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So, you’ve managed to make it through another long day at the office or a tough day with the kids, and all you can think about is a quiet moment to yourself.  One of the most popular ways to relax and recharge is spending 30 minutes in the hot tub to massage those aching muscles and put your mind at ease for a good night sleep.  WHAT? You don’t have a spa?  Then you don’t know what you are missing! 

Well… if you do or don’t have a spa, I want to share with you one of the more popular backyard trends…SPA SURROUNDS!  There are so many options here and I’d like to share my expertise with you.  There is a lot to think about when you install a spa, and there are numerous manufacturers of spas all over the valley.  I am a huge fan of a quality prefabricated spa as opposed to a spa attached to the pool for many reasons.

The spa built with the pool usually has one bench around the perimeter, everyone sits in the full, upright position, water is warm and bubbly, but you only have one jet concentrated at the small of your back…not the most comfortable seating when you are trying to relax.  If you were to have your pool company attach a spa to your existing pool, or dig you a new one from scratch, you’ll be spending a minimum of $20,000 when it’s all done.  Here is how you can get a lot more for LESS!!!

 A quality prefabricated spa with a good filtration system gives you many more choices…. comfortable seats and head rests, 45 jets on average and wherever you need them, lighting, stereo or TV, attached seating areas…the list goes on.  The best part…you can buy a quality spa for around $6,000 to $12,000 that is much more comfortable and therapeutic.  Because most spas operate on 50 Amp/220 Volt power, electrical run and hook up adds between $1,500 and $2,500 depending on how far the spa is positioned from the main electrical panel.  The farther away, the more it will cost.  Please use a licensed electrician when running those lines who is familiar with the different makes and models.  The requirements vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, so do you due diligence here.

Now to give that new portable spa, the “built in” look, we have many SURROUND options.  Once you decide where the spa will be located, the next thing is to think about orientation…in other words…the angle the spa is placed in the yard.  Remember, all spas have equipment that needs to be accessed, so whatever we do for a surround that access is first and foremost.  When doing your orientation, think about the views each of the occupants will have when the spa is ready for use.  You can choose to keep the spa above ground and use a variety of materials to complete the surround as seen in some of these pictures.  You may also choose to sink the spa for that “lower profile look”, but there are pros and cons here.

I do not recommend taking a portable spa that was designed to be fully above ground and installing it completely in the ground for many reasons.  The equipment for these spas is underneath, so sinking them in the ground 36 inches will usually make for tough equipment access, but most importantly, getting in and out of the spa will be very difficult because you don’t have a step entry like a pool. 

Think about it…it would be very awkward getting in and out at ground level.  If you do choose to sink the spa, do it about halfway.  This would make the finished surround about 18 – 20 inches above ground, which is the standard chair height.  Simply sit on the edge like you would any regular chair, swing your feet around and then using both arms ease your way into the spa, safely and comfortably.  You do the exact opposite on the way out.  You can use the same type of materials to complete the surround as you would the fully above ground version.  You can add seating and a bar on one side, small columns for pots, steps & landings, inset lights, face with stone, stucco & paint… just about anything.  When you choose to sink a spa, there are a few things to keep in mind:

First, the cost to sink a spa adds at least $3,500 to the total surround cost as opposed to a homeowner who chooses to keep it fully above ground and just enclose it.  Second, you have to maintain that access we talked about earlier should you have a mechanical malfunction.  Also, make sure there is proper drainage underneath, so your equipment never is immersed in water. This will instantly void any warranty!  Third, when you choose your materials and physically start construction, you may want to carefully engineer the walls and caps in a way that the spa can be totally removed from its enclosure in the future.  The cost for a surround that is fully above ground starts at about $4,500 to $7,000 depending on the materials chosen and the accessories you may want to add.  Again, if you choose to partially sink it, add at least $2,000 to that.  You can buy a quality spa and do a very artistic surround for as little as $12,000 to $16,000… far less expensive than the ones attached to the pool and you have so many more features and options.

I have done more than a hundred surrounds over the years and have worked with about every make and model.  Although spas and surrounds are not complicated, I have learned dozens of those “little things” that keep the construction process smooth, and I am trained to avoid those costly mistakes that I have seen others make time after time. We also offer our own low-profile spa called PRESTIGE which is made to be partially in-ground and manufactured right here in Phoenix.  Feel free to e-mail me with questions, or to set up a free consultation and design for your spa or other landscape projects.  I can be reached at RCHAVENS@COX.NET  There are many more pictures of spa surrounds on my website 


Good Luck!

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