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Archive for the ‘Landscape & Patio’ Category

How to Choose the Best Hot Tub Placement


how to choose best hot tub placementA portable hot tub can go just about anywhere you’d like – patio, gazebo, backyard, indoors, etc. But where’s the BEST place to put a hot tub? Truthfully, only you can determine the best hot tub placement options for your home and lifestyle preferences. Before choosing a location for your new spa or hot tub, you’ll need to consider a few key points. We have six tips to get you started.


hot tub placement

Intended Use

Are you planning to use the hot tub for quiet relaxation and stress relief? Or will it be used for entertainment and enjoyment during social events and parties at your home? Will you using the hot tub for treatment of chronic pain? Or do you want to spend romantic evenings in the company of a loved one? The intended use of your new hot tub should play a role in its placement. For a more secluded, relaxing environment, you may want to install it where you can add some type of privacy barrier. Likewise, if you want to enjoy scenic landscape views in an inviting setting, you may want to place it somewhere that’s a little more open or centralized. Hot tubs used during daylight hours may benefit from shade, while those used at night will likely need some type of pathway or step lighting for safety reasons. Keep this all in mind as you choose your hot tub location.

hot tub placement


How close is the hot tub to your home? A hot tub placed in the very back corner of your yard will be less enticing than one that’s right outside the back door, and it may not be used as often. This is especially true during the cold winter months. Another thing to consider is the location of the water outlet and electrical circuit. If utilities are not close to the hot tub, you may need to hire a plumber and/or electrician to bring the access closer, which will increase the total installation cost.


You’re going to be looking at your new hot tub quite often, so it’s important to consider its appearance. How will the hot tub look in its new location? Will it be easy to create and maintain aesthetic appeal with furniture arrangement, landscaping and decor? Or is it going to stand alone and stick out like a sore thumb? Will this view change with the seasons? Remember that a hot tub should complement or enhance the area it’s sitting in, not detract from it.

Delivery & Installation

hot tub placement

Portable spas and hot tubs are large, heavy and cumbersome to move around. If you’ve purchased one from a local showroom or hot tub dealer, a delivery crew will likely help set the hot tub in its new location. There needs to be a clear, wide path from the point of delivery to the desired placement area. Any obstacles, narrow passages or tight corners can make delivery and placement considerably more difficult. If the company has to move the spa or hot tub by crane, there will need to be room for the crane to maneuver. You may have to temporarily remove fence panels, gates or deck railings to make the delivery process easier.


A hot tub can weigh more than two tons when it’s full of water and people. Wherever you decide to place your hot tub, it’s important to make sure there’s enough support to hold the weight. The surface should be flat, level, and resistant to sinking, shifting or sagging. Most portable hot tubs are installed at ground level on a concrete slab. You can also use materials like a SmartDeck base, gravel, bricks or stone pavers to prevent it from settling down into the soil. If you plan to place it somewhere higher, like on top of a deck, the hot tub should have proper reinforcements underneath. Wooden decks are likely to warp and/or collapse without sufficient beams or braces to support the weight of the hot tub.

hot tub placement


Before your new hot tub arrives, double-check the dimensions. How snug is the area where you’ll be putting it? In the event of a repair, you’ll want to have easy access to the spa cabinet to reach the plumbing and electrical components, so keep that in mind. If installing the hot tub on or near wood, take proper measures to seal or protect the wood to keep it as water resistant as possible. Splashes and frequent water exposure can spell disaster for untreated wood. Speaking of water, drainage is also something to take into consideration. A portable hot tub is usually drained every three to four months. All drainage should be able to flow away from your home and hot tub. The same goes for storm planning. Will excess rain water collect and pool around your hot tub area? If so, this can rot wooden spa cabinets, short out electrical circuits and allow mold to grow in insulation, as well as other issues caused by too much lingering moisture. If this will be an indoor hot tub, make sure there’s adequate ventilation, or else you’ll have similar moisture issues in your home.

It really doesn’t matter where you put your hot tub, just as long as the position works well for you. As we’ve discussed, there are a few things to keep in mind that will save you from placement regrets later on. Intended use, deliverability, ease of maintenance, base support and proximity to your home and utility connections should all play a role in your final decision. Additional factors may come into play for different hot tubs and individual preferences.

How to Spruce Up Your Hot Tub Area


how to spruce up your hot tub area

Take a good look at the area where you keep your spa or hot tub. Are you happy with the way it looks? Most importantly, is it a setting where you can truly feel relaxed? If you find yourself thinking about possible improvements and wishing things were different, then this article is for you!

