Something in the world of floating have you stumped?
Someone wrote in and asked, again, despite the repeated warnings of the previous episode covering this topic, how to build a float tank properly.
Graham and Ashkahn try their best to restrain themselves and offer some practical advice about how to build your own tanks while also repeatedly warning about things to look out for when going forward with the process.
Listen to Just the Audio
Transcription of this episode… (in case you prefer reading)
Ashkahn: Hi. Hi, everybody.
Graham: Hey, I’m Graham.
Ashkahn: I’m Ashkahn and we’ve got info coming at you like laser beams.
Graham: It’s a new catchphrase.
Ashkahn: I’m trying a couple out, let us know what you guys think about that.
Graham: Go to floattanksolutions.com/podcast.
Ashkahn: Just leave a review on our itunes about what you thought about that slogan.
Graham: Today’s question is, sorry I had to clear my throat there. Today’s question coming at you is, “I’m going to build my own float rooms regardless of your deterrences, what should I look for when planning my room?”
Ashkahn: You’re asking us a question because you didn’t listen to the answer of our other question?
Graham: I think they did listen-
Ashkahn: You don’t believe us?
Graham: But they didn’t accept it.
Ashkahn: You don’t value our opinions but you’re interested in hearing our opinions?
Graham: Take two, yeah, try a different one over there.
Ashkahn: “I hear what you say, but it’s not lining up with what I wanted you to say.”
Graham: If you haven’t listened to it, definitely listen to our episode on why you shouldn’t build your own float tanks. The exception, of course, being unless you just actually want to tinker around and play with this and-
Ashkahn: Start a manufacturing company, unless you want to start another business, manufacturing float tanks.
Graham: In either of those cases, absolutely fine, we’re not trying to say don’t go out and have fun and do it yourself projects-
Ashkahn: I’m saying there should be no fun allowed.
Ashkahn: That’s been my stance this whole time, I don’t know how that’s not come across.
Graham: Is that a new slogan you’re trying there?
Ashkahn: On the Daily Solutions, the no fun zone.
Graham: You don’t need to leave a review for that one on itunes. Just let that one rest. Okay, A), I do think it’s cool if you play around with things and build them, but it’s not easy.
Ashkahn: Just because you want to tinker with something doesn’t mean that’s an appropriate decision in a commercial business facility.
Graham: I’m saying non-commercial tinkering.
Ashkahn: Okay, we’re changing the scope here, this person just building a float tank-
Graham: They don’t say, We’re making all kinds of assumptions with this question. I’m just saying I like building people building float tanks.
Ashkahn: If you want to build a float tank in your house, you go for it. More power to you.
Graham: If you want to build a tank and you want to spend years doing research and development because you want to be a manufacturer-
Ashkahn: Yeah, go for it.
Graham: Even that’s going to be world of pain, but go for it, but if you want it build float tanks for your commercial center, which is hat our previous episode was about-
Ashkahn: Don’t go for it.
Graham: No, it’s bad, it’s scary people who do tend to regret it really bad.
Ashkahn: Alright, clearly this person is not going to be deterred, they didn’t listen to us, we have a 20 minutes of us-
Graham: Go back and listen to that one again.
Ashkahn: You’re going to build your own float tank.
Graham: Regardless of what we say or do.
Ashkahn: What should you do to not screw it up as bad as you will screw it up.
Graham: What does it say? What should I look out for when building my room? Good insurance.
Ashkahn: Let’s start with the fact that the whole sanitation systems are complicated. There’s just a lot to know to build one properly, first thing I would look out for is thinking you know enough to do this. This is going to be hard. I would very carefully research all of the sanitation equipment before buying anything, because this stuff usually is a system where the components interact with each other, so if you’re just like, “Cool, I got the pump figured out and I bought by pump”, and you start buying other things, you may realize that in fact, now that you know a little bit more about the other components, you really want a different pump or vice versa.
