How To Assemble a Cedar Hot Tub & Chofu Wood Stove

updated Jul 23, 2020
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Continuing my work on the “earth, air, fire & water” theme in our “back forty” out in our summer place in Springs, NY (see yurt raising here), I just (this weekend) finally finished getting the super cool, new wood stove powered hot tub ready for use.

While the actual assembly is fairly quick (4-5 hours), waiting for the wood to swell and hold all the water takes FOREVER, but it’s an amazing process to witness. Here are the pics and the info you need to do it yourself.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
No nails, screws or glue are used here! This is the hard part: slowly knocking in the side staves. They have to be tight to one another, but not too tight or they begin to fall back out.

This tub is the second one I’ve helped to put together and while it’s definitely a luxury, it’s a wonderfully rustic one that preserves your sense of the elements and the outdoors without mechanical distraction. The tub is from Sea Otter Woodworks up in Alaska and took about three weeks to arrive in a big box. Sea Otter makes many different sizes and shapes of cedar hot tubs, in addition to indoor Japanese ofuro tubs, but I personally like this medium size eliptical shape with the chofu wood stove. You DO have to start your fire early in order to heat up your tub (10 degrees every hour of stove time) and keep tending it, but the payoff is a silent, wood crackling experience as the heated water naturally pulls the colder water into the stove and pushes up and in the hot water back to you. AND you’ll have no crazy electric bills, and it will never break. 🙂

What You Need:

� One Cedar Hot Tub
� One Chofu Wood Stove
� Hammer (preferably a wood mallet)
� Drill with drill bits and screw bit
� Silicone Sealer
� Channel Lock Pliers
� Adjustable Wrench
� Knife

� Patience

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Step One: Setting the Base

After unpacking everything, you want to assemble and set the base of the tub in the place you want it and where it will stay nice and level. The tub is very heavy when filled with water, so you want to be sure to put it on a stone, brick or cinderblock surface. If you have any dip from level, you’ll want this to go toward the drain hole in the bottom so that drainage is easy.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Step Two: Inserting the Staves

Just like wood barrels that hold wine, a cedar hot tub is basically an open barrel which is going to hold water once all your cedar staves are moist, expanded and pressing firmly together. They don’t get screwed or glued into place, and it takes some patience to set them all around the tub without having them fall over (which they want to do when you get to the end and the fit gets tight). Having two people at this point really makes life easier.

Once you get all of your staves in place, you wrap the three steel bands around the sides and gently tighten till firm. Your “dry” tub is now ready to have the benches inserted, the stove attached and to start the moistening process.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Step Three: Install the Chofu

This is the easy part as the chofu wood stove attaches very easily to the side of your tub. All you really need to do here is get a handle on all of the pieces and put them together with tight fits by using the wire clamps. It’s like an erector set.

If you have a tall chimney, putting these metal pieces together and then screwing them securely will be your main time suck. Watch out! It’s easy to cut yourself on the sharp edges.

Step Three: Start Filling… and Filling… and Filling!

As you begin to add water you will notice very quickly that most of it is flowing out the sides of your tub. You may think that it could never possibly fill at this rate and that a big mistake has been made. Don’t worry! While it may take days and days of filling and draining, the tub does swell and all those holes will soon disappear. It’s like magic.

When you finally get there (and it took me two weekends of filling), the rest is simple. Spark up your fire and enjoy!

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
Here’s the view across to the other patio, which will be the “grill” patio
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
And here’s the outdoor firepit, which sits between the grill and the tub. The sensual mixing of earth, air, fire and water is the goal.