Our DIY Wood Fired Cedar Hot Tub Video Series, Tips & Tricks

When we first moved to our off grid property to build a house, we decided that we wanted our very own diy hot tub to soak our sore muscles in as we worked.

We didn’t want just any diy hot tub… we wanted one of those beautiful wood fired cedar hot tubs. But instead of buying one, we decided to make our own, and since no plans existed on the internet for them, we documented our process!

On this page you’ll find a multi-part video series documenting our entire wood fired cedar hot tub build.

Because we cover a lot of information on this page, we’ve set up a quick navigation. You can navigate to each section and each episode by clicking on the links below.

 

Do-It-Yourself Wood Fired Cedar Hot Tub Series

Because we have a large YouTube channel, we determined that the best route would be to make an entire series on our wood fired cedar hot tub build. The project is both simple and complex at the same time, so we thought we’d break down the information into shorter videos for each step.

Episode 1: Finding Clear Cedar Boards for Pennies

 

In this video we begin the process of accumulating materials for our cedar hot tub. After a bit of time with a galvanized steel tub (the cowboy hot tub route), we realized it wasn’t going to work for us and that cedar would be a much better option in both form and function.

The only problem? Cedar wood can be incredibly expensive. But we didn’t let that stop us!

In this video we go through some of our tips and hacks for finding high-­quality cedar at very low prices, even from wood that at first glance appears to be low-quality.

Having ‘knots’ in a board of wood dramatically lowers the value and makes that piece of wood pretty unusable for most projects, especially for projects where the goal is to hold hundreds of gallons of water.

The good news is that we founds ways that lots of lower­ grade lumber could still be usable for us, even with a few knots.

Watch this video to learn our tips for where to find this high­-quality wood for incredibly cheap, and how to utilize it for a cedar hot tub.

 

Episode 2: Cutting the Staves

 

In our previous video we went through our process of finding high quality cedar wood at very affordable prices. Now it’s time to turn that wood into staves (narrow wood panels like the side of a barrel) for building the sides of our tub.

We found that cutting wood staves took a lot of creativity for us because we want to reuse as much full­-width excess wood as possible for other projects like stairs, benches or handrails. Simply ripping each board in half to pull out the staves would waste a lot of wood.

To get the maximum yield from our cedar wood, we inspected each board carefully and isolated where the good stave wood was for each board. Next, we varied between cutting boards with a cross saw or ripping them in half, depending on where the quality wood was located on each board.

This is a slower, more deliberate process then just going to town with the chop saw, but the amount of quality wood we were able to salvage for other projects is well worth the slower pace.

Watch this video see the process we went through to make each cut to maximize our wood!

Episode 3: The Stave Joinery

 

In this video, we’ll share what we’ve learned about creating proper stave joinery.

There are multiple ways to do this, but this is the way we have found that works best for someone with minimal tools. This is arguably the most important step in this entire project… if your joinery is bad, the rest of the project will go downhill.

In the end, YES, our tub holds water (what a relief!), but even after making this video, we’ve found additional things we would have differently found in our tips and tricks section.

All you need to do the joints in the video are two router bits and a router. Patience is a virtue…. do it right, and don’t move on until you do the joints correctly!

Practice, practice, and practice some more before you do the final joinery. If you need to go through 10 test staves, then do it… we promise you, your future self will thank you.

Episode 4: Building the Floor

 

After gathering cedar wood, building staves for the sides, and creating a proper stave joinery, it’s, time to build the floor to our tub!

In this video we go through the materials we used, how we laid them out, and how we made the ­important cuts for the tub.

Our material of choice for the flooring was 1×6 tongue and groove cedar. Why? Short answer… it’s what was available to us. Cedar is expensive and surprisingly hard to source around us so we use what we can get.

Commercial hot tubs typically use a wider board with measurements of 2×6, so we are allowing ourselves some flexibility to try our narrow boards instead. If they don’t wok, we can find something else.

Just like with our staves, we thought through each cut we needed to make to avoiding wasting ANY usable cedar scraps. In this video we demonstrate how to align the boards to and draw a perfect circle to make one easy cut through all the best pieces of wood.

We also talk about the ‘magic number’ of stave depth groove and how doing this one simple calculation several times saved us a major headache down the road.

