Jan 142010
 

Unlike a standard bathtub, walk-in tubs come with a host of choices. Here’s the key information you should think about before buying a walk-in tub. Let’s look at:

  • Benefits
  • Features and Options
  • Sizes
  • Construction
  • Cost

Benefits

A walk-in tub, or safety tub, is simply a bathtub with a door that allows you to walk into the tub without having to climb over the typical standard bathtub rim of 14 to 18 inches (35 to 46 cm). Walking into your tub gives you both safety and convenience.

Safety: Bathroom floors can be slippery. Additionally, lifting your leg to get over a bathtub rim makes you less stable. What’s more, you may have a disability, a temporary or permanent handicap, or be weak because of an injury, illness, or old age. For all of these reasons, getting in and out of a standard tub can lead to slips, falls, and trips to the hospital. Walk in tubs can allow you to once again bathe safely.

Convenience: Once in the deep walk-in tub, you sit comfortably and can easily reach the tub controls. What’s more, a host of options, including slip-resistant floors, grab bars, and massage therapy can make your bathing a thoroughly enjoyable experience. This is why even people who are not handicapped consider this high-end addition to their bathroom.

Available walk-in tub features and options

Walk in tubs range in price because of the features and options people include in them.

Step in Height: An important feature to consider is how high you have to step to get into your walk-in bathtub. With some walk-in tubs you will have to step up 7 or 8 inches (18 to 20 cm), about half the height of a standard tub. Most walk-in tubs offer lower step-in heights, ranging from about 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 cm).

Door seal: Some walk-in tub doors open inward and some open outward. Regardless, when the door is closed there should be a tight seal once the water is in the tub. The seal holds the water in the tub and prevents leaks. When buying a walk-in tub, be sure you ask the company for a long-term or lifetime guarantee on their door seal.

Tub seat: Your seat inside the tub should be contoured to fit to your body so you can sit comfortably when taking your bath. Different people prefer different amounts of water covering their body while they are in the bath. So be sure the height of the seat is right for your height and bathing comfort. Also remember that if your walk-in tub doesn’t have a seat, you can use a shower seat to sit in the tub.

Tub flooring: The floor of the tub should be a non-slip or slip-resistant surface. That is, it should be treated to help prevent you from slipping if you have to stand up or move around in the tub.

Quick-drain: Some manufacturers offer an option that allows your tub to drain quickly. This option can drain the tub as much as 8 times faster than a normal drain. The benefit is that you can get out of the tub quicker.

Grab Bars: A grab bar attached to the tub wall can help you maintain your balance not only when you are in the tub, but while you are getting in and out of the tub. When the bar is being installed, be sure it is customized to your height. You can read Shower Grab Bars if you want more information.

Massage therapy: A typical walk-in tub option is whirlpool/jacuzzi jets. A motor forces water through these jets, thus providing a brisk massage to the areas of your body in front of the jets. This massaging action can help relieve the stresses in your body and provide a more relaxing bath.

Fixtures: Fixtures in a walk-in tub should be easy to reach and use when you are seated. Some companies will include a shower head you can use in the tub. These will typically be handheld and have a flexible hose so you can control where the water goes on your body.

A walk in tub can offer improved safety and convenience when you bathe. And adding various features and options will let you customize your bathing experience.

But there are other considerations when purchasing a walk in or safety bathtub.

Walk-in tub Sizes

A standard bathtub is usually around 60 inches (152 cm) long and 30 or 32 inches (76 to 81 cm) wide with a height of about 14 to 18 inches. The biggest difference with a walk in tub is its height. Typical walk in tubs range from between 36 and 47 inches (91 to 119 cm), although some are available that are only 20 inches (51 cm) high. The additional depth means you can be fully surrounded by water when you sit in the tub.

Walk-in tubs can vary in overall size. The most common tubs can fit into a standard tub space. That is, they will be 60 X 32 inches. Of course, they will usually be higher than the standard tub. This size is best for larger people as it will have the largest door and most room to move around in. It will provide you with a deep, immersive bath.

Other size walk-in tubs range in length, going down to about 36 inches (91 cm) long. These are good for smaller bathrooms or converting some other bathroom space.

The shorter sizes will usually come with some sort of kit intended to fill the space between the end of the tub and the bathroom wall. This extra space can be used as a shelf for bathing needs such as shampoo.

Walk-in tub Construction Materials

Walk in tubs are most often built of either acrylic or fiberglass.

Acrylic is formed as a continuous waterproof membrane. Because it is a solid surface it is highly durable and germ and stain resistant. Acrylic surfaces also tend to retain their color since the color is all the way through the material, not just on the surface. To provide added stability, manufacturers usually reinforce the acrylic with fiberglass.

Fiberglass is a polyester resin that is reinforced with fine glass particles. The fiberglass is then covered with a gelcoat. Gelcoat is a material of modified resins that provide the fiberglass with a high-quality finish. Fiberglass is lighter than acrylic, which can make a fiberglass walk-in tub easier to install. It also typically costs less than an acrylic walk-in tub. However, fiberglass is more porous than acrylic meaning, over time, it is more susceptible to mold and mildew that get into its pores.

Walk in tub Cost

Walk in tub prices can range from US$3000 to $15,000. The size, features, options, and materials will all impact the cost. For example, larger size walk in tubs use more materials so will cost more.

Acrylic construction will typically cost more than fiberglass. Some manufacturers will include safety features such as grab bars and non-slip flooring in their price. Others will charge extra for these items. An option such as a whirlpool or massage jet system usually needs a separate motor and pump, which will raise the cost of the tub.

And when considering pricing, don’t forget the cost of installation. A basic installation would consist of removing your old tub and installing the new tub, needed extensions, and putting in any new piping, motors, or pumps required. This can take from 1 to 2 days of labor.

Summary

Yes, walk-in tubs are pricey. But for people with physical disabilities they may be more than a luxury – they may be the only way they can safely enjoy taking a bath. And for others who long for a deep soaking and relaxing bathing experience a walk-in tub may be a necessity.