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Wooden Hot Tubs

Wooden hot tubs have been used for centuries all over the world. Americans got firsthand looks at smaller, personal wood soaking tubs in Japan during WWII, where they are known as "ofuros." Twenty years after that war ended, wood spas got their start in the U.S. in California, where old discarded wooden wine vats were collected and converted into rudimentary hot tubs. From there, the trend spread throughout America and Canada.

While wooden hot tubs are the traditional style and have a long history of use, they do have a few drawbacks. Probably the biggest and most common problem is water leaks. In most cases, one of two reasons accounts for a leaking wooden tub: poor manufacturing/assembly or overuse of water sanitizers (chlorine or bromine).

If leaks appear immediately after purchasing a new wood hot tub, give the tub a few days. Sometimes you need to let the wood expand to its full saturation point, which should close off any minor leaks. After that, if you still see leaks, chance are good that something went wrong in either the manufacturing or the assembly of the spa. Invoke your warranty and have the vendor or manufacturer replace or fix your wooden hot tub as soon as possible.

The other major cause of water leaks in wooden hot tubs is the misuse of water sanitizers (chlorine or bromine). You need to be very careful when you administer these products to avoid throwing your water out of balance. Test the water on a daily basis, even when the hot tub is not in regular use.

Sanitizer overuse causes individual wood cells to shed their interior material (called 'lignin'), leaving only the husks (walls) of the cells. This causes cellular collapse and minute gaps, and when enough have accumulated, you get leaks. The visible warning sign that this process is underway in your hot tub is the presence of white fuzzy material inside on the walls and floor of the spa. This substance will build up in the normal course of things, but very slowly if the sanitizer levels are correct (once or twice per year at most). If you see the fuzz more often than that, check the chlorine or bromine application and test the water often.

There are over-the-counter products that will mend wooden hot tub leaks. Your local pool and spa outlet will have them in all likelihood. At the first sign of a problem, enlist the help of the professionals there for other maintenance and leak prevention tips.


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