A walk-in tub makes bathtime safer for people with mobility issues. The extra safety features are often worth it, but it’s still a pretty significant investment for most people. Before you make a purchase, you want to feel confident with your decision and in the company you’re working with. Here are some questions to keep in mind as you compare your options and talk to different companies.
- How is the tub installed?
- Walk-in tubs are installed using one of four styles of installation: corner, back-to-wall, side-to-wall and freestanding. Corner installations are used when replacing an existing tub or shower with a walk-in tub.
Back-to-wall installations are for smaller tubs. These are done when putting in a walk-in tub in addition to an existing shower or tub. Side-to-wall installations are performed when a walk-in tub is installed in a new space between walls or in a decorative paneled area. Lastly, freestanding installation is when the entire existing tub or shower is removed and a much larger, spacious walk-in tub is placed. This is usually to add space for improved mobility or when a medical walk-in tub is being installed to provide caregivers with increased access.
Installing a walk-in tub can be complex or simple — it often depends on the tub you choose. Some models of walk-in tubs can easily be placed in the same area as your traditional tub. Very few modifications are necessary when installing these types of walk-in tubs.
If you're upgrading to a tub that's larger in capacity or size, the bathroom may need to undergo extensive remodeling. You might need to remove floor tiles, modify walls or update plumbing and electric systems to accommodate the new tub.
- What are the measurements of the tub?
- Measurements vary depending upon the model of tub. It’s essential to know both the measurements for the inside and outside of the tub. Some important measurements to consider include the width of the tub, size of the door, height of the seat and water depth above the seat when filled. You should also ask how much water is needed to fill the tub. Walk-in tubs can be installed in small areas — for instance, you can install a walk-in tub in a mobile home if it fits through the front door.
- Will the walk-in tub fit into the existing space where the current tub is located?
- Placing a walk-in tub where an old, traditional tub was located isn’t difficult because models come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. If a specific tub doesn’t fit exactly into the space where the current tub is placed, an extension panel can be used to cover any gaps or spaces that are left over.
- Will you have to remove any portion of the walls or floor to install the tub?
- It is not unusual to have to make modifications to the flooring when getting a walk-in tub. Walk-in tubs often sit lower in the ground to create a threshold that is easier to step over. Existing flooring may need to be removed to place the new tub. Once installed, new flooring may need to be placed to cover any holes or gaps.
The design of your current bathroom and the size and shape of the walk-in tub will determine if any portion of the floor or wall will need to be removed.
Additional subflooring support may need to be added. Walk-in tubs are heavier than traditional tubs. If the current subfloor cannot support the weight of the new tub, you might need to include additional support as part of the installation and remodeling process.
- What size water heater do you need?
- To get the full therapeutic benefit of a walk-in tub, you need to be able to fill it at least two-thirds full with hot water. The water heater in your home must be able to provide enough heated water to fill the tub.
The size of your walk-in tub determines how many gallons of hot water you will need, and your water heater should be at least two-thirds the size of your bath. For example, if your walk-in tub holds 75 gallons, you’d want at least a 50-gallon water heater.
If you don’t want to use all your available hot water when bathing, make sure that the water heater holds more than you need to fill the bath. Adding an extra 10 gallons to the minimum size of your water heater for your tub will provide enough hot water to wash your hands or wash dishes in other parts of the house while the walk-in tub is in use.
- How much does the tub cost to install?
- Walk-in tub installation costs vary greatly and depend on the size of bathroom, wall type, plumbing and other factors. Many companies include installation costs in their quotes because installation must be performed by authorized installers to keep the warranty valid. Some companies charge separately for installation, and others sell tubs that you can install yourself or hire a third-party installation service to install.
For more, read about how much walk-in tubs cost.
- How long does it take to get the tub?
- Typically, it takes only a day or two to install the tub. However, timelines vary for how long it takes to remove the existing tub. If you want additional features or upgrades, this could contribute to overall shipping and delivery times.
Doors and handles
- Can I get a right- or left-handed door on the tub?
- The door on a walk-in tub can open either to the left or the right. Personal preference, mobility issues and the design of your bathroom will determine whether a right- or left-handed door is better for your tub.
- Which way does the door open — inwards or outwards?
- Doors on a walk-in tub can open either inwards or outwards. Most brands and models will come with an inward-swinging door.
Inward-swinging doors are the most common because they create the best watertight seal. When the tub is filled with water, the pressure helps to keep the door firmly shut. Outward-swinging doors don’t take up space inside the tub, which makes them ideal for individuals who have limited mobility or those who need to safely transfer from a wheelchair.
