The hot tub as we know it today, however, originated in the 1960s. During this period wooden bathtubs were created from old oak barrels and vats used for winemaking in California. Early prototypes were reminiscent of the Japanese ofuro. As manufacturing processes were developed, most wooden hot tubs were made from regional redwood. As the product developed, circulating pumps and heaters were added to keep the water temperature high. But let’s face it, a wooden tub sitting in the harsh elements of nature can easily develop leaks and play host to a variety of unhealthy bacteria.
Which brings us to the modern-day hot tub or spa. Though many lavish hot tubs are constructed using the same materials and techniques used to build concrete swimming pools, the vast majority of hot tubs are prefabricated in factories using acrylic shells surrounded by wooden or synthetic skirts. The shells are molded to fit the human form, and powerful jet action provides hydrotherapy. With factory-installed plumbing and filtration systems, the units are relatively easy to install. It’s just a matter of choosing the one that has the amenities you and your family are seeking.
Before we move on any further, now I’d like to clarify some terminology. When manufacturers started to build hot tubs from colorful acrylic sheets, the results were a smooth, luxurious, and attractive surface. To separate this new class of products from the traditional wooden hot tub, companies began referring to their products as spas. But old habits are hard to break. Industry research has shown that most consumers refer to a freestanding, jetted tub of water as a hot tub, regardless of its composition and form. Plus, the tremendous growth in the resort spa industry has caused most people to think of massages, facials, and seaweed wraps when they hear the word spa. Still, many hot tub dealers and manufacturers have kept the
word in their names. So now when someone says, I’m going to Spa Dreams this afternoon, you’re not sure whether she’s checking out hot tubs or getting a pedicure.
For the purposes of this book, I use the terms hot tub and spa interchangeably for variety’s sake and because this book is about creating a resort spa environment in your own home with spas, saunas, and steam baths.
Now that that’s settled, there’s one more issue of semantics that needs to be clarified: the use of the word Jacuzzi. Jacuzzi is a trademarked brand name of jetted bathtubs and spas and should not be used when talking about hot tubs or spas generically. Undoubtedly, this issue alone has kept the company’s legal department busy for years. It’s like trying to get people to refer to a generic box of facial tissue as tissue after they’ve been referring to it as Kleenex their whole lives.
Since I’ve opened up a proverbial can of worms by mentioning jetted bathtubs, I’m compelled to make some editorial remarks. Although progress has been made to make jetted bathtubs more like hot tubs, they aren’t. And those who say the bathing experiences are the same are . .. well, let me put it this way. Do you recall when in the 1998 vice presidential debates, Dan Quayle compared the length of his service in Congress with John F. Kennedy’s? Technically, it was true, but it prompted his opponent, the Democrat Lloyd Bentsen, to say: I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy.