He was one of the first customers to really document his journey so I could write it up as a case study and make some videos about it.
It was an absolute pleasure to help Niel as he is a very talented DIYer (and a very nice chap too!). If you would like to read his case study, you can find this here.
Well, he’s been at it again, but this time, he has been making a DIY Hot Tub Cover.
In this article (big thanks to Niel for the commentary, notes and all the pictures) I will walk you through the steps that he took.
I think you will agree, the end result really looks the part.
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One of the big challenges when we build our own DIY hot tubs, is actually getting a cover to fit. Yes, we can get them custom made and I do offer this in both the USA as well as in Europe, but it is not cheap. The covers are fantastic, but again, they are not cheap.
With the state of the economy World-Wide at present, we’re all looking to save some money here and there. Air Source Heat pumps have proved a big hit in Europe and help us to do that but having a good cover for your hot tub really helps too.
Now, what Niel has put together, I still would not call cheap per say, and I will cover that later on, but it is a lot more palatable than having a custom cover made. It is also a lot quicker as the lead times are quite long on both sides of the Pond!
The Hot Tub that needs a DIY Hot Tub Cover.
Let’s remind ourselves of Niel’s fantastic DIY hot tub – here is it with him in it!(Hi Niel!)
Let the DIY Hot Tub Cover Building commence!
Niel started by building the wooden frame (for the two halves) from pine wood with two supports in the middle.
Next, he glued the black foam into the structure. It is dense foam used in underfloor heating that he used on this cover. Using this style of foam has helped Niel keep the physical thickness down to a minimum. There is no real reason he could not have used EPS Foam (which is found in factory made covers) or even the regular sheets of insulation that you can pick up in the local hardware/DIY store.
Top of the Cover
For the top of the cover, Niel wetted out two layers of fibreglass with epoxy and immediately stuck on the olive wood veneer. He was conscious that with two children, he wanted something that was strong enough to take their weight on the off chance they went and walked on it.
I guess just the look of it alone makes it look like it is really strong so adding the layers of fiberglass together with the epoxy would ensure that there was some strength there should it be inadvertently needed!
Bottom of the Cover
For the bottom Niel did exactly the same thing with the fiberglass and the epoxy, but instead of the veneer, he placed a sheet of 1mm reflective aluminium onto the base.
Once this was in place, Niel then did three layers of top coat epoxy.
When dry, it was then abraded by sanding with 120 grit at which point, the last top coat layer of epoxy went on.
Then, for the final stage, Niel sanded with wet sandpaper working his way up from 400, 800, 1200 grit and then polished it to a shine with epoxy polishing compound.
Each half weighs about 12 kg / 26lbs, so it is easily moved, fully waterproof, heat reflecting on the bottom and beautifully skinned on the visible parts.
The two halves slot into each other via a ‘lip’ to ensure it retains heat and Niel has also applied some protective rubber at the bottom to seal and protect when it is moved.
What was the cost of this DIY Hot Tub Cover?
Overall cost of this was about £700 / $870
You may think that this is more than you would have expected, but a hard top walk on cover that is custom made is going to be 3x that and some! So, as you can see, Niel not only did a great job here but managed to save himself quite a lot in building the cover himself.
Now, unfortunately, we cannot give you the R (insulation) ratings of the cover to compare it against a shop bought / professionally made one. But, as a guess, just knowing what I know about covers in general, I would say that it would be up there and there would be little to no difference. It would be a lot better than some of the covers that come with the cheaper plastic shell hot tubs, I’ve seen ones that are no more than a bit of covered polystyrene.
Top Tips from Niel
When I was chatting with Niel about this over Whatsapp, he sent me these point too.
He said that he may need a polish it every now and again, but it should be very durable and he used UV epoxy so will not yellow. (this is a really good point as you don’t want the epoxy to yellow over time so go for the UV resistant versions even if they cost a little more it will be worth it in the long run)
The most difficult part doing this yourself Niel thinks is working with the epoxy, especially the fast curing stuff. He used slow curing on the undercoats (under the reflective material and the olive veneer, as the surfaces are flat so no risk of runs.
However, he had to use fast curing on the top coat as they didn’t have a slow cure version of the UV top coat he wanted to use, so he had to work fast! Niel mentioned that you only have about 20 – 30 mins tops.
Luckily, he did say that if you do make a mistake it isn’t the end of the world as it can easily be sanded back.
You also do not have to fibreglass, but he used two layers more for safety reasons just in case the kids decided to walk on it which with the two layers of fiberglass will definitely carry their weight.
Niel – once again, thanks for you insight, pictures and commentary on this one – I think your DIY Hot Tub cover looks amazing!
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Thanks - Andi
Hi, Andi here. I own Buildahottub.com and also write all of the articles and info pages on the site. Some years back now, I built my own hot tub but struggled to find the information I needed. So, once my tub was complete, I started this website to help others in their own pursuit of hot tub and plunge pools DIY building information.
Today, I've helped over 1000 DIY customers just like you all over the world build hot tubs and pools. Have a good look around the site, there are lots of resources here. Please do get in touch if I can help you. - Cheers, Andi