We were interested, not to mention somewhat disturbed, to read this recent article in The Daily Mail, rather chillingly headlined “Beware Falling Hot Tubs!”, and with a sub-heading telling buyers that they need to allow an extra £1,600 on top of the buying price of their chosen hot tub in order to cover the cost of craning it into place! This would be a horrifying prospect for most prospective spa owners as it represents a massive additional expenditure on top of the rest of their outlay, and would put off a great many buyers. The article was taken from a press release issued by a company called Crane Hire UK. Crane Hire UK are a nationwide company which hires out cranes to both business and private customers for a wide range of lifting applications. The original ‘news’ item which appears on Crane Hire UK’s website goes even further with the scaremongering with the headline “Householders risk jail time when buying a hot tub”.
Needless to say, we investigated the article and found that, whilst the premise of the article was a sound one – to make consumers aware of the potential pitfalls of dealing with unscrupulous contractors – the article was sensationalised to promote the services Crane Hire UK offer (which are also offered by a great many other companies in the UK, not exclusively by Crane Hire UK), and, regrettably, included a number of important inaccuracies. In the interests of redressing the editorial balance that the Daily Mail failed to exercise, here are our corrections of the inaccuracies in the article, and our guide to safe (and cost-effective!) crane hire.
First of all, it should be noted that here at Deep End Pools we have over 20 years experience in selling and installing hot tubs, with thousands of successful and problem free installations throughout the south of England. Some of those installations had to be completed using a crane, so we know what we’re talking about when it comes to hot tubs and cranes.
First of all here are corrections to the inaccuracies.
‘All installations require the use of a crane’ – it is implied (though not stated explicitly) throughout the article that all but a minority of the very easiest hot tub installations require the use of a crane in order to get the spa in place and installed. This is just not true. The majority of professional hot tub retailers in the country have access to a number of specialist tools and equipment which allow them to effect delivery and installation in the vast majority of projects without the use of a crane. In fact, looking back at our records we find that less than 5% of installations required the services of a crane. Cranes are only used as an absolute last resort when all other delivery methods have been ruled out. This is an incredibly important point to correct because, if a crane is required, it does add additional expenditure to your hot tub project. But you can see from the actual statistics that the probability of a spa buyer needing to incur this extra expense is, in reality, very small.
‘A botched crane lift can lead to property damage, injury or even death’ – again, it is implied in the article that these types of potentially disastrous accidents involving cranes delivering hot tubs are a regular occurrence, and clearly designed to scaremonger potential buyers. However, the only evidence cited to support this implication is a YouTube video of the attempted delivery of a swimspa (a prefabricated combined swimming pool and hot tub, built into one unit) in the USA.
Doing our own research, we can find only one recorded incident involving a crane delivering a hot tub in the UK, which took place in 2005 in the north east. Ironically, the crane company involved in this delivery was of the reputable, professional variety doing a contract lift, which the article tells potential buyers they should always look for. The accident was later found to have been caused by a leaking water-main which had washed away much of the subsoil under the road and pavement, and could not have been foreseen by either the crane company or the hot tub retailer. Given the hundreds of thousands of hot tubs which have been sold in the UK since they became popular in the 1990s, one incident here hardly constitutes a significant frequency.
‘With a typical spa weighing up to 1.5 tonnes…’ – An uninformed buyer will read this and, knowing that a weight of that magnitude could not possibly be handled and moved manually, will automatically determine that they’ll require a crane. In fact, a typical empty spa is in the 300kg to 500kg weight range, and, unless access to the site of installation is incredibly restricted, can in the vast majority of cases be delivered and installed without requiring a crane.
Some of the largest swimspas on the market can weigh up to 1.5 tonnes, and these do require crane delivery more frequently than hot tubs, but this is usually due to their much larger and more cumbersome size than weight.
‘Buyers aren’t aware they need to budget at least an extra £1,600…’ – by stating ‘at least an extra £1,600′, this implies that, in the event a crane company is actually required, that the minimum a hot tub buyer should budget is £1,600. In our experience, even with a contract lift, this would constitute a figure at the upper end of the scale. That said, the actual cost would vary depending on a number of factors including where in the country you live, the size and weight of your spa, the length and height of the reach required, the size of crane you’ll need to carry out your lift, whether or not a road closure is required, whether or not overhead obstructions (i.e. telephone cables) need removing temporarily and replacing, and other besides.
Overall, we feel this article is poorly researched, smacks of being an advertorial for the crane hire company featured in the piece, and is potentially damaging to our industry as it could well put off prospective buyers who take it at face value. That said, it is refreshing to see in the comments section at the end of the online version of the article, most members of the public who have responded have commented that it sounds like an advert for the crane industry.
What are your options if you do require a crane lift?
Having addressed the inaccuracies in the piece and, hopefully, put your mind a little more at rest, here are you choices if there is no other way to get your hot tub in and you do need a crane. Most professional and reputable crane hire companies offer two levels of service to prospective customers.
This is where you are literally hiring a crane, and is the significantly lower cost of the two options on offer. The crane turns up on site with its driver/operator and he or she does what has been previously discussed, based on information you have provided over the phone or in an email. You are responsible for surveying the site beforehand, ensuring the crane hired will be suitable for the job in hand, preparing all method statements and risk assessments, providing sufficient trained staff to act as banksmen for the driver, and insuring all necessary insurances are in place, as they will be liable if anything goes awry.
Crane hire is typically the preferred route of organisations like main contractors on property developments, for lifting roof trusses and other bulky or heavy items into otherwise inaccessible locations on site. The main contractor will already have the requisite insurances, method statements, risk assessments and trained members of staff already in place, and will therefore not wish to duplicate costs and manpower already covered, and will hire a crane service at the lowest price they can attain.
Contract lift comes at a significantly higher cost than crane hire. However, the crane company essentially does all the work required before and during the lift, and covers all the liabilities. They will send a representative to visit you on site beforehand, they will recommend the size of crane needed based on the spa you’re buying, they will deal with any other issues which need to be overcome in order to effect delivery, they will provide as many members of trained and experienced staff required on the day of the lift to ensure it all goes smoothly, and they will put in place all the required insurances, method statements and risk assessments required to comply with health and safety legislation. If anything goes wrong during the lift, the liabilities lie with the crane company.
Needless to say, we would always recommend a contract lift, even give the higher cost; and we would equally strongly recommend that you do not under any circumstances opt for crane hire. When researching crane hire companies, always check that they have CPCS (Construction Plant Competence Scheme) blue card carrying personnel, and ask for documentary evidence of insurances and H&S compliance etc. (NB: a reputable company may volunteer these details without you having to request them as part of their quotation process). If a company cannot provide these details, or they tell you that they only offer the equivalent of a crane hire level of service, we strongly recommend that you walk away.
If you read this Daily Mail feature and it did raise concerns for you, we hope it has gone some way to allaying your fears and setting the record straight. If you need any further information on any other aspect of hot tub ownership, please get in touch with us and we’ll be delighted to help you.