How hard is it to put together a deck for a hot tub? It depends on a number of things, but it's worth it if you live in a house and use your deck all year long.
Putting in a hot tub or spa can change your deck in a big way, but you need to plan the job carefully. It's important to think about things like; Is my deck strong enough to hold people and water in a hot tub? Should I try to build it myself or pay someone to do it? Where should we put it? What changes need to be made to the wiring?
How to Build a Deck for a Hot Tub
When constructing a deck for a hot tub, there are numerous crucial considerations to keep in mind. Before beginning, you should consult building authorities and/or a specialist who knows how to construct a deck for a hot tub. Tanzite Stonedecks also offer helpful deck plans.
Step 1: Prepare the Site
Clear the site of grass and vegetation. Where you intend to build a ground-level or recessed hot tub, excavate, level, and pack the dirt. In other situations, slope the ground to prevent water from accumulating beneath or around the deck. Employ an electrician to install or upgrade the necessary electrical service to power the hot tub. Professionals that understand how to reinforce a deck for a hot tub may be consulted.
Read more: Using Shims to Level a Deck Surface
Step 2: Set the Footings
Use batter boards to define layout lines perpendicular to the house, and then use a measuring tape, line level, and plumb bob to locate the footing positions. Mark the location of each footing with a landscape spike, fluorescent tape, or spray paint. Utilize a posthole digger or auger to excavate to the specified depth, then put cardboard footing forms into the holes. Make the forms uniform and flush with one another. If required, examine the forms before filling them with concrete and levelling the top. Attach post and beam connecting brackets to the footings once the concrete has hardened.
Step 3: Establish the Hot Tub Pad
In-ground and recessed hot tubs must be supported by a 3 to 4-inch-thick concrete pad. As with the foundation sites, establish and mark the corners of the pad. To establish the finished height of the pad, consider the total height of the hot tub, the finished height of the deck, and the height of the hot tub above the deck surface. Install the pad on compacted, level ground using concrete blocks placed on sand, or construct a form and fill it with concrete.
Step 4: Attach the Ledger Board
Set the finished height of the deck at the house, take away the thickness of the decking, and draw a level line. Use lag screws or self-drilling structural screws to hold the ledger board in place along this line. Don't put the screws in the spots where the joists will go. Check to see if the screws go far enough into the structure. Most likely, engineered trusses and joists will need to be strengthened. Add a metal flashing over the ledger. This might mean taking a row of siding off the house temporarily.
Step 5: Install the Support Posts
At each footing, measure from the top of the post bracket to the top of the ledger board and then subtract the height of the beam. This is how long the post is. Small changes in how long a post is don't matter. Just keep track of which footing goes with which post. Set the posts at the right height and screw them into the post brackets.
Step 6: Install the Beams
Put the beams on the posts or into the beam brackets on the footings with the help of another person. Make sure they are centered from side to side. The beams must be straight, fully touch each post or bracket, and not move at all. After making sure the beams are square to the ledger board, connect them to the posts with brackets or to the beam brackets at the footings.
Step 7: Attach the Deck Joists
Draw vertical lines where the joists will connect to the ledger board and beams, and then install the joist hangers along those lines. Most joists on wood decks are spaced 16 inches apart, while most joists on composite decks are spaced 12 inches apart. When the deck needs to hold up a hot tub, the space between the boards may be smaller and the joists may be shorter or doubled. For hot tubs that are built into the wall, put up framing that can fit access hatches up to 30 inches wide. Use joists that can be taken out to make the hatches strong enough to walk on. These are joists that are set into joist hangers but aren't nailed to them.
Step 8: Install Blocking
When you put blocking between the joists, they won't twist. Blocking around the edges of the deck does two things: it makes the deck stronger and it helps support the deck boards at the edges. This is very important when framing a deck or the area around a hot tub that is set into the ground. For a stronger two-point connection, add more blocking where any railing posts will be put in. Step stringers may also need to be blocked.
Step 9: Install the Railing Posts
If the deck will have railings, put in the posts that will hold them up. Use lag screws or self-drilling construction screws to attach each post to at least two structural pieces. Use a trigger clamp to hold the post in place while you fasten it. Or, screw a cleat onto the side of the post to keep it at the right height.
Step 10: Install the Deck Boards
Use a butyl-based tape to protect the joists and beams from rotting. Install the boards from left to right, alternating their lengths and making sure each end lands on a joist. Let the ends hang over the edges by letting them get long. Once all the boards are in place, snap a chalk line and cut the boards to the right length. Keep the space between the boards the same. Use self-drilling and self-countersinking polymer-coated decking screws to cut down on the amount of pre-drilling. Another good choice is hidden fasteners.
Step 11: Box Steps or Stairs
Box steps are stairs made of small platforms that are stacked on top of each other. They work well on hot tub decks because they can be used as both benches and tables. Stringer stairs might work better where there isn't much room. Follow the building code no matter what you decide: The steps can't be lower than 4 inches or higher than 7-3/4 inches. They also need to be the same: The difference between the highest and lowest steps can't be more than 1/4 inch. Use brackets to connect the steps or stairs to the deck's frame.
For Ground-level Hot Tubs
If your hot tub deck is low to the ground or will be, you might want to put the hot tub on a concrete slab so it's close to the edge of the deck. Then, you can build deck steps around the hot tub to make it easier to get in and out. Just make sure to leave some space around the hot tub so that you can reach the service panels.
For Above-ground Hot Tubs
It's not hard to build a deck strong enough to hold a hot tub, but you need to know how far apart the joists should be and where to put the footings. Here is where the advice of a professional builder or information from the local building department can be useful.
For Recessed Hot Tubs
If your existing deck isn't strong enough to hold a hot tub, you can often cut out a part of it and put the hot tub on a concrete slab or another solid surface.