About the author
Nick Clamp is the Editor-in-Chief at WhatSwimSpa?
Creating a domestic outdoor oasis, equipped with a relaxing swim spa haven area, is a dream for many of us. Just a quick peek at our Hot Projects section should be enough to whet the appetite of anyone interested in creating their own swim spa Shangri-la.
Unless you are a swim spa aficionado, pool engineer, or landscape gardener, the prospect of installing a portable swim spa correctly and creating a complementary environment could be more than a little daunting.
Which is why we have created a step-by-step guide to help you plan and realise your perfect wet leisure project. Get it right and you will have something that will enrich your leisure time, health and relationships on a daily basis. And you really can’t put a price on that!
Your first step should be to identify what kind of swim spa you want. Look at what you want from the swim spa with regards to size, seating, jets, features and general appearance. This is where the Internet and sites like whatswimspa.co.uk come into play as you can research different products from various brands, make your wish list and visit a dealer for a test swim.
Before you go headlong into wet testing and buying, measure the area of your garden that you have earmarked for your shiny new swim spa; and even use string, or tape, to plot the footprint of the swim spa to ensure it will fit comfortably.
Most reputable dealers will carry out a site survey at your home, before your delivery date, to give you an idea of what is possible and advisable within your garden/home. They will also hold your hand throughout the whole process, and will work closely with landscapers and electricians to ensure a seamless installation.
It is wise to get your shortlisted suppliers to conduct a site survey before you commit to buying, or certainly within seven days of purchase, as this is the timeframe that will enable a full refund if there are any unforeseen issues with the delivery process. Remember that because of their sheer size and weight, swim spas can only be delivered to site on a truck and then must be lifted into position by a hydraulic HIAB mounted to the truck itself or a separate crane. If you are in any doubt about accessibility, ask the dealer to do a site survey sooner rather than later.
If you decide to employ the services of a separate landscaper make sure there is plenty of communication between yourself, the landscaper and swim spa installer. There is no point having your swim spa delivered when the groundworks aren’t suitable or complete.
Although the tendency is to put a swim spa at the bottom of your garden, remember that the further you locate your exercise pool from the house, the longer your walk to it. There is something to be said for having your swim spa closer to home, particularly when the cold weather draws in. Common sense says the nearer you are to your pool, the more likely you are to use it!
In practical terms, also consult a qualified electrician before you choose your ideal position, to ensure that the voltage drop between your consumer unit and the chosen spot is not excessive for the power requirements of the swim spa.
Does your chosen spot afford you privacy from the neighbours? Generally, the closer you position your swim spa to the house, the less overlooked you will be due to the acute angle from neighbour’s windows.
Is there a pleasant view from your swim spa? Have a walk around your garden to visualize the best location. Make an outline of your swim spa and stand or sit there to give you an idea of the view you will have.
Consider the route from the house to the swim spa – a clean path will mean less grass and soil gets transferred from feet to pool.
If you have children, then consider whether you can see where they are and what they are up to, if say, you are relaxing in the patio area while they splash around in the pool… or vice versa!
Avoid placing your swim spa underneath a tree as the last thing you want to do is continually pick out decaying leaves from your water.
It is advisable to have an outdoor tap and hosepipe within reach, and desirable to have an accessible drain, which makes emptying your swim spa easier. For safety’s sake, avoid placing your swim spa within three metres of overhead power cables.
Consider what you want out of the landscape. Do you want it purely for relaxation, or do you want an area for entertaining as well? If you want to create something special that will wow your guests, there are plenty of additional ‘props’ that can be added to your outdoor living lifestyle, including
Philip Edwards is a landscape gardener specialising in wet leisure designs. Philip says there are a number of factors to consider when planning your ideal garden. “You need to think about whether you want the swim spa area hidden or visible, how easy it is to get power to the area, and can you easily drain the wet area,” says Philip.
“How do you want to link the area in with the rest of the garden? Will noise from the area cause a problem with neighbours? Is lighting or rain protection required?”
So what are the common mistakes to avoid? “Gravel or grass around the swim spa can end up in the water from feet and block access to maintenance points,” advises Philip. “Avoid slippery or rough paving, use good wood for decking that does not splinter easily, avoid herbaceous or deciduous plants and choose materials around the area that will link in with the rest of the garden. The trends for 2020 are for clean, modern lines with contrasting colours and plants that create movement.”
Communication between client, swim spa installer and landscaper is vital, says Philip. “For a designer look, it is essential to have the project managed, which could be by the designer or the landscaper – very rarely can the client manage this themselves. It is better to choose a landscaper who can cover all the aspects in-house, with electrics being the exception,” advises Philip.
The trend for some swim spas – particularly larger models – is to have them ‘sunken’ into the ground. If this is the effect you are after then it may require some ground excavation, which will have an influence on the length and cost of your project. Talk to your swim spa dealer and ask them to recommend a landscape gardener or architect. Their experience will be invaluable, so use it.
Your swim spa needs a good solid, level foundation. A swim spa on its own is a heavy item, typically weighing in at around a tonne when empty. Fill the same swim spa with water and four people and that weight can rocket up to ten tonnes. So the area you sit your tub on must be able to support the stresses and strains associated with this considerable weight.
