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Hot Tub Placement: Is Gravel a Suitable Base?

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hot tub and chairs on gravel

Can a hot tub sit on gravel? We were wondering the same thing when helping friends plan their hot tub location. Buying a new hot tub is an invigorating experience.

Just thinking about the many nights you and your family and friends will spend relaxing in a hot, bubbly masterpiece is enough to make anyone overjoyed. But buying the hot tub is only half the battle. Where are you going to put this giant thing, anyways?

Short answer: Yes. Gravel is an excellent base for hot tubs because it allows for drainage of water while being sturdy enough to handle the heavy weight of a hot tub. 

While some people may think that their deck or patio is the go-to placement for their hot tub (due to convenience and aesthetics), gravel may actually be a better option. We’re going to discuss why gravel is a superior choice for hot tub placement.

Table of Contents

Why Gravel?

First things first, we need to consider the weight of the hot tub. Without any water or people, the actual hot tub and its framework are relatively lightweight, but still heavy at 500-900 lbs. Most hot tubs are made out of fiberglass or acrylic, which are lightweight materials that can be moved with relative ease. 

This makes people think that their hot tub doesn’t need too much of a strong base, as it’s not as heavy as you might imagine. But when you add many gallons of water and several people into the equation, the hot tub gains 3,000-8,000 pounds, depending on the size.

With that much weight, you need to make sure you have a solid foundation for the hot tub to sit on.

Options for Hot Tub Placement

  • Patio or deck. This is almost always the go-to placement for hot tubs. It’s convenient, it looks great on the deck, and it’s going to be the main attraction for gatherings. If you’re placing on a patio or deck you must take into consideration the weight, and make sure the structure is sound enough to support it or you will cause damage.
  • Flat surface. Have a spot in the backyard with some grass? Maybe just dirt? While this may seem like a good solution, the weight of the hot tub can actually cause the ground to sink or shift over a long period of time, causing damage to the hot tub and the ground.
  • Concrete. One of the better options is concrete. It’s relatively easy to pour a slab of concrete in the backyard for your hot tub. It’s incredibly tough and can support the largest, heaviest hot tubs. 
  • Hot tub support pad. Some companies have created actual pads designed for supporting hot tubs. Of course this is an excellent option, but it might not have the aesthetic qualities someone is looking for in their backyard.

Gravel is the Best Option

Concrete is undeniably the second best choice for hot tub placement, but at the top of the list is gravel and here are a few reasons why:

  • Gravel has the ability to drain water, which is imperative when dealing with a hot tub. Other placement choices don’t allow easy draining. With gravel, water can be drained from the hot tub and it will drain with ease.
  • Gravel is also aesthetically pleasing and can be placed in virtually any backyard and look great. It complements a variety of backyard designs. 
  • Gravel is easy to install. Gravel is a quick option that can be installed in a few hours, unlike other options that may require more time and effort.
  • Gravel won’t end up cracking over time like concrete. This is due to the fact that gravel allows for ample drainage, rather than sitting on the surface. Concrete will crack over time with excess water remaining on the surface.
  • Due to the small pieces involved in a gravel base, gravel won’t shift over time like some other materials.
  • Gravel will mold to your hot tub, which means you won’t have to worry about the hot tub becoming unstable or moving over time. The gravel molds to the base, creating a solid, firm platform for sitting.
  • Lastly, gravel is relatively cheap. It’s one of the cheaper options for hot tub bases, but it still remains powerful and sturdy enough for large, heavy hot tubs.

How to Install a Gravel Hot Tub Base

Thinking about using gravel as a base for your hot tub? Excellent choice, but now you need to know how to install it. Here’s the step-by-step guide for installing a gravel hot tub base:

  1. You need to know the dimensions of your hot tub. Measure the hot tub and have exact measurements. You will want to have a few extra feet around the hot tub to place gravel for draining and aesthetic purposes.
  2. Decide where you’re going to place the hot tub in the backyard. Make measurements on the ground using spray paint, or markers. Make distinct borders.
  3. At this point you will begin digging into the earth to make room for the gravel layers. You want to dig out at least 6 inches using a shovel. 
  4. (Optional) Place a layer of landscape cloth on the bottom of your hole. This is completely optional, but can help with keeping weeds at bay underneath the gravel.
  5. Build an outer box with pressure treated 4x6s laid on edge to keep the gravel contained. You can connect the 4x6s with long structural screws.
  6. Fill in the excavated area with gravel. Some people will choose to fill the hole completely with medium grade construction gravel or recycled concrete, while others will want a top layer of pea gravel. It’s completely up to you but recycled concrete is cheaper than pea gravel.
  7. If you’re going the pea gravel route, add only 4 inches of medium grade construction gravel. You will fill the rest of the area (2 inches) with pea gravel.
  8. Smooth out the surface with your shovel. It’s important that the hot tub sits on a completely level surface, so take time to ensure all pieces of gravel are flat and aligned on the corners.
  9. Take the time to tamp the gravel well before placing the hot tub on top. If you have a large area, renting a vibrating plate compactor may be better.

Things to Keep in Mind

  • Always make sure that you’re constructing a gravel base on a completely flat and level surface. Trying to create your base where the earth is bumpy, hilly, or has other deformities may cause the hot tub to not work properly or be damaged. A level area is key to a successful hot tub base.
  • Construction gravel isn’t the most pleasing to the eye. You can choose to use this type of gravel to fill the entirety of your base, but it doesn’t have to be. If you want a more beautiful hardscape for your hot tub and backyard, then fill the top of the area with pea gravel or another refined gravel.
  • Make sure you are digging at least 6 inches for your base, but nothing more than that. Without enough gravel, drainage can be compromised. With too much gravel, the hot tub base may become too soft and cause damage over time.
  • Also make sure you have enough room surrounding the hot tub. There should be enough space to step outside of the hot tub and walk a few steps before returning to the yard/deck/patio. 
  • Gravel should be completely flat and level before placing the hot tub to avoid damage. Take extra care to level it with your shovel and ensure there are no high spots.

Conclusion

Buying a hot tub is exciting, but it can be challenging to decide where to put it. You need a structurally sound area that can handle the high weight of a hot tub.

You can feel confident placing your hot tub on top of a gravel surface. Make sure the gravel is 6 inches deep and completely flat and leveled before placing the hot tub on top. 

hot tub and chairs on gravel

Can a hot tub sit on gravel? We were wondering the same thing when helping friends plan their hot tub location. Buying a new hot tub is an invigorating experience.

Just thinking about the many nights you and your family and friends will spend relaxing in a hot, bubbly masterpiece is enough to make anyone overjoyed. But buying the hot tub is only half the battle. Where are you going to put this giant thing, anyways?

Short answer: Yes. Gravel is an excellent base for hot tubs because it allows for drainage of water while being sturdy enough to handle the heavy weight of a hot tub. 

While some people may think that their deck or patio is the go-to placement for their hot tub (due to convenience and aesthetics), gravel may actually be a better option. We’re going to discuss why gravel is a superior choice for hot tub placement.

Why Gravel?

First things first, we need to consider the weight of the hot tub. Without any water or people, the actual hot tub and its framework are relatively lightweight, but still heavy at 500-900 lbs. Most hot tubs are made out of fiberglass or acrylic, which are lightweight materials that can be moved with relative ease. 

This makes people think that their hot tub doesn’t need too much of a strong base, as it’s not as heavy as you might imagine. But when you add many gallons of water and several people into the equation, the hot tub gains 3,000-8,000 pounds, depending on the size.

With that much weight, you need to make sure you have a solid foundation for the hot tub to sit on.

Options for Hot Tub Placement

  • Patio or deck. This is almost always the go-to placement for hot tubs. It’s convenient, it looks great on the deck, and it’s going to be the main attraction for gatherings. If you’re placing on a patio or deck you must take into consideration the weight, and make sure the structure is sound enough to support it or you will cause damage.
  • Flat surface. Have a spot in the backyard with some grass? Maybe just dirt? While this may seem like a good solution, the weight of the hot tub can actually cause the ground to sink or shift over a long period of time, causing damage to the hot tub and the ground.
  • Concrete. One of the better options is concrete. It’s relatively easy to pour a slab of concrete in the backyard for your hot tub. It’s incredibly tough and can support the largest, heaviest hot tubs. 
  • Hot tub support pad. Some companies have created actual pads designed for supporting hot tubs. Of course this is an excellent option, but it might not have the aesthetic qualities someone is looking for in their backyard.