We had a few unexpected things happen on this part of the tub and learned some lessons about our materials along the way. Watch along with us and see how you can avoid experiencing these lessons first hand like us!

Episode 5: Assembly

 

All the separate pieces have been made (and remade!) so now it’s time to join everything together! In this video we assembled the staves to join them to the floor.

After we got all the excess wood glue off the floor we used a small stave trimming to easily pound the ‘bull nose’ side of each stave into the floor joints.

In our experience, patience at this stage really pays off. We worked with each stave to get them to fit correctly and occasionally switched a few out to find ones that created a better fit.

But all the patience in the world couldn’t save us from our MAJOR CONUNDRUM! Somehow our careful math was off and we were left with a half ­stave gap on the side of our tub. Major bummer.

Thankfully we used a little of our off grid magic and came up with an ingenious solution to fix the problem. The gaping hole plugged, our tub should be ready to hold water in no time.

The next step was racketing the sides of the tub together with tension cables so that we could flip it over. We learned a valuable lesson in buying materials when we bought the tension cables­ always buy more than you think you need!

We had bought five extra feet but again our math turned out to be wrong and we needed every inch.

Despite a few small setbacks, our contraption is now looking like a real hot tub. Watch this video for more information about the assembly process!

Episode 6: Benches and Plumbing

In this video we are installing the floor drain and benches into our cedar hot tub.

The benches were built as four sides of a hexagon, and we got to recycle the blemished staves that didn’t make it into our hot tub frame into supports for the benches. Though our wood costs were minimal, we certainly paid a hefty price for the hardware.

At $.50 to $.75 per screw, the benches cost us close to $44.

Thankfully the benches are a perfect fit. Four people should fit comfortably in our 5ft hot tub, so we can’t wait to invite some neighbors over!

We installed the floor drain where there were no supports in the floor and attached an extended elbow joint to create a backup drain system. This is really helpful because we can attach a hose to this joint and water our garden when we drain the tub.

Now that our tub is fully assembled it’s time to see if it holds water. Keep on watching our video series­ we’re just getting to the good stuff!

Episode 7: Filling the Tub


It’s been a long process, but the tub is complete and ready to be filled with water.

Sounds simple, but one big factor made this process exponentially more complicated for us: we live off grid. All the water we use in the tub has to be brought in, and we initially relied on five gallon jugs.

We tested for leaks in the tub by pouring in these jugs, but the water leaked out faster than we could fill it, leaving our tub empty and our precious water wasted.

Plan B was to expedite our cistern tank plan and use the power of thousands of gallons of water in one place to quickly fill the tub. Easy enough, right? It wasn’t.

We struggled with our leaking tub for two weeks before it consistently held water. This was such a tedious process that even the fun of filming wore off.

But it was all worth it! Our cedar boards have swelled enough that the tub now holds water! We’ve been losing some on the hottest days (mainly due to evaporation) but beyond that our tub has been watertight.

If only the water were warm and inviting… We are so close to getting this project wrapped up! Stay tuned for the next video as we install a wood fired stove into the tub…and get to use it!

Episode 8: Installing the Submersible Wood Stove


Filling our hot tub has been a less than enjoyable experience (as seen from our previous video) but after the tub had consistently held water for two weeks we were ready to heat it up.

This involved buying a used stove from a friend. We originally planned to build our own out of an old washing machine drum, but that would have been a labor intensive project that wasn’t worth it when we managed to score a used working stove for only $250.

We have lots of tips on what to look for when buying a stove for a tub, so be sure to check out the video for more information.

We installed the stove by bolting it to the floor with stainless steel bolts (it was so buoyant we needed to use bolts instead of screws to keep it down!) In fact, we had to reattach the benches to the tub floor because the screws we had used didn’t go through the floor deep enough because we were cautious about puncturing it, so the benches came loose and floated to the surface.

If you do this project be sure to invest in a thicker floor than we did!

Our tub has been a ton of effort to get to this point­ but we are thrilled to announce that everything has come together. The stove works and we have been soaking in our warm tub every evening we can. Every step in this crazy process has been completely worth it.

Episode 9: The Finished Hot Tub & First Soak

Episode 10: Keeping the Tub Clean & Winter Maintenance

Episode 11: Replacing the Water in the Hot Tub

Tools & Materials Used to Build our Wood Fired Hot Tub

We’ll explain how we put our DIY cedar hot tub together in the video series, but here is a list of the tools we used and parts needed (excluding the lumber).

