Walk-In Tubs Review
Why Buy a Walk-in Tub?
A soothing soak in a bathtub can do wonders to help you relax after a long day, but hot baths can do more than help you unwind. Those who suffer from chronic pain due to arthritis, fibromyalgia or other conditions can benefit greatly from a long, hot soak. However, just getting into the bathtub can be a challenge for those who have limited mobility.
A walk-in bathtub can drastically change your mind about baths. Generally, a walk-in tub includes a built-in chair so you can easily get in and out. Also, there's a smaller step into the tub with a locking door, which makes maneuvering easier for those with joint stiffness or pain. Grab bars are also present to help you steady yourself.
Safety is one of the most important considerations for your tub if you have limited mobility – especially if you live alone. Most walk-in tubs are ADA compliant, so you can be sure that your bathroom is as safe as can be. Aging in place is a common plan, so if you or your parents plan to retire and stay at home, a walk-in tub could be an important investment for future independence.
Switching from a regular shower and bathtub to a walk-in tub isn't quite as cut-and-dry as installing a ceiling fan. Aside from deciding whether you want air jets, water jets, chromotherapy or aromatherapy as features in your new walk-in tub, you need to make sure you can install it properly. You also want to ensure your home's plumbing and water heater can manage the new tub.
Will a Walk-in Tub Work in Your Home?
All walk-in tubs for seniors and handicap bathtubs are unique in a few ways compared to standard bathtubs and showers. Generally, you can find a walk-in tub that is the same length as or a bit shorter than your current bathtub. The most common length of a standard bathtub is 60 inches, and the width is usually 30 to 32 inches. Walk-in bathtubs can be as compact as 31 inches long. If you buy a freestanding bathtub that doesn't rest near a wall, this isn’t an issue, but if a space remains between your tub and a wall, this could present problems with water damage, mold and more.
This leads to another consideration: how much experience you have with plumbing, electrical wiring and construction. If you've installed large fixtures like this in the past and are confident you can tackle this project on your own, you can find some walk-in tubs made for DIY installation. However, it's more likely that you will need a professional to remove your old tub and install the new one. This is an added cost you should consider before making your decision to buy a walk-in bathtub.
Speaking of plumbing, how's your water pressure? One of these tubs can take up to 15 minutes to fill, depending on the water pressure and the faucet opening. Also, you need to make sure your water heater can keep up with the amount of water you'll be using every time you fill up for a bath. A walk-in tub holds more water than a standard tub – about 50 to 55 gallons as opposed to about 10 gallons, with an average-sized person displacing water. The most common water heater for a small-family home has a capacity of 40 to 50 gallons, so you may need to upgrade to an 80-gallon tank.
The Cost of Comfort, Safety & Convenience
Renovating your bathroom can be expensive, but there are greater costs if you have an accident. The price tag on a hospital stay to treat injuries associated with a fall is $35,000, and the cost goes up with age. It's important to take precautions to avoid falls, such as installing grab bars in the bathroom, where about 80 percent of all injuries are caused by falls, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Textured floors can help prevent slipping, too. A walk-in tub combines several features to prevent falls, give you peace of mind, and provide therapy for aching muscles and bones.
Walk-in tub prices can be steep, though. One of the least expensive walk-in tubs is $1,200, which is double the price of a regular bathtub. The lower-cost walk-in tubs don't include features such as air or water jets, or in-line heating to keep your bathwater warm. You have to consider other costs as well if you have to have plumbing work done or need a new water heater or other pieces installed, such as grab bars.
When you start shopping other styles of walk-in tubs, you'll find the prices rise up to quadruple the cost of a simple soaker. You also get added comfort with these fancier bathtubs, such as hydrotherapy, or water jets that release muscle tension and essentially let you have a personal spa in your bathroom. Walk-in tubs with features like this, or those that are longer and deeper, can cost you $11,000 or more – but there are many tub options within the $1,200 to $6,000 range.
Depending on your perspective, a walk-in tub can be a life-saving fixture or more trouble than they're worth. Most walk-in tubs keep you in a seated position, so you can't stretch out in them like you could in a traditional tub. A few designs allow lounging, though, so this isn't a hard-and-fast rule.
