DIY Hot Tub Refurbishment – How to Repair & Restore Yours

DIY Hot Tub Refurbishment – How to Repair & Restore Yours

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Continued from the previous page

4. How to run electricity to a hot tub

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This proved to be one of the biggest challenges we faced in the hot tub refurbishment process.

After all, I hadn’t looked at my panel before making the decision and I’m not an electrician. Here’s what you need to know first:

  1. Locate your outdoor electrical panel – the panel in your garage or closet is not the one you’ll use
  2. Make sure the panel has at least 1 open slot – meaning every breaker slot isn’t full
  3. If all slots are full be prepared for an expense – If all slots are full they will need to either replace the panel with a larger one or run a sub-panel off of it.  Either option can be upwards of $1,000 or more (much more depending on who you talk to).

In our case, despite our house being only 10 years old, the outside panel was indeed full.  I talked to at least 5 electricians including 2 guys in the neighborhood.

The first guy wanted almost $3,000 to replace the whole panel with a new larger one and then run the line down the side of my house. The next guy wanted $2,500 and another $1,800.

Finally I came to the guys at Texas Electrical Services.

They quoted me $875 and said they did not need to replace the panel. They said they had a special dual breaker they could replace one of the existing breakers with that would allow them to run the hot tub off of that.

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It worked like a charm and those guys were fast.  The new breaker was in, and the line run down the side of my house to the small box that houses the hot tub circuit breaker.

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TIP: Don’t buy a hot tub until you know your electrical panel can handle it

From there, they ran a flexible outdoor conduit under my deck and to the hot tub.

I went along behind them and buried the exposed portion of the cable in the ground, about 18″ deep. Make that go super quick by renting a trencher from your local Home Depot.

Check out this quick video on how to use a trencher and you’ll see just how much quicker & easier it is than digging with a shovel!

TIP: Get at least 3 quotes from electricians as mine varied from $875 on the low end to $3,000 on the high end

5. How to fix cracks in the acrylic shell of the hot tub

We noticed that the hot tub had a few minor cracks in it.  After Googling, it seemed like the best way to fix this was to:

  1. Drill a very small hole at both ends of the crack.  You want the hole to be larger than the size of the crack but not much larger
  2. Get Plast-aid 80400 Plastic Pool Part Repair Kit
  3. Mix the powder & liquid components according to the instructions and quickly spread into the crack and holes
  4. Wear latex gloves to make for easy clean up on your hands
  5. Quickly wipe away all excess from the shell as this stuff dries quickly
  6. You can mix a small amount of acrylic paint in this to match the color of your tub; as is, it dries white.
  7. It can be sanded and buffed afterwards

TIP: don’t ignore cracks in the shell as they could get larger over time

6. How to replace the heater, pump, and blower in an old hot tub

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Initially, it was not my plan to fix or replace the old equipment.

I assumed hot tub refurbishment on the equipment would be above my payscale. Thus I set about looking up hot tub repair companies on Yelp.

I found a few.  Some would not work on above-ground hot tubs (yes, I pictured the Sneeches with their snoots in the air a little bit).  Some quoted me $2-$3 thousand dollars (hmmm . . . why would I spend almost as much as I could buy a new one for?)

Finally, I found a company I thought was great called PoolSmart.

They came out for free and took a look.  The guy indicated he’d get back with me within 24 hours. Fast forward 6 weeks and several calls to both him and the owner and I gave up.

It’s hard to imagine a business being as flaky with such poor customer service and follow through as PoolSmart.  So if you’re in the Austin area, I’d recommend steering clear of them.

Their loss though, as knowing how easy it really was, I would have spent twice as much with them on hot tub refurbishment out of pure ignorance.

At first I thought I would just replace the cables that had been chewed through.

But after a lot of Googling and contacting hot tub parts companies, it seemed apparent that the equipment I had, Teledyne Laars, was at least 10 years old and the company no longer in business.

I also found that the existing hot tub plumbing was 1 1/2″ PVC whereas the new equipment was 2″.  Hopefully that’s not an issue you encounter.

TIP: Don’t waste your time going to plumbing supply stores (or places like Home Depot) for PVC adapters or components; they likely won’t fit.  Contact the manufacturer of your new equipment for any needed parts

Hot tub parts are seemingly like cell phone chargers in 2005; every one is a little different.

At any rate, let’s review what they major components of a hot tub are:

  1. The control box & heater – This allows you to turn the heat up or down and may have a timer. It has a large metal tube which houses the heater element
  2. The pump – this is what pulls the water through the system and heater
  3. The blower – this is what causes the bubbles
  4. The topside control panel – while you don’t have to have this, controls you can reach while sitting in the tub make life easier; isn’t that what a hot tub is all about?  Purchasing the above-linked control box will include this
  5. Ozonator – An optional component that eliminates or reduces the need for water chemicals. Most older hot tubs won’t have this but most likely can be added

Now, this part of the hot tub refurbishment process may sound daunting to some of you.

Just realize that the control box/heater and the pump just connect to each other.  Water comes in from the hot tub on the pump side, goes through the pump and into the heater and then out the other side of the heater back to the hot tub.

I’m not a plumber but once I had the right parts and adapters, I installed everything in under 30 minutes. 

I will say if you’re replacing the control box/heater and the pump and you’re buying what I’ve linked to above, make sure you get this PVC elbow joint to connect the 2.