If you do decide to purchase anything through the links on this page, we will receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you) which helps us to keep our blog running. This is a great way to say “Thank you!” if you are enjoying the information we are sharing!

Disclaimer: Please do your own homework and due-diligence. The products linked-to are suggestions but please double-check all specifications to make sure you’re buying things that meet your specific needs, and the needs of your hot tub.

Craftsman 10″ Table Saw with Laser Trac 21807
Makita RP0900K 1-1/4 Horsepower Plunge Router
DEWALT Double Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw
Makita 4329K 3.9 Amp Variable-Speed Top-Handle Jig Saw
TEKTON 2lb Dead Blow Hammer
3/8″ Vinyl Coated Cable
Stanley 33-425 Powerlock 25-Foot by 1-Inch Measuring Tape – Original
Waterproof Wood Glue
1,000lb Ratchet Straps
(12) 3/8″ Cable Clamps
(6) Cable Thimbles
(3) Turn Buckles
Ear Protection
Safety Glasses
Waterproof Sealant

Tips, Tricks & Things We Could Have Done Differently

All said and done, we have a large, growing list of tips and tricks that weren’t mentioned in our video series. Our video series was real-time, and these we added after the fact and will continue adding to them as we find things we could have done better! If someone would have told us these things before we started our project, we would have saved ourselves a few headaches.

Our Hot Tubbing Essentials

Coming soon!

The Decision to Build Our Own Cedar Hot Tub vs Other Options

When we first started talking about a DIY hot tub, we envisioned building a cowboy hot tub out of a water trough and a cheap, DIY wood heater contraption on the outside.

hot tub on deck in winter

However, as time went on, it seemed that this wasn’t going to be a long-term, practical solution for our homestead. It would still cost money to do only the heating system would be ineffective, it wouldn’t be pleasing to the eye, so we thought “Why not just do it right and build a beautiful cedar tub?”

building our own wood fired hot tub

Cedar hot tubs are expensive if you buy them retail – anywhere from $3,000 to $7,000 depending on the size of the tub and the number of upgrades you choose to have.

We did some rough calculations and determined that we should be able to build our own cedar hot tub for pennies in comparison, so we set out on a journey to try and are more than pleased with the results.

cedar-hot-tub-joinery

hot tub stave joinery

diy cedar hot tub

Spread the Love!

A multi-part video series on how to build your own wood-fired cedar hot tub for pennies compared to buying one retail! #offthegrid #offgrid #hottub #diy #homesteadingIf you’ve enjoyed this tutorial, we would love if you could show some support to our blog!

One easy way of doing this is by simply sharing this tutorial on social media or on Pinterest using the image to the right!

Or, feel free to take a look at our support page to see other ways you can say “thank you”! Any support you show is greatly appreciated!

Questions? Get involved!

If you have any questions that we haven’t addressed in this video series, we’d love to hear them in the comments.

We want this to be an excellent recourse for those looking to build their own cedar hot tubs so we’ll try to get some of those questions answered on this page for all to benefit from.

Or, if you have some great tips, leave those in the comments as well for others to benefit from!

Comments

  1. John Waters says

    Thanks for your great work. Being in Australia cedar timber is no longer readily available, although we live in a place called Cedar Pocket.

    We are intending to use a large polyethylene tub we found on a farm.

    Our question is about water filtration as we are going to be using rain water harvested from roofs. Do you have a filtration system and what type?

    Looking forward to hearing from you.

    Sincerely yours
    John Waters

    • Dave says

      Hello,
      Thanks for taking the extra time to post your video. I’m thinking about building one of these tubs…what did you use on the stave joints there to seal it? Looks like you used silicone or something is this required? Also do you recommend using the cable system?
      Thanks!
      Dave

  2. Tina says

    Hello, this looks wonderful, I know that once I buy my homestead, working on it will be a lot of work and with my fybromyalgia and osteoarthritis, a hot tub will help me with my pain. Good job and thank you for sharing.

