Can A Balcony Hold A Hot Tub?
We’ve seen those pictures of people in apartment blocks enjoying the view with a drink in hand from their bubbling hot tub on their balcony. You may even be one of them. It looks like the perfect little relaxation spot in the comfort of your own apartment, but is it safe? Balconies are relatively strong, but can they hold a hot tub?
The weight of a filled hot tub with people in it will exceed the live load capacity of most balconies. A balcony can, however, be reinforced to hold a hot tub. So it is not advisable to put a hot tub on your balcony until you know your balcony is structurally strong enough to hold it.
As much as the idea of a hot tub might appeal to you, there are some things to consider, check, and avoid. First, your safety and the safety of the neighbors and people below your balcony should be considered. You would also likely want to avoid a lawsuit because your hot tub overflowed, broke your balcony, and landed on your downstairs neighbor’s cat because your balcony wasn’t strong enough to hold a hot tub. .
Balcony Live Load Capacity vs. Hot Tub Weights
Most balconies have a live load capacity of at least 40 lbs. per square foot, although that capacity can be as high as 100 lbs. in modern structures. Live load capacity refers to the maximum ability of a floor to withhold weight that can and does move around, like people or furniture.
Many variables will affect the live load capacity of a balcony, namely:
- The strength of materials used
- The age of the materials
- The maintenance of the materials
- Safety factors that were implemented in the construction
- The quality of the construction
- The size of the fasteners used
- If over-sized materials were used
- Seasonal wear and tear on the balcony
- The environment or climate.
The floors in older buildings tend to have lower live load capacities than newer buildings. This is because modern building codes force or require that beams and floors be over-engineered. With this in mind, one should not consider putting a hot tub on balconies in older buildings.
So, how much will a full hot tub weigh?
Different types of hot tubs include inflatable, acrylic, and molded plastic hot tubs. The boxed weight of these tubs may not seem too much, but when you consider their weight filled with water and people, it becomes a different story. For starters: A gallon of water weighs 8.3 lbs.
An inflatable tub filled with water and four people in it will weigh over 2,000 pounds. Considering this weight is not spread out evenly along the balcony, it will probably exceed the live load capacity of most balconies not built specifically for this especially older structures which would struggle to hold a hot tub.
Can You Reinforce Your Balcony To Hold A Hot Tub?
Before you start planning to reinforce your balcony so you can get a hot tub, you need to get permission from your apartment block and find out your balcony’s strength. More modern apartment blocks may have the building plans on hand, but you will most also likely need to call in a structural engineer.
A structural engineer will look at the original building plans and inspect the integrity of your balcony, whether it has a concrete, wooden, or metal floor. In most cases, balconies are made with concrete floors as extensions of the building’s interior structure in a cantilevered style. Wooden is going to be more problematic, and we have an article on wooden balconies and hot tubs here.
If you have confirmation that your balcony will not hold a hot tub, or there is a shadow of doubt over the strength of the balcony, you will need to add bracing to it. A structural engineer will advise the best place to put your hot tub and the types of bracing you need to install.
Even balconies with good structural integrity could benefit from simple bracing like a hot tub mat. An important objective of hot tub mats is to spread the weight of the hot tub over a larger area. Additionally, these mats protect the original flooring, preventing tiles from cracking.
More complicated and expensive types of bracing include:
- Getting permission to connect I-beams into the existing support beams reduces the hot tub’s weight on the floor.
- Getting permission to update and reinforce the existing floor means asking your downstairs neighbor if you can remove their ceiling and strengthen it.
These options seem almost impossible to the average apartment dweller. However, suppose you are fortunate enough to build your own home and will want a hot tub on your balcony. In that case, you should ensure your balcony is reinforced during the building phase so it can bear heavy weight.
Permanent Hot Tubs vs. Inflatable Hot Tubs On A Balcony
Suppose your balcony is strong enough to hold the weight of a hot tub. What type of hot tub would be better for your balcony?
