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The Benefits of a Walk-in Bathtub

Posted by: maura | September 21, 2018

by Shelley Webb, Senior Products Contributing Editor, ConsumerAffairs

Walk-in bathtubs come equipped with safety features for people with limited mobility. Therapeutic features vary, but generally, all walk-in tubs have the same safety features including a low step-in threshold, watertight entrance door, built-in seating and anti-slip floors.

Visiting a showroom to do a side-by-side comparison isn’t always an option, see our top three picks and use our guide to read reviews about the most popular walk-in tub providers.

Walk-in tubs are designed with an air-tight entrance door and low step-in threshold. This makes it easier for seniors or anyone with limited mobility to step directly into the tub rather than stepping over the side. Walk-in tubs feature chair-level seats so you don’t have to worry about getting up and down from the base of the tub. To bathe, you simply walk in and sit down.

How much water does it take to fill a walk-in tub?

A standard size walk-in tub uses about 50-55 gallons, which is comparable to the amount of water used in an average shower. Smaller designs may take as little as 40 gallons, while bariatric models average 100 gallons and double-seated tubs take about 120 gallons. You may need to get a larger water heater depending on your current water heater size and size of walk-in tub you choose.

How long does it take for a walk-in tub drain?

Fill and drain times can depend on several factors, including the size of the tub, your water pressure and the age and quality of the plumbing. A standard size walk-in tub may range from 6–15 minutes to fill or drain. Those with a quick fill and quick drain feature can fill or drain in as little as 1.5–4 minutes.

You might be concerned about getting chilly while waiting for the tub to fill or drain, but there are several ways to prevent this. Choose a model with fast fill and drain technologies that work quickly to prevent you from getting cold. Using a heat lamp above the seating area, or choosing a model with heated seating can also keep you comfortable. Since most walk-in tubs come with a hand shower, you can also use that to keep warm while the tub drains.

How do you clean a walk-in tub?

Cleaning a walk-in tub isn’t very different from cleaning a traditional tub. In fact, it might even be easier, since a lot of walk-in tubs come with a built-in cleaning or sanitizing system, like an Ozone generator or UV sterilizer.

Here are some tips to keep your walk-in bathtub clean:

Wipe with a towel after every use.
Keep your window open for an hour after you use your tub to let the humidity out of the room.
Use a mild dishwashing detergent and water once a week.
Clean your drain with a mixture of vinegar and baking soda once a week.

Walk-in tub features:
 
Standard features
Walk-in bathtubs are similar to traditional tubs: they take up the same space as a regular bathtub and can often be installed in one day. However, walk-in tubs have many additional features that set them apart.

Low step-up: The step-up is the height of the threshold that leads to the tub. Walk-in tubs have a much lower step-up than traditional bathtubs, which makes them ideal for people who have limited mobility. The most common step-up height is 4 to 7 inches, though some models have step-ups as low as 2.5 inches for even easier access.

Hand-held shower head: Most walk-in bathtubs feature handheld showerheads to make bathing easier for those with trouble standing. This shower head is usually located at the front of the tub along with the faucets, but some companies offer the option of adding a raised shower head with an adjustable rod.

Extra depth: Water in walk-in bathtubs is about 2.5 feet deep compared to just over 1 foot in a standard bathtub. This added depth provides owners with a spa-like relaxing soak.

Walk-in tub sizes: Generally speaking, walk-in tubs take up the same space as a regular bathtub. Dimensions average in height between 37 and 47 inches; width and length vary widely among models and providers. Generally, the tub's width is 28 to 32 inches, and its length generally caps off at 60 inches. There are optional trim kits available to ensure that the tub fits in the space correctly, and some manufacturers offer compact walk-in tubs specifically designed for smaller spaces.

Safety features
The most common reason people purchase walk-in bathtubs is that these tubs are safer than standard tubs. High walls, non-slip floors, seats and grab bars make using the tub safer for people with mobility problems.

Built-in shower seat: Walk-in tubs contain shower seats that are around 17 inches high. These seats are covered with a textured surface to prevent slipping off the seat, allowing for safer bathing. Rising from a seat is much easier than from a standard tub floor.

Textured floor: Nearly all models include a textured floor surface to prevent slipping. A textured floor is a must if you’re buying a walk-in tub for someone with mobility trouble.

