Sunday, January 20, 2013

What would you do with this?

Perhaps your first question is: what the heck is it?  It's called a snorkel spa.  It's a hot tub heated by a wood fire.  We inherited this one when we bought the house.  We've used it 3 - maybe 4 - times since we moved in 2 years ago.  Using it is a long, drawn out process.  If it's filled with water, it generally has to be drained, cleaned, and refilled.  Wood has to be collected and a fire has to be set.  The water takes more than 2 hours to heat and the fire must be carefully tended in the meantime.  When it's finally ready for use, you get a lovely 20-30 minute soak overlooking city lights and the harbor.  That's it until you muster the energy to stoke it up again 6 months later.

You can't come home and spontaneously decide "I'd like to take a soak to ease my sore muscles."  Using this spa requires advance planning.  To complicate things further, the South Coast Air Quality Management District now has winter-time restrictions on burning wood in fireplaces indoors or outdoors on certain days due to the negative impact on our already compromised air quality.  The snorkel spa doesn't seem to be worth the space it takes up.  So what should we do with it?

Here are the options I've considered so far:
  1. Sell it on Craiglist - This would provide more money for plants!  However, given the new air quality restrictions, I'm not sure what, if any, market there is locally for a spa like this.  Just hauling it away could be a costly proposition for a prospective buyer.
  2. Use it as an impromptu shed - I need a place in the backyard to store tools and outdoor furniture cushions.  The wood top is relatively easy to open and we could add shelves and compartments inside. 
  3. Use it as a koi pond - It's water-tight but would require a filtering system, which I understand involves its own set of headaches.  And then there are the raccoons - I wouldn't want to encourage more of their visits.
  4. Plant a tree in it - Its size would allow a small to mid-sized tree room to develop a good root system. However, there's a good-sized Arbutus Marina right next to it so planting another tree in that location would look goofy.
  5. Use it as a raised planter for vegetables, herbs or flowers - This option allows us to use one of the sunniest spots in the backyard and eliminates the need to haul the spa away.  We could take out the smoke stack and drill holes in the bottom for drainage.
I'm leaning toward the last possibility, although I have yet to sell my husband on it.  Do you have any other ideas?


  1. It would make a great raised bed! You could advertise the different parts of it on Craigslist and piece it out. Someone might want the wood burner while the aged wood would probably be attractive to crafters. The shed idea is also great, though. I'm curious to see what you do with it. :o)

  2. I'll definitely write a post when the matter is settled, although I suspect I'll have to go a few rounds with my husband before anything is decided.

  3. As someone who just had to put over $600 into a conventional hot tub last week, I'm a bit soured on the whole hot tub concept.

    What a great conversation piece. Can you covert it into an outdoor bar?

  4. What if you turned it into a giant rain barrel? If you throw in a few mosquito dunks, you won't have to worry about bugs. You won't have to haul it anywhere to get rid of it and it will help you save water that can be used to water your garden. I have 5 rain barrels. They're lifesavers!

  5. I'm with Casa, it would make a great rain barrel. Could you move it to a spot next to your house, or build a roofed pavilion next to it and drain the roof's water into it? That would give you a lovely sitting area, too.

    How many gallons? Too small for a koi pond. Goldfish would work better, but the whole point of a pond is sit around and look at the fish, and how are you going to do that?

    If the wood looks vintage-y, someone might take it off your hands to recycle the wood into something else. The "barnwood" style of furniture is all the rage right now.

  6. Thanks for the great ideas! I'd actually asked for 2 more rain barrels for Christmas, which I didn't get, so that idea is appealing but the tub is so big (6'x3') we couldn't get it near enough to the house to take advantage of the rainfall off the roof. Re-using the wood for outdoor furniture may appeal to my husband as he does wood-working in his spare time and I already have an order in for a dining table and chairs. If I had my druthers, I'd move it to the bottom of our slope and use it as a raised planter there, where the soil is particularly rocky, but getting the thing down our treacherous stairway would endanger life and limb. Deliberations continue...

  7. Did you ever sell the tub? I am interested and in southern california. Thanks

    1. Sorry, Rick, we're using the wood to build a patio table. A fire-heated spa is a bit of a problem in SoCal now given restrictions on burning firewood.

    2. Kris, thanks for replying. We were actually thinking of this for our cabin in the Sierras - we are at an elevation where fire burning restrictions do not apply.

      However, if you still have the stove and stovepipe and want to get rid of them, I would be interested. (I have seen designs online where people rig them up in metal stock tanks to create "cowboy" hot tubs.)

      Also, thank you for your posts -- I had been considering getting a wooden hot tub for our cabin and was wondering about the maintenance involved (I suspected it could be a hassle, especially if the usage is infrequent). I did extensive google searches and your posts came up and were some of the more helpful and revealing on the subject. So if we do a hot tub at the cabin it won't be made of wood!