Hot Tub Cover Lifters 101: Types and What to Know

So you’ve got a hot tub (probably hopefully a cover), but what about cover lifters? This accessory is essential for frequent use, and relatively easy to install.

Since there are many different brands and types of cover lifters, today I’ll break down everything you need to know and provide a list of recommendations at the end.

3 reasons hot tub cover lifters are worth it

In my opinion, hot tub cover lifters are absolutely worth the money. Here are a few reasons.

  1. For frequent users, hot tub cover lifters make it much faster and easier to remove a cover
  2. Storing the cover no longer becomes a problem, since it stays attached
  3. Many covers do a lot of the heavy lifting for you…saving your back!

Many basic cover lifters can be installed yourself or by a local pool or spa installer.

Types of hot tub cover lifters

Generally, there are two main types of hot tub cover lifters on the market: manual and automatic. Both generally contain some form of hinge mechanism to lift the cover off.

Most hot tub cover lifters on the market today fall into the traditional hinge or pivot category and require one person (or two) to operate.

A typical hot tub cover lifter consists of:

  • A lifter arm that spans the entire hot tub cover and supports the weight of the cover when lifted
  • (2) side arms that connect to the main lifter arm
  • A hinge mechanism that is able to lift the cover in an upright position

With most cover lifters, the way they ‘lift’ the cover off of your hot tub is generally the same (with some exceptions for automatic lifters).

Below is a simple example of what this looks like:

Source: Jacuzzi Ontario

Once the hot tub cover is folded, some lift systems are designed to slide on a track before lifting up.

Mounting a hot tub cover lifter

When it comes to mounting the side arms to the mounting brackets, one thing to know is that you can either opt for deck mounted, low, or a high mounting position. This is generally a matter of preference.

A lifer that is mounted higher will add more privacy if desired when open. Most kits you’ll find allow for several mounting options.

Keep in mind that many also require that you drill into the cabinet of your hot tub a tiny bit. The included screws are designed to not be long enough to damage the shell of your tub.

Hydraulics..say whaaat?

hydraulic hot tub cover lifter

A step up from your standard cover lifter, many modern hot tub cover lifters also contain hydraulic gas pistons as part of the opening mechanism as you can see in the image above.

Some hydraulic lift systems also contain handles, which can make the process of opening the cover a little easier as well.

The benefits of hydraulic hot tub cover lifters

While cover lifters containing hydraulics generally are a bit more expensive, hydraulic pistons bear the weight of the cover when it’s being folded. This ensures the cover doesn’t undergo unnecessary wear and tear.

Non-hydraulic covers make it easier for the panels to slap against each other or wobble when opening. This can cause wear and tear over time, especially if the cover isn’t snug with the lifter arm.

While this isn’t a problem if someone knows to be gentle when removing a hot tub cover, covers with hydraulics are best if you have friends, family, or renters who may not be as careful.

Deck mounted or under-mount cover lifters

Not looking to drill into your spa’s cabinet? Undermount cover lifters can be attached to the surrounding deck or a mounting bracket that slides under your tub.

Many people prefer this location since it doesn’t require any drilling into the hot tub itself, and is one of my personal favorites.

The video below outlines an under-mount installation. You can pick this one up on Amazon here which can be top mounted or deck mounted–you choose.

The shelf cover lifter: a sliding no-lift hot tub remover

Another category of cover removers you’ll commonly see actually fall in the no-lift category.

Instead of lifting the hot tub cover in an upright position like most cover lifters, these mechanisms contain two retractable arms containing rollers that allow you to slide the cover off towards the back of the tub for entry.

These generally require a little more space around the hot tub and work best with lightweight covers.

Hot tub cover lifter installation best practices

Most kits on the market today are installed very similarly. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  1. Made sure your cover is centered before installing the lifter arm along the center seam on the stitch line
  2. Decide if you want to install the mounting arms to (1) a deck or (2) the sides of your hot tub cabinet
  3. Make sure the cover bar is snug against the lid, and not lifted off the cover
  4. Locate the pin, which can lock the cover in an open position or closed position
  5. Always follow the directions on the kit
  6. Ensure that your cover can fit your hot tub. Most fit covers fit hot hubs 76” to 96” in diameter according to The Cover Guy, a leading cover retailer.

Automatic hot tub cover lifters

If you are looking for ultimate convenience, you may want to look into an automatic cover lifter. These systems generally use hydraulics as well and completely take the grunt work out of flipping the cover off.

 

Below are a few automatic cover lifter brands to check out. Keep in mind that for these systems you’ll generally need to find a dealer near you to install one.

  • ConvertaLift: As seen in the video above, ConvertaLift makes a cover that opens with the touch of a button. Based on what I’ve read, this is actually pretty affordable when compared to a manual lifter. You can check them out here.
  • Covana: Covana makes what I consider to be the cream of the crop when it comes to hot tub automatic cover lifters. This one actually doubles as a hot tub gazebo as well as an insulating cover.

  • Riptide: Riptide makes an automatic FoldAway cover lifter that is another excellent option. It can also stop at any position if space is an issue.

If you are building a new house and are willing to spend a little extra on your spa, this is definitely an investment that will make getting in the hot tub an experience rather than a chore.

No one wants to lift a heavy cover off of a hot tub!

My hot tub cover lifter recommendations

If you’re looking for something basic, you can typically find these kits online for less than $300. Below are a few to consider.

1. Ultralift standard and deck mounted hot tub cover lifter – View on Amazon

Ultralift Standard Mount cover lifter

One brand you’ll surely come across when doing research on cover lifters is UltraLift. They make a few different varieties of your standard hinge cover lifter, with the only difference being the location of the mount and whether or not it contains hydraulics.

2. Ultralift hydraulic mount cover lifter – View on Amazon 

Ultralift hydraulic mount cover lifter 

3. Aqua Pura hydraulic assisted cover lifter – View on Amazon

Aqua Pura hydraulic assisted cover lifter

This model is highly-reviewed and well-made. It’s pretty heavy, has larger hydraulics, and also comes with a ‘Cover Saver’ strap that will help save your cover from damage

4. Smartop spa cover with built-in lift – View on website

This final option offers an all-in-one solution for new owners: it’s essentially a cover and a lift. Smartop is available in both Upright and Vanish models.

Conclusion

To wrap up, one thing I will say about hot tub cover lifters is that you’ll want to make sure that your hot tub cover is in decent condition before looking at a lifter.

You also want to make sure that your family knows how to properly operate the system. For standard covers without hydraulics, being heavy-handed can in fact damage the cover if you sort of ‘fling’ it open.

Since covers have insulation and foam, they do tend to crack with time which I have personally witnessed.

My recommendation: Get one with hydraulics

For this reason, and as a final recommendation, I’d say it’s a good idea to get a cover lifter with hydraulics for maximizing the life of your cover. This will ensure that the weight of the cover is dispersed evenly when opened.

If you want the ultimate convenience, it’s worth noting that an extra $1,000 will get you an entry-level automatic lifter as well.

If you’re excited about your new hot tub or need some addtional ideas, be sure to check out my post: 15 Best Outdoor Hot Tub Accessories.

Let me know in the comments how your cover lifter project is going and what you decided to go with!

Leave a Comment