Grab bars: Most tubs are equipped with at least two grab bars. You should consider the placement of these bars and install them where they will get the most use. In some cases, the grab bars are an optional item and should be purchased if the user has a disability that would benefit from the additional support and safety feature grab bars provide.

Anti-scald valve: The anti-scald valve compensates for sudden pressure changes in both cold and hot water lines to keep your water temperature from sudden changes. Because quick spikes or falls in temperature can cause the user to jump and injure themselves, anti-scald valves are standard safety features in walk-in bathtubs.
In-line heater: Only found in hydrotherapy tubs, the in-line heater helps to keep the water at a constant warm temperature when the jets are in use. An in-line heater will prevent the water from cooling too quickly which could cause discomfort.

Custom features
There are many additional features available for walk-in tubs. Know what is included in the model you choose before it is delivered to make sure you do not overpay for extra parts.

Hand-held shower location options: Most tubs have a hand-held shower head located in a slot along with the faucets, but an ADA compliant sidebar with hand shower holder is available. This sidebar grants easier access to the showerhead while seated.

Lower-entry step up: Most tubs feature a 4- to 7-inch step-up but some companies offer a 2-inch step-up for users who can’t clear the average height.

Tub extender: Many tubs do not correctly fit into the space allotted for them in the standard bathroom. Therefore, extensions are available to eliminate gaps between the tub and the wall. These extensions can be used as shelves to store soap, shampoo or other bath materials. Extenders may require you to move the shower curtain to make sure it covers the entire tub and prevents water from pooling onto the floor.

Neck rest: Some seats can be outfitted with a neck rest in case you need more neck support than the standard seat provides.

Wall surround: An acrylic wall surround can be added to your tub in case you want to build a taller shower. These surrounds often have shelf space and protect the walls from water damage.

Tile flange for acrylic models: The tile flange is a raised area around the edge of the tub deck between the wall and tile that creates a seal to prevent leaking. Tile flanges also give your tub a more modern, organic look that makes it integrate with your bathroom more smoothly.

What are the types of walk-in bathtubs?

Bathroom with walk-in bathtub:
People with limited mobility can benefit greatly from the easy access of a walk-in bathtub. Elderly individuals may want to look into switching to a walk-in tub for the added safety and therapeutic features available in the different types of walk-in tubs.

Soaker tub:
A walk-in soaker tub is a basic model and does not have any air or water jets. It includes a leak-proof door, a seat and a low-entry step-up. Most tubs also include grab bars and anti-slip floors and seats.

Aerotherapy tub:
Aerotherapy tubs are soaker tubs outfitted with air jets for water circulation. These tubs are designed to provide a therapeutic massage experience.

Hydrotherapy tub:
Hydrotherapy tubs are soaker tubs that include water jets for water circulation, often providing a more intense massage than aerotherapy tubs. Hydrotherapy tubs usually include air jets as well.

Combination walk-in bathtub:
Combination aerotherapy/hydrotherapy tubs have both air and water jets. These tubs include the features of standard soaker tubs, and they can be further customized with LED lights for chromatherapy and essential oil infusions for aromatherapy.

Wheelchair-accessible tub:
The wheelchair-accessible tub has an outward facing door and allows for easier transfer from the wheelchair into the bathtub. The tub seat is generally lower in height than standard tub seats.

Bariatric tub:
Bariatric tubs are specifically made with obese individuals in mind. They are walk-in tubs that are larger than standard models.

How to buy a walk-in tub

Determine your budget: Walk-in bathtub costs can range in price from $1,500–$20,000 depending on the features chosen and the installation costs. Walk-in bathtubs are an investment, so you will want to take all the necessary steps to make sure you have the tub you need. From basic research to installation, most companies are eager to help you find the right fit.

Schedule an in-home consultation: Most providers offer a complimentary home visit to help you assess your needs. This will include measuring your space to get the correct tub dimensions and talking about what features you need.

Customize your order: After your consultation, you’ll know what dimensions and options will fit best in your space.

Choose your walk-in tub warranty package: Walk-in bathtubs are usually protected by a warranty on the entire package or on individual parts and pieces. It’s important to know what warranties are offered and on which features in case you have problems with your tub or its components.

Have your new walk-in tub professionally installed: Although many of the tub manufacturers provide installation as an option, some state that installation can easily be performed by any plumber. In this case, you want to be sure your plumber is familiar with the tub and piping to be installed.

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