A well-arranged, decorated and accessorized backyard, deck or patio area offers many benefits, including a sense of pride and general peace of mind. It’s also a place to entertain guests and unwind at the end of the day. If your hot tub area is looking a little bare, there are many things you can do (large and small) to transform the space from “blah” to beautiful. Not sure where to start? Here are five easy ways to spruce up your hot tub area.


Cleaning & Maintenance

tropical hot tub settingYou can have the most beautiful, modern-looking hot tub area in your neighborhood. But if regular maintenance is neglected and the area isn’t kept clean and tidy, it’s just not going to look good. Keep chemicals and accessories stowed away when not in use. A stylish storage cube works great in these situations! Use a pressure washer to remove dirt and grime from concrete pads and/or stone walkways. Add a new coat of paint, stain or varnish to wooden decks and stairs. Regularly wipe down all surfaces in the area, including the hot tub and cover. If your spa skirt or cabinet is looking worn and weathered, consider restoring or replacing it. Use cover conditioner to keep your hot tub cover looking new, and replace the cover if it’s starting to crack, sag or warp. Keep plants in the area properly pruned and watered. Just a little cleaning and maintenance and cleaning can do quite a bit to spruce up and refresh your hot tub area.


Patio Furniture

furniture around hot tubAdding some outdoor furniture near the hot tub is the quickest and easiest way to make the area more appealing, both for you and your guests. Arrange a few comfortable chairs around a small fire pit, or set up a sofa and coffee table. If you’d rather lean back and relax, consider adding a couple of lounge chairs to the mix. If your hot tub sits in direct sunlight, a simple cantilever umbrella can help make your soaks be more enjoyable during the daytime. Place a stylish towel tree or hook near the spa to keep your towels contained.



Plants & Landscaping

hot tub in a carefully landscaped yardNothing adds character to a backyard quite like pretty landscaping. Make sure there’s a good mix of plant life in the area – small, medium and large. If you plan on having flowers, make sure to keep a variety so you’ll have blooms throughout the year. Also pay attention to the natural layout of your hot tub setting. You may be able to incorporate unique landscaping features like an artificial waterfall or large rocks. Let your imagination run wild as you create your own backyard oasis. Build a few planter boxes and weave vines through an elegant trellis for an added touch.


Lighting & Audio

accent lighting around hot tubAdding outdoor speakers and accent lighting to the spa area is a great way to help set the mood, whatever that mood may be. Make it vibrant and jazzy for a social gathering, calm and soothing for relaxation, or keep it soft and dim for a romantic date night. Battery-powered waterproof Bluetooth speakers are a popular choice for many hot tub owners because they’re portable and don’t require complicated installation. If your hot tub sits underneath a gazebo, pergola or a similar type of overhead cover, drape a string or two of decorative lights for quick and easy soft lighting. If the hot tub sits on (or near) a deck, you can also string lights along the railing, or add stair lights for increased safety at night. Most newer hot tubs come with their own color-changing lights installed within the tub – turn them on! Pick a color that suits your mood, and let the party begin. If your hot tub doesn’t have interior lighting, you can also try a floating speaker and light show combo, which offers the best of both worlds in a small, affordable package. During the summer months, light some citronella candles or tiki torches to keep the mosquitoes, gnats, flies and other insects away.


Property Upgrades

home improvements around the hot tubThis one’s not exactly an “easy” option. However, in many cases, renovating your outdoor spa area can increase the overall value and appeal of your home. For example, you could incorporate the hot tub into a newly constructed wooden deck for the appearance of an in-ground spa. If you enjoy entertaining guests regularly, an outdoor fireplace, kitchen or grilling station might be exactly what you need. Constructing something around the spa, such as a gazebo, pergola or even a small bar with stools will also enhance your hot tub setup. On the simpler side of things, a decorative walkway to the hot tub made of carefully arranged bricks or flat stones will help keep your feet clean and make hot tub maintenance easier. It also won’t cost as much as other more complicated renovation projects.

If you’re still having trouble thinking of what to do around your spa or hot tub, don’t worry! Inspiration photos are posted online on sites like Pinterest all the time. Find something you like, and start exploring how to make that idea become a reality for your own spa area. We also have an archive full of creative ideas, including decking ideas, chemical storage ideas and an in-depth look at exterior design principles in the Landscape & Patio category of our Hot Tub Works blog.

