About 6 years ago, Elaine’s Mom and Dad bought a house on the bayou in Bridge City.  Before they moved in we went by to take a look at the house and hear their plans for remodeling and making it their home.  On the back porch, off in one corner was a hot tub.  At first glance it was obvious it had not been used in quite awhile.  I didn’t really pay any attention to it.  That, maybe, was my first mistake.

I learned later that when they signed the papers on the house one of the conditions they made was to have the seller repair the hot tub and return it to good working order.  At some point, Elaine’s Dad told her once the hot tub was restored, he was giving it to us…  Elaine was excited.  What do you think my chances would have been at that point to say “no thanks?”  No, I have to admit that initially when she told me I thought it would be OK.  What I had to do now was figure out how to have the hot tub moved from their house to our house.  It couldn’t cost too much, after all the hot tub was free.

I called around and found a company in Lumberton who came and moved it.  During the move it was evident the cabinet the tub sat in had seen its better days.  The cabinet did not survive the move.  I had them unload the hot tub at my barn where all my tools are and I spent the better part of that winter building a new cabinet.  It really didn’t matter what the cabinet cost, after all the hot tub was free.

If you know me you know I’m a planner.  I like to think a project through from start to finish before I get started.  Well, as I was working on the cabinet I started thinking about where I wanted to set the hot tub.  In the past I had considered building a deck off our back patio.  That’s what I’d do, I’d build a deck.  Now, it couldn’t be just any deck, that just wouldn’t do.  The back patio is 38 feet wide and there’s a pretty good size oak tree that I planted years ago that I wanted to incorporate into the deck.  So if the patio is 38 feet wide, I had to go out at least 20 feet in order to take in the oak tree and keep the deck proportional.  Now, keep in mind the hot tub is just under 7 feet by 7 feet and I was going to put it on a deck that was 20 feet by 38 feet.  I really wanted to use a composite material for the deck boards but they were like 10 times more expensive than a comparable 2 X 6 treated lumber.  I didn’t care if the hot tub was free, I had to draw the line somewhere so I went with the treated lumber.

After the deck was built my next task was running electricity to the hot tub.  Since the deck is on the opposite end of the house from my electrical service and since I was not blessed with an understanding of the principles of basic electricity, I hired an electrician to come in and run the wiring to connect to the hot tub.  And since he was here anyway I had him run a second wire for some electrical outlets that I wanted on the deck.  After all, what’s the sense in building a 20 foot by 38 foot deck around a nice oak tree for the hot tub if you don’t add some nice lighting in the tree.  I don’t recall what it cost for the wire, outlets, lights or the electrician but the hot tub was free.

Once the hot tub was set on the deck in its new cabinet and connected to the electricity, I was ready to fill it up and jump in for a nice relaxing soak, almost.  Since I didn’t know anything about chemicals or pH or chlorine tablets I had to find someone who would educate me about using my new hot tub.  I found a pool and spa store with a very helpful employee.  She sold me a bottle of solution as well as a jar of tablets and this little yellow rubber duck.  The duck had a base on it that you opened up to put the tablets in.  Oh, and she sold me this little bottle of test strips that you had to swirl in the water then read the color on the strip to know what you had to do next to treat the water.  Again I don’t remember what these items cost and it’s really not important because they were absolutely essential for the free hot tub to operate correctly.

After the months of planning, preparation and construction the day finally came when I pulled out the water hose and began to fill my hot tub for the first time.  As it was filling I followed the instructions I had been given and added the proper chemicals at the appropriate time and everything coming together.  I was fired up.  Yes sir, tonight would be the night to take a soak in my new hot tub.  All this time Elaine was patiently waiting but I could tell she thought the whole process took way too long  but she never complained.  She knows how I am.  And you know what?  She never once asked me what I spent on the cabinet, the deck, the electrician or the hot tub chemicals.  She was so supportive.  After all, she had done her part, she accepted the hot tub when her Dad offered.  She was the first one to tell me it was free.

After the tub was filled there was just a minor glitch with the pump that I was able to correct without having to pay someone to come out and take a look.  Once that problem was corrected, the hot tub worked like a fine tuned machine.  I was so proud.  My planning had paid off.  I had built the new cabinet.  The deck looked really good and after dark, the lights in the oak tree really were the icing on the cake.  And let me tell you how relaxing it was to hop in that hot tub at the end of the day.  The following summer I kept my eye on the chemical balance of the water and since the temperature outside was so hot, I ran the tub without turning the heater on.  Elaine and I really enjoyed the cool water during the summer months.  The absolute best time for me to get in the tub was after a long day of yard work.

About the only problem I noticed was the cover that came with the hot tub began to show signs of wear and tear and it was a little heavy for Elaine to put on and off the tub by herself.  So I got on the Internet and starting looking for a replacement cover.  I found a company that would build a custom fit cover specifically for my hot tub.  I worked up what I wanted and emailed them the information and in just a few days they emailed me back with the details.  It would take so many days and would cost…  Oh well, it didn’t matter, I wanted it and after all, the hot tub was free.

My new cover came in and it fit like a glove.  Everything was just like we wanted it.  And then we evacuated for hurricane Rita.  The whole time we were evacuated I worried more about a big old limb from my oak tree falling and destroying my new, custom fit hot tub cover.  I don’t know why that was my worry but it was.  When I returned home sure enough there was a big limb down and it had done some damage to the railing on our deck but the free hot tub and its new custom cover were intact.

Shortly after all the Rita damage was cleaned up I started having some trouble with the deck.  Some of the deck boards were cupping and I was spending a lot of time trying to keep the deck clean and water sealed.  One day after doing my yard work and some maintenance on the deck I went to turn the hot tub on and it didn’t start up.  I thought the breaker had tripped so I checked but it was OK.  I got to looking around and found one of the hoses on the hot tub had broken.  Drat!  It turned out that it was actually a fitting that I could not reach from the access door in the cabinet.   Well I was frustrated.  The hot tub was broken.  I was having to spend way too much time repairing and cleaning the deck so I made a decision.  I took the hot tub apart and moved it back out to the barn and started taking my deck apart.  My goal now was to rebuild the deck using the composite material I wanted to use the first time.  And while I was at it, I decided I was going to pour a slab to set the hot tub on and incorporate the slab into the the new deck.

That was the plan…  I got everything taken apart but I was hung up on the thinking and planning phase and I couldn’t get motivated.  I could see all this work ahead of me just to reset this free hot tub which still needed to be repaired.  Last fall after hurricane Ike, Elaine and I decided that our Christmas gift to one another would be a new hot tub!  So early this spring we went shopping and she picked out the tub she wanted.  We didn’t buy it then, I wasn’t ready.  Rebuilding the deck was still in the planning stage for me and bringing home a new hot tub was totally out of the question at that time.  The good news is in the past couple of weeks I’ve got the new slab poured and the framing for the new deck is in place.  I thought I knew where I wanted to purchase the composite lumber for the deck but I came across another product that I’m checking on this week but I’m pretty close to wrapping up this project.  With any luck, we should be enjoying our new hot tub this fall.  And by the way, once the deck is finished and the new hot tub is installed I’ll have a FREE hot tub out in the barn that I’ll need to get rid of…  Any takers??