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Above-ground hot tub Review

By: Kelly Burgess on May 11, 2018

Bottom Line

Molded, above-ground hot tubs offer a wider choice of options than any other type of spa. From size and shape to materials and price, you're certain to find a model to fit your style. These tubs are much easier to install than an in-ground spa, but you do need to prepare the site carefully.

Pros

  • Large variety of styles, features
  • Doesn't need professional installation
  • Energy-efficient

Cons

  • Comes in only standard shapes, sizes
  • Installation site may require special preparation; electrical circuit
  • Can be an obtrusive feature in landscape
Our Analysis

Breaking it down

Cost

A tub for every budget. Above-ground hot tubs have the widest price range of all spa types. A basic model made of molded plastic, called rotomold, can cost as little as $2,000, while luxurious models loaded with extras can run more than $15,000. Extra costs may be incurred to prepare a suitable site for installation, but the tub should be easy to install yourself -- no need to bring in a contractor. This kind of tub is also typically very energy-efficient, say the editors of Better Homes and Gardens.

Durability

Depends on the material. The most common material for an above-ground hot tub is acrylic backed by fiberglass. In the past, acrylic surfaces were likely to develop bubbles or cracks over time, but modern versions are better. An even more durable option is thermal plastic, which editors at Spasearch magazine call "virtually indestructible." Tubs of stainless steel are also very durable, but cost more. Experts recommend looking carefully at the manufacturer's warranty to ensure it covers all parts of the tub. Surface and structure tend to be covered separately, so look at both. Also keep an eye out for limits and exclusions.

Ease of use

Up and running in hours. An above-ground hot tub must be installed on a strong, level surface like a pad of reinforced concrete. Most need access to a standard 110-volt electrical outlet, though some require a 220-volt circuit, which may require the services of a qualified electrician. However, if you already have the proper circuit installed, you should be able to set up your new tub without having to hire a professional.

Appearance

Styles range from utilitarian to posh. Above-ground hot tubs come in just about every style imaginable. Some look like bulky plastic blocks, some have elegant wood or faux-wood cabinets, and the fanciest models feature stone-look veneers, colored lighting and even waterfalls. The arrangement of seats and water jets also varies widely. Although above-ground models generally can't be custom-designed the way an in-ground spa can, you're almost certain to find one to fit your style. Because these tubs stand well above ground level, they may become a focal point in your landscape whether you like it or not, so it's worth choosing one whose looks you really like. This type of tub is technically portable, but it's so heavy that you probably won't want to move it once it's in place. However, it can come with you if you move.

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