New Uses for Old Hot Tub Water


Reduce, Reuse and Recycle your hot tub water. Hot tub and spa owners generally replace their spa water every 90-120 days, or every 3-4 months. The reason for this is that the water becomes choked with invisible (at first) solids, minerals and contaminants that overwhelms the spa filter and sanitizer. This leads to cloudy, dull spa water which may be unhealthy.

Draining and refilling a spa or hot tub is a relatively simple and painless process, but what if your region is undergoing water restrictions, or for your own environmental reasons, you want to drain the spa fewer times per year?

In some cities and counties, draining your spa can be a punishable offense, with fees or fines that create an incentive to extend the time between spa water changes.

Here’s 6 ways to recycle old hot tub water or re-purpose spa water to other uses, and 8 ways to extend your hot tub water lifespan, so you don’t need to drain so often.


<<< 6 Ways to Reuse Hot Tub Water >>>


Water your lawn

Spa water makes fine lawn water, as long as you open the cover and allow the chlorine or bromine level to drop to around 1 ppm. It need not be at zero, but it shouldn’t be higher than 3 ppm, or certain types of grasses may object and start to turn a yellow color after a few days. Your spa water should also be relatively well balanced, or at least the pH level should be below 7.8, and even 7.0 to 7.2 if possible, as most lawn grasses prefer a slightly acidic pH level. Move the hose around every half hour, so you don’t over-saturate one area of the lawn.

Water your trees and bushes

Spa water also makes fine water for trees and bushes, again as long as the chlorine or bromine level is not off the chart, it’s ok to have 1-2 ppm, which is the same amount you might find in a tap water test. Plants that have been accustomed to chlorinated water (from municipal water supply), can tolerate even higher levels, but it’s always best to open the spa cover, and run the jets for awhile, to allow chlorine to dissipate to a safer level, below 3 ppm. If your spa uses a saltwater spa system, be sure that your plants and trees are salt-tolerant before using spa water for irrigation.

Water your home foundation

For those that live in the drier parts of the country, you may have heard horror stories of home foundations cracking when the ground becomes too dry. Or new concrete driveways or walkways that can settle if the ground beneath dries and shrinks too much. In times of drought, when rainfall is scarce, hot tub water can be used to soak the ground around the home, or near concrete placement. This soaks into the soil, expanding it to a greater volume, for support of heavy concrete and steel structures.

Pump it into your pool

Sure why not? Unless it’s dark green and super funky, a large swimming pool can easily absorb a few hundred gallons of spa water without batting an eyelash. It’s actually what I do, when I’m not needing to water the lawn or my plants, I just run the hose over to the pool and recycle my spa water, magically turning it into pool water.

Pump it into a doggy pool

During the hotter parts of the summer, my dogs love to take a dip, but they know not to go in the pool, with my direct (adult) supervision. I bought a Walmart kiddie pool a few years ago for my dogs. Now when I do a spa water change in the summer, I use about 80 gallons of hot tub water to fill up the doggy pool (kiddie pool), repurposing my old spa water, and (magically) turning it into doggy pool water.

Wash your car or boat

For this trick you will need a submersible pump, and a long garden hose to reach the driveway. I have used my spa water to wash our 2 cars, with some left over to water the front lawn. Since a submersible pump should not be used with a spray nozzle, the hose is constantly running. Place the hose on the lawn during the times you are scrubbing the car (or boat), you can kill two birds with one stone. If you have a community water watch organization on patrol, you may need to explain that you are recycling your hot tub water, and not just letting tap water run down the driveway.


<<< 8 Ways to Extend Hot Tub Water Life >>>


Maintain optimum water balance

Keeping your spa pH, Alkalinity and Calcium Hardness levels not only makes the water more enjoyable to soak in, but allows your sanitizer and filter to work more effectively, keeping your water from spoilage sooner.

Shower before using your spa

Reducing the amount of oily, flaky, gunky stuff into the spa could be the number one thing to extend your spa water lifespan. For those that treat their hot tub like a bath tub, this creates a huge demand on your spa filter and sanitizer, and leads to smelly, cloudy and possibly unsafe water conditions. You don’t have to take a shower every single time, but if you need a shower, be sure to wash up well with soap and water before using the spa. And keep your head and hair out of the water, to reduce oil and soap contamination.

