Make Your Own Spa Coverhardware-stores

  • 2- 2″ thick 4×8′ Polystyrene Foam Boards
  • Heavy Duty Adhesive in caulk tube
  • 2 – 4×8′ Plywood Boards
  • Heavy Duty Plastic
  • Exterior Paint for Wood
  • 2 – 4′ Continuous Hinges and screws

STEP ONE: MEASURE YOUR SPA

You know what they say, measure twice, cut once. Measure both the inside and outside dimensions of your spa shell, and draw a guide on paper. Your DIY spa cover must be large enough to sit on the rim of the spa, without the risk of falling in if you just bump into it, or look at it wrong. Both the wood and foam will be closer to the outside diameter, so that the foam rests on top of the spa. Alternatively, if you think you can get a better seal by having the foam cut to fit the inside of the spa (while the wood extends over the spa edge), you can cut the foam a few inches smaller than the plywood.

STEP TWO: CUT THE MATERIALS

Measure again before cutting, just to be sure. For square spas, you’ll have less cutting to do of the plywood and foam boards, in fact, you may choose to not even cut them at all. For spas with rounded corners, octagonal cuts or circular spas (hot tubs), break out the jig saw, so you can cut the radius curve in the plywood. The foam can be cut with a sharp kitchen knife or with a hacksaw blade. After you have cut both pieces, lay them on top of each other, to remove any rough edges and to make sure that they are pretty close to identically sized.

STEP THREE: WRAP THE FOAM IN HEAVY PLASTIC

You won’t get the vacuum sealed, heat welded seams that you see on the best hot tub covers, but it is still important to spend time wrapping the foam as tightly as possible to keep moisture from the spa from coming in contact with the foam board. Wrap it with painter’s plastic, at least 4 mil in thickness. Wrap all sides like a gift box, folding over the corners and taping tightly, with a large roll of packing tape.

STEP FOUR: GLUE THE FOAM TO THE WOOD BOARDSliquid-nails

Use a heavy duty adhesive like Liquid Nails, or something similar. Use a liberal amount, squirting it directly onto the wood. Be sure to cover all areas, with special attention on the edges. Press your wrapped foam board onto the board. Flip it over, so the foam is on flat ground, and place a few heavy items on top of the wood, to help improve adhesion.

STEP FIVE: PAINT THE WOOD AND INSTALL THE HINGE

Sand the edges to remove any splinters or rough spots. Use exterior paint, and don’t be afraid to go heavy on it, or paint two coats on the side that faces up. After the paint dries, you can install the hinge. You can use several door hinges, or use one long continuous hinge, with a 1/4″ screw in every fifth hole.

That’s It! Five steps. The only thing left is to put it on the spa (use two people if it’s heavy) and check for heat loss. Now to come up with a solution to the heat loss that’s coming through the hinge, or at certain spots around the spa rim, like the control panel area. If you have a cover lifter, you may also be able to connect your cover lifter to work with your new spa cover.

 

Reasons for Not Making Your Own Spa Cover

I promised earlier to give some ‘talking points’, on how to dissuade a handy (and frugal) housemate from attempting a DIY spa cover. We know it’s a lot cheaper, and we understand the pride of making something with your own hands, but…

  • The heat retention of this type of spa cover is far less, easily half of what a real spa cover can provide.
  • Homemade hot tub covers may be difficult to latch or lock, to keep the spa safe and secure.
  • Without steam stoppers and skirts to prevent heat loss, a spa in cold weather may be unable to stay hot.
  • Without a rigid support panel, a DIY spa cover won’t stay flat, and quickly warps and bends to the water.
  • When it bends toward the water, rain and snow melt will drain into the spa, bringing contaminants. how-to-buy-a-spa-cover

 

For a real cover, see the benefits of a Hot Tub Works spa cover. You can still make a contribution however, and put your talents to good use, like building a wood bench or shelves to wrap around the spa. Rocks and plants? How about a gazebo, privacy screen or some pergola around the spa?

 

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara

 

 

How to Make a Cheap Spa Cover

November 11th, 2013 by

Don't buy a spa cover from this guy! - purchased thru istock

There’s a lot of cheap spa covers out there. Do a Google search for discount spa covers and you’re hit with some pretty low prices. $195 for a spa cover?

