Do walk-in tubs leak?

They should be watertight, but it can happen

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walk-in bathtub with glass enclosure

If you or a loved one have difficulty with mobility or balance, it may be challenging to get in and out of a traditional tub. Walk-in tubs can make bathing safer because you don’t have to lift your leg up high to enter or exit, lessening the chance of falls. Instead, you enter and exit the tub using a door.

But because walk-in tubs have a door, you might wonder if they can leak water. While walk-in tubs might leak, overall, they’re supposed to be watertight — as long as they’re functioning correctly. When properly maintained, your tub should be able to withstand plenty of baths without leaking.

We’ll walk you through some reasons walk-in tubs might leak, how you can fix them and tips to prevent water concerns before they happen.

Key insights

While walk-in tubs are designed to be watertight, leaks can occur due to installation errors, improper maintenance or normal wear and tear.

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Hiring a qualified professional to install the walk-in tub is crucial to minimizing the risk of leaks.

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Minor leaks might be fixable by tightening plumbing connections, but more complex issues might require professional assistance from a plumber.

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Regular cleaning and inspection of the door seal and other components can help prevent leaks and ensure the tub's longevity.

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How do walk-in tubs work?

Walk-in tubs have a door with the bottom lip (or threshold) only a few inches high, so you don’t have to step over a large ledge to get in. There’s a seat and (usually) grab bars on the side for extra support. Most tubs are made from acrylic or fiberglass. Acrylic material, while more costly, is usually the most durable option.

There’s a watertight barrier once the door is closed, with rubber gaskets or seals to prevent leaking. The walls of the tub are designed to be watertight as well; they are reinforced for added durability. The tubs also can feature an overflow drain to stop your tub from overflowing with water.

Draining the tub can take up to 15 minutes. During this time, you’ll need to wait to open the door before getting out of the tub, and some tub doors even prevent you from opening the door while the tub is draining. Some drain quickly, in about two minutes, so the bather isn’t left to chill as the water drains and their body faces the lower temperature of the air. Another important feature in some tubs is the anti-scald valve, designed so the water can’t exceed a maximum temperature that is safe for bathing.

Why would a walk-in tub leak?

While walk-in tubs aren’t supposed to leak, that doesn’t mean they never can. There are some instances where leaking happens, including the following:

Mistakes in installation

Leaking can happen when walk-in tubs are installed incorrectly. The door may not be aligned or the seals may not be working. Getting your tub installed by a professional can maximize the likelihood of your tub’s watertightness.

Improper maintenance

As with many home modifications, you’ll have to do regular maintenance on your walk-in tub to keep it functioning as it should (although experts say the amount of maintenance required is generally low). If you aren’t keeping up with cleaning and inspecting it regularly, you could miss opportunities for quick repairs.

It’s especially important to have a preventive mindset. The earlier you discover leaking, the more quickly you can address the problem. Jamin Katzer, a senior construction manager with Earth Saving Solutions, a general contractor based in Denver, Colorado, suggests keeping an eye on the door seal to make sure it’s operating correctly. Most people have a shower door they have to periodically check as well, he said, so “it’s not really a huge jump on maintenance” to have a walk-in tub.

Normal everyday use

Your walk-in tub is going to have normal wear and tear with regular use. Be careful: Harsh cleaning chemicals could cause the material to break down.

How to fix a leak

When a leak happens, you have a few options:

  • Fixing a leak yourself: Leaks can happen if the plumbing connections are damaged. You may be able to fix the leak yourself by tightening and securing the connections.
  • Calling a professional: If your home repairs aren’t working, or the leaking is getting worse, it might be time to call a licensed plumber to fix the issue.

Preventing walk-in tub leaks

Qualified installers know how to install these specialized tubs, which saves you money down the road. If the company you go with doesn’t offer installation services, call a bathroom remodeling contractor to come out.

Clean your tub regularly by wiping it down, including the walls and fixtures, to remove soap and residue. You can also use the shower wand to spray it down after use. Look at the seals for signs of a breakdown and address any leaks right away so they don’t become bigger problems. Have a professional come out to make repairs if necessary.

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Bottom line

Walk-in tubs can be a good option for those who have concerns about getting in and out of a traditional tub or bathing safely. They’re made to be watertight, but leaks can happen if you don’t properly care for your tub. With regular maintenance, your tub can last for years.

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