Last year Slav gifted me a hot tub. It was not fancy by any means – just an inflatable tub that only fits both of us. But it was very affordable and perfect for me to try. Now six months has passed, I am surprised how much I enjoyed it. Hot tubbing relaxes not only my muscle but also my mind. And I loved the part of being outside and taking in the fresh air.
When we first got the hot tub, we set it up on the back patio, close to the outdoor faucet and electrical box. But our back patio sits high up and is well lit by the light from the kitchen. So I always felt a lack of privacy when hot tubbing at night. Last Fall, as we were hardscaping around the garden shed, we decided to build a spot for the hot tub as well. The goal was to move it farther away from the house, and to where it could sit lower in the yard.
Building an in-hill patio for the hot tub
The spot we picked was on the northern slope of the yard. This space was part of the former raspberry patch we removed last Fall. After incorporating the upper half of the old patch into the nearby flower beds, we were left with this 7′ x 15′ strip of land near the fence:
This spot is a lot lower than the house and back patio and therefore provides more privacy. After removing the raspberry bushes, the area in front of the two hazelnut trees was just enough for our 6′ x 6′ hot tub. I mapped out where the hot tub would be with some tree stumps, and Slav came in and dug out all the raspberry roots.
From the picture below you can see the slope of the yard. To create a flat spot, Slav decided to dig into the slope and create an in-hill patio that sits a lot lower than the house itself. I am not gonna lie. It was a lot of earth-moving. And Slav did all of it with his two hands and a shovel!
You can also see the edge of the flower bed lined up with tree stumps. We decided to keep a 4′ wide walking path between the hot tub patio and this flower bed. The tree stumps were placed directly onto the slope and raised the planting area quite a bit higher. So Slav could simply flip the soil directly into this new planting area as he dug. It saved lots of back-breaking effort of transferring the soil somewhere else.
I must have forgotten to take a picture after Slav dug out the in-hill patio, but you can get an idea on how much soil he removed from the picture below!
Building the retaining wall
To make sure the in-hill patio is stable and safe we needed a retaining wall. We decided to construct the wall directly on the hardpan soil, just like how we did it for the front yard retaining wall and the one around the shed patio. Slav started by scraping some soil off the edge of the patio space, so he could set the first row of blocks lower than the patio level.
The first row of the retaining wall blocks are always the most critical. They are the foundation of the entire structure and have to sit perfectly level on well-compacted soil. They also need to run straight. Slav used a straight 2″ x 4″ as his guide, and a hand soil tamper with several levels to make sure each block was pefectly lined up with its neighbors.
Laying the first row of the blocks took us an entire afternoon. But it was worth the time to set a solid foundation. We also took time to fine-tune the dimensions and the shape of the patio. We decided to make it bigger than planned, so we would have enough room to walk around the tub.
We also added some soil to the patio space so the first row of the retaining wall blocks were half buried. This step should add some stability to the wall.
Then it was time to build up! We got these retaining wall blocks second-hand so some of them were cut already. Slav took his time to select the best pieces for ends and corners. It was like a big Lego game but with heavy blocks. A good workout for both muscle and mind.
We curved one end of the retaining wall to create a flower bed. It just made sense to keep the ground here higher based on the slope of our land.
Before the retaining wall was constructed I had already planted the new magnolia tree. This tree will grow to 10-15 feet tall and bring pink magnolia flowers right over the hot tub.
The blocks we used produce a pretty curve. I like it a lot.
With a good foundation and design the rest of the building process went pretty smoothly. We back filled the soil behind the blocks as each row went in, and used a hand soil tamper to make sure there was no air pocket.
The finished retaining wall
After a month of digging and a whole weekend of building. Here was the result:
And here was the small flower bed next to the patio:
Do you like it? I looooove it! This small flower bed brought such gentle feel into the hardscape. I cannot wait to pack it full with fluffy shrubs and soft flowers.
From the picture above and below you could get an idea how much higher this small flower bed sits above the hot tub patio. Starting higher should save us a few years to grow a green screen here for privacy.
Here was the view from the other side of the patio. The path on the right leads to the back door:
I liked the gentle flare Slav put at the end of the wall.
Here was the view when walking down from the house to the hot tub patio. This inner diameter is 7.5′ wide. There would be enough room for one person to walk around the 6′ square hot tub.
Here is the view of the herb garden and the lawn from the patio space. We left a wide path around the patio and all flower beds, so we could easily push the wheelbarrow to any corner of the backyard. I liked how everything was connected with the new layout.
The path coming from the house:
Finishing the patio area and creating a base for the hot tub
After finishing the retaining wall, Slav leveled the patio area once again, and compacted the soil.
Slav also compacted the soil in the area beyond the patio space, where we would get in and out of the hot tub. We are considering building another retaining wall below to keep the soil contained in this area, but that would be another project for another day.
We did not want to put the hot tub directly on the dirt, so we decided to add some pool pads. Landscape fabric was added to keep the dirt and weeds down. These plastic pads did not only function as a leveled base for the hot tub, but also worked as an insulation layer.
To make sure that the pool pads would not shift, Slav put down a few flagstones left over from the shed patio build.
We then weighted down the landscape fabric with gravel. It will help to drain away any water we carry out out the hot tub. Now the patio was ready for the hot tub!
Moving the hot tub and mulching the surrounding yard
Slav drained, cleaned, and dried the hot tub. Then we carried it to its new location:
The hot tub sits perfectly over the pool pads, and the gravel area is just perfect for one person to move around:
We then put down a thick layer of wood chip mulch around the new patio to cover the exposed dirt. This spot looks so tidy now!
Originally I thought about planting right up to the retaining wall, but now, I am glad that I have left this path. It improved the traffic flow among all the flower beds. The dogs also love to come here when we are in the hot tub. They can lay down here if they want to be close. It is so sweet.
I could not help but adding a new dwarf pine in this flower bed. The Pinus parviflora “Tanima no yuki” grows 3′ tall and 2′ wide and will cover this corner with its lovely needles in a few years.
The hot tub now sits 4′ below the back patio, which puts us way below the fence line. I purposely did not put any landscaping lighting here. Now it feels very private to use the hot tub at night.
The new hot tub experience!
Here it is, our new hot tub spot! It was a lot of work, but now the whole hot tubbing experience is so much better. We are now completely surrounded by trees, flowers, birds, insects, clouds, and stars. It feels like sitting in a hot spring in the wild! Being lower in the yard also adds a cozy feeling especially at night. There was one time a bunny ran right by the hot tub on the path above it, stopped at my eye level, and chilled right in front of my eyes. It was so magical.
Another additional advantage of moving the hot tub is we now have room again on the back patio! It was packed full with a giant tub and all hot tubbing related stuff for the last six months. Now we can use the grill and have room to sit here again:
I recently started hot tubbing in the mornings on weekend too. It was nice to relax, look around, and plan my day, which usually gets me into a more crafty and creative mind. Slav has gotten used to looking for me in the hot tub… I think it is here to stay. 🙂 If you have never used hot tub before – give it a try! It is a great way of getting out of the digital world and getting in touch with our senses. You will love it. I promise!