Over the years as a Denver-area remodeling contractor, I have both installed some hot tubs and removed some. The removal process is not that complicated, but still involves some planning. In most cases it is about half as much work as the installation. Many hot tubs are installed on decks and often the deck is built around the hot tub. This can complicate matters to some degree but not as much as the engineering that may have gone into the decks reinforcement or construction.
Salvage or Disposal?
One thing to consider before removing the hot tub is whether or not the tub is going to be reused or salvaged. Most tub removals have to deal with some catastrophic maintenance or repair issue, namely not winterizing the tub. We spoke with Bob Lauter, the CEO of Master Spas and the president of the International Hot Tub Association, who said, "If you're in a cool weather climate and you drain the hot tub and you don't winterize it, that's when you see water in the lines, because they didn't properly winterize it. You can have all kinds of frozen pipes...Residiual water in the pipes can be in the pump housing. If that freezes it can damage the pumps. When we see a hot tub that's better off replacing it than fixing it, it's almost always due to freeze damage."
In many cases the tub is “totaled” and the cost of repair does not justify fixing the unit. In these cases the removal process is a lot easier as the tub can be sectioned or parted out to make removal easier. A 6-person hot tub is a pretty big item that generally requires many hands or lifting equipment to move. If the tub is DOA (Dead on Arrival) there are no worries about how it can be removed. I have seen some units cut into manageable sized chunks with a reciprocating saw and hauled off in 50 to 100 pound sections. When it is obvious that the tub will never be used again, the ease of removing parts of a tub will require far less effort than removing the tub in one piece.
Disconnect and Isolate
The majority of hot tubs are electric and some have high voltage connections. This electric service needs to be addressed prior to any type of removal efforts. If the hot tub was installed to building codes there should be a main electrical disconnect located in close proximity to the tub. This is the ideal location to isolate the power. If the tub is being removed entirely, and not replaced, the outlet feed from this box can be sealed and left available for a possible future re-install. Before servicing this smaller disconnect panel, the power feed should be shut down at the main panel. Once isolated, the circuit can be dismantled at the local disconnect and the lines can be terminated inside the smaller disconnect panel. As an added measure it is nice to keep the tub’s main breaker off and the circuit labeled “out of service”. Once isolated, the line from the disconnect panel to the tubs service panel can be safely removed. Needless to say, hire an electrician if you are not experienced.
Drain and Haul
The next step to removing a tub is to drain it. If the tub is destined for long term storage and reuse in a climate that sees freezing temperature, the addition of some anti-freeze to the piping and drain systems can prevent problems from cracks and breaks due to frost. In the case of disposal this step is not necessary.
The haul away step can vary widely based on the tub's location and installation specifics. I have helped with some where the tub was merely tilted up on its side (with 4 burly piano-moving-type guys) and then rolled to a waiting trailer for hauling away. In another case one was lassoed with a large “tow strap” and dragged through the yard with the winch on the front of my truck. This was a demolition job and is not recommended for any type of re-use. The “yard” in this case was also expendable and just some native groundcover that could be raked smooth. Dragging a full sized tub across a manicured lawn will leave some serious skid marks.
In extreme cases the use of a crane may be required. In those cases it is best to hire the services of a licensed rigger so the payload does not make any sudden trips to the ground. Keep in mind gravity always wins these tug-of-wars. Even with a hard hat…a falling hot tub could ruin your day.