Interested in a Walk-in Tub?
If you have mobility issues, standard bathtubs can be difficult or impossible to use without help. To maintain your independence and avoid costly in-home carer fees, you might opt to install a walk-in bathtub in your bathroom.
However, choosing the right tub for your needs can be daunting. Read on to find out what the benefits of a walk-in tub are, and what types are available to purchase. We’ve even created a list of some excellent walk-in tub companies and a guide on how to buy the perfect tub for you.
What are Walk-in-Tubs?
Walk-in bathtubs are designed unique due to their built-in doors. These open to allow easy entry and exit rather than having to step over the high wall on a standard tub. Walk-in tubs are designed to be more accessible and comfortable for those with mobility issues. The features include usually non-slip textured flooring and built-in grab bars, allowing you to bathe independently when you might otherwise require help from a carer. However, you’ll need to wait inside the bath while the water fills and empties, as the watertight door seal becomes part of the bath wall once closed.
Types of Walk-in-Tubs
Soaker tubs: The simplest and most affordable type of walk-in tub. These include a door and a seat, submerging you to the waist or neck once filled. The upright seated position helps you to use features such as taps, shower heads, and control panels. This design often looks like a standard bathtub from the outside but is much easier to maneuver with limited mobility.
Wheelchair-accessible tubs: These tubs include a wider door than soaker tubs, allowing for easier transfer from a wheelchair into the bath seat. The door swings outwards and allows you to slide laterally from your chair into the seat, rather than needing to step into the tub and turn around. Grab bars are strategically placed with the wheelchair user in mind.
Bariatric tubs: Usually designed for people who weigh over 300 pounds, although different brands vary. These baths are spacious, with wider seats and doors than standard walk-in tubs. They are often—but not always—wheelchair accessible. They cost more than standard walk-in tubs and require a higher water consumption to fill the larger capacity, so it’s best to try one for size before purchasing.
Hydrotherapy tubs: Whirlpool jets are a common addition to higher-end models of walk-in tubs. These jets are placed strategically to deliver targeted streams of water to areas such as the calves, back, and shoulders. This targeted pressure can promote circulation, decrease pain, and control inflammation. The jets can even be warm to add heat therapy to the treatment.
Aerotherapy tubs: Air jets are another feature of more expensive walk-in tubs. These provide a more diffuse pressure than whirlpool jets, using streams of warm air rather than water. Air jets may relax and invigorate you, giving a gentler whole-body massage that you may prefer over the vigorous hydrotherapy massage.
Who Needs a Walk-in Tub?
Simply put, a walk-in bathtub could benefit you if you have mobility issues that make using a standard tub difficult, uncomfortable, or risky. For example, you may have a disability that requires you to use a wheelchair, making a lateral slide transfer onto a bath seat essential.
If your mobility has reduced with age but you still want to bathe without help, a walk-in tub could give you the confidence to do so. It might also allow you to “age in place,” continuing to lead your daily life in your own home as you grow older.
How Much Do the Best Walk-in Tubs Cost?
Depending on which type of walk-in tub you need and what additional features you want, the price will vary. Ella’s Bubbles offers a compact tub for $3,870, while Kohler states that a specialty tub with accessories could cost over $20,000.
The cost of labor to install your new bath depends on your location, contractor, tub, and bathroom layout. Upscale brands offer a comprehensive walk-in tub installation service for $2,500-$8,000, whereas finding a third-party contractor could cost between $700 and $3,000.
Finally, you’ll need to think about the cost of maintaining your tub. Servicing may be included in your limited lifetime warranty or regular warranty, but if not, you’ll need to pay for specialized cleaning and routine repairs.
How to Pick and Compare the Best Walk-In Tub for You
The first thing you’ll need to decide is which type of walk-in tub you need, according to your specific mobility issues. Then, look for these features to ensure that you get the best product for your budget:
Low walk-in threshold height: All walk-in tubs have a lower step-in height than a standard tub, but the height of individual models can vary from three to seven inches. For maximum ease of use, look for a low threshold of around three inches. However, if you can manage a slightly higher step then you will have a larger choice of products.
Quick drainage: You’ll need to sit inside the bath while it’s emptying because the door seals to form part of the tub wall. To avoid catching a chill from waiting around in a cool bathroom, look for a tub that drains quickly. Tubs may use two drains or a mechanically assisted drain to make your waiting time as short as possible.
Hand-held shower heads: Without a shower attachment, you may need to submerge your head or use a bowl to wash your hair. This isn’t practical for everyone, so this addition could make washing your upper body easier. A shower attachment also provides a way of quickly washing without needing to fill up the bath.
Make sure the tub fits: The last thing you want is to invest in a new tub, only to find that it doesn’t fit you or your bathroom. If you weigh over 300 pounds or are very tall, you should look into buying a larger tub that will be comfortable for you. Your dealer may check your bathroom dimensions before selling you a tub, but if not, you should check this thoroughly yourself.
Make sure your hot water tank is big enough: The capacity of each walk-in bath model should be provided by the dealer or website. Check that your water heater tank can provide enough water to fill your tub, especially if you’re interested in a bariatric or two-seater tub. If you’re committed to a particular model but your water tank isn’t big enough, you may need to replace your tank.
Compare the Best Walk-in-Tubs
If you have mobility issues and can afford to have a walk-in bathtub installed in your bathroom, this may increase your quality of life by helping you to live independently. Make sure that you research tub designs, dealers, and contractors thoroughly, though, before making this investment. Bear in mind that there are large variations in the price, features, and quality of each product and service. The best walk-in tubs provide high-quality safety features, no-hassle installation services, and warranties for peace of mind.