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I am the MD here at WhatSpa Magazine and spend most of my time either working on the Magazine and website or travelling throughout the UK and abroad working with hot tub manufacturers, importers and showroom based retailers. I try to get onto the blog as often as possible so feel free to drop me a question or suggestion and I'll answer it as quickly as possible. Cheers Nick

Hot tubs design awards

Posted on August 16, 2007 by , in 2. Hot Tubs & Gazebos

It has just been announced that BISHTA are inviting entries for the best hot tub installation design awards for 2008.  If you think that your hot tub setting is of outstanding merit, design, or interest please contact your hot tub retailer and ask for your hot tub to be entered into the competition.  You will need to provide photos and some other supporting information and your retailer must be a BISHTA member in order to enter the competition.  Competition entries close at the end of October with the awards ceremony in February 2008 so don’t delay if you want to sing the praises of your hot tub design from the rooftops.  The award winning photos may be used in magazines and newspapers in relevant articles so you must be willing for them to be used for these purposes.  If you would also like to enter your hot tub installation in our WhatSpa Design Awards to win a years supply of free hot tub supplies email your entries to info@whatspa.co.uk.  The winning entries will be printed in our Spring 2008 issue of WhatSpa? Magazine and will be uploaded to the www.whatspa.co.uk website to spark the inspiration of like-minded hot tub enthusiasts throughout the UK.

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Q. We are looking at hot tubs with a view to buying in the next few weeks. What questions should we be asking about the hot tub retailers themselves and the support that they can offer? We want to buy from someone who is going to be there to look after us and our hot tub for years to come.

A. As the hot tub market grows in the UK so is the number of retailers selling them. It is difficult to define exactly what makes a good hot tub retailer but here are some things to look out for when shortlisting companies that you are considering handing over your hard-earned cash to. You are essentially looking for professional hot tub companies who provide good service and look like they will be in the hot tub market for the long-term. Hot tubs come with warranty cover which is only as good as the company who sells the spa to you. If they disappear you could potentially be left high and dry with not warranty support. Here are some things to look for:

1) What is the showroom like? Is it well-equipped with a good range of hot tubs on display. Are there facilities for wet-testing spas as this is absolutely essential to choosing the right model for your needs. Is it well merchandised and presented and with a good stock of aftermarket products such as hot tub chemicals and filters? Has some investment gone into the place which would suggest that the company is taking a long-term view? This does not mean that new entrants who are trying to become established should be discounted for lack of facilities but if the company looks new to the market some probing about after-sales support is called for.

2) Track Record. How long has the company been established and trading. Are they specialists in spas or are hot tubs simply a bolt on to another business. How long has the hot tub brand on offer been available in the UK. What is the track record and reputation of the manufacturer like? Are the hot tubs at the very least CE marked as some cheap imports from the far east do not meet European CE Standards.

3) Staff product knowledge and professionalism. Are the sales staff knowledgable about their products and how professional are they. Professional salespeople do not knock their competitors or their competitors products (even if they deserve it!). They will simply talk about the features and benefits of their own hot tubs. They will also listen to your needs and suggest hot tub models that would suit your requirements and budget.

4) After-Sales support. Does the company do all of their own installations and warranty/service work or is it factored out to an outside organisation? How long is the hot tub warranty cover and what is covered? Does the warranty cover parts and labour and is it a pro rata system whereby the owner has to contribute as the hot tub gets older or is it a straight new-for-old replacement with no contribution from the owner. Ask to see a hard copy of the warranty document and read the small print and exclusions.

5) Industry affilations and trade body memberships. Hot Tub retailers should adhere to a strict health & safety practice for maintaining clean and healthy water in showroom hot tubs. In order for companies to become BISHTA (British & Irish Spa and Hot Tub Association) members they must first ensure that at least 1 member of staff holds a certificate in Water Hygiene. This is a good sign that that retailer will also be knowledgable about hot tub maintenance. Looking after a garden spa at home is very easy if you are given some guidance by a professional retailer. Ask what support and training they will give you once your hot tub is installed. This is not to say that none BISHTA members do not know about spa maintenance but members definitely should, as attendance on suitable professional courses is a prerequisite for membership. Look out for both BISHTA and/or WhatSpa Approved logos as these both require BISHTA membership. Swimming pool companies may also be SPATA (Swimming Pool & Allied Trades Association) members and again this is a good indicator.

This is not an exhaustive list but hopefully is a good place to start. Try to find a good local hot tub supplier as they will be a great source of information and advice for years to come and will also be on hand for picking up chemicals and accessories. Go with your gut instinct…professional salespeople are a breath of fresh air when you meet them and won’t try to nail your cap on as soon as you walk through the door or pester you with phonecalls at all times of day and night….if they do, head for the hills!