You also need to be prepared to wait for your bath. Walk-in tubs are generally deeper than traditional bathtubs, so filling one up requires more water and therefore more time – sometimes as long as 15 minutes. Because of the way walk-in tubs work, you have to be seated in the tub with the door closed and locked before you can run water, which means you'll be sitting in a barely filled tub for several minutes.
After your bath, you have to drain the tub before you can get out. This means another wait, although most walk-in tubs include faster drains and dual drain systems, so your wait may only be a couple minutes at most.
Cleaning these tubs can be more challenging too, because you have more surface area to cover when you scrub it down. Also, if your tub includes water jets, air jets or an aromatherapy add-on, you need to take extra care to clean everything properly.
Which Tub Is Your Type?
First, you need to determine what you want out of your walk-in tub. For some, simply soaking in a deep pool of warm water is all they need to relax and relieve pain. Others want a spa-like experience with their bathwater bubbling and different jewel-like colors blinking to brighten their moods. Although most walk-in tubs include a narrow door on the side that you must step over to enter, there are also specialized wheelchair-accessible tubs that are even easier to use for those with less mobility.
We have extensively researched the variety of walk-in tubs on the market and picked out some of the best choices for a range of needs. Read more to learn about each type of tub and choose the best walk-in tub for you.
This is the most basic type of walk-in tub you can buy. A soaker tub usually includes the basic safety features to make it ADA compliant, such as a built-in seat, a grab bar and textured floor to prevent falls. You also get fast-acting drains, so you don't have to wait long before stepping out of the tub.
Ariel Walk-In Bathtub EZWT-3060
This walk-in tub is a good example of a standard soaker. It's the perfect size to slide into your existing space for a bathtub, though it's a bit narrow at 30 inches. The tub is deep enough to hold 78 gallons of water without anyone in it. It includes a safety grab bar, so you can steady yourself as you climb in and out of the tub. Its built-in seat is contoured for comfort, and the floor is textured, so you won't slip and slide when you step in or out.
Kohler Elevance Rising Wall K-1913-LB
Unlike most soaker walk-in tubs, this bathtub lets you stretch your legs out as you bathe. The chair-height seat is easy to access whether you step into the tub or slide in from a seated position, and the design allows you to recline rather than sit straight up. The rising wall includes dual seals with a lifetime warranty, so you can rest assured you won't have any leaks – or, if you do, they can be fixed easily. The waterfall faucet fills the tub in just three to five minutes, and the tub drains quickly with the dual drains.
Water-based therapy can relieve pain and increase mobility in those who suffer from injuries, arthritis and other conditions. Water jets provide a relaxing massage while tiny bubbles rise to the surface and promote a comforting and peaceful atmosphere. A walk-in tub that includes water jets also often includes an in-line heater to keep the water warm while you bathe.
One thing to keep in mind about a tub with water jets is that it needs special attention to keep the jets clean. Follow the guidelines in your walk-in tub's user manual to ensure you don't compromise a warranty. You are likely going to need to set aside 30 to 40 minutes to clean and rinse the pipes thoroughly. Some owners even suggest using dental floss to get in the tiny crevices around the jets and wiping the jets dry after each use to prevent mold and mildew growth.
American Standard Gelcoat Standard Series 3060.100.WLW
This model includes 13 water jets to provide relief from pain and easy-to-reach push-button controls. The textured floor means less opportunity for slips, and a built-in safety bar can keep you steady on your feet as you transition in and out of the tub.
Safety Tubs Value Series SSA6030LJ-WH
This walk-in tub includes six water jets for massage. It has the safety options you'd expect, such as textured floors and a built-in contoured seat, along with a grab bar to help you lower yourself onto the chair or lift yourself up from it. It fits inside a standard 60-inch bathtub opening, so you don't have to knock a wall out to install this tub. You can purchase other features separately, such as Safety Tubs' quick draining system, an in-line heater, a waterproof pillow and a chromotherapy system.
