According to the CDC, more than 200,000 seniors are treated in emergency rooms each year for bathroom-related injuries. It’s clear that typical home bathrooms aren’t designed with older adults in mind. Wet, slippery surfaces can cause falls, and it can be difficult for some to balance on one leg to get into a tub.

For these reasons, a walk-in tub may be a worthwhile investment for older adults looking to enhance the safety and comfort of their bathing experience. The many safety features of a walk-in tub can help older adults maintain their independence by helping to prevent slips and falls. 

In this guide, we'll dive into what you need to know if you're considering purchasing a walk-in tub, including benefits, cost, and the installation process. 

What is a walk-in tub?

A walk-in tub is a specially designed bathtub with a watertight door that allows you to enter and exit the tub easily. These tubs also have features that prioritize your safety and comfort, such as a built-in seat, grab bars, and non-slip floors. 

How walk-in tubs are different from traditional tubs 

Walk-in tubs have a watertight door that you can use to easily enter and exit the tub, while traditional tubs do not. Traditional tubs have raised walls that make them difficult for people with mobility or balance issues to use. That’s why walk-in tubs are a good solution for older adults. 

Walk-in tubs are also generally larger and more rectangular than regular tubs. This makes walk-in tubs a good option if you need more space to move or stretch. 

Overall, walk-in tubs are designed to be more accessible to people with mobility issues than traditional bathtubs. 

Different types of walk-in tubs

When it comes to walk-in tubs, there are different options to suit a variety of needs. There are four main types of walk-in tubs . Consider the type that fits your mobility needs and potential budget constraints.

Traditional soaker walk-in tub

These are the most basic type of walk-in tub. Traditional soaker walk-in tubs don’t  typically include any additional features, and are primarily used just for soaking. The main benefit of the traditional soaker tub is that they are significantly less expensive than other types of tubs.

Bariatric walk-in tub

This type of tub is similar to a traditional soaker, but their wider doors and larger dimensions accommodate people who are bigger. The benefit of a bariatric walk-in  tub is that people who are heavier or overweight can comfortably use it.

Walk-in tub and shower (also called a combination walk-in tub)

As the name suggests, these walk-in tubs work as both a tub and a shower to fit the needs of people who like both options. Showers increase your chances of slipping, so these tubs come with non-slip surfaces and easy-to-reach controls.

Wheelchair accessible walk-in tub

People who use a wheelchair or other mobility device can benefit from a walk-in tub specifically designed for with a wider entry point and doors that allow easy access for wheelchairs. This type of walk-in tub also includes additional safety features such as built-in handrails and non-slip surfaces.

Key benefits of walk-in tubs

Walk-