Shock after using your spa

Even though you are careful to wash before using the spa, shocking the spa after use is a good way to extend hot tub water life. But depending on how many people are using the spa, and for how long, a spa shock treatment may not be always needed. Use your judgement, but try to shock the spa at least once per week, to break apart chemical compounds and contaminants and kill any algae or bacteria.

Install a larger or second spa filter

We’ve covered this idea before, you can sometimes find the same size spa filter cartridge in a larger square footage size. This means that you increase the filter surface area, with a cartridge that has more pleats per inch. More surface area means better filtration. Another way to improve filtration is to use a Microban cartridge, which is coated with a bacteria killing layer (these are the Blue spa filters). Thirdly, you can install a second spa filter, inline underneath the spa, or an external filter placed beside the spa. With enough square footage of filter area, you could easily double or triple your spa water life.

Install an ozonator or mineral purifier

Anything that helps kill bacteria or remove contaminants from the spa water will increase water quality and lengthen the time between draining a hot tub. Ozonators and Mineral Sanitizers are two ways to do this, without heavy reliance on bromine and chlorine. You can reduce the need for halogen sanitizers like bromine and chlorine, while at the same time improving water quality and increasing the time between water changes.

Use spa clarifier or spa enzymes

Spa clarifiers are used to improve your spa filtration. They work to increase the particle size by coagulating suspended particles together, in a size that won’t pass right through the filter. Used regularly, spa clarifiers can stave off an impending water change by allowing the filter to keep the water cleaner, reducing cloudy and dull water. The same is true for spa enzymes, many of which are mixed with clarifiers. Enzymes are organic creatures that consume oils and gunk in the water, actually removing them and reducing the work for your filter and sanitizer.

Use a spa water prefilter when filling

Especially for those on a well, or for city water supply that is not always clean or perfectly balanced, using a spa pre-filter when you fill the spa can lead to a longer water life. A hot tub pre-filter screws on the end of your garden hose and filters out minerals, metals, chloramines, contaminants, oils – leaving you with very pure water – H2O. When you start with clean fresh water, with a low TDS (total dissolved solids) level, you can add weeks or months to the life of your spa water. I always use a pre-filter, and can tell you that it does make a difference!

Filter the water longer each day

Many spa owners naturally try to reduce their energy use with the spa, but reducing your filtering time too much can cost you more money in chemicals and water changes. For those spas with a 24 hr circulation pump – run the pump 24 hours, but also be sure to have a few jet pump runs during the day, to force high pressure water through the pipes and filter. This helps avoid biofilm cultures from growing and prevents dead zones in the spa circulation. If your spa water turns cloudy or dull too easily, you may need more daily filtration, and/or a new spa filter cartridge.



Look to find ways to reuse your spa water around the home, and try to improve your water quality so you only need to drain your spa 2 or 3 times per year, instead of 3 or 4 …


Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works


15 Hot Tub Deck Surround Ideas


Spas and hot tubs by themselves are wonderful, but when they are just plopped onto the back patio, they can look kinda plain.

For designers, the spa or hot tub is a focal point, and hot tub surrounds are used to dress it up and provide conveniences and privacy.

Today we look at some elegant ways to add a hot tub surround, or custom hot tub decks to ‘frame and set’ your spa or hot tub.

1. Marquis Spas accessory package paired with some big pots makes this spa blend well with the surrounding open patio.

Marquis Spa Hot Tub Surround Kit

2. Attractively designed wood spa surround wrapped in sturdy foliage that adds color and comfort all year long.

Hot Spring Spa with wood deck surround

3. Stone hot tub surround with a cinder block foundation, wrapped in faux stacked stone and topped with flagstone.


4. Hot tub surround is capped with a cabana and wrapped with a wet bar and wood step and box planter.

Caldera hot tub surround

5. Jacuzzi wrapped in rocks is set 2 ft lower and hidden with large boulders and colorful plants.

Baja Spa with rock surround

6. This lighted Pergola roof with lattice privacy wall is extended to include a side table, or with large pillow, a lounge.

Jacuzzi spa with wood pergola and lattice

7. Wrap the spa in stained planks and add a stack of steps with down lighting. Add a custom fence and bamboo planters.

wood cabinet and steps plans for spa shell

8. When your neighbors are this close, a proper privacy fence can help you enjoy your spa more.

wood hot-tub-surround and deck with seating and privacy wall

9. And for privacy at home, use large hedges, vine trellises, ornamental grass or bamboo around the hot tub.

hot tub surrounded by tall hedge, grasses, bamboo

10. Two more examples of a 4-post structure to mount lattice walls and side tables around a hot tub.

Hot tub with Pergola and Cabana

11. Close slat fence is capped with a vine trellis. Separate seating area, just off the Master bedroom. Sweet!

hot tub deck wood surround, off master bedroom

12. Inground tile spa kit by Signature with a beautiful hot tub surround and seating area. Tiki torch!

Inground tile hot tub wrapped in wood

13. If you have a real hot tub, wooden barrel type, wrap around wood stairs are popular.

classic wood hot tub step and wrap around

14. Japanese inspired spa gazebo surrounds the spa with sliding window panels and roll screens for a quiet retreat.

Hot tub gazebo, classic Japanese Hot House style

15. Hand Carved Concrete by Artiststone, created this impressive hot tub surround to blend with the natural surroundings.

hand carved concrete spa steps, faux stone


I hope these ideas on how to surround your hot tub was what you were looking for! If you’ve grown tired of your current hot tub surroundings, dress it up with wood and stone, and wrap it in plants to soften the surround.




Gina Galvin
Hot Tub Works


Hot Tub Chemical Storage Ideas


Is the Container Store a favorite hang-out for you? Do you spend hours organizing everyone’s sock drawer in the house? Do you feel a calm sense of control when your surroundings are neat and orderly? Me too – storage and organization is kind of a hobby of mine. There are so many good ideas out there for organizing around the home and office.

Today I bring you some ideas for organizing spa chemicals, so they are visible and orderly – but also, and more importantly safely out of the reach of children and pets. Spa chemicals also need to be kept cool and dry, and be separated for safety. More on that later, but first, I have 4 ideas for organizing your spa chemicals and cleaners.


spa-chemical-storage-in-a-bench1. Deck Bench Hidden Storage

Part deck railing, part bench, the flip-up lid on this custom made wooden bench flips up to a large expanse for chemicals, filters, cleaners, and cleaning tools.

The problem with this design however is that the storage is outdoors, and subject to wide temperature extremes and humidity. High heat can cause some spa chemicals to expand and very cold temperatures can reduce potency. Moisture from rain or humidity is bad on many levels for spa chemicals. And, unless you add a latch to the lid, this design won’t keep out children.



spa-chemical-storage-rubbermaid2. Rubbermaid Storage Cabinet

This type of cabinet is perfect for garage or shed storage, and is suitable for wall mounting, to keep it off the ground, away from water and children. It also has a latch which can be locked.

You can install this indoors as well, to store your chemicals in a climate controlled environment. A plastic cabinet like this one will not corrode like metal cabinets will, in the presence of chlorine or bromine gas.

3. Over the Door Organizer

You’ve seen these used for cleaning products or shoes before I’m sure. I have used one for my shoes for years, but they can also be useful in office supply closets, laundry rooms and in spa storage closets.

Of course, this idea may not store all of your spa chemicals or cleaning tools, but it can hold the regular size bottles and test strips, and cleaners.

This has some great advantages in that the products are kept separate and snug in their own pouch, away from each other.



sterilite-bin-for-spa-chemicals4. Sterilite Storage Bin

A favorite method of thousands of spa owners, keeping your chemicals in a portable box allows you to keep them high and dry, even if you store the spa chemicals outside.

Being portable, this type of storage option let’s you move the chemicals indoors, and store in a locked closet or on a low shelf.

The problem with this method is that bottles tend to get thrown into the box, which could cause an accidental chemical spill. If you use this method, use several smaller boxes to separate sanitizers from balancers.


Spa Chemical Safe Storage Tips

  • Keep spa chemicals cool, 50-75 degrees F
  • Keep spa chemicals dry, safe from flooding and humidity
  • Store sanitizers separately from each other, and away from other chemicals
  • Twist lock the lid tightly on all chemicals after use
  • Rinse measurement containers before and after use
  • Keep chemicals safely out of reach of children
  • Never store chemicals loose on a shelf
  • Never use a shelf that may collapse in an earthquake


So get organized! If your spa stuff isn’t so safely or conveniently stored, use these storage ideas for your hot tub chemicals – and get yourself organized and ready for spa season!


Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works


Deck it Out – Hot Tub and Spa Decks


hot-tub-deck-designsAre you tired of the same old backyard? I am – after looking at all of these beautiful pictures of spas and hot tubs wrapped in wood, built by creative and crafty homeowners (and their contractors).

