Steelcore: “If you love it, lock it!”

Steelcore straps bring added security to hot tub covers

The best inventions are created out of necessity. The original owner of Steelcore, Inc., a surfer, was tired of seeing his friends’ boards get stolen. About eight years ago, he created lockable, cut-resistant straps. Since then, this easy-to-use product has aided an array of industries, the most recent being hot tubs.

Lenny Kuszmaul, Steelcore’s secretary and co-owner, was friends with the original owner since high school and got in at the beginning. A few years later, current president and co-owner Mitch Gadsby joined the team, but soon realized he wanted to be more involved, and he and Kuszmaul bought out the original owner. The company continued to grow, with the recent purchase of two buildings in Denison, Texas, to expand warehousing and manufacturing capabilities.

Surf boards, bicycles, camping, RV, marine — all of these industries use Steelcore straps. The company’s motto is “If you love it, lock it!” The move into the hot tub industry seemed an obvious transition to Gadsby. “The plastic locks that come standard on most covers currently are very easy to open, even if they come with a keyed plastic lock,” he says. “They break off quickly or simply fall apart due to UV degradation. They really offer no safety for unauthorized access or even wind protection, for that matter.” Steelcore straps, he says, solve this problem.

Olympic Hot Tub, in the greater Seattle area, started carrying the Steelcore straps this past summer. “The straps span the two halves of the hot tub cover and secure it to the sides with locking buckles,” says Don Riling, vice president of Olympic. “Once the buckles are locked down, they cannot be loosened by someone other than the hot tub owner. Steel cables are embedded in the mesh straps to prevent someone from simply cutting them easily to gain tub access.”

The need for Steelcore straps varies by hot tub owner, Gadsby says. Families with young children need them for added safety. Some customers have hot tubs at a second home or rental property and are frustrated at the amount of “poaching,” unauthorized use of their hot tubs. Gadsby has even seen homeowners’ associations require Steelcore straps for a homeowner to be granted installation approval. Riling adds that the straps keep animals, like raccoons, from lifting the cover to get at the water, and keep the cover from blowing off during a storm.

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Gadsby also says many rental-property owners charge an additional fee to use hot tubs on the properties because of maintenance costs. “Renters know they can remove the hot tub covers easily, with little to no evidence of it ever being used, so they do not pay,” he says. “However, when one rental agency installed our straps, they said it was amazing how many people came back to reception saying they had changed their mind and wanted to pay to use the hot tub. Our straps paid for themselves in no time!”

Scott Bell, finance manager for Mainely Tubs in Scarborough, Maine, recommends retailers offer the Steelcore straps as an easy upsell at the time of hot tub purchase. “Service technicians should also keep a set of straps in their truck so they can offer it to customers in the field when appropriate,” he adds, “and installing a set on a reconditioned hot tub is great for a quick demonstration.”

The straps are safe for most every hot tub cover on the market, “as long as the siding of the hot tub can handle the mounting hardware,” Bell says. Overtightening, he says, can over time leave slight indentations on the edges of some softer covers over time. The company offers edge protectors that help spread the force by increasing the footprint across the corners of the hot tub cover to reduce this cosmetic issue, Gadsby says.

Selling Steelcore straps to hot tub customers also invites the possibility they’ll buy extras for other uses. The company offers several proprietary models. Some customers use them to secure patio furniture, others to lock kayaks to vehicle roofs. One of its models is used to secure safes in the back of police cars and other government-agency vehicles. “We are surprised all the time by the inventive things customers come up with,” Gadsby says. “An example that springs to mind was a coffin — I’m not kidding. But that’s a story for another day.”