Gravel is the Best Option

Concrete is undeniably the second best choice for hot tub placement, but at the top of the list is gravel and here are a few reasons why:

  • Gravel has the ability to drain water, which is imperative when dealing with a hot tub. Other placement choices don’t allow easy draining. With gravel, water can be drained from the hot tub and it will drain with ease.
  • Gravel is also aesthetically pleasing and can be placed in virtually any backyard and look great. It complements a variety of backyard designs. 
  • Gravel is easy to install. Gravel is a quick option that can be installed in a few hours, unlike other options that may require more time and effort.
  • Gravel won’t end up cracking over time like concrete. This is due to the fact that gravel allows for ample drainage, rather than sitting on the surface. Concrete will crack over time with excess water remaining on the surface.
  • Due to the small pieces involved in a gravel base, gravel won’t shift over time like some other materials.
  • Gravel will mold to your hot tub, which means you won’t have to worry about the hot tub becoming unstable or moving over time. The gravel molds to the base, creating a solid, firm platform for sitting.
  • Lastly, gravel is relatively cheap. It’s one of the cheaper options for hot tub bases, but it still remains powerful and sturdy enough for large, heavy hot tubs.

How to Install a Gravel Hot Tub Base

Thinking about using gravel as a base for your hot tub? Excellent choice, but now you need to know how to install it. Here’s the step-by-step guide for installing a gravel hot tub base:

  1. You need to know the dimensions of your hot tub. Measure the hot tub and have exact measurements. You will want to have a few extra feet around the hot tub to place gravel for draining and aesthetic purposes.
  2. Decide where you’re going to place the hot tub in the backyard. Make measurements on the ground using spray paint, or markers. Make distinct borders.
  3. At this point you will begin digging into the earth to make room for the gravel layers. You want to dig out at least 6 inches using a shovel. 
  4. (Optional) Place a layer of landscape cloth on the bottom of your hole. This is completely optional, but can help with keeping weeds at bay underneath the gravel.
  5. Build an outer box with pressure treated 4x6s laid on edge to keep the gravel contained. You can connect the 4x6s with long structural screws.
  6. Fill in the excavated area with gravel. Some people will choose to fill the hole completely with medium grade construction gravel or recycled concrete, while others will want a top layer of pea gravel. It’s completely up to you but recycled concrete is cheaper than pea gravel.
  7. If you’re going the pea gravel route, add only 4 inches of medium grade construction gravel. You will fill the rest of the area (2 inches) with pea gravel.
  8. Smooth out the surface with your shovel. It’s important that the hot tub sits on a completely level surface, so take time to ensure all pieces of gravel are flat and aligned on the corners.
  9. Take the time to tamp the gravel well before placing the hot tub on top. If you have a large area, renting a vibrating plate compactor may be better.

Things to Keep in Mind

  • Always make sure that you’re constructing a gravel base on a completely flat and level surface. Trying to create your base where the earth is bumpy, hilly, or has other deformities may cause the hot tub to not work properly or be damaged. A level area is key to a successful hot tub base.
  • Construction gravel isn’t the most pleasing to the eye. You can choose to use this type of gravel to fill the entirety of your base, but it doesn’t have to be. If you want a more beautiful hardscape for your hot tub and backyard, then fill the top of the area with pea gravel or another refined gravel.
  • Make sure you are digging at least 6 inches for your base, but nothing more than that. Without enough gravel, drainage can be compromised. With too much gravel, the hot tub base may become too soft and cause damage over time.
  • Also make sure you have enough room surrounding the hot tub. There should be enough space to step outside of the hot tub and walk a few steps before returning to the yard/deck/patio. 
  • Gravel should be completely flat and level before placing the hot tub to avoid damage. Take extra care to level it with your shovel and ensure there are no high spots.

Conclusion

Buying a hot tub is exciting, but it can be challenging to decide where to put it. You need a structurally sound area that can handle the high weight of a hot tub.

You can feel confident placing your hot tub on top of a gravel surface. Make sure the gravel is 6 inches deep and completely flat and leveled before placing the hot tub on top. 

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Jena Slocum Co-Founder

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