The blower is not connected to the plumbing at all, other than getting electricity from the control box via a simple plug ‘n play connector.  That connection also allows it to be controlled from the top side panel. Plumbing-wise it connects right to a separate line (often to the left of the other equipment) right into the hot tub.

When in doubt, take pictures of all the existing equipment you want to replace and just take it one item at a time, putting the new equipment in exactly like the old was.

I did find that the topside panel was not quite the same dimensions as my old panel and the cut out in the shell. And my equipment did not come with an adapter as some do.

If you find yourself in that boat, I simply went to home depot and got a couple of small steel plates and screwed them in on either side of the panel and neatly siliconed around everything.

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How much does it cost to replace a heating element in a hot tub?

The heater is a tube that attaches to your control box typically. Inside the tube is a heater element. So first you’ll need to decide which piece you want to replace.

The water comes off the pump and into the heater tube and then out the other side back to the hot tub. You will want to make sure and select one that is compatible with your control box and pump.

Typically, a complete unit one like the Hydro-Quip Ultimate are a little over $200. A basic heater element like this one from Universal Incoloy is under $30.

How much does it cost to replace a pump on a hot tub?

The pump is what moves the water through the heater element and back into the tub. It should not be confused with a blower which produces the bubbles.

A good pump, such as the Hydro-Quip 1.5 horsepower pump, is about $400. As easy as it is to do, there’s no reason to pay someone to do it for you either.

How long do hot tub heaters last?

Hot tub heater elements are one of the most common things to break on a hot tub.

Unfortunately how long they last depend on a number of factors; how hot you set it, the brand of equipment and environmental factors.

But up to about 5 years would be the most life you could expect out of it. Luckily replacing one is one of the easier aspects of hot tub refurbishment.

Do hot tubs lose water?

All hot tubs lose a little bit of water due to evaporation; that’s totally natural.

How much they lose is based on:

  • The humidity of your weather
  • How high you set the temp
  • The number of times a week you use it
  • How often the lid is left off

That being said, under max conditions, you might find you lose 1-2 inches per week.

But there’s a lot more that goes into hot tub water evaporation, preventative measures, winterizing your tub and more, so make sure and check out a post that dives deep specifically into Do Hot Tubs Lose Water?

How do I find a leak in my hot tub?

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Once the equipment is in and you have power to it, it’s time to fill ‘er up and check for leaks.

Hot tub leaks are fairly common and are usually easily fixed.

If you see water where you connected the new equipment simple check to make sure the connections are tight. Also make sure the included rubber gaskets were put in place when you connected them.

If you see small amounts of water coming through the foam from some unknown jets, those can be a little trickier to fix.

I would start by using Marlig Fix-A-Leak as directed on the package. Essentially you just pour it in (no draining necessary)!

I have a detailed Review of Marlig’s Fix-A-Leak, so check that out if you want greater detail on how well it worked for me and exactly how to use it. Suffice to say it fixed my leaks almost instantly and without repeat treatments.

But even if you have to occasionally repeat the process, it’s easier than ripping out the foam and trying to locate and tighten or replace the leaking jet(s).

The other thing that definitely works where you have leaks at PVC joints or almost any kind of plumbing connection is JB Weld WaterWeld.  This is an epoxy that you mix right before application (some latex gloves help keep your hands clean) and apply right to the leak.

It sets in under 25 minutes and hardens completely in 1 hour.  It also works great on moist surfaces or even under water!

You can see where I applied it (rather sloppily but no one will see once the panels are back on) in 2 places.  It’s the putty-like stuff that is white.

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Accessories for your hot tub refurbishment project!

Lastly I’ll just note that I added these heavy duty plastic steps from Amazon to make it easier to get in and out of the tub – an especially nice touch with a pregnant wife!

The only other thing I didn’t really mention was the cover.  Ours is in OK shape but not perfect.  But new covers are pricey!  On the underside are some tears that expose the large Styrofoam blocks inside.

Thus I’ll be buying a Tear Aid Vinyl Repair Kit.  That will have my cover looking and working like new in no time!

Lastly I we bought this handy hot tub cover lifter system to make it easy for my wife and kids to take the cover off and on, and it changed everyting!

Instead of the cover being a complete beast to lift on and off, often falling off (potentially damaging it) now, we can all lift it off pretty much one-handed!

This kind is designed to slip under the hot tub.  I saw some of the reviewers saying they tapped it under their full tub with a rubber mallet. I tried that without much success.

Now, of course, I could have emptied it, but I ended up not attaching the bottom plate and just screwing it into the deck our tub sits on these days (we moved after this post was originally written).

That worked GREAT and did not require me to drain the tub.

Now that I’m done, I could certainly use a hot tub!

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Want to build a deck to or around your hot tub?  Check out my previous post on How to Build a Deck which walks you through the steps!

Did I cover all the hot tub refurbishment steps you were looking for?

In this post, I walked you through the EXACT steps I took in finding and buying an old hot tub for next to nothing on a neighborhood Facebook group page.

Then I showed you everything you need to know to get that tub working great, from moving it, to leveling it in a back yard, fixing cracks, and leaks and even replacing old defective equipment.

If I can do it, I KNOW you can!

Have you had trouble fixing an old hot tub?

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Photo credits (that aren’t mine or which require attribution):
Hot tub moving pictures taken from the Unique Moving & Hauling Facebook Page

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