Really figure out every piece of what you’re trying to get before you start just buying any of it because they’re going to have to work together and make sense as a whole, rather than as individual pieces.
Graham: Also keep in mind that it’s really hard to find good suppliers, even for things like building your tubs in the first place. If you are doing something fiberglass, and you’re going to be making a mould for your different rooms, not only do you have to pay the entire costs for doing that mould, but you need to make sure you found a good fiberglasser, which is really hard to do without having having some experience. We know of several lawsuits that have happened in the float industry over fiberglassing specifically, just because it’s such a hard thing to get right. You really need people who know their stuff, and at the scale that you’re doing, finding huge commercial professional fiberglassers to do it is going to be difficult.
Then you’re talking about researching different materials, which may or may not hold up over time, or doing a short run fiberglass and hoping that things work out okay. That is the next step. Figuring out where you’re going to source your tub or make it or what you’re building it out of.
Ashkahn: I would also say don’t trust pool and spa people. I’ve said this before but if you trying to build a sanitation system, yeah, really, not even us. At least you got that part down. If you’re trying to build a filtration system and you go to someone who builds pools and spas, I’m not sure they’re going to have the right set of knowledge to inform you well enough on what you’d actually want to do for float tanks. There’s just differences. That’s another thing I’d look out for, don’t just buy equipment from the pool and spa world. There’s pieces on there and materials used that will not hold up to the salt water-
Graham: And if you want to hear us rant more about that specifically, we have another great episode on doing your own repairs and things like that for float tanks. It’s kind of like this question, junior, I guess, just not on as a big a scale.
Don’t trust what anyone says, but do your research anyway and find out what as many people say as possible.
Ashkahn: Or buy a filtration system from a manufacturer.
Graham: And buy a tub from a manufacturer.
Ashkahn: Okay, another one that’s really difficult is the control system.
Graham: Now that you have your pumps and your tubs.
Ashkahn: Now that you’ve messed up all this stuff that the hard, big components, now you gotta mess up the little stuff like electronics and stuff. That stuff is really difficult because a lot of it is not just pre-stock stuff. At least with the filtration system, you’re buying equipment and connecting it with pipe, it doesn’t get too much crazier than that. Then you have to build kind of a brain for the system that has to communicate all this stuff, and then the trickiest part is having to control that somehow.
Somehow from your lobby, you have to be able to run your pumps and turn on music and have some ability to run your system-
Graham: I should say, the brain gets insane itself. You need totally silent relays, you need often actually air relays going into the thing, you need to make sure you’re dealing with some serious currents as well. We’re talking about 240 and it’s not the smallest piece of engineering to actually make something that can handle all of that well and kick everything on when it’s supposed to kick on and in some cases actually even scale up the motor of why pump so that it’s coming on not just immediately full force and a bunch of other little things like that.
Ashkahn: And you’re in a wet environment, these control boxes are often sitting right above the filtration system, so-
Graham: Everything also has to be totally-
Ashkahn: Splash proof and make sure all of your electronics are not going to get sprayed with salt water.
Graham: We know this because we’ve done it, by the way, we built two of our own one off float rooms, and it was not a fun experience. The control box stuff was stuff that we did not plan on being so difficult and was some of the hardest stuff to put together.
Ashkahn: We couldn’t do it ourselves, we had to hire a friend of ours who did low volts electrical stuff and it was even hard for him-
Graham: And then we had to call in someone else, like actual electricians to come fix the stuff that he did like a year later.
Ashkahn: And it was hard for them, and then we just got lucky and someone who was floating with us build the software side of control systems and managed to build a little software system for us to run these things. That person could move from Portland at any point in time and I don’t know what we’d do at that point, I’d have to find someone else who knows this extremely specific language of this proprietary automation software to fix or upgrade or deal with anything if any of that system goes down at some point.
Graham: Look for talented floaters around that could help you, but even that’s not good advice-
Ashkahn: Or let’s look for things that’s generic. I would say as you’re designing things, realize that every single thing you’re doing could break and what are you going to do about it? How are you going to replace things?
