Even if you’re steady on your feet, slipping in the tub or shower is a dangerous possibility. And if you struggle with mobility or balance, the combination of water, slick porcelain and stepping over the threshold may just pose too high of a risk.
Accessories like non-slip shower mats and grab bars can improve the situation, but for some, a walk-in bathtub may be the ideal solution. These are fairly common in medical and elder care facilities, but they can also be installed in most bathrooms to make bathing safe and easy in spite of injuries, disabilities and advanced age.
Just Right For You
As the name implies, walk-in bathtubs allow you to walk straight into the tub without stepping over the edge one leg at a time. This is accommodated by a watertight door that opens inward into the tub. A seat built into the tub allows the user to sit comfortably while they bathe and relax.
Because they’re larger and more complex than your standard tub, walk-in tubs can be pricey. They tend to start around $2,000, but the more luxurious models can top $10,000.
Some of the common features that separate low-end and high-end models include bubbling jets, shower wands, sophisticated temperature controls and high-speed drains.
Find Your Perfect Fit
The high price isn’t the only reason why walk-in tubs are high-involvement purchases. Because they’re designed to serve those who need assistance in the bathroom, it’s important to choose a tub that meets the specific needs of the person who will use it.
Some models have very narrow entrances, which can be difficult for some users to navigate. Others have a small ridge at the bottom that must be stepped over -- this is much easier than stepping into an ordinary tub, but it may still be a challenge for those who lack a full range of motion. You should never make a purchase decision without giving the user an opportunity to try out a display model first.
Body type can also be a major factor in making this decision. Since walk-in tubs are designed to be used while sitting, users who are very tall may find that they can’t become submerged enough to create a truly enjoyable bathing experience.
Because you have to enter and exit a walk-in tub through a door in the side, the tub has to be empty whenever you go in and out. That means you have to fill the tub while you’re sitting inside, and you also have to wait for the water to drain completely before you can get out.
Filling the tub can be an uncomfortable prospect if your chosen model lacks its own temperature controls or if your hot water heater leaves something to be desired. It’s important to know both how you’ll get the water temperature just right and how long it will take to fill the tub.
It’s also important to know how long it will take for the tub to drain. Walk-in tubs tend to be much higher capacity than regular bathtubs, so drain time could be substantially longer. Most walk-in tubs are designed with wide-mouth drains to speed this process up, but narrow drain pipes in your home could place a limit on how quickly you can start drying off.
With all these factors in mind, it’s important to start working with a knowledgeable plumbing professional from the very outset if you’re considering a walk-in bathtub. The right plumber can help you save time, maximize your budget and get the job done right the first time!