One of the first items we could tackle from the landscaping plan was moving the hot tub to a better area. The new location is more private because it’s further from the noise and lights of the street. It’s also closer to where we normally have people hanging out when we entertain, so this move will allow people to hang out near the hot tub while others soak in it and socialize.
Moving the tub, however, is a bit more complicated than just picking up the vessel itself and relocating it. We didn’t have any power on that side of the yard or that far from the house, and we weren’t about to have cables lying all over the yard (especially with three dogs around, one of whom enjoys digging holes). Thus, we had to install an outlet near the opposite wall. In order to do so, we spoke with an electrician (luckily, we were able to ask several questions while the solar connection was being established). California electrical code allows for two types of in-ground electrical work: wires running through PVC pipes, which need to be buried 18 inches underground, and wires running through metal conduit, which needs to be buried only 6 inches underground. After doing a drawing of the strategy and figuring out the lengths of each section, we started out the project with the supplies for the PVC installation. The supplies cost around $80 (without the wires themselves, just the conduit and boxes).
However, after digging for quite some time and seeing very little progress through the hard clay dirt, we realized we needed to either bring a real trenching machine in or use the metal conduit. Unfortunately, the trenchers that Home Depot rents weigh around 500lb, which prohibits us from being able to get one up the flight of stairs to the backyard! We went with the metal conduit method, which cost close to $700 with all the wires. Yikes. However, we were then able to dig the 6-inch-deep trench in a matter of an hour or two.
Getting the wires through the conduit proved somewhat tricky as well. Initially, we bundled up all the wires and attempted to push them through the full length while simultaneously pulling them with a string from the other end. This method didn’t work for long, as the wires got stuck firmly at each joint. Some of the pipes had fused tightly together, so we bought pipe wrenches (you know, the kind used to kill people in Clue) and took each section of pipe apart so that we could force the wire through one section at a time. We then screwed each segment back together.
After all the wire was through and the pipes lined up properly, we drilled a hole through the house for the wires to enter. Jon drilled through the outside stucco layers, then I went inside and completed the job in the crawlspace. We attached the final pipe, then backfilled the trench.
Jon installed the outlet box on the wall near the hot tub; then, he finished hooking up the box to the house’s electrical system (with the power off, of course). We were ready to install the tub and make the area beautiful!
Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend doing the wiring parts yourself unless you’re sure that you have all the codes correctly noted. You should also have some experience with wiring things into a breaker box, or some professional help. The digging part wasn’t all that bad, but the wiring could certainly be dangerous without appropriate precautions. Luckily, Jon is knowledgeable about these things.
After we installed the outdoor outlet, we drained the hot tub, dumping the water onto the wild hillside in an attempt to encourage more vegetation growth. Moving the tub itself is actually a fairly easy task, as the tub only weighs 75lb when empty. Actually, this low weight was the main reason we purchased a Softub rather than a traditional hot tub: We have no way to get a 700lb tub up the flight of outdoor stairs! Oh, and at $300 on Craigslist, the Softub couldn’t be beat. To relocate the tub, we simply detached the motor and rolled the tub over to the new spot.
Once the tub was in its new place, we leveled the ground, which proved quite easy since the dirt had been loosened from the outlet’s installation the previous weekend. After getting the area mostly level, we laid down some plastic sheeting to keep unwanted plants away, as well as some landscaping fabric in areas where we did want some foliage. We created an interesting shape with no-dig edging, then filled the area with lava rocks. We chose lava rocks because, although other rock types were cheaper, the lava rocks were lighter and therefore easier to carry up that flight of stairs! Weight was a concern when considering bringing 20 bags of the stuff up. The weird step we removed while digging, which had been constructed of broken wood and some concrete pieces, provided three square stepping stones to use leading up to the tub itself.
The last step involved a deep cleaning of the tub while we had the opportunity, and then of course filling the tub with water and turning it on to heat up.
The setup of the area now allows for more privacy (no street noise, less airplane noise, no people walking by) and more socialization between guests (people can sit in the hot tub and hang out with others who are sitting/standing on the patio nearby). We hope to have more benches and seating in this area, particularly when we have a nicer tub.
The worn Softub isn’t the most beautiful thing ever, but I’m very happy with this area. The hot tub’s new location makes that patio section look much more intentional and useful. We are well on our way to a great entertaining space in the backyard and a drought-tolerant landscape!