Wood. It’s the material that most people associate with that classic hot tub or spa pool look. Timber cladding is wrapped around the tub to give it a natural, organic feel to match the natural and organic feeling of soaking in the soothing waters, as humans have been doing in geothermal springs for millennia. But if you shop for a spa pool today, you’ll notice another material has taken over: acrylic.
Which is better: timber or acrylic? In short, there’s a reason why most manufacturers have switched to acrylic. While wooden spa pools look great, they have a couple of fatal flaws: susceptibility to moisture, which can cause rot, and more maintenance, as timber degrades over time. Acrylic solves both these issues.
Let’s take a closer look at why acrylic has slowly taken over from wood in spa pool construction, and the cabinet considerations you should make when you shop for your next machine.
The problem with timber hot tubs
For decades spa pools were primarily made from wood, at least initially because this was the best material available. This established the classic ‘half barrel’ look that so many people now associate with hot tubs – a look that many manufacturers still offer today.
Wooden spa pools have their downsides, however, as many new owners quickly find out. Exposed to both the manufactured heat and moisture that comes from the inside, and whatever Mother Nature might throw at it from the outside, the timber cladding soon looks tired if it isn’t religiously cleaned, oiled and generally maintained.
Longer-term, the constant moisture can eventually break through the surface of the timber cladding, even if it’s well-oiled and maintained. This causes the wood to rot from the inside, meaning that it, or in some cases the entire spa, needs to be replaced.
What is the best material for spa pools?
Beginning a handful of decades ago, a new material began to become popular amongst spa pool manufacturers: acrylic.
This form of plastic is every bit as stiff and strong as timber and can handle anything that the spa or Mother Nature might throw at it. But it is also super simple to clean and maintain (a simple wipe down is all that’s required) and doesn’t have the issues with moisture and extreme weather that wood does.
The best bit about acrylic? It can be made to look exactly like wood! The material is super simple to fabricate, which means it can be made in whatever thickness, colour, texture or style a manufacturer might want. This has allowed modern spa pool brands to offer cabinetry that retains the classic look of timber, while solving all the functional issues that come with using real wood.
As acrylic cabinetry has become increasingly ubiquitous in spa pool manufacturing, it has inspired the development of a new generation of materials. One example is Everwood, available on Hot Spring’s premium Highlife collection. This rigid, kiln-baked polymer material offers all the strength and ease of maintenance of acrylic, while perfectly recreating the beauty of redwood.
How to choose the best acrylic spa pool
While acrylic might be the perfect material for spa pools, not all acrylic is created equal. Like timber, or indeed any material you care to name, quality can vary. If you want your spa pool to last the distance, and to stay beautiful and low maintenance all the while, you’ll want to find one wrapped in the highest quality acrylic possible.
What should you look out for? Clues as to the quality of the material include:
- UV-resistance: Your spa pool must be made from UV-resistant material if it is to last more than a handful of years outside.
- Maintenance: Most modern cabinets won’t need much more than a quick wipe down from time to time in order to look their best.
- Texture: How well does the cabinet recreate the classic, organic spa pool look? Some materials are better at mimicking natural textures than others.
- Strength and thickness: Does the material scratch, dent or chip easily? High quality materials will be able to handle the odd bump, graze or hailstorm.
Perhaps the best way to understand the quality of the cabinetry is to find out the warranty that the manufacturer offers on it. If it is only covered for a year, you’d be justified in questioning that quality. If the manufacturer offers a warranty period of two, three or even five years, you should feel far more comfortable about making the investment.
(Keep in mind that spa pools are complex machines that offer different warranty periods for different parts, so be sure to check the warranty on the cabinetry specifically, as well as any exclusions that may apply.)
The Hot Spring difference
At Hot Spring we are proud to offer such an extended warranty on our high-end spa pool cabinetry. We offer a:
- Five-year Highlife and Limelight cabinet warranty: We guarantee that our Everwood cabinet material used in our Highlife and Limelight collections will be free from material, assembly and workmanship defects for five years.
- Two-year Hot Spot and Freeflow cabinet warranty: We guarantee that our synthetic wood cabinet material used in the Hot Spot and Freeflow collections will be free from material, assembly and workmanship defects for two years.
It should be noted that these warranties exclude natural fading and weathering – check the Owner's Manual for instructions and advice on the care, maintenance and restoration of each material.
In fact, the peace of mind that comes from buying a Hot Spring spa pool can extend far beyond the warranty period. As a Watkins Wellness brand – the global leader in spa pool and aquatic fitness products – Hot Spring boasts a reputation for quality and innovation that stretches back over 40 years. Our spas are built to last that long too.
And should you need to replace any cabinetry, for whatever reason, help will always be on hand. Unlike all other spa pool brands in New Zealand, Hot Spring guarantees the supply of original spare parts for 20 years and other alternate spare parts thereafter.