- How wide is the door?
- The size of a tub’s door varies based on the make, model and company. Before choosing a walk-in tub, make sure that the door can be safely opened and closed. You want to be sure that the door won’t hit any walls or bathroom fixtures. If you use a wheelchair or other medical assistance device, be sure you can get close enough to the tub to safely transfer to the seat.
- What is the step threshold?
- The threshold is the small section below the door. To safely enter and exit the walk-in tub without fear of losing your balance, tripping or falling, you need to be able to easily lift your leg over the threshold. The lower the threshold, the safer it is for you to enter and exit the bath.
All walk-in tubs, regardless of the manufacturer, have a low threshold. The exact measurement of the threshold will vary depending upon the make, model and manufacturer of your walk-in tub. However, the threshold will rarely be higher than 7 inches or lower than 3 inches.
Safety and comfort features
- How long does the tub take to fill and drain?
- Depending on the brand, it typically takes anywhere from six to 15 minutes to fill a walk-in tub. Models with fast-fill plumbing can fill in six to eight minutes, but tubs without additional plumbing or drains can take more than 15 minutes to fill or drain.
Some of the best quick-drain models drain in a little under a minute. These can be more comfortable because they reduce the amount of time you have to sit in the tub before the water gets hot. If you’re still worried about getting cold, look for tubs with quick-drain and heating features.
- Where are the slip-resistant surfaces?
- Slip-resistant surfaces are a safety feature included with many walk-in tubs. These surfaces are textured, which helps prevent slips and falls.
The areas in the bath that are slip-resistant vary depending upon the make, model and manufacturer. Make sure you know exactly which surfaces are slip-resistant in the particular tub you wish to have installed.
- How many handrails can I install?
- Handrails help stabilize and support you while getting in and out of the tub or when adjusting your position while bathing. The number of handrails will vary based on the tub you choose. Depending upon the make, model and company, handrails may be either built into the tub or available as an add-on.
Make sure the tub you choose has enough handrails to support you while getting in and out of the tub and while moving around while bathing. You will also want to verify that you can safely reach the handrails. If the handrails are too far away, it could cause you to slip and fall.
- What other safety features can you add to the tub?
- Some walk-in tubs can be customized with additional safety features. The safety features available vary based on the make and model of the tub you choose to have installed.
Two popular safety features are fast-drain options and high-contoured seats. Fast-draining tubs empty quicker and let you get out of the tub sooner after you finish bathing. High-contoured seats provide a safe and comfortable space to sit while bathing. The shape and position of the contoured seat reduces knee strain that can occur when sitting for prolonged periods of time in the bath.
- Does the tub come with jets?
- Not all walk-in tubs come with jets. Verify whether the tub you choose comes with built-in jets. If the jets are not included by default, you may inquire if they can be added on.
For tubs that come with jets or have them added on, take into consideration the position and placement of the jets. The placement of the jets determines which stress points are targeted on the body. Make sure the tub you choose has jets located in a position where it can reach the specific area of the body you wish to rehabilitate.
- What therapeutic features are included?
- Walk-in tubs come with a wide variety of therapeutic system features that help rejuvenate, relax and heal the body. Therapeutic system features vary by make, model and manufacturer. Some walk-in tubs may have these features automatically included, while others may be available as an upgraded or customized option.
Some examples of therapeutic system features that may be available on walk-in tubs include:
- Aromatherapy: This feature lets you add scented oils or beads to the bath. Aromatherapy may improve both mental and physical health.
- Microbubbles: This system creates multiple tiny bubbles that quickly massage your skin. Microbubbles are known to help with the removal of excess oil and dirt and rejuvenate the skin.
- Chromotherapy: Chromotherapy is a system that produces different frequencies of light that can help create a calming, soothing atmosphere.
- Where are the controls located?
- The location of the controls varies by made, model and manufacturer. It’s essential to learn where the controls are located. Make sure that you and anyone else using the tub can safely reach the controls.
Don’t just focus on the distance you have to reach for the controls. Consider the angle of the controls. If the controls are in an awkward position, you may be able to reach them but not adjust the settings. This could make bathing difficult or even cause an injury.
- Can I lie down in the tub?
- The size of the walk-in tub will determine if you can lie down. Larger walk-in tubs have enough room for you to lie down and relax while bathing. Smaller tubs may not have enough space for you to lie down.
- Article sources
- ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. To learn more about the content on our site, visit our FAQ page.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.” Accessed May 21, 2021.
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