Getting a General Contractor built hot tub may sound like a good alternative for some of us. We don’t all have the time or the skills to actually do it ourselves. However, sometimes things can go wrong. In this article I will hope to give you some guidance on how to avoid the pitfalls of using general contractors to build your dream hot tubs.
This article has come about from an actual customer experience
Unfortunately, this article has come about from a customer that will remain nameless that has had a total shocker with their GC that has built their hot tub.
When I did get the first pictures back, it looks absolutely beautiful – A really good job thought. I thought it had been totally nailed! However, when the client went to fill and switch it on, this was a different story. Firstly, the control room flooded.
This can happen to anyone, (even those of us who help others to build hot tubs lol) so I was not too concerned at this point and did give the client some advice on drying out the kit properly, then looking for the leak which he subsequently found.
Then, there were bigger problems. The plumbing was not correct. The GC had not followed the plumbing diagrams that I had provided. They had made a fundamental error and had mixed the inward and outward plumbing. There was also a random non-return valve on the skimmer – yes, the skimmer, not the blower where it should have been.
When the client did remove the non-return valve, water was flower in through the skimmer! Yes, not the jets, the skimmer! The GC had connected the outward and inward water together and as water takes the easiest route, it ignored the jets and just flowed though the skimmer.
This is not a total disaster and of course can be fixed. I’m working with the client to assist them on what they need to change. However, I think with some simple measures and checks in place, some of this could have been avoided.
Let’s take a look now so hopefully you can avoid what happened with this client.
Before we go any further, I do want to say that most of the GC-built tubs I’ve been involved with are superb. Great quality and work well so please don’t let this article put you off. Just be mindful of the points I make and you will be just fine.
Clue is in the Name
The first point that I would like to make on this subject that the clue is very much in the name. “General Contractor” by definition are certainly not specialist Hot Tub builders. Quite the contrary. They are general contractors that have a very broad skill set that can help with most tasks on your property. They are good at “a bit of everything”.
There is no doubt that General Contractors or GCs are skilled tradesman. However, in general they do not specialise in any one area hence they are branded as a general contractor and not a “plasterer” or a “brick layer” for example.
They are incredible helpful people and from my experience in dealing with them, never like to say no to a task and never shy away from one either!
Probably no prior experience in building hot tubs
The first thing that you need to be aware of, is the chances of them having prior experience in building a hot tub is quite slim. It almost never happens and to date, I have not dealt with a GC that has built one before.
This is certainly not a problem, you just need to be mindful of this fact and do not assume that they know everything.
The first piece of advice I can offer is that even if you don’t have the building skills yourself to make the DIY Hot Tub, that does not mean you can read up and understand the processes yourself.
The last thing you want to do is assume that your GC knows everything and you can just be totally hands off on the project. There is no hardship in learning how the system works. The principals behind it and why certain parts like non-return valves go where they do.
Arming yourself with knowledge is a great way of making sure your GC doesn’t make any mistakes. You can check up on them. Do this after they have left for the day! They will not want you looking over their shoulder all day every day believe me!
The documentation that I provide with my designs will more than make sure you have enough knowledge to be able to ask intelligent questions on the process.
The Structure is generally not an issue
GCs are used to building things and laying a concrete base and four or five courses of block is not going to trouble most. They will do a great job of this. Where you need to take a real interest in the plumbing side of things. This is where things can go wrong as it is a little different from house plumbing.
Take the time to fully understand how the hot tub system works. Take time to understand what should be on the inward side of the plumbing, what the components are and what they do. This is not complicated and there is plenty of information in my guides, this blog and my YouTube Channel too to arm yourself with useful knowledge.
Make sure you have the right parts.
In general, your GC will not have trade accounts with swimming pool or hot tub suppliers – usually, you have to be registered in the trade to get these. Therefore, make sure that if you are not purchasing parts from me, that you are getting them from a reputable pool and hot tub supplier. Don’t rely on your GC to source them for you. It is well worth spending the time to source the products yourself so you know you have the right kit in the first place even if you are not going to put it together yourself.
Inspect the Build and check it against the plans
I can’t stress this one enough. Each night, or at least every couple of days you should be looking at the build yourself and checking it against the plans. Trace the plumbing to make sure that the right parts are connected and understand what has been put where and WHY is is there.
In the unfortunate case above, my client works away for weeks at a time and was not there to do any inspection and just left it to the GC to do on their own.
Structure your payments accordingly
I would have a clear stage payment plan with your GC on the build. Pay against milestones. I would certainly not advise paying upfront for it all.
Probably the most important piece is the sign off of the project. GCs are busy people and have lots of projects, certainly in the current climate. Once you sign off your tub, they will not be back any time soon. I would certainly be wanting to run the tub for a week and actually use it before I signed it off and made a final payment.
Check for leaks and anything that is not right before you make that final payment. My client unfortunately had already paid his GC before he had even turned the kit on. This is not the way to do it as they are not returning his calls for help to rectify their mess.
Have the GC fill and run all the kit so they can see for themselves the tub working. Their job is only done when there are no leaks, the water is heating up and the blower and jets work perfectly.
I can help
This is certainly one of the areas that I can help with – GCs. I can supply the designs and plans you need to inform yourself of the working of the tub, as well as inform the GC what they are building for you.
I can help supply the right parts so you know that you are starting with all the right kit to build that perfect hot tub.
I can consult. If I am supplying parts then I can certainly answer any questions that you or your GCs have. The builds that turn out the best are the ones where the GC is not afraid to pick up the phone, WhatsApp me or text a question.
There is nothing wrong with asking for help and I’m more than happy to supply it!
Happy Hot Tubbin’
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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