A Permanent Hot Tub On Your Balcony
If your balcony has enough space and is strong enough to hold a filled hot tub, a hot tub made from molded plastic or acrylic may be a better option. But, of course, it depends entirely on if you can get the bulky tub onto your balcony first! Although there are some apartments that allow pulley system, we are not sure an 8ft hot tub hoisted up the side of a building is going to be allowed!
An appropriately installed permanent hot tub should have a draining solution, and the electrical cables should be protected from water. A benefit of a permanent hot tub is that you can design a platform for it that distributes the weight more evenly on your balcony.
An Inflatable Hot Tub On Your Balcony
An inflatable hot tub weighs less than a permanent one; however, it has drawbacks. Since there is no solid wall around an inflatable hot tub, the water will shift as people get in and out. The waves caused by this water will produce heavier weight distributions in areas of your balcony, which may cause issues.
Inflatable hot tubs are more prone to becoming damaged from harsh weather conditions. If the soft plastic becomes brittle and tears, the water will escape the hot tub and may cause damage or injury to objects and people below, a vertical tsunami if you will.
Finally, since inflatable hot tubs are usually temporary, the drainage and safety of the electrical cords around the tub are often overlooked. Electricity combined with waves of water splashing out can have devastating consequences The same applies for raised decks and hot tubs, although decks are going to be on private house so the risk is to yourself and your own property.
Considerations Before Putting A Hot Tub On A Balcony
Even if your balcony is structurally strong enough to hold a hot tub, putting a hot tub on a balcony is not as simple as you might hope. You should consider the following aspects before putting a hot tub on your balcony:
Permission From The Building Owner
You might need to ask permission from the apartment block owner and ensure your balcony’s structural strength.
Rules Of The Apartment Block
Your apartment block may have rules regarding sound levels and disruptions. Some apartment blocks are also strict about the façade of the building and do not allow the residents to hang washing on their balconies, for example. Your apartment block may also impose rules regarding noise levels. For example, a running hot tub will have a humming noise, plus a hot tub party can be pretty noisy.
When you clean your hot tub, those gallons of water will need to go somewhere. How will you safely drain the water from your hot tub from your balcony without affecting your neighbors? And what about spilled hot tub water? Where will that go?
The electricity supply to the hot tub should be insulated to prevent water from contacting it. In addition, electrical cords and plugs should be kept from the hot tub as far as possible to prevent electrocution.
Humidity And Mold
The steam from your hot tub can cause a humid little corner on your balcony, giving rise to mold on the ceiling above it. Additionally, the excess water on a balcony can lead to dampness on the walls and mold and moss.
Your Neighbors Below You
The neighbors who live below you will probably be affected somehow by a hot tub on your balcony, whether it be leaking water or noise. The worst-case scenario is your balcony breaking under the weight of your hot tub, falling onto their balcony, and causing damage, injury, or death. In that case, you could face charges from your neighbors and apartment block owner and even the police.
Is the Balcony Big Enough for a Hot Tub?
With all the thoughts on the weight of a hot tub, and if the balcony can hold a hot tub, the other often overlooked aspect of balcony hot tubs are their physical size.
Balconies, unless you are very fortunate, are often relatively small when compared to a room in the house, and hot tubs quite frankly are not. they can be up to 3 to 4 feet high and 6 feet long.
So even if you have a strong enough balcony to hold a hot tub, is it going to look out of place taking up a significant portion of your outdoor space. Will you get the use out of it even if you can install one, or will it take away valuable living space for an occasionally used feature.
Only you know of course, however i am lucky enough to have 30 ft balcony about 9 feet wide, with power and access to water, and we looked at putting a hot tub at one end and decided we just wouldn’t use it enough to justify the loss in space, the expense and the risk of something going wrong.
A balcony can hold a hot tub with a high live load capacity and is reinforced. However, a filled hot tub is likely to exceed this capacity, increasing the chances of damaging the balcony somehow.
There are ways to brace your balcony to carry the weight of a hot tub. Still, you should get a structural engineer to assess your balcony for your safety and for those beneath your balcony.