Tips for Setting Up a Backyard Bathtub Oasis

Tubing? Nah. This summer, try tubbing.

Photo by Tara Hedlund

With social distancing putting the kibosh on summer staples like tubing down a crowded river or splashing around with a couple hundred strangers in a pool, a lot of people are plotting a water oasis closer to home. Jason Hedlund, global seafood buyer at Whole Foods Market, first had the inspiration for his outdoor bathtub a couple years ago. Having already turned a 1,000 gallon stock tank into a koi pond in his East Austin backyard, he said one hot day he was eyeing a smaller tank he'd picked up at Callahan's as backup in case anything went wrong with the pond, and he thought to himself, "'I'm gonna fill this up with water and sit in it.' I did that a couple times, and it evolved from there."

Hedlund's oval outdoor tub holds 230 gallons – "plenty of room for two adults who don't mind their legs overlapping," he says. (He and wife Tara also share their tub with toddler Finn.) Here are some of Hedlund's tips for setting up your own DIY tub.

Keep It Moving: Hedlund's been relying on a small pond pump to keep water circulating; this year he plans to upgrade to a permanent setup with a filter and pump designed for above­ground pools. He changes the water out every seven to 10 days – just be sure to leave it covered between soaking sessions to keep debris and critters out.

No Rust, No Fuss: Using city water? It's chlorinated, which over time can erode your tub. Consider coating your tank with a nontoxic clear coat.

Put What's Left to Good Use: Add a shutoff valve to your drain plug and screw in a garden hose to redirect bathwater somewhere it'll be appreciated (your trees will thank you).

Not a Slip 'N Slide: Galvanized steel can be slippery underfoot, so Hedlund laid down three 1x1s lengthwise, then screwed cedar planks on top of them for better traction and "a little feel of Nordic hot tubs and saunas I've visited." He uses a simple tension rod to keep the planks from floating up.

Make It Cushy: Got some spare pipe insulation? Cut it to make a cushy arm rest. For something more colorful, try pool noodles.

Kit It Out: Cupholders are a must. Waterproof storage is handy for organizing kiddie toys. Set up a nearby stand to watch a show on your laptop ... just remember the same rules about how to not get electrocuted in the bath apply to outdoor tubs, too.

"Our backyard is our favorite room in the house," says Hedlund. "It's where we spend the most time, so you gotta stay cool."

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outdoor tub, stock tank tub, Jason Hedlund, Summer Fun 2020

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