Wooden hot tubs are the oldest kind, but are still popular with those who love the traditional, rustic look. They are customizable, attractive and durable. Because they are also available in kit form that can be assembled on site, they can be installed in places where a molded above-ground won't go. They can be heated with electric, gas or even wood, but offer fewer features than other spas and are sold only primarily through specialty retailers, though online retailers, such as Amazon.com, offer a handful of models on occasion.
Mid-range prices. The wooden hot tubs available online cost about the same as a mid-range above-ground model molded type, and retail site RHTubs.com says they should cost about the same to operate. A wooden hot tub is generally deeper than a molded above-ground spa, so, although it contains more water, it has a smaller exposed surface where heat can be lost. However, this greater depth means the tub is very heavy when full, so keep that in mind when picking out your installation location.
Wood holds up well. RHTubs.com reports that "unlike plastic spas, wooden hot tubs don't crack, chip, blister, bubble, fade or stain." Still, this site and other sources note that the type of wood used is important. Redwood, cypress and teak are all very durable. Some say that cedar -- a popular wooden hot tub material -- may not hold up quite as well, but DoItYourself.com notes that cedar is a good choice for a hot tub because it expands when wet, making it more water-tight. Oak is another possible choice, but experts note that oak needs careful maintenance. Thicker wood is also better since it's less likely to warp. Most wooden hot tubs don't need any special maintenance, but if you choose to finish the wood, you'll probably need to renew that finish annually.
Fewer features, but more flexibility. In general, wooden hot tubs don't offer the same range of features as molded above-ground spas. They have simple wooden benches rather than contoured seats and loungers, and don't include extras like sound systems. However, wooden models are easier to customize than molded tubs because you can choose the bench height and exact placement of the jets. Another plus is that wooden tubs are shipped in pieces and assembled on site, making it easier to fit the tub into a location with limited access. Many have heaters separate from the actual tub, so you can choose gas or even wood rather than electricity for heating.
Rustic looks. For many users, the biggest advantage of a wooden hot tub is the beauty of natural wood. Left unfinished, a wooden spa will age to a grayish tone over time, which many owners find appealing. Those who prefer the look of fresh-cut wood can finish the outside surface. Buying a wooden hot tub isn't the only way to get the appearance of wood, however; many molded tubs come with wooden cabinets or synthetics designed to look like wood. But for those who want a spa made entirely of natural materials, a wooden hot tub is the way to go.
Wooden Hot Tub Reviews
1. Better Business Bureau
The Better Business Bureau of eastern Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont offers a detailed buying guide to hot tubs, distinguishing hot tubs from spas by their wooden material and the placement of water jets. The article includes information about hot tub construction, different types of wood and pricing.
Review: Buying a Hot Tub or Spa, Editors of Better Business Bureau, Not dated
This home improvement website offers its take on the benefits and drawbacks to a cedar hot tub. The biggest issue cited is that cedar -- or any wood hot tub -- can be harder to clean than other types of hot tubs. However, that's outweighed by wood's durability and aesthetic pluses.
Review: Cedar Hot Tub Pros and Cons, Editors of DoItYourself.com, Not Dated
This is the web site of Roberts Hot Tubs, which has been making and selling wooden hot tubs since 1976. The website's FAQ section discusses everything to do with wooden hot tubs: construction, size and weight, cleaning and maintenance, operating costs, and how they differ from molded spas. However, this commercial site focuses strictly on pros, not cons.
Review: Wooden Hot Tubs Questions and Answers, Editors of RHTubs.com, Not Dated
4. The New York Times
While this article does not recommend any models, it provides good background on the options available in wood-fired hot tubs, particularly wood models. The reasons why some might want to opt for a wood fired hot tub are discussed, and downsides are addressed.
Review: A Wood-Fired Hot Tub for an Old-Style Soak, Jennifer Bleyer, Oct. 20, 2010