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Pros and cons of walk-in tubs

Walk-in bathtubs are ideal for anyone with mobility issues

Profile picture of Jessica Render
by Jessica Render ConsumerAffairs Research Team
elderly woman in walk-in bathtub

A walk-in tub is a good option for anyone with limited mobility that’s looking to make bathing safer, more comfortable and more therapeutic. However, there are some downsides too. Weigh the pros and cons of buying a walk-in tub to help determine if it’s right for you.

Pros

  • Safer than traditional bathtubs
  • Therapy options help you relax
  • Provides symptom relief and improves circulation
  • Easy to clean

Cons

  • More expensive than traditional bathtubs
  • Installation may require electrical work
  • Usually not covered by Medicare
  • Could require a water heater upgrade

Benefits of walk-in tubs

Bathing can be difficult for older adults and people with disabilities, and getting in or out of a traditional shower or tub can be uncomfortable and unsafe. However, walk-in tubs can make bathing easier. Here are some of the benefits that can come with having a walk-in tub.

Walk-in tub safety benefits

A walk-in tub is safer than a traditional tub because of its design; you can walk in over a low threshold and sit in the tub, so there's less chance of slipping and falling than with a traditional bathtub. Walk-in tubs also come with specific safety features such as grab bars, anti-scald valves, slip-resistant flooring and built-in seating. Some tubs are equipped with emergency safety switches and self-cleaning systems, which resist mold and bacterial growth.

A walk-in tub helps keep your bathroom safe and comfortable.

Walk-in tub comfort benefits

A walk-in tub can make bathing much more comfortable, especially if you have trouble standing in the shower or getting in and out of a standard tub. Walk-in tubs have lower entryways and are often deeper than traditional tubs, making it easier to clean your upper body. Some manufacturers also provide a number of luxury features, including heated seats and sound systems.

Walk-in tub health benefits

Walk-in tubs make bathing safe and convenient, and they can also improve your overall health in several ways:

  • Provide symptom relief: Those suffering from conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, rheumatism, fibromyalgia or general muscle or joint pain and stiffness can benefit from the soothing effects of a walk-in tub.
  • Improve circulation: A walk-in tub can also help improve overall circulation, leading to increased mobility and less pain.
  • Promote relaxation and stress relief: A walk-in tub can provide peace of mind as well as give you a relaxing and stress-relieving experience. It can also improve your quality of sleep with soothing chromatherapy, hydrotherapy, massage and air bath features.

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    Disadvantages of walk-in tubs

    There are also some disadvantages to having a walk-in tub. Walk-in tubs are still a great option for many people, but it is critical to have all the information so you can make an informed decision before you buy.

    Walk-in tub fill and drain times

    Two downsides of a walk-in tub are that you have to get in the tub before you fill it and you can’t exit until it’s drained. Walk-in tubs take about 7 minutes to fill or drain, which means it’s important to ensure the water starts out at a safe, comfortable temperature and stays that way as long as possible. Features like heated seats and quick drains can help you stay warm throughout your bath, and a scald prevention valve is critical to preventing dangerously hot water from touching you.

    Walk-in tub water usage

    Some walk-in tubs hold much more water than traditional tubs, and supplying this much warm water can be taxing for many water heaters. If you’re buying a large walk-in tub, consult the manufacturer to see if your water heater is up to the task.

    Not all walk-in tubs hold enough water to create this problem, though. An average traditional tub holds between 42 and 80 gallons of water, while many walk-in tubs can hold around 50 gallons.

    While a walk-in tub is generally deeper than a traditional tub, this depth does not always equate to more volume. In some cases, a walk-in tub may be narrower than most standard tubs, and the seat in a walk-in tub takes up much of its potential volume.

    Walk-in tub cost

    Walk-in tubs can cost significantly more than traditional bathtubs, especially if you include installation. Most walk-in tubs cost $2,000 to $5,000, not including installation, and prices increase if you choose an option with extra features.

    If the upfront cost of a walk-in tub seems daunting, inquire about financing options to help spread out the expense over time. Also, consider the potential costs of alternatives to a walk-in tub. The costs of in-home care or moving to an assisted living facility can quickly exceed what you would spend upgrading your home.

    Additionally, while Medicare doesn't cover walk-in tub costs, some states do offer assistance to help cover the initial cost. Check within your state or city to see if such a program is available.

    Walk-in tub installation

    Many walk-in tubs require professional installation, and this service isn’t always included in the purchase price. Some homes, especially older ones, may also need to update their electrical and plumbing systems before a walk-in tub can be installed. Your walk-in tub company can work with you to determine what needs to be done before installation.

    However, a walk-in tub installation doesn't have to be complicated. Some walk-in tubs are more affordable to install than others. On average, gelcoat tubs are easier to lift and move and thus easier to get installed. On the other hand, durable acrylic tubs are heavier and may take longer to install.

    Bottom line: Who should buy a walk-in tub?

    A walk-in bathtub can be a great choice for anyone with limited mobility, including people with disabilities and those who are aging in place. They’re also a worthwhile investment for caregivers and family members of people with limited mobility. The pros outweigh the cons for many individuals considering buying a walk-in tub. Overall, a walk-in tub might help anyone looking for a safer, more comfortable bathing experience.

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    Profile picture of Jessica Render
    by Jessica Render ConsumerAffairs Research Team

    As a member of the ConsumerAffairs research team, Jessica Render is dedicated to providing well-researched, valuable content designed to help consumers make informed purchase decisions they can feel confident making. She holds a degree in journalism from Oral Roberts University.