Years ago I gave the subject a lot of thought and finally decided that it
would be nearly impossible to make anything as nice or energy efficient as a
store bought model. I thought of making one out of "log cabin" stacked 2x4.
You could also make up a form and do a fiberglass tub. Then there is the
old wine barrel or horse watering trough or maybe even one of those new
plastic septic tanks (seriously). I bought a tub that was a return because
of a slight crack in the gel coat. It is still looking and running well
after twelve years. If I had to buy another one today, I would look in the
paper for a decent tub that didn't work. As long as the tub itself is in
good shape you can always replace the control package. In today's
disposable society my suspicion is that a lot of people would consider a tub
pretty much worthless if it didn't run. The good part about that is that
the tub itself is the major part of what you pay for. You can buy a
complete control package (heater, pump, motor, blower and controls) for
under $600. Seems to me you could pick up a non working tub for under $500.
That would put you in a tub for around $1000. Insulation is a big factor in
any tub. You want as much insulation as you can get. The more you insulate
the less you pay in energy bills. Hot tubs can suck up some power. Mine
uses about $20 a month and it is on full time. Tubs with minimal insulation
can use upwards of $75 and more a month. One hot tub That I have always
wanted to build was one that was made by the Chinese laborers in California
in the early days. They you take a 1/4" steel plate about 2'x2' and begin
nailing boards in a log cabin style (overlapping at the corners). The
bottom layer would be bolted to the steel plate. They would build this up
to about three or four feet nailing each successive layer to the one below.
I suppose you could caulk each layer. Once built you set it over a built up
fire pit. You could use bricks or rocks and dirt and leave an opening at
one end to feed fuel and one at the other end to vent. Fill it with water,
fire it up and jump in. It would also help to place a wooden grate at the
bottom to keep your feet off of the hot steel. My friend used to put a
chair in his.
I made one out of cedar. It is a pretty easy process
involving a jointer to bevel the board edges, a high speed sander
to bevel the ends of the bottom boards, and threading steel rod
to make the bands. Unfortunately, cedar can't be insulated
without causing it to rot.
When I moved, I had the next one made by a concrete septic
tank manufacturer for a few hundred $. I assembled threaded
fittings for the pipes through the wall and floor out of PVC pipe
fittings. Stuffed the internal threads with ethafoam to keep out
the concrete. Gave the manufacturer a diagram of where I wanted
the fittings. They wired them to the rewire before they poured
the concrete. They then delivered the tub to my house, dropping
it onto 6 inches of extruded styrene. I built a 12" plywood lip
on the top edge, with supporting 2x4 structure. Wrapped 10" of
fiberglass around the tub after plumbing it. hard plastic is
wrapped around the side structure, with cedar tongue and groove
covering that. Built seats out of concrete, supported by plastic
2x4s bolted to the inside of the tub. Tiled the inside. Built a
lid out of 3" non-styrene foam and fiberglass cloth and
polystyrene resin. Added a specially designed hinge and hydralic
lift for the lid.
It's a beauty.
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