How can you sell a spa cover so cheaply? To sell cheap spa covers, you have to make cheap spa covers.

In the interest of science (and corporate espionage), we ordered a few of these discount spa covers, to see what they’re made of, and how they’re made. We were pretty excited when these 2 covers arrived at our offices, ready for their dissection. What we found however, was nothing short of shocking…

Manufacture of a Cheap Spa Cover

Poor Materials

Let’s start with the foam, that’s where the cost cutting begins, by using a cheaper grade of extruded polystyrene, more prone to premature water absorption and breakdown. Secondly is the rigid support channel that runs across the fold, instead of using steel, substitute the cheaper aluminum, or even use PVC.  Third, use a thinner foam core wrap to save more money – 3 mil wrap is much cheaper by the roll than 6 mil wrap. Cheaper zippers and scrim, cheaper thread used for stitching and cheaper vinyl used for covering, are other ways that a spa cover can be made more cheaply.

Poor Construction

Or more accurately, a lack of workmanship or craftsmanship.  A cheap spa cover looks like a cheap suit. Not a good fit, poor stitching, and the liner hanging loosely inside. These spa tops had single stitching (not even straight), taped or stapled seams (not heat welded), loose fitting foam core wrap, and lightweight hinges or support channels. The vinyl is a single ply (no backing), and is as thin as you would expect. The weight of these spa covers – incredibly lightweight. That’s because they are made of cheaper, thinner and well, much less  material.

Poor Warranty

Question: If a spa cover has a warranty is for 5 years, and is pro-rated, and you have to pay to ship it back (both ways), is it really a warranty? Most of these so called warranties on these cheap spa covers only cover defects in materials or workmanship for one year. Longer warranties can be pro-rated so heavily that it makes the shipping costs prohibitive. And be sure to read the fine print, the exclusions, and you’ll find that most damage to the spa cover is not even covered.

Poor Service

Question: If you can’t even get in touch with them, how are going to lodge a warranty claim anyway? Many low budget spa cover dealers shave costs by not having customer service staff, or spa cover designers that you can speak with, chat with, or get a fast email reply from. They may or may not have a sales line, answered by a call center – somewhere, which will be “happy to take [another] message for you”.

Poor Selection

Even local dealers are getting in on this disposable spa cover market, advertising ‘basic’ spa covers, in only two or three sizes. Don’t buy a spa cover that isn’t an exact match to your specific spa. Color doesn’t matter, but a proper fit is essential to keeping your spa hot and as energy efficient as possible. Spa covers that don’t fit perfectly are also more susceptible to damage to the foam core.

 

How to Make a Good Spa Cover

Making a quality spa cover is what we do at Hot Tub Works. We’re proud of our materials and craftsmanship, and the reviews we get from satisfied spa cover customers say the same thing. And with prices starting at $269, you don’t have to shell out big bucks for a good spa cover.

Four Panel Spa Cover

Here’s how to make a spa cover that won’t fall apart in a year or two. These are some of the things that sets our spa covers apart from the “competition”.

  • Our spa covers meet or exceed ASTM safety standards
  • Computer aided design and manufacture process
  • 30 oz Marine Grade Vinyl is super tough
  • Double stitched with heavy Dacron thread, Quadruple stitched hinges
  • Vacuum heat sealed 6 mil Double-Ply foam core wrap
  • 20 ga. steel reinforcement channel on both spa cover halves
  • 5 year warranty, non-prorated, covering water absorption and shipping
  • Free shipping on every spa cover

 

- Jack

 

Cleaning Tools to Make Spa Maintenance Easier

November 4th, 2013 by

pleatco-cartridge-guyCleaning your spa or hot tub can be a bit of a chore. In my house, I was only able to pawn off some of the spa duties when I brought home some of these spa cleaning tools and supplies. Such as vacuuming the spa or cleaning the spa cover.

If you’re tired of certain spa maintenance tasks, and you are having trouble pawning them off on others, or making the spa off-limits until the spa is taken care of – take a look at some of these workload reducing hot tub tools.

