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How to choose a wood-fired hot tub: 6 things to consider

An inviting Gardenvity wood-fired hot tub with smoke coming through the chimney.

Our studies and experience have shown that it may take quite a while to choose the right wood-fired hot tub to suit your needs, garden space and budget.

To make your choice not only emotional, there are certain things we want to share with you to help you make a better decision. Read the following TOP 6 questions to consider and narrow down the options to benefit you and your family best.

Here’s an outline of what you need to consider choosing your wood-fired hot tub:

  1. The size
  2. Type of heater
  3. Materials and Longevity
  4. Massage system
  5. Emotional elements
  6. Budget

1. The size.
How big should your hot tub be?

When you think ‘size’, you think about two things:

a) How many people are going to use the hot tub?
b) How much space have you got in your garden?

Always evaluate the internal diameter of the hot tub, not the external, when you think of how many people can bathe in it.

The 180 cm (70.9 in) wide hot tub is spacious enough for 6 adults + 2 children sitting next to each other.

The 200 cm (78.8 in) diameter is intended for 8 adults + 2 children, or to ensure generous spacing between fewer users (see picture below).

If you want more personal space, always opt for the larger hot tub.

Six adults enjoying the generous space in a Gardenvity hot tub.

Think about your family size and how often people visit you.

With children, as we have experienced, there will be 10-12 or even more little darlings splashing and cheering before you know it! They won’t be sitting steady on the bench, and they will occupy every inch possible.

Children playing in a Gardenvity hot tub.

As you can see, a Gardenvity wood-fired hot tub with an integrated heater is designed to fit compactly in your garden. Our standard recommendation is to leave at least 1 metre (39in) service and safety zone around the tub, and that’s how much space you need to plan in your garden.

The hot tub for 6-8 persons needs a minimum 3 x 3 metres area in your garden.

The bigger hot tub for 8-10 persons will require at least 4 x 4 m of land.

You’ll have to use more space for a hot tub with an external heater.

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2. The type of heater:
Integrated, Internal, or External?

There are three types of heaters generally used in wood-fired hot tubs. Here is what they usually look like. 

A wood-fired hot tub with an integrated heater.

Integrated heater

✓ Compact, doesn’t require any additional garden space;

✓ Superb aesthetics;

✓ Takes only a little space of the tub.

A wood-fired hot tub with an internal heater.

Internal heater (Snorkel burner)

✓ Doesn’t require any additional garden space;

✗ Takes a lot of space of the tub;

✗ More challenging to clean the tub.

A wood-fired hot tub with an external heater.

External heater

✓ A more powerful heater can be used;

✗ Takes extra space in the garden;

The exterior parts get hot and demand more cautious usage;

✗ Poor aesthetics and requires more cleaning when autumn leaves stick on it.

If you find yourself at crossroads weighing the benefits of a wood-fired vs electric heater, please read our article on the topic. 

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3. Materials & Longevity:
wood, fibreglass, type of steel – everything counts.

Inside the tub options – all wood or fibreglass?

The original Scandinavian type wood-fired hot tubs were, of course, all wooden. While we have no doubts about the emotional appeal of wood touching the skin, fibreglass liners that have become popular recently are superior comfort and ease-of-care-wise, they also will last longer.

The interior of an all-wooden hot tub.

Algae and mould will build up fairly quickly on the wooden planks which will also absorb the smells.

Without a high level of care, cracks in the wood will create leaks.

Wooden benches are rather edgy and will not adapt to body lines.

No water treatment with chemicals is allowed, so the water will need to be drained strictly after each use.

A fibreglass liner of a Gardenvity wood-fired, wooden hot tub.

Comfortable convex seats.

Easy to remove any dirt and will not absorb any smells.

Variety of available colours.

Requires less care when not in use.

Water treatment products can be used to keep the water for a longer time.

The steel components present in the hot tub still require being cautious with the chemicals – do not use chlorine-based sanitisers with Gardenvity hot tubs.

External finish: different types of wood equals different properties

Wood-fired hot tubs are still wooden from the outside, and they should remain so for long. The important thing is the wood treatment to make it long-lasting.

Wooden spa manufacturers use different types of materials. 

