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Why do I need a walk-in tub appointment?

A vendor needs to see the bathroom and take measurements to give you an accurate price estimate

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Written by Diana Flowers
Edited by Sally Jones

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    Kohler Walk-In Bath
    contractor checking bathtub

    Replacing an existing tub or shower with a walk-in tub is a home upgrade that can be worthwhile for older adults or anyone with mobility issues, but it’s not as simple as swapping one tub for another.

    Walk-in tubs have different dimensions from standard bathtubs and, depending on which therapeutic features you want, may require wider supply and drain lines or a larger water heater. Installation may also require new wallboard and tile. These are issues that vendors are used to handling, but they need to anticipate them ahead of time in order to give you an accurate cost estimate.


    Key insights

    • Walk-in tubs are expensive, and installation costs can add significantly to the overall price.
    • Installation often requires electrical and plumbing work and may require new wallboard and tile.
    • By preparing ahead of time for these costs, you can factor them into your overall budget.

    What to expect from your consultation visit

    An in-home consultation is necessary for the walk-in tub vendor to get accurate measurements and anticipate any demolition, new construction, rewiring or plumbing that will be needed on your project. But you should also view this house call as your golden opportunity to ask questions.

    Consider the design as a whole while you’ve got the team there. If you have to move a door or a cabinet or a light switch to make things function better, now is definitely the time to do it.”
    — Toni Lewis, Lewis Schoeplein Architects

    “Consider the design as a whole while you’ve got the team there,” said Toni Lewis of Lewis Schoeplein Architects in Los Angeles, who recommends taking advantage of the expertise you have in the room. “If you have to move a door or a cabinet or a light switch to make things function better, now is definitely the time to do it.”

    Ask the walk-in tub company to quote several different options you are considering — then think it over.

    While your consultant is inspecting the floor plan, wiring and plumbing and letting you know which walk-in bathtub models will work for your space, be open about what you want and don’t want, and ask how your choices will affect the total cost. Depending on what you learn, you may change your mind about what you need or even learn about an innovative solution that you hadn't considered.

    Be prepared for some upselling by the consultant. Dealing with a walk-in tub salesperson can make some people nervous, but you can ease your mind by researching ahead of time and coming to the conversation prepared. These questions to ask a walk-in tub salesperson are a great place to start.

    Finally, keep in mind that this is only a consultation — you don’t have to commit to anything on the spot. If you know you have to stay under a specific budget, make this clear to your consultant. Ask them to quote several different options, then take time on your own after they’ve left to mull everything over.

    Is my bathroom big enough for a walk-in tub?

    Walk-in tubs are almost always installed in the same space as your existing tub, but they can still require some modifications. Because walk-in tubs are made for sitting rather than lying down, they’re typically not as long as a standard bathtub; however, they are significantly taller.

    Standard bathtubStandard WITDouble-bench WITCompact WIT
    Length60 inches52-60 inches60-80 inches46-52 inches
    Width30-32 inches30-32 inches32-36 inches26-28 inches
    Height14-16 inches30-38 inches30-38 inches37-40 inches

    You also need to take clearance into consideration.

    “Remember that getting in and out of the new walk-in tub will take up some floor space, particularly if there are mobility issues,” said Lewis, the architect in Los Angeles.

    Your salesperson will take accurate measurements of your bathroom as well as your home’s front entrance during your consultation to ensure the unit can make it into the house.

    According to Tanya Klien, CEO of Anta Plumbing in Toronto, Ontario, smaller tubs are generally less expensive to install, but “the real cost kicker is if the contractor needs to widen the footprint beyond that of the old tub to fit a larger walk-in tub.” If the new tub is smaller, that means building out and retiling the surrounding walls to fill in the gaps; if it’s larger, you may have to shift the layout of the entire bathroom.

    Will I need demolition and construction work for a walk-in tub?

    In many cases, the bathroom will need some demolition and new construction. At minimum, the area around the tub will likely need new wallboard and tile, even with a simple installation. This may seem overwhelming for some homeowners, but Lewis, the architect, recommends seeing this as a unique opportunity to handle other renovations.

