Product Reviews – Hot Tubs

When we lived on the farm, we had an opportunity to buy a used hot tub at an insanely cheap price.  The guy selling it was trying to sell his house, and most people didn’t want it, so I bought it for next to nothing.  The thing weighed about a ton, well, really about 800 lbs with no water or people in it.  I wanted to put it onto this little deck on the back of my house that was built not long after I moved in.  I met a good friend of my brother at a Christmas party and he told me he was trying to break into the contracting business.  I told him that I wanted to put a small deck on the back of my house, and that I’d give him a call in the spring when the weather cleared up.  He was out in the snow the next day making measurements, ordering lumber and the whole thing was up in a week.  Gotta love motivated people.

I was worried that the little deck wouldn’t hold the weight, so I asked my defensive partner on my hockey team, who just happens to be a world-class nuclear plant stress analyst about it.  He had me take measurements, set up a finite element model and ran the numbers.  Meanwhile, the chance came to get the tub onto  the deck, and there was no way I was going to keep my 13 year old and his buddies from filling it up and using it.  By the time he told me that it was unsafe, it had been filled and used for a week.  I did crawl underneath with concrete pads and jack stands to shore it up, but I think these nuke plants are over-designed.

Hot Tub on the Farm
Hot Tub on the Farm

My son used the tub quite a bit, and when our baby, Max was old enough, we turned down the temperature to about 100F and took him in there all the time.  It was nice to have, and really cool to use in the winter with the snow all around.

Fast forward to our current house which did not have a hot tub.

What I did have was a buddy who ran (and later owned) a hot tub store outside of Portland.  I met this guy, and a bunch of other great guys on an internet message board dedicated to the movie The Big Lebowski.  I’m a huge fan of Coen Brother movies in general, and this one in particular, but that’s a post topic in itself.  Anyway, it became common knowledge in our little group that I was looking to buy a hot tub.  My buddy made me one of those Vito Corleone offers you can’t refuse.  He would sell me a hot tub at his cost.  All I had to do was get it here from Oregon.  He directed me to his web site, and gave me advice on which one to get.  We got a Cal Spa 8-seat model with about 50 jets, a huge volcano jet in the very center of the floor, and a waterfall on one side.  The thing is about 8 ft by 8 ft, and came with an insulated cover.  We picked redwood exterior and turquoise pebbled surface on the inside.  It was gorgeous.  We did not get the CD player, video, or any of the other stuff.  We got all bucket seats with no lounge seats on his advice.  It turns out that these things retailed (in 2009) for about $10,000.  Getting it at cost got it delivered to my door for about $4,300.  Man, hot tub dealers make money!

Of course I had to install it myself.  I had another buddy of mine help me run a 220V line to the tub location, which was about 80 ft from the electrical box, and a special ground-fault breaker switch demanded by code.  Even doing this myself was expensive.  I had a certified electrician bless it when we were done.  Then the tub came.  This was the craziest setup I ever saw.  It had been delivered to a local place, and they brought it to us in two trucks, accompanied by four of the biggest guys I’ve ever seen.   The first trick was big enough to allow the tub to stand upright, but had no hydraulic lift gate.  The second truck had the hydraulic lift, but couldn’t fit the tub.  They put the two trucks back-to-back on a side street, then carried the tub from the first truck onto the lift gate of the second truck.  Onto a dolly, and wheeled up my driveway and onto the back porch.  At this point, they wanted me to sign and leave, but I offered them a few bucks to help me bring it down flat and put it where I wanted it.  My buddy and I wired it up, and we were ready to fill.

First Bubbles - 2009
First Bubbles – 2009

We have been using the tub continually since we got it,  typically about once or twice a week.  Since we got it, we have built a huge porch over the entire back of the house without moving the tub.  We can now use it in all weather.  It was just dumb luck that I installed it right outside a window where I put a 32-inch LCD TV pointing outside, and a set of outdoor wireless speakers.  Now we can watch the Pirate or the Steeler game from the comfort of our hot tub.

Me and Max Tubbin"
Me and Max Tubbin”!

So how do I rate Cal Spa?  These guys are great.  I’ve had few issues and it’s still going strong (knock on wood).  The little foam pillows needed replaced, and one of the jets crapped out.  I could’ve leveled it better, but all-in-all, we love it.

Rick’s rating – 5 Sticks!

Go get one now!
If you want a hot tub, get one of these!

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