Hot tub cover lifters: A buying guide

Posted by Nick Clamp in Buying on 14th October 2022

Hopping into your spa for a soak can be a serious chore without a hot tub cover lifter.

Luckily, this handy hot tub accessory solves the problem without costing the earth.

Read on to find out everything you need to know to pick out the perfect hot tub cover lifter for you.

© Award Leisure

Why buy a cover lifter?

Taking the cover off your hot tub isn’t much fun. It’s big, heavy, and awkward to move. And once you’ve wrestled it off, you’ve got to put it somewhere – which usually means getting it scruffy and causing an eyesore.

Plus, over time, your hot tub cover is going to absorb water and become heavier. So it’s only going to get more awkward to remove.

Let’s face it: when getting in your spa for a soak or to balance its chemicals is a chore, you’re a lot less likely to do either.

And that’s where a cover lifter comes in. It makes taking your spa’s cover off and putting it back on a piece of cake – meaning you don’t have to risk pulling your back every time you hop in your hot tub. Plus, it helps keep your cover in ship shape since you won’t have to shove it on the ground after you’ve removed it. 

The types of hot tub cover lifters

There are three kinds of cover lifters, each of which has its own pros and cons. Here’s a rundown of each so you can pick the right type for you:

Shelf lifter

A shelf lifter is the simplest and most affordable hot tub cover lifter you can get. It’s simply a bracket that attaches to the side of your spa where you can rest its folded-up cover once you’ve removed it. This keeps it off the ground and – unlike most other lifters – doesn’t leave your cover above your spa, blocking one side of your view.

However, a shelf lifter doesn’t give you any help lifting the cover – it just gives you somewhere to keep it while you soak. And shelf lifters tend to stick quite far out of your spa, so you’ll need around a metre of clearance on the side you’re planning on fitting it.

Manual pivot lifter

A manual pivot lifter is the most common hot tub cover lifter. It’s a metal bar that runs across the middle of a hot tub’s cover. Instead of having to drag your spa’s cover off when you want to hop in, you simply need to fold half of it over the lifter, then push the lifter back, leaving your spa’s cover hanging alongside it. 

Beware though: most manual pivot lifters hold your hot tub’s cover above your spa, blocking your view on one side. So, you might want to keep that in mind when you’re choosing which side you install it on.

Hydraulic lifter

A hydraulic cover lifter works exactly the same as a manual one, but has hydraulic pistons that take all the cover’s weight. This means you can take your spa’s cover off with just one hand – even if it’s been covered by a layer of snow in the winter.

While most hydraulic cover lifters block one side of your view like their manual pivot counterparts, some stow your cover at ground level alongside your spa, solving this problem. 

Hydraulic lifters make taking your cover off as easy as possible, but they’re also the most expensive option on the market. 

What to look for in a hot tub cover lifter

You’ve probably got a good idea of which type of cover lifter is right for you by now. But there are a few things to keep in mind before you reach for the credit card, such as:

Your hot tub’s size and shape

Not all cover lifters fit all hot tubs. Be sure to check the model you have your eye on is compatible with your spa before you take the plunge – something the staff at a good hot tub dealership will be able to help you figure out. 

How much space you have

You’ll usually need at least 12” of clearance on the side of your hot tub you’re planning on fitting a manual pivot or hydraulic lifter and enough clearance to fit your cover when it’s folded in half if you opt for a shelf lifter. But be sure to check the product description of the model you’ve got your eye on before you splash the cash, to make sure you’ve got the room for it.

How it attaches to your hot tub

Not all manual pivot and hydraulic cover lifters attach to your spa the same way. And some lifters are a no-go depending on how your hot tub has been installed:

  • Side-mount lifters fit to the top of the sides of your spa and tend to require the least clearance.
  • Bottom-mount lifters fit to the bottom of your hot tub, stowing your spa’s cover by its side when it’s been removed rather than leaving it blocking the view on one side. Because of the way they work, bottom-mount lifters can’t be installed on a sunken hot tub.
  • Under-mount lifters are attached to a metal plate that sits under your hot tub or is bolted onto your deck, meaning you don’t need to drill into your hot tub to install it.

How to pick the best hot tub cover lifter for you

A shelf lifter is a great choice if:

  • You’re on a budget. 
  • You definitely don’t want your spa’s cover blocking the view.
  • You have the room for one. 
  • You don’t mind having to take the cover off your hot tub and put it back on yourself.

A manual pivot lifter is the way to go if:

  • You want to make removing and replacing your hot tub’s cover a lot less hassle.
  • You don’t mind your view potentially being blocked on one side by your cover (depending on what kind of mount the lifter you opt for has).

A hydraulic lifter is right for you if:

  • You want to make moving your hot tub’s cover practically effortless (which is obviously particularly handy if you have mobility issues or want to be able to use your hot tub well into your golden years).
  • You don’t mind your cover obscuring your view (depending on how the lifter you go for attaches to your spa).
© Outdoor Heaven

Can you install a hot tub cover lifter yourself?

Installing a shelf or manual pivot lifter is easy enough for anyone who considers themself decent at DIY. You’ll just need a tape measure, a drill, and a screwdriver. Just be sure to follow the instructions carefully, or you could end up drilling a hole into the wrong part of your hot tub. 

Hydraulic cover lifters are a little bit more complicated to install, so you might want to hire a professional to handle fitting one of those for you. Your local dealership should be able to recommend a safe pair of hands for the job.

Hot tub cover lifter maintenance

Cover lifters are made from sturdy materials made to withstand a hot and humid environment,  so they don’t take much looking after. But there are a few things you should do regularly:

Look out for bending

Your spa’s cover is going to absorb water over time and eventually need replacing. And the more water your cover is retaining, the more of a strain it’s going to put on its lifter. So, be sure to watch out for your cover lifter bending when you use it, as that’s a surefire sign your cover is waterlogged and needs replacing.

Tighten things up

It’s a good idea to tighten up the screws and bolts holding your cover lifter in place and spraying a bit of WD40 on its joints as part of your regular hot tub maintenance routine

Give it a clean

Giving your cover lifter a wipe down every time you clean your hot tub will prevent dirt and debris from building up in its hinges and causing problems down the line.

The final verdict

A cover lifter is a must-have hot tub accessory. It makes it so much easier to get in and out of your spa – all while keeping your cover in good nick and saving you from having to find somewhere to stow it while you soak. 

And on top of all that, even a top of the range model won’t break the bank.

For more buying guides and expert insights, grab your free copy of the latest edition of WhatSpa? magazine for our shortlist of best buys on the market today.

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About the author

Nick Clamp

I am the Editor-in-Chief at WhatSpa? Media Group and have been actively involved in the hot tub and swim spa industry for over 20 years. I fell in love with hot tubbing in 2002 and since then have dedicated my career to helping millions of hot tub buyers to make more informed choices when navigating their buying journey.

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