The most economical and most used option is pine wood, while some manufacturers may use oak, cedar.

It is critical to check with the seller about the technology used for wood treatment: has it been impregnated or only painted?

Our top recommendation is Thermowood finish. It is highly durable, resistant to rot and fungi, has great insulation properties and it’s resistant to weather conditions which otherwise cause significant changes in colour and faster deterioration of untreated wooden planks.

Thermowood is created in a chemical-free process by applying heat and special oils. It can be used without any surface treatment (and over time it will get silvery grey), or some people will choose to use wood stain to enrich and preserve its colour.

The heater – what is it really made of?

Cutting the stainless steel parts used in a wood-fired heater.

A quick summary for those keen on studying the steel properties:

  • Steel grade AISI 316 is the highest quality and chloride and seawater resistant, ensuring better corrosion and pitting resistance.
  • AISI 304 has good overall resistance to corrosives (but not to chlorine), and it has higher heat-resistant grade compared to AISI 316.
  • AISI 430 is most often used because of its cost-effectiveness, yet it will not provide long durability compared to the two types above.

If you are planning to stay healthier and use non-chlorine water treatment products, your best choice is AISI 304. Our least recommended steel grade is AISI 430 which is sensitive not only to chlorine but also to different kinds of salts.

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4. Massage system – what are the options?

First of all, you are choosing between two options: a hot tub with a massage system or no massage system, which means uninterrupted stillness and silence.

Those who need some fizz action in the hot tub will choose between air jets and hydro-massage systems.

Water currents in a hot tub with a massage system.

An air massage system in a wood-fired hot tub creates bubbles and currents which will tickle the skin, relax your muscles and will guarantee more joy – especially combined with multicolour LED lights.

Switching those currents on will mix the heating water, so you’ll be able to skip the paddle work.

Hydro currents create a stronger and more pointed massage effect. Air massage bubbles provide a softer and more dispersed all-body massage feeling.

A hydro-massage system requires more care to ensure proper hygiene since the water stays inside the system and biofilm forms easily. 

Gardenvity uses mainly the air-massage system in its wood-fired hot tubs. It produces slightly less powerful currents compared to hydro-massage, but the air-jet system is easier maintenance-wise. 

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5. Emotional elements – because you want to like your hot tub!

We suppose the hot tub liner colour and LED lights will not change its technical performance in any way, therefore, such features are completely taste-dependent. Based on our sales statistics, there are two observations we can make with regard to the liner colour:

Romantic environment created in a hot tub with candles and LED light.

A creamy white liner creates more space visually and looks extremely pleasant at night. It allows the LED light effects to deliver full potential. A white liner is considered to look more luxurious and smart.

A grey liner is not as glaring in the daytime and keeps the lights down at night. Many customers say it looks more contemporary and blends with nature better.

Grey liners are more common among our UK clients, while more German buyers prefer the white ones.

A creamy white liner will require more diligent cleaning since anything that lands in the water will be visible. If your hot tub is going to be surrounded by big trees, you should keep this in mind.

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6. Budget – hot tub packages can be extremely different!

‘Budget’ in this context means not only how much you can afford to spend on a wood-fired hot tub but also what’s included in the package when you buy it. Some manufacturers will use an opportunity to advertise bargain deals, but then you find yourself buying ‘accessories’, which generally are inseparable parts of a hot tub if you want to dive in straight after delivery.

We’ll explain why we consider some parts essential for using a hot tub.

Parts of a fully-inclusive Gardenvity wood-fired hot tub package.

An insulated cover helps to decrease the water heating time dramatically.

Chimney flue and elbow heat guards are a must to protect against accidental burns.

A chimney cap with an ash catcher adds safety.

The external shelf is especially helpful to keep your glass with beverage on.

Wooden steps ensure a stable way of getting in.

Gardenvity’s fully inclusive package comes with a free kerbside delivery as a standard with no hidden costs when placing your order. Some companies will add an extra fee for unloading your hot tub from the delivery van. We ensure this will never be the case with Gardenvity’s policies!

We hope now you feel much more confident about the type of hot tub that you want to bring to help revive yourself in the garden!

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