Hot Tub Shopping

As you may have noticed in our plans, we’ve planned from early on to have a hot tub on our second-story deck. Plenty of people have regretted hot tub purchases – they can be a pain to maintain, they’re a money pit, etc. etc. Sort of like boats or ski condos or all sorts of other things you can spend money on. But, like boats or ski condos, hot tubs can also be worth it if you use them a lot. And after our time owning a ski condo (which we use a lot) and having access to a communal hot tub (until COVID, anyway), we figured we had enough of a track record to know that we would use a hot tub.

Hot Tub Location

The most practical place to put a hot tub would be on a concrete pad. Hot tubs are full of water. Water is heavy. Concrete is good at holding up heavy things. But you also want the hot tub to be near a door, so you’re not running forever on frozen ground, and near views if possible, so you have something pretty to look at. The only first-floor door on our house is the front door – not a great option. And the back “office” door is intended for clients of a home office. A hot tub there doesn’t exactly send the right message. To cap things off, the best views from our house come from the second story, where we have huge views of the mountains. So, despite the added cost, it seemed worth it to try and place our hot tub on the second-story deck.

This required engineering the deck to handle the hot tub’s loads: about 100lbs per square foot. Like most home-building things, it’s possible, it just costs money. So does getting the hot tub up to the second story, though that cost was lower than I expected: around $300-$500. I had no idea what crane time costs before starting this project; someone could have told me it costs $3,000 to get a hot tub to a second-story deck with a crane and I wouldn’t have known any different. Anyway, on to hot tub shopping.

Hot Tub Brands

Even though we wouldn’t have a deck to place the hot tub on until Summer 2021, we started shopping in late winter of 2020 because hot tub timelines got long thanks to COVID-19. Most manufacturers were looking at a six-month plus delivery window.

Hot tub options seemed bewildering. All of the manufacturers have different lines with different options, and it was hard to make apples-to-apples comparisons between them. And of course, each dealer thought their tubs were the best of the best. So I hatched a plan: I would contact maintenance companies who service hot tubs but, critically, do not sell hot tubs, asking their advice. I got some solid feedback:

Response 1: The hot tub brands you don’t want are any Canadian Watkins Products ( Hot Springs, Tiger River, Caldera or Aqua-Terra ), Jacuzzi ( having quality problems last two years ), Tuff or Strong hot tubs with Balboa Mini-Spa Pack only, ones with full size Balboa Spa Packs are good. Better American brands are; Master Spas, Wind River Spas, Marque Spas, Garden Spas, Sundance Spas and Cal Spas. Better Canadian Brand; Arctic Spas. But basically you want a hot tub that has a Balboa Control system-best on market, Stay away from Gecko, Watkins IQ2000 and IQ2020 Spa packs (lots of problems with these systems).

Response 2: Hot spring, sundance, marquis are the best

Response 3: Viking spas are good, Wind River Spas are good and made in Colorado. Dynasty spas are good as well as Jacuzzi. Sundance spas are good and they are joined to Jacuzzi. I recommend any spa that the equipment has easy access and commonly available parts. Artesian spas are good and I believe they stand by their products.

Response 4: my favorite brands are Marquis Spas, Bullfrog, Artesian, Windriver. Master. I would go and sit it them first. All have good equipment in them.

Some poking around online backed up a lot of these recommendations, particularly the advice of avoiding any proprietary jets/equipment in favor of manufacturers who buy their pumps, etc. off the peg. The off-the-peg options are generally more straightforward to repair, and easier to find parts for.


After alling around, we narrowed it down to the following front-runner options:

Vita SpasGrand$9,4746-792x92x382/53Lotta jets, big ish; good seller communicationLesser-known brand
Vita SpasMonarque$9,0746-783×78.5×382/49Lotta jets, good size; good seller communicationLesser-known brand
JacuzziJ-345$11,9506-784x84x362/41Lotta jetsPricy; more pricy at The Spa Palace
JacuzziJ-385$13,9506-791x91x382/51Big, fancy jetsExpensive
Arctic SpasMcKinley$9,750793x93x391/20Basic jet option; also more jet optionMiddling reviews on brand; basic has unjetted seats
Arctic SpasTotem$8,250685x85x411/20Basic jet option; also more jet optionMiddling reviews on brand; basic has unjetted seats
Artesian735B$7,000684x84x362/35Good number of jets; hot tub university likes the brandDenver retailer
Artesian735B$7,200684x84x362/35Good number of jets; hot tub university likes the brand; so does repair guy$200 more for Summit retailer
Artesian850B$8,500791x91x362/50Bigger, more jets, more moneyMore money, not yet a step up to their island series
ArtesianIsland Captiva$9,700784x84x36OptionsStep up from 700/800 series in jetsMore money for more jets
Wind RiverAvalanche$8,900792×922/34Co builtDenver retailer
Wind RiverEndurance$7,900792×922/28Co builtDenver retailer

The Artesians were in the hunt for us, but ultimately we ended up ordering a Wind River spa, specifically the Endurance. With a mid-December order, we were on track for a June delivery. Hopefully our deck would be done by then.