What you don’t want is a swim spa plonked half-heartedly on a patch of gravel. If the support is inadequate your swim spa may shift, putting stress and causing possible damage to your shell. It’s common sense but putting your swim spa on a slope will lead to uneven water levels.
If you are installing your swim spa on a concrete base make sure it is steel reinforced and at least four to six inches thick. If you plump for decking make sure the structure is up to the task of coping with the stresses placed on it. As a general rule the cross-members supporting the deck should be at least 6” x 2” and no more than 18” apart. Supporting upright posts should be at least 4” x 4” and should be concreted in situ for sub-frame stability.
Your swim spa may look better recessed – partly or completely – rather than on top of the structure. If you have an undulating garden don’t be afraid to give it some elevation, although bear in mind that if you do suspend your swim spa the decking will have to be robust enough to cope with the stresses and weight. Remember to build in access points for a service engineer at the equipment end of the swim spa.
If you decide to partially or fully sink the swim spa into the ground, you’ll need to construct a pit with a concrete base and supportive block or brick side walls. Ensure that there is adequate drainage in the pit for overspills and rain and ground water to drain away, to prevent unwanted flood damage to your swim spa components once it is sited in the pit.
You don’t need a permanent water supply for a swim spa but you will need a suitable electrical supply to run the equipment. The electrical power supply requirements can vary wildly in swim spas so consult your pool and spa showroom staff and your local electrician to ensure that you have adequate power available.
Most reputable swim spa showrooms will be able to recommend a local trustworthy electrical contractor who is au fait with the ins-and-outs of swim spas, so don’t be afraid to ask. They will also be very happy to liaise with your chosen ‘sparkie’ regarding the spec of the swim spa and the resultant power supply requirements.
When appointing an electrician to prepare your swim spa electrics check that they are a suitably qualified electrician. Do not attempt to install swim spa electrics yourself if you are not qualified.
The Government introduced a new ‘Part P’ law in January 2005, which demands that most electrical work in UK households is only carried out by a ‘competent’ person. This law means that electrical safety requirements have been included in a new Part P of the Building Regulations.
The law states that anyone carrying out fixed electrical installations in households in England and Wales must ensure that electrical installations are:
It is now against the law to have a new circuit installed in your home without having it inspected and tested to ensure it is Part P compliant. Make sure that your electrician is Part P registered and that you receive a Part P certificate after the swim spa electrical supply work is completed.
Your swim spa retailer can liaise with your electrical contractor regarding the exact specification for your swim spa but you must meet the following specification:
Once electrical installation is complete, lock off the isolation switch in the ‘OFF’ position, coil up the SWA cable tail and tape off the exposed wires at the end of the cable to prevent water ingress in the period between now and delivery day.
Upon delivery the swim spa supply can then be directly hard-wired into the load box inside the spa. Waterproof gland packs should be used to prevent ingress of water on all outdoor electrical connections (two at the isolation switch and one inside the swim spa). Ensure that all earth cables are clearly colour-coded with green/yellow insulating tape or earth sleeve.
Finally, once the swim spa is wired, filled and working, your electrician will need to conduct their tests to ensure Part P compliance and also issue your Part P certificate.
The delivery of your swim spa is an essential part of the process – we’re not talking about a courier dropping off a Blu-ray player here. Swim spas, by their nature, tend to be large, heavy and bulky items. If all a retailer offers to do is deliver it to your kerbside without installation then head for the hills!
Factor in how easy or how difficult it will be for a dealer to deliver your swim spa to the exact spot required. If you have easy access to the required spot then it may simply be a task for your dealer to drive the truck close to the desired spot and HIAB it into position.
If you do need a crane delivery, there are two types of offerings from crane companies. A ‘contract lift’ is a full service contract where the crane company is responsible for everything including writing method statements and risk assessments, liaising with transport authorities for road closures and also providing a banksman and insurance cover. The cheaper ‘crane hire’ means that you are responsible (and liable) for all of these extras.
We always recommend that you opt for ‘contract hire’ for the protection and convenience that it offers. Note that hire time starts from when the crane leaves the depot so always opt for a reputable local crane hire company and get several quotes to ensure best value.
Once your swim spa is delivered, placed in situ, filled with water and the electrical supply is installed, your swim spa installation team should commission the swim spa and check that everything is fully operational before ‘handing over’ to you with a thorough training of how all of the swim spa features work.
Reputable dealers will fill it up and ensure that your water is safe and balanced with the appropriate water care products. They also provide information about testing and maintaining clean water, and will lead you through the process before leaving you alone to enjoy your new pride and joy.
Ensure that the swim spa has a comprehensive instruction manual written in clear English, as this is a legal requirement for all electrical goods.
To find the latest advice and information on selecting your swim spa retailer, request your FREE copy of the latest edition of WhatSwimSpa? As well as the latest advice, you can also view the best swim spas across every price range with the WhatSwimSpa? Best Buy Awards.
Don’t buy a swim spa without it!