Nov 052010
 

When people are looking for shower seats they sometimes get confused because they read about fold down shower seats and folding shower seats. Don’t be fooled. These two types of seats are quite different.

  • The fold down seat is really a hinged shower seat, also called a retractable shower chair.
  • The folding seat is really a type of freestanding seat.

Here’s more about the two different types of shower seats.

The Fold Down or Hinged Shower Seat

If you’re short on space in your shower, but still want a place to sit while in the shower, the fold down or retractable shower seat may be your best choice. As I said, yet another name for this type seat is the hinged shower chair. That’s because this type of seat is attached to the shower wall, usually with some type of hinge.

Benefit: Less space

Because of the way it’s attached, the seat can then be lifted up or down and locked into place when you want to use it. When not being used, you again fold the chair down or up. That means that when not in use the seat will lie flat against the wall, taking up little shower space.

Benefit: Convenience

This type shower seat is very convenient because it stays in the shower where it’s handy for anyone who needs to use it. But if someone taking a shower doesn’t need it, the seat is out of the way. For more information about the overall benefits of shower seats, read What Are the Benefits of Shower Seats?

Attachment of the Seat

Since people are going to sit on this type shower seat, how it is attached to the shower enclosure is important. These chairs should NOT be attached to a shower wall enclosure that is only a hollow type surface such as drywall, fiberglass, acrylic, or sheetrock.

These seats need to be attached to a reinforced backing such as wood or steel that is behind the shower enclosure wall. The mounting or anchoring bolts or screws should be appropriate for the type of backing they are being attached to. If you are not comfortable doing this type of construction, consult a plumbing professional.

As an option, some fold down shower seats are sold with legs. The legs will provide added support to the person sitting in the chair and fold up with the chair. Some of these legs are also adjustable so the seat can be used by people of different heights. Adjusting the legs also means this type of seat can handle shower floors that slope downward toward the drain in the middle.

Hinged Shower Seat Features

Here are some of the key features you should consider when buying a new hinged shower seat.

Weight capacity: Assuming it’s attached correctly, a typical seat can hold about 250 pounds (113 KG). With legs, seats can hold more weight, such as 400 pounds (181 KG). Always check the weight capacity of any fold down shower seat you buy to be sure no one will get hurt while sitting in it.

Seat size: Seats come in different lengths and widths, so be sure to find one that will fit the bottom that’s going to be in it. A typical length is 18 inches (45 cm), while a typical width can be from 16 to 18 inches (40 to 45 Cm).

Because of the way they are attached to the shower enclosure, these seats can also be found that run the length of the shower wall, providing added space for storage.

Seat material: You will have many different options when it comes to the material you choose for your retractable shower chair.

Teak is a stylish and popular option. It’s a brownish wood that is strong and resistant to moisture. It typically costs more than any of the other seat material options.

Rubberwood, also called parawood, is a lighter color than teak, but can be stained. It is also water resistant and less expensive than teak. If you want the look and feel of wood, but want something that is ecologically friendly, you may want to consider rubberwood.

Both teak and rubberwood seats usually have slats in them to let the water drain through.

Phenolic is a water resistant plastic often used in hospital fold down shower seats. It is a hard and strong material. It will also have slats to allow water to drain through.

Some manufacturers offer phenolic seats with padding for greater comfort while sitting.

Hardware: There are also many options for the mounting bracket and hinge materials used for these chairs. In addition to stainless steel, chrome, brass, and brushed nickel are often available options.

With the combination of hardware and seat material you can be sure the fold down seat fits in with the décor of your shower and bathroom.

Be sure the hardware you use has no rough edges so it will not cut anyone using the shower seat. Also, some hinged seats come with covers for the metal hardware.

Other options:

Some retractable seats are sold with backs and arms. A chair with a back offers greater support to the person using the chair. Arms allow people to sit more comfortably. These are especially useful when this type chair is being used by a physically challenged person who requires caregiver help when taking a shower. Others are sold with legs for added support.

Commode type chairs with U-shaped cutouts are also available for handicapped people who need the additional convenience.

Fold Down Seat Summary

The retractable shower seat is a great solution for a small shower that needs a shower seat. Choose the features you need before buying. When installing, be sure all the hardware is attached securely so the seat can be used without any worries.

Now let’s consider the folding shower seat.

Folding Shower Seat

The folding shower seat is meant to be used in the shower, then folded up and stored outside the shower. This means that when the folding chair isn’t being used it doesn’t take up any space within the shower.

Benefit: Portability

The primary benefit of the folding shower seat is that it is portable. If you want to use the seat in a different shower, or take it with you on a trip, you simply fold it up and carry it with you.

This type of folding chair is a one piece unit available in various materials and a choice of features. The most common features include the following.

Seat material

Teak: At the higher cost end are folding shower chairs made of solid teak wood. Teak is a brownish wood that is water resistant because of its natural oil content. The brown teak will turn to a more silver color over time. This is a natural process but does not mean the teak needs to be replaced.

Because of its styling and water resistance this type folding chair will look good and works well in both indoor and outdoor showers.

Plastic: Molded plastic (PVC) is the most common material used for folding shower seats. Some seats are smooth while others are textured. Drain holes are built in to allow the shower water to drain through. These seats are usually molded in a slightly curved shape so it is more comfortable for your bottom. The plastic used is usually quite durable and will provide good support when you’re sitting on chairs made of this material.

Available options include handles on the sides for easy lifting, as well as back supports and arm rests. Some even come with a holder if you intend to use a hand held showerhead.

Mesh: Mesh folding shower chairs are often the lightest weight folding shower chair and fold to a smaller size than the plastic type chairs. Mesh resists mold and mildew and is a quick drying material.

Construction

The teak folding shower chairs are usually all one piece made of only teak.

The plastic and mesh chairs are constructed with a stainless steel or anodized aluminum frame and legs for strength. This material is corrosion proof so will not rust. Some chairs offer legs that are adjustable for people of different heights. And some legs will include rubber tips to help prevent the chair from slipping in the shower.

Other considerations:

Since it is meant to be portable, you will want to consider the weight of the folding chair. Typical weights are from 6 to 8 pounds (2.7 to 3.6 Kg), while mesh seats often weigh less.

When choosing a folding shower chair you need to consider the weight of the people who will be using the chairs. Typical chairs hold up to 250 pounds (113 Kg). If you want to hold heavier weights, you will need to find special bariatric shower chairs.

Also look into the seat length and width to be sure it will be comfortable for the user.

Finally, be sure that when opened, the chair will leave you enough space to stand up and walk into the shower and sit comfortably.

For more information, read The Benefits and Features of Shower Seats.

  2 Responses to “The Difference Between a Fold Down Shower Seat and a Folding Shower Seat”

  1. I am an occupational therapist who has a patient that needs a fold down or hinged shower seat due to the uneven flooring in his shower. Can you please provide me some more information about these (price, who can build/install them, etc). He lives in Louisville, KY if that is helpful. I need to know by Thursday, 7/17/14.

    Thank you!

  2. Hi Sarah,
    Thank you for your question. However, I don’t provide individual recommendations for installation. I can tell you that on Amazon, fold down shower seats are priced from a $50 low end to around $300 for teak with many options in between. The size and material dictate the price. Installation should be done by a professional as these seats must be built solidly into the shower wall. I am not familiar with the Louisville area, but you should be able to find a local plumbing contractor that builds custom showers and installs shower benches and built-in folding shower seats. Since the seat has to be attached to the studs behind the shower wall, please look for a contractor who has experience with this type of work.
    Good luck!

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