Spend more time enjoying your spa, not cleaning it!

 

Easy Clean Filter Spray Nozzleeasy-clean-spa-filter-spray-nozzle

Some pool cartridge spray tools are too large for small spa filters. I always used my regular multi-purpose spray nozzle, and would have never thought to use anything else, until we had a manufacturer’s sales rep come to our office, handing these out.

I told him that I really didn’t need it, but he insisted, and left it on my desk. I took it home about a week later, and finally used it several weeks after that. I was so impressed, that I called him up to thank him. It makes an adjustable sharp or fan spray, which really gets in between the pleats.

Grit Getter

grit-getter-spas

This is the simplest little device, one of those things that I kick myself for not inventing. Squeeze the Grit Getter and it pushes out the air and water, and creates a strong suction that’s perfect for grit like sand or dirt.

The debris gets trapped in the body, just twist it to open, and dump out the grit. Made of a soft rubber-plastic, it floats when not being used, and is pretty much indestructible. Easy to use, and even kind of fun, everyone wants to give it a try. Also available with an extension pole, for use when you’re not in the spa.

 

Pool Blaster Spa Vac

spa-vac

For something beyond the manual vacuum power of the Grit Getter, this vacuum power vacs your spa, operating on 3 “C” batteries, which gives about an hour of cleaning time, which should last for several months, assuming you keep your spa covered, and your guests are clean!

There are several types of spa vacuums on the market, this one is the most maneuverable and easiest to set up. It also has an internal valve to keep debris inside, should you begin to lose battery power, a feature not shared by other spa vacs.

Comes with 3 extenders, which can extend the spa vac up to 8 foot in reach.

 

Spa Fill Water Filter

spa-pre-filterIf you pre-filter the water that you use to fill your spa, your spa water will be pure to start. This puts less demand on your spa filter and sanitizers, and mineral control chemicals. Helps reduce foaming and staining by removing impurities, minerals, salts and scale. It also removes organic contaminants, chloramines, and sulfides, which make water smell bad.

Just attach the hose water pre-filter to your garden hose, and turn on the water. You’ll notice a difference immediately if your water contains silt, is colored or has a strong odor. Each pre filter lasts for 3 spa fills, plus as many top offs to the water level as you need.

A must to use if you are using well water, or if your water comes from old systems or travels very far to reach your home.

 

Spa Skimmer Net

spa-skimmer-netIt’s tempting to think that you may never need a skimmer net for your spa or hot tub. After all, it’s covered most of the time, and probably out of the way of most large trees. But, a skimmer net can be a handy tool to have on hand. Leaves, bugs, fibers or dust can be quickly swept from the surface.

You might use it to scoop off loads of foam out of the spa, retrieve tossed toys or the floater. It can also be used to scoop leaves or items from the floor or benches of your spa. Our spa leaf skimmer has a large head and a telescopic pole that extends from 3 to 8 feet. Frame is weather resistant plastic, with urethane handle and polished aluminum tubing.

Earlier this summer my spa skimmer nets kept disappearing. After my third replacement, I found them down by the creek behind my house. Apparently these also work great for catching tadpoles and turtles, as my grandsons taught me.

 

Tub Rub

hot-tub-scrubber-pad-tub-rubThis is like a Magic Eraser for hot tubs and spas. You can use it by itself, or along with a spa cleaning chemical (never use household cleansers to clean your spa shell). It has a textured surface and is soft enough to get into the many grooves and curves of spa surfaces. Can also be used for your spa cover, although I normally prefer to use the 303 Spa Cover Wipes for cleaning the spa cover.

Textured sponges could be too harsh for some delicate spa surfaces, and may scratch like steel wool. Tub Rub is a textured fabric – not plastic, so it’s always gentle, and works great for scum removal, or for high gloss polishing.

 

These are some of the most useful tools and hot tub accessories that I use around my spa, to reduce the maintenance, or at least make it more manageable. It may even help you pawn off some spa duties to others! Or you could start charging admission, to use the spa! Yeah, right.