    “It’s worth stepping back to reconsider the room as a whole while things are being torn apart anyway,” Lewis said. “You may want to add grab bars, or backing for future grab bars.”

    Will I need plumbing work for a walk-in tub?

    Whether you’ll need plumbing work depends on the model of walk-in tub you choose, especially when it comes to special features. Certain features, like quick-draining, often require larger disposal pipes. This increases the cost of the tub itself and will up your installation cost, but it may be worth it in the long run.

    “The biggest complaints of walk-in tubs are that those using them must sit in them while they fill and that they drain slowly,” said Klien, who has been in the plumbing business for more than 20 years. Springing for the extra plumbing costs now could save you frustrations and regrets down the road.

    Will I need electrical work for a walk-in tub?

    In addition to plumbing, many walk-in tub installations require electrical work, especially if you want to add therapeutic elements like jets and heaters. Each of these features will need its own 15- to 20-amp electrical service, which most bathrooms won’t be wired for. A fast-drain pump also needs a 15-amp electrical circuit — this means running new wire.

    If you’re working with a manufacturer or a licensed walk-in tub retailer, it will have plenty of experience assessing bathrooms and can field your questions about these costs and the time it takes to complete them.

    In a review on ConsumerAffairs, Lawrence, from Colorado Springs, Colorado, found they did need electrical work to accommodate their new walk-in tub, but the vendor, Kohler, was prepared for it.

    “They worked very quickly. And we only had the water off for 20 minutes,” they said. “Normally, people do that and the water is off for half a day. … The electricians that they had come in to put the circuits in for the jet pumps and the heater found a better way to do it and did it quickly. So, it was nonintrusive.”

    Do I need to replace my hot-water heater to have a walk-in tub?

    Walk-in tubs do require more water than a traditional tub because the user is in a seated position in a deeper soaking pool. A standard tub uses an average of 35 to 50 gallons of water, while walk-in tubs can hold up to 80 (for comparison, a 10-minute shower uses approximately 25 gallons of water).

    The demand for more hot water could mean that you’ll have to purchase a larger water heater to accommodate this increased capacity. Your consultant should mention whether your existing water heater is adequate, but don’t hesitate to ask about it if they don’t.

    Find a Walk-in Tub partner near you.

      FAQ

      How long does it take to have a walk-in tub installed?

      Most walk-in tubs can be installed within a day, typically in six to eight hours. However, this is highly dependent on what kind of tub you’re purchasing and if your bathroom and home require changes. If you need new electrical wiring and plumbing, the process could take longer than a day because you may need multiple licensed professionals.

      Do walk-in tubs have a warranty?

      Most walk-in tubs will come with warranties for the tub itself, electronic parts and seals, though you typically need to have the company install the tub to get a warranty on the installation. A walk-in tub is a significant purchase, so comparing warranties is just as important as comparing safety and therapeutic features. The types of coverage and the number of years of coverage vary based on the manufacturer and the model.

      Does having a walk-in tub devalue your home?

      The future resale value of your home depends on a lot of factors. If you only have one bathroom, a walk-in tub may deter some buyers, especially families with young children who may want a traditional tub. However, if you have a second bathroom with a full-size standard tub, a walk-in tub in the other is likely not enough to dissuade a buyer who otherwise likes the house.

      You also need to consider your local housing market. If you’re in a neighborhood that’s popular with seniors and retirees, a walk-in tub may actually be a selling feature for those hoping to age in place. Or, if home inventory is low in your community, buyers may be willing to make more compromises in their preferences.

      Lewis, the architect in Los Angeles, is always quick to remind her clients that you can only spend so much time considering resale value: “I always say you can’t design for the next owner — you have to do what works for you,” she said.

      Bottom line

      Shopping for a walk-in tub does take effort on your part. Research your options ahead of time, schedule the in-home consultation, and be ready to ask the sales representative lots of questions about different safety and therapeutic features, pricing and installation. After the in-home consultation, you should have a better idea of what model will work best for you and how much it will cost.

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