Walk-in bathtubs are similar in size to standard bathtubs. Though deeper, they aren't wider. A narrow entrance and seat can be uncomfortable for some people, and standard walk-in tubs are made for people who weigh less than 300 pounds. A bariatric walk-in tub includes a wider opening and a larger seat to accommodate anyone of any size. These tubs include the same safety features of regular walk-in tubs, such as textured floors, grab bars and short thresholds.
Ella Bariatric 35
The built-in seat on this tub model is 30.5 inches wide, and the tub can hold a person of up to 600 pounds. It has all of the essentials, such as the textured floor and safety grab bar to prevent falls. Additionally, Ella offers options to make it even more luxurious – you can get the massage model, which includes air, hydro or dual therapy massage.
The biggest difference between a wheelchair-accessible bathtub and a standard walk-in tub is the door opening. One of the issues with a walk-in tub is the narrow opening that is next to the built-in seat, which makes it near impossible for someone who cannot walk to get into the tub without help. For these circumstances, there are tubs with large doors that open wide with clear access to the chair-height seat, making it easier to slide from a wheelchair to the tub.
AmeriGlide Sanctuary 3060WCA
One of the leaders in medical equipment, AmeriGlide, offers a few wheelchair-accessible tub options. This model is 60 inches long and 30 inches wide, which means it can fit in a standard bathtub alcove. The outward-opening door swings wide and offers direct access to the 22-inch-high seat. This tub holds 65 gallons of water and can be used as a soaking tub, or you can add on features such as water or air jets.
Universal Tubs HD3060WCALWA
Just like standard walk-in tubs, this Universal Tub model is ADA compliant with its safety bar, anti-slip floor and locking door. This wheelchair-accessible tub has a stainless steel frame with a wide door that swings outward to allow entrance from your wheelchair to the 21-inch seat. You can choose whether you want a soaking tub, a whirlpool tub, air jets or a combination. Several other options are available too, including chromotherapy and aromatherapy.
Many benefits are associated with water therapy and massage, but water jets may be too harsh for some people. Air jets produce a much gentler massage, so tubs with these jets can be soothing and relaxing for anyone. These walk-in tubs can be easier to maintain as well, because you can run the air jets after your bath to dry themselves out and prevent bacteria growth. Of course, you should read your walk-in tub user manual to ensure you maintain your tub properly for your warranty.
ActiveForever Signature Walk-in A16762x
This walk-in bathtub has a low step and a 17-inch-high seat. It's a hydrotherapy tub that includes 18 air jets, which send up tiny, champagne-like bubbles into your bath. Like all of the walk-in tubs we evaluated, this one easily fits into a standard bathtub alcove, and it includes all of the safety features you'd expect of a walk-in tub. Its in-line heater keeps your bathwater warm so you can take longer baths.
This is the walk-in tub that goes beyond a basic soaker, offers more than just massage, and ensures that you have a luxurious experience as you bathe. Most combination walk-in tubs include all of the features of a standard ADA-compliant tub, such as a safety bar and textured flooring. They also often include water and air jets, in-line heaters, and chromotherapy – soothing lights that color your bathwater different shades of blue, purple, green and more. These walk-in tubs are usually more expensive.
Unlike other brands, Jacuzzi includes features in its standard walk-in tub that could be considered extras or luxury. Jacuzzi is known for its water and air jets in regular bathtubs and hot tubs. You get hydrotherapy that combines 50 percent air and 50 percent water jets for massage, an LED chromotherapy system, a built-in aromatherapy system, and all of the standard safety features.
Ella Ultimate 93217
This sleek and stylish walk-in bath comes with almost any feature you can imagine for a walk-in bathtub. You get anti-slip flooring, not one but two safety grab bars, and a low step into the tub. The faucet can fill your tub at 18 gallons per minute, and the dual drain system empties it in about 80 seconds. In addition to all of those features, you get 26 total water and air jets that are placed to massage your upper body, legs and feet.
An Independent Choice
The decision to purchase a walk-in tub is about more than simply renovating your bathroom or replacing an old tub. This decision is about your independence. Limited mobility doesn't have to strip you of your dignity – you can stay in your own home and take a peaceful, rejuvenating bath. Read our articles about walk-in tubs to choose the one that's right for you and your home.