If your spa (like mine), is just sitting on the back porch, on a boring slab of concrete, here’s some inspirational photos of spas sunken into wood decks, with thanks (and image credit) to and

Further down, I have some details on spa deck construction, or considerations when designing a spa or hot tub wood deck.

1. Simple & clean spa deck design provides privacy and space for entertaining


2. Multi-level deck design with down lights to illuminate steps without blocking stars.


3. Cantilevered deck sections and faux rock spa skirt and privacy wall.


4. Hot Springs spa wrap around deck design gives plenty of room for drinks and towels.


5. This old house got a facelift in the front and back, integrated spa into the back stairs.


6. Curved composite planks match the circular acrylic hot tub, set below Wisteria blooms.


7. Ultra modern home with deck wrapped hot tub with lots of access to equipment.


8. Horizontal privacy wall contrasts perfectly with the stained decking around this spa.


9. Spa tucked nicely on the edge of the patio, integrates well with custom wall and steps.


10. Spa appears to float in air, steps on left side lead down to spa equipment access.


11. Luxuriously finished teak wood for large gatherings with a grand view.


12. Positioning the spa at a jaunty angle in relation to the house creates better visual flow.


13. Need more circular shapes in your life? Perfect contrast to a square house and backyard.


14. Another example of asymmetrical spa placement, in relation to the house; adds more angles.


15. Pergola! Corner posts can tie-off long drapery; top is great for Clematis or Wisteria vines.


16. This looks like a dream. Safety fence rails are important for raised decks (and cliffs!).


17. Wood and stone play nicely together in this spa deck and privacy wall.


18. A Hot Springs spa deck planner idea, with two wood topped islands, wrapped in faux stone.



Spa Deck Materials

When building a wood deck, there are usually several options of wood, from basic pressure treated yellow pine, to insect resistant redwood and cedar, to imported hardwoods like Ipe or Balau. Composite deck materials mimic the look of real wood, but can outlast real wood, without the need for future sanding and staining.

Spa Insulation

Another important consideration when building a spa in a deck is the insulation around the tub. When sinking a spa shell into a deck without a spa cabinet, some insulation should be planned for, to save on heating costs. When a wood hot tub is sunk into the deck, a heavy insulated pad can be wrapped around the tub, below deck level.

Spa Deck Structural Design

A full size spa is heavy (nearly 1000 lbs), and a spa full of water can weigh 5x more! When placing a spa in a deck, the spa itself must be resting on a 4″ slab of reinforced concrete, or other suitable base that can handle at least 100 lbs per square foot. Want to install a spa on the upstairs deck? Better call a structural engineer, and get out the checkbook – strong underpinnings are needed for any elevated spa or hot tub.

Spa Privacy

Your location may not need much privacy, but if you have close-by neighbors like I do, a slatted or lattice wall can keep out prying eyes. A low wall can be incorporated into the deck surrounding the wall, as many of pictures above show. Draperies, fabric shades and plants can also be used to add privacy to your outdoor spa or hot  tub.

Spa Safety

Every spa installation demands safety considerations. Fencing or rails around raised decking is important, but even more important is a way to block access to the spa, with fences and gates, and with locking spa covers.


Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works


Exterior Design – Creating Hot Tub Décor


exterior-design-hot-tubs-and-spasGood exterior design is a sum of its parts, bringing together disparate elements into one cohesive and balanced design.

Your hot tub or spa is a warm, bubbling respite away from the stress of everyday life. Shouldn’t the surroundings of your spa also create feelings of peace and serenity? I’m not talking about a Zen garden, although if that’s your theme, by all means go ahead – but rather adding design elements that engage the senses, and produce an air of tranquility. Isn’t that what your hot tub is all about?

Put into words, using adjectives – just what is it that a Hot Tub means to you. Not your current hot tub, but your ideal hot tub. What would it look like? Rustic? Elegant? Tropical? Modern? Now how does it make you feel – Chic? Adventurous? Pampered? Relaxed?

Principles of Exterior Design

Balance & Contrast

Exterior Design is not so different from interior design. To make interesting spaces, designers play with balancing and contrasting elements. An element is anything tactile and visual – everything in sight is an element that can be matched or juxtaposed with surrounding surfaces and objects.