  3. Andy $ Robin Cox says

    My dad & I built a 2000 square ft log house from scratch, cutting, milling, & installing all the logs on land we developed which took us four years. I can understand the challenges you are facing, & then some. That was a few years ago but now I am disabled due to an accident which brings me to your hot tub video. Enjoyed what I have seen so far, and I’m actually building one, Cedar, for wife & I. Thank you & enjoy your journey. I didn’t actually get on your Facebook page cuz I can’t remember my password, darn brain injury. Soon!

  4. Sam says

    Good job.
    Having owned 2 wood hot tubs. (T.E. Brown built them) I enjoyed the bench problem as I had the same thing, benches floating away.
    We used Linseed Meal added to the water, which seals all the leaks. The water pressure forces it into the cracks/leaks and voila, no more leaks.
    Filtering is nice and if you can salinate the water for purification, makes it much nicer than that old nasty chlorine that we used to use.
    Hot water + chlorine tends to take the wood back to pulp again, over time (long time).
    I plan to build one again.
    Thanks for the Vid.
    Sam

  5. Tim says

    Love your video my wife Kim and I Tim have a cabin in the North West territories n because of cold climate was wondering if that stove could be built out of aluminium instead of stainless to pass heat into water quicker I just purchased the cedar because of your awesome video ☺️

  6. Peder says

    Thanks so much for documenting this!

    How hot does the heated cedar tub get? Is it a bath tub temperature or hotter? And how long does it take?

    I was looking at different heating mechanisms. Does putting the stove in the hot tub vs. putting coils on the side of the hot tub strategic?

    • says

      We easily get the tub to about 102 degrees but it’s hard to get it hotter unless you aren’t paying any attention. We put the stove IN the tub because there is less heat loss.

  7. Michael Svea says

    I had a snorkle hot tub for years and years, loved it to death. retired it and repurposed the wood. I had a great connection for trailers full of oak moulding cut off pieces, I had that tub running all winter. I just ran it for a week and changed water, no chemicals, no pumps or noise, just the stars at night, ice forming in your hair at 20 below zero. I stirred the water with a canoe paddle to mix it up, I had envisioned using a trolling motor as they are 12 volt but never did.

  8. Kevin Days says

    Did you guys use glue on the faces of your staves where they met? Seems like that would have prevented using the sealer on the inside. Great video series, btw. Can’t wait to get started on my hot tub too!

  9. says

    Built a square redwood tub about 40 years ago the same way. It now has deteriorated to the point where I’m going to build another one out of cedar. Square? NOT A CHANCE. The most stable geometric form in the world is a circle, so it is a round tub this time. Comments/observations:

    1. Floating benches. Use small canning jars with lead shot in them. Screw the lids to the bottom bench supports and install the jars upside down. Start of with jars half full and keep adding shot until the benches stay put. (You will have to take the benches and turn them over to fill. Easy to turn benches over, fill jars until the benches sink, install the jars, turn the benches right side up and enjoy.)

    2. Instead of aircraft wire and turnbuckles, how about nylon shipping box strap? The tension machine isn’t cheap, but replacing the strap or using more strapping is pennies.

    3. Use the same thin T&G material for the staves that you used for the flooring? May require more strapping, but the joints should be tight (see (2) above).

    4. The bathtub drain … NICE TOUCH. Never thought of that.

    Good job.

    Jim

  10. says

    Oh, a secondary thought … what would be wrong with cutting all the staves, milling all the bottom slots, temporarily banding them together and measuring the diameter of the resultant inside diameter of the resultant tub and cutting the floor to fit the tub rather than the other way around?

    Just a thought, mindya …. jw

  11. Colin says

    I’m starting to build a hot tub and was gonna use a prefab water tank but your video has convinced me otherwise. I was curious as to what thickness the cedar staves need to be?

  12. Cesar Romero says

    Our DIY Wood Fired Cedar Hot Tub
    Hello
    I am from Chile and I want to congratulate you for your project, it was fantastic.
    It is not clear if, they used some type of glue?
    Will it be necessary to paint the wood with some type of protector?
    I say it to last longer.
    Thank you very much and I look forward to your comments.

  13. Larry Schweitzer says

    Long ago my wife & I stumbled upon a “natural” hot tub in the new Mexican desert. Spent a month there living out of our van. A few people came & went but starry nights with a little snow fall, just couldn’t be beat. A little stream out of the top of the hill @ 122 degrees, adjust the temperature by a rock sending the water into a cooling pool. Uranium fired! Developed an appreciation for the desert.

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