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Walk-in showers vs. walk-in tubs

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    If you’re renovating your bathroom for accessibility, one of the biggest choices you’ll make is deciding between a walk-in shower and a walk-in bathtub. Both are excellent options for older adults and those with limited mobility, but each has its drawbacks too. Read on to learn more about their pros and cons and how they stack up against each other.

    Walk-in tubsWalk-in showers
    Price range$2,000 to $20,000$800 to $15,000
    AccessibilityMust be seatedSit or stand, depending on the model
    Space requirementsAbout 12 square feetAbout 15 square feet
    Professional installationYesYes
    CustomizationLimitedMany options
    Compare companiesWalk-in tub guideWalk-in shower guide
    Price rangeAccessibilitySpace requirementsProfessional installationCustomizationCompare companies
    Walk-in tubs$2,000 to $20,000Must be seatedAbout 12 square feetYesLimitedWalk-in tub guide
    Walk-in tubs$800 to $15,000Sit or stand, depending on the modelAbout 15 square feetYesWidespreadWalk-in shower guide

    Benefits of a walk-in shower

    Walk-in showers have many benefits that make them appealing, especially if you or a loved one find sitting down difficult:

    • Walk-in showers take up less space. In general, a walk-in shower requires less square footage than a walk-in tub, making it a great option for smaller bathrooms.
    • Walk-in showers are easier to clean. There are fewer surfaces in a walk-in shower where water, dirt and soap scum can collect. This can make a huge difference in convenience for older adults and people who have trouble kneeling or bending over.
    • Walk-in showers come in many designs. Walk-in showers are available in a wide variety of styles. With walk-in tubs, you’re usually restricted to only a handful of designs.
    • Walk-in showers let you add safety features. If you’re willing to pay extra, your walk-in shower provider might let you add on accessibility features like nonslip flooring, grab bars and anti-scald valves.
    • Walk-in showers are trendy. Walk-in showers are currently desirable. If you decide to sell your home, a walk-in shower can be a selling point.

    Benefits of a walk-in tub

    While walk-in tubs can be pricey, they’re a great option for caregivers, people concerned with falling in the shower and those who find standing difficult. Like walk-in showers, walk-in tubs have a lot of benefits worth considering:

    • Walk-in tubs have a variety of safety features. Walk-in bathtubs typically come standard with safety features like handrails, nonslip flooring and anti-scald valves. This makes them an even better option for people who are concerned with falling while bathing.
    • Walk-in tubs allow you to bathe sitting down. Walk-in tubs are a great solution for people who have difficulty standing for long periods or have a greater risk of falling in the bath. Because you don’t have to stand, your risk of injury should be lower.
    • Walk-in tubs are accessible. A walk-in tub has a built-in door and a low step-in entry, making it much more accessible than a standard bathtub and often more accessible than a walk-in shower.
    • Walk-in tubs are deeper. Compared to a standard bathtub or shower, walk-in tubs have higher walls, which allows for more depth. This makes it easier for you to immerse yourself and simplifies washing your hair and upper body.

    Is a walk-in shower or tub cheaper?

    Walk-in showers are generally cheaper, but the market is more complicated than you might realize.

    • Walk-in bathtubs can cost anywhere from $2,000 for basic models to $20,000 for luxury ones.
    • For walk-in showers, prefab kits can cost between $800 and $2,500, depending on the size and quality of the shower. Custom-built walk-in showers are considerably more expensive, costing $6,500 to $15,000 or more.
    Check to see if installation is included with your tub or shower.

    You also need to consider installation costs. Both walk-in tubs and walk-in showers should be installed by a professional, and this may not be included in the purchase price.

    • Installing a walk-in bathtub costs an average of $1,500 or less.
    • With a prefab walk-in shower kit, installation can range from $750 to $2,500. If you’re not using a prefab kit, installation costs are highly variable, with some people spending over $20,000 total.

    You should also consider how much other work needs to be done in your bathroom and elsewhere in your home. Will you be keeping the same layout or doing a full makeover? Will you need a new hot water heater to accommodate the volume of your tub?

    It’s important to keep your budget in mind when determining whether a walk-in tub or a walk-in shower is right for you. While there are affordable and expensive options for both, costs vary significantly depending on the brand, size, type, features and personalization options you choose.

    Will a walk-in tub or shower fit better?

    The answer really depends on the layout of your bathroom, but walk-in showers usually take up less room than walk-in tubs, making them easier to fit in your existing space. The average bathroom is about 40 square feet. Walk-in showers take up an average of 12 square feet. In comparison, the standard bathtub takes up about 15 square feet, with walk-in tubs measuring slightly larger.

    With a small bathroom, a walk-in shower is probably a better option. If you have a larger space or an existing tub, you have more freedom to choose between the two, though.

    Is a walk-in tub or shower more comfortable?

    When choosing between a walk-in tub and a walk-in shower, make sure you take time to think about which you or your loved one is more comfortable with. While both walk-in tubs and showers are designed to be accessible for older adults and people with limited mobility, different people have different needs.

    Those who aren’t comfortable standing or have trouble keeping their balance may be more at ease in a walk-in tub. People who are used to showering and can stand for extended periods may feel more comfortable with a walk-in shower, especially if they have stiffness in their hips or knees.

    Is a walk-in tub or shower safer?

    Walk-in tubs are theoretically safer because they present less of a fall risk, but the difference might be minor, depending on the user’s level of mobility.

    Walk-in showers and walk-in bathtubs can be equipped with similar safety features, like low step-in entries, nonslip flooring and grab bars. However, walk-in bathtubs typically come with more safety features standard. You can choose to customize your walk-in shower with many of the same features, but it may increase your price.

    Should you choose a walk-in tub or shower?

    Choosing between a walk-in tub and a walk-in shower depends on all of the above factors, so consider your budget, your space, your bathing needs and how big of a renovation you’re willing to take on. While a walk-in bathtub may be a better option for those who have more limited mobility, walk-in showers may be better for those who are concerned about style and resale value. Both walk-in tubs and showers have their advantages and drawbacks, so be sure to consider your unique needs before making your final choice.

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