Lines: Horizontal or Vertical, diagonal or curved. The visual lines around your hot tub – fence, walls, floors, even the hot tub itself can balance each other in simple or striking ways. Lines can be used to make a space feel taller or more spacious. The type of lines used can evoke very different feelings. Thick or thin, precise or varied, bold or barely there. Wall, ceiling and floor coverings often make use of lines, to bring balance or contrast to the shape of the room, or outdoor space.


Symmetry: Open any book on design and there will be an early chapter on creating symmetry. It’s all around us, and being that our own bodies are symmetrical, we are naturally drawn towards symmetry. In exterior design, you’ll often find landscapes very symmetrical, and the house as well. Symmetry is as natural as bookends, end tables or night stands, but can also be seen as boring by those who prefer to avoid repetition.

Asymmetry: Asymmetrical designs can be just as pleasing, but instead of using repetition, they create balance through contrast. The difference can be with color, size, position, texture, quantity or even empty space. If you want something different, consider radial design, with elements arranged in a concentric fashion around a focal point, like your hot tub!


Scale & Shape

One can do a lot with scale & shape – the size and form of various elements placed around the hot tub, and if space allows, focal points placed further out in the field of vision.

Size:  The outdoors allows and begs for a larger scale than what can be done indoors. A few examples of large elements around a hot tub include outdoor fireplaces, overhead pergola or open air gazebos. Large oak leaf and ivy trellises can double as privy fences, and chunky living room style lounges and daybeds, fountains or sculptures can be added to your spa resort.

Form: Shapes are all around us – even the spaces in between ‘things’ have a shape. Shapes need not be 3-dimensional, that is they don’t have to have depth, and so are often added to walls, but can also be creatively used on floors and ceilings.


Landscape: When imagining the landscape around your spa, one way to consider scale and shape is to use a mix of small, medium and large plants (or small trees) to build layers of shapes and sizes. If you love blooms, plan and plant a perennial garden, blooming from early spring to late autumn. Your landscape doesn’t have to match your style completely, but should complement a theme. For instance, hot tub landscaping can be formal or casual, desert or tropical, beach or mountains. It can be inspired by Asian, Mediterranean or Latin landscape gardens. It’s best to consider your growing zone, and choose plants that will thrive in your climate, and with available daily sun exposure. Your local garden center has experts that can help you with plant selection for scale, shape and style.

Colors & Textures

color-wheelThere is a general rule of design that 3 colors is the maximum number of hues that one should use in a space. These are sometimes referred to as the dominant, secondary and accent colors. However, if you want to use more colors, make use of analogous colors, or those that are in the same general spectrum of color, or neighbors on the color wheel. Opposites on the color wheel are often paired together, in a complementary color scheme.

When designers consider a color scheme for a room or outdoor space, they can go in several directions, depending on the primary use of the space, and the wishes of those who will inhabit the space. If you have a theme in mind, or an overall style picked out, it makes it easier to narrow the color choices. Often, certain elements or focal points in the space become the primary inspiration for the color palette. But it doesn’t have to be!


Textures: Everything has a texture, and will fall somewhere on a spectrum of texture from smooth to rough. There are two types of texture – actual texture and simulated texture. Actual texture will have depth and a tactile sensation of texture. Simulated texture is created by duplicating the color value and darkness of the original, but in only two dimensions. It’s best practice to use a combination of surface textures, to suit your style. Generally, the more formal a setting is, the smoother the elements become, while more rustic or outdoorsy style will utilize a great deal more texture. Texture can be overdone however, so use with care, to avoid too many or too few competing textures.



Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works


Spring Spa Patio Decorating Ideas




Hi, it’s me Gina again – this time with some tips on sprucing up the patio area when spring returns to your area.

After a long, cold winter, my patio looks barren and grey. Piles of leaves rustle in the corner, next to dead potted plants and there’s a pile of firewood, and the old exercise bike I moved out last fall.

My patio would never win the cover of BHG, but after months of neglect, it’s time to clean it up! To start, a mix of tall potted plants and ornamental grasses. The large blank wall is crying for some outdoor art, and large coat hooks for robes and towels.


Nothing brings clean like a power washer, and to be honest, they’re kind of fun to use! The hardest part is moving everything out of the way, and sweeping everything up before you begin. If your patio has a low spot like mine, start there first, as water will begin to puddle there later, or use a push broom to keep dirty water from standing. Don’t use any detergent, as things get sudsy real fast, just good old water. If you don’t have a pressure washer, you can rent one for the day. In my area the rental cost is around $80/day, so I talked my neighbor into going in on it for halfsies, plus he has a pickup truck!