 

- Jack

 

Spa Cover Lifter Repairs

October 24th, 2013 by

animated-spa-cover-lifterBroken spa cover lifter? Cover lifters can often be repaired, if you have the time and inclination. Sure, a new hot tub cover lifter is only one to two hundred bucks, but if you’re counting your pennies these days, many damaged spa cover lifters can be fixed quickly and cheaply.

Damage to spa cover lifters may result from water logged covers, improper use, acts of God, or teenagers.

Spa cover lifter repairs are usually to the mounting system, the lift assist system, or to the pivot arms or tubes that support the cover.

Replacement parts for some spa cover lifters can be scarce and in some cases, not available – forcing you to replace a damaged spa cover lifter with new. In some cases, you may be able to find suitable replacements for the parts your cover lifter needs, in a good hardware or home store.

Spa Cover Lifter Mounting System Repairs

If you have an undermount spa cover lift, with a metal plate that slides under the spa, you usually avoid complications such as this. Spa cover lifters that are screwed into the spa cabinet, via a mounting bracket, can suffer broken brackets, stripped screws, cracked bushings. It’s recommended to tighten spa cover lifter bracket bolts and check connections twice per year.spa-cover-mounting-bracket-repairs

If the wood of the cabinet has begun to rot, and there are soft spots in that area, could you remount the bracket on the opposite side of the spa? Or, can you empty and turn the spa to remount the brackets?

If not, maybe you can add a mounting strip to the spa cabinet. Glue and screw – a 2x4x8 piece of finished and stained wood or composite material from one end of the spa to the other. On top of the strip, or on the side of the strip, remount your brackets, following manufacturer’s installation instructions.

Broken or bent mounting brackets, bushings, or pivot points attached to the mounting system will put tubes out of alignment and create stress on attached parts. Metal brackets may be able to be returned to new shape with the use of a vice and a small torch to heat the metal. If not, replacement brackets are generally available online.

Spa Cover Lifter Lift Assist Repairs

Many spa cover lifters utilize a gas shock, also known as a gas spring or gas prop, with many uses. Although these may look the same as the one on your storm door, or car hatchback, they have different diameters, lengths, and output force of the piston. They also have different end fitting types. I wish that all spa cover lifter manufacturers would use the same shock for their lift assist systems, but most are different and specific to the model of spa cover lifter.

spa-cover-lifter-repairsGenerally, you will need the exact OEM shock, but if you are having trouble finding the ‘factory’ replacement gas shock for your spa cover lift, you could take the shock into an auto parts store to see if they can match it up [exactly]. They are usually sold in sets of two, and it would be best to replace both, so that their piston force and size will match.

Other cover lifters may have Lift Assist in the form of a fulcrum device. Heavy winds or accidents can topple a cover while it’s in the up position, and bend the bend of the fulcrum. Heavy wind or cover ‘accidents’ can be especially hard on joints, pivot points and fulcrums.

Spa Cover Lifter Arm Repairs

The arms of your spa cover lifter, those that go alongside the spa and over the hinge, or fold of your spa cover – could be the most fragile part of your spa cover lifter. Heavy, soggy spa covers can cause the tubes to sag under the weight. Heavy winds, as mentioned above, can also do damage, especially for covers that are stored in a position above the spa.spa-cover-lifter-arm-repair

If your tubing, or spa cover lifter arms become bent or crimped, you may be able to find replacement parts from the dealer you purchased it from, or directly from the manufacturer. If you can’t locate replacement parts, and don’t want to buy a new lifter, some spa cover lifter arms can be replaced with steel tubing of a very similar diameter. Steel or PVC electrical conduit of slightly smaller or larger diameter could be measured, cut, inserted and screwed down – to replace bent portions of the pivoting arms or connecting tubes.

Spa cover lifter repairs are usually successful, if you use the right materials and take your time. OEM (original equipment manufacture) parts can be expensive however, so you’ll to weigh the costs of repair parts, vs. buying an entire new identical cover lift, and using the old lift for future spare parts.

If you haven’t been really satisfied with the cover lifter performance and are facing a repair, maybe now is the best time to look at other cover lifter models. We have ten spa cover lifters, and depending on your spa shape, there are usually 2-5 models that will fit your spa and spa cover.

 

- Jack