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Q. Many insurance companies still don’t seem to have caught up with the Hot Tub Revolution. Are spas classed as permanent fixtures or do they fall into the same category as garden furniture? Obviously they are worth a lot more than your standard (or even designer) set of garden furniture so we want to get our new spa insured when we buy it.

Has anyone got any recommendations or contacts of insurance companies who are up to speed with hot tub ownership. I want to insure against loss and accidental damage (i.e. if a ridge tile blows off in high winds and lands on it!)

A. I think this is very dependent on your existing buildings and contents insurance company, so an initial call would be prudent, perhaps even before buying the tub. From experience I think it sometimes depends on how accessable the spa maybe to a potential theft also, if you needed a crane to get the tub in then the insurance company don’t need to worry too much about theft. I have noted companies will usually class it as part of the buildings insurance as once in place it is unlikely to be moved by the owner. Bottom line call you insurer and check.  If they won’t insure your hot tub it is probably worth pulling your policy and vote with your feet to a company who will insure it.

We have our hot tub insured with Direct Line as an itemised item on our buildings and contents policy.  If anyone has successfully got their hot tubs covered with other companies place a comment below as this is a very common question.

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Hot tub craneQ. I definitely can’t get a hot tub into my garden by conventional means as I have no access at all to my back garden apart from through the house and going via neighbours gardens is not an option. I will need a crane…what is involved and how much should it cost?

A. If you are considering a crane lift for installation or removal of your hot tub it is important to be aware that there are 2 main types of service available from crane companies.

1. Contract Lift:
The more expensive of the two options but the crane company will be responsible for everything:
Site Survey
Preparing Risk Assessment & Method Statement
Liaising with any relevant authorities such as Highways Agency/Police
Providing all equipment, crane operator and a banksman
All of work fully insured from start to finish

2. Crane Hire
Tempting as the price will be lower but you are literally hiring the crane and the driver for a period of time and pretty much everything else is your responsibility.
The reason this is important was highlighted in the recent case where a crane toppled over during the process of lifting a hot tub over a house and the jib demolished the house. Luckily nobody was hurt or killed but the question of liability for insurance purposes then really starts to kick in. With a contract lift there is no scope for your involvement. With crane hire if such an incident happened the Health & Safety Executive will be involved and insurers will be looking for liability.

Obviously we don’t want to worry you but it is important to be aware of all of the facts before you commission a crane company to lift your new hot tub into your garden.The size of the crane required will be determined by the load (fairly insubstantial…most spas weigh less than 1 tonne) and the radius of the lift (the reach required from the bed of the crane to the point to which the hot tub will be lowered) Also the heights of buildings will need to be taken into account. The cost will be dependant upon the type of lift as above, the size of the crane required (the longer the required reach the bigger the crane) and the distance from the crane depot to site as the rate will include the travelling time of the crane. Obviously try to get several quotes from local crane companies and insist that they conduct a site survey first.

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Q. I live in a newish house and the access is not very wide. What are the alternatives to get hot tubs in? What are the important dimensions of the hot tub that will determine if it will go in? Is it possible to go through a neighbours garden or will I need to resort to a crane?

A. Yes unfortunately developers seem to be squeezing houses closer together which sometimes does pose problems for hot tub delivery teams! Here are the main solutions that hot tub companies will look for when they conduct a site visit in order of preference.Since the hot tub will be trolleyed into position using a device called a spa dolly it will positioned on its end so the standing height of the hot tub (plus a little bit more for packaging) will be width that you will need (ideally on a straight run as hot tubs do not bend araound corners!) as clearance for the route to the spa base. Measure the narrowest points as these are the important ones. Look out for anything jutting out such as fence posts, steps, drainage down pipes, electrical service boxes, wall lights etc etc when measuring the narrowest points.The width of the hot tub plus about 6-8 inches for the spa trolley will be the height clearance required so look out for eaves, tops of gates, and anything sticking out from the sides of the house at height such as central heating ducts, wall lights, hanging basket brackets etc. Some of these obstacles may be removable so bear this in mind as a potential solution.If it obvious that the hot tub will not go down the side of the house the second option is to go via a neighbours garden and through a removed section of fencing. Check with neighbours first and ensure that they have adequate access. Make sure you reinstate fences afterwards and a nice bottle of wine will be much appreciated by them for the inconvenience.

If all else fails and there is simply not way of getting to hot tub in a crane may be the only option. See the posts regarding crane hire for the implications.

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