Patio Surfaces

Look at the surfaces of your patio, you have a floor surface, probably at least one wall surface, and possibly some sort of ceiling. Changing just one of those surfaces with new surface materials, can really change the entire look.

For the wall, you could add paneling or other texture on the bottom half of the wall. You can add a wall, if you wanted more privacy or a wind block around the spa.

For the ceiling, could you re-imagine it with fabrics or lighting, or if you have no ceiling, consider adding an inexpensive pergola structure, or harem tent!

On the floor, you can add color to your patio by painting bare concrete any number of earth tones, or if you have stampcrete or kool deck finish, rejuvenating with a new sealer coating. Adding elements of wood and stone are wonderful around a spa, if you have a little budget to spend.


For me, that’s what will really bring my patio to life, is when I make my spring purchase of hanging plants, herbs and tropicals, and bring out some house plants that have spent the winter inside. Don’t tell anyone, but I also make use of some fake plantery around my spa. A few plastic plants and climbing vines are placed strategically among live plants to help fill in bare spots. Plants are essential for me, to create my ‘tropical spa’ motif, lol.


Patio lighting is usually pretty basic when they build a house, maybe a 60 watt bulb in a glass and brass wall sconce. Ugh. Rope lighting is a cheap way to add some soft glow around your spa, or above your spa. Other unique lighting features can be added around the spa, or further out in the backyard, to gift depth to your view. Candles are also nice to use around the spa, if you really want to set a mood, or tiki torches for a more festive atmosphere.

Here’s some photos of some great patio decorating designs, with spas or hot tubs. Maybe one of these will inspire your own spa patio makeover!



5 Ways to Improve Hot Tub Appeal


spa-landscapingSpas and hot tubs need decor surrounding them – plants, wood, stone, tile, etc. Natural elements work best to complement the hot, bubbling water.

Wrapping your spa in decking really expands the area, making the it a part of a larger, cohesive design. Spas and hot tubs need some exterior design elements for privacy and to create a tranquil vibe.

Here are a few ideas for taking a plain ‘ol above ground spa and giving it a makeover. A little construction work, paired with the addition of plants, stone elements and furniture, will help create a more inviting and interesting outdoor spa environment.


An important design consideration is that the area around the spa needs to be well draining and clean. Spa users need to be able to walk barefoot around the spa, so puddles and muddy spots are a big no-no. A non-skid surface is preferred, since it will get wet frequently.

Wrapping decking around a spa or hot tub is one of the best ways to improve the appearance of the spa area. By building a deck around the hot tub, you can also create the appearance of an inground spa and make it easier to get into and out of the water. There’s also the option of incorporating steps. Check out some of these fabulous hot tub deck ideas!





With placement of natural stone (or faux stone) around the spa, you can create a rustic mountain spring setting. Wrap two or three sides in soil, rock and gravel (leaving room to access the spa pack). Just like building the spa into your deck, this is another good way to make an above ground spa blend into its surroundings. Use thick plastic sheeting if you’re planning to put dirt or rocks up against the spa skirt.




If some of the ideas so far seem a little daunting, consider a simpler alternative. Add planters around the spa at varied levels. If your spa sits on a large patio without close earth, large and small planters can be placed on the sides of the spa to soften the view, provide privacy and add natural elements.

Tropical plants are great around southern spas. Northern spas can use hearty evergreen bushes, seasonal flowers or blooming plants. Use cacti and succulents for southwestern spas. Volcanic rock or river stone makes a nice ground cover for pathways.





Patio furniture or hot tub surrounds are a quick and easy way to frame your spa and improve its visual impact. Tables, ornamental furniture and benches are also convenient spaces to set plants, candles or towels. A counter and stool arrangement makes a nice place for family to dine and socialize with people in the spa.

Steps are necessary for above ground hot tubs that are completely freestanding. Wrapping steps around the spa and integrating them with barrier walls or external seating is a seamless way to make the spa more accessible.

spa-furniture-ideas 2




A pergola or gazebo is perfect for updating the setting of your spa or hot tub. They provide shelter from sun and rain not just for you, but for your spa and spa cover as well. They also allow you to easily hang overhead lighting, speakers, privacy curtains or hanging plants. Pergolas are also great for climbing plants.

Gazebos and pergolas can be custom built to any shape or size. There are also many pre-fab kits you can buy and build. Drape with curtains for a cabana look and feel, or create a unique look with a roof made of bamboo or thatch.