Graham: It takes time to help you with stuff, that’s something we definitely did not think about immediately when we were first starting up, but … yeah, go on, sorry,
Ashkahn: That’s right, yeah, how you’re going to fix things? How you’re going to fix things if they break five years from now and you’re off on some adventure somewhere, you’re not even in the country anymore, someone else has to fix this problem. How are you going to deal with that? How are you going to be able to access certain sections of the float tank if you need to replace a component you’re putting somewhere. These are definitely good things to think about as you’re designing something.
Graham: Remember one of my programming friends back in college made his own programming language of shorthand of things that he just wanted to inject into things and that worked really smoothly for him, he’s trying to convince his boss to use it, he’s like, “What about when you quit in a year? How is anyone going to understand this?”, he’s like, “Oh, yeah, good point, okay, I’ll use PHP”. It’s so true, anything that you do that’s custom is also not going to be easy to fix.
Ashkahn: I think another really tough one for float tanks is ventilation.
Graham: Another reason you shouldn’t do this, idiot.
Ashkahn: Getting proper ventilation and maintaining good soundproofing are basically feature designs that kind of butt heads with each other, and it’s hard to figure out and it’s hard to figure out until you’ve really built your whole float tank and you hop in there and you go, “No, that’s not quiet enough the all”. It’s just hard to test things. Basically when you’re building your own float tanks, you don’t have a chance to prototype anything. You’re just trying to kind of build something that businesses then run, getting back into trying to convince you to not do this,.
Graham: Yeah, sorry, sorry. Filtration though, serious.
Graham: What did I say? Filtration? Yeah, ventilation. Ventilation. Think about whether it’s going to be passive or active, and know if it’s passive that it’s hard to get just two tiny holes going into the tank to give you proper ventilation. It’s possible, you can get the right kind of convection currents going on but it’s something that you really do need to experiment around with a little bit in order to get totally right, or plan on having some kind of fan that’s exhausting or blowing air in there.
Ashkahn: I think another thing to keep in mind is health department regulations. Check in, make sure you are, if you’re building a float tank, you’re not going to build it and have them be like, “None of this is going to pass”. Often they want just the level of documentation that’s going to be a bunch of work for you to write up the schematics and the manuals and stuff like that that they’re going to be looking for. That’s just work that manufacturers have often already done.
Graham: For sure, legal approval was a really good one to throw in there for things to get for the float room. Actually kind of shocked we didn’t think of that as a first one. Heaters, whether you’re doing inline, under tank heaters, when we built our kind of custom tubs for our float tanks, they’re really oversized. We did seven foot by eight foot, big open rooms, and we used under tank heaters initially and the weight of the float tank just, we think, crushed them and damaged the connections or salt water got in or something happened.
It’s a good lesson that you don’t really know what’s going to happen to a lot of the things you install, and then in the end, we did inline titanium heaters, just so we could have something to heat the tanks that are tearing them totally out. Planning from the beginning for both is probably not bad. If one system gives out then the other one can kick in. In the case of under tank heaters, you don’t know unless you really plan ahead, what that huge weight of water and salt sitting on top of the heaters that you have is actually going to do to the connections.
Ashkahn: Really just lie plan on this tank not functioning all the time for a while, it took us almost a year from when we were like, “We did it, we built our own float tanks”, to the point where they were actually up and running continuously. There was a year of them being up for about a month and then something went wrong to the point where it took us three weeks to get them back up and running again.
Graham: Yeah, and then they’re be up for like two weeks and then down for a week and then … I bet they were down for at least a third of that year.
Ashkahn: Easily, so prepare for that. If you’re building float tanks, do something when you launch your center with them, or have a soft opening for a really long period of time or just mentally and financially prepare for that to be your reality for a little bit until the things actually become stable and get kind of fine tuned.
Graham: I think what happens is that a lot of people see the heavy price tag on float tanks and they say, “I bet that I could design a system that’s both a little more custom and does a little bit more of what I specifically want and also save myself some money on doing this”, and that, in our experience has never been the case. Definitely go into this project in the same way as assuming your tank to be down. Don’t expect it to, in the end, cost less than a manufactured float tank. Both in terms of lost revenue but also just the amount of tinkering and different parts you need to get and dealing with the tubs manufacturers and stuff like that. The prices really add up in a way that you wouldn’t expect if you’re counting your own time and time investment spent on this, then in no ways is this a cheaper prospect than actually purchasing a float tank.
Ashkahn: So to answer your question-
Graham: And good luck. And again, if you are just tinkering a home built tanks, lot of the same lessons apply just without our heavy deterrents as much.
Ashkahn: And things are simpler, you don’t have to have lobby controlled remote system or-
Graham: Yeah, and your filtration, because you can do it over such a long period, all of a sudden, when you’re talking about filtering between clients and it’s six hours that your filtration can run, the demands on that type of filter is just so much less than on a commercial system. Same thing for when it’s just you using it.
Ashkahn: The wear and tear that happens in a tank in your house versus a commercial center is definitely vastly different.
Graham: And that said, your tank will probably go down in the beginning, you’ll still have these issue with different part that click when they shouldn’t and weird ventilation. If you’re the tinkering type, then that’s what you love.
Alright, if you still want to know more about building your own float tank, despite this episode
Ashkahn: Go to floattanksolutions.com/podcast and we’ll tell you too. Bring it on.
Graham: Keep going.
Alright, thank everyone.
Ashkahn: Talk to you tomorrow.
Recent Podcast Episodes
The holidays are a busy time for float centers and it often means lots of new customers asking questions. This means it can be a really great time to brush up on the facts about floating. Fortunately we’ve formed a folio of fantastic studies for you to fancy. Feliz Navidad!
In every service business, there’s a running joke that someone likes that’s usually somehting along the lines of “this job would be great if it weren’t for all the customers!” (*cue laugh track and uproarious applause*), well, the boys have not shied away from talking about the difficult sides of running a shop like ours. We’ve got episodes about handling negative Yelp reviews, customers too intoxicated to float, and even what to do when it’s time to 86 a problematic client.
You can tell this episode was recorded a little while ago, really close to after we all got back from the Conference. The boys are a little tired today, but they still have lots to talk about.
Grashkahmn share their initial reactions to the Conference now that it’s being run by the industry as a non-profit. This is a nice episode especially if you’re looking for some insights on their behind-the-scenes perspective on this big industry event and how it has changed this year.
Something in the world of floating have you stumped? Show Highlights Hooo doggie! This is a big one! This Tank Topic is filled with useful information about what you should know before talking to health...
Graham and Ashkahn are back to give their recap on the Float Conference. No, not THAT Float Conference, the Russian Float Conference.
The guys got to go speak at the float event on the other side of the world and are reporting back on what that was like, how their industry is shaping up, and some of the lessons we can learn about their industry over there.
Additionally, Graham and Ashkahn lied to you. The show notes will not have a puppet show in them.
Latest Blog Posts
As our communities begin reopening amidst this pandemic, float centers are straddling a line between wanting to run floats and making sure they’re keeping their customers and staff safe. The collective social fatigue and stress are palpable, and it’s apparent to many...
In the first episode of Improving Your Float Center from Home: the Bathrobe Chronicles, Ashkahn and Graham covered the special deal that they're running at Float On during their closure. Watch the full episode below:For the deal, they're offering 25% off floats, and...
These are challenging times for all of us, and many float centers (ourselves included) have decided to temporarily shut down to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Our team got together yesterday to figure out what we need to do to put our shop into hibernation mode,...
NOTE: This article was originally published March 13th, 2020, last updated July 14th, 2020. While we want to make sure this advice is current, it is not definitive. We want to recognize the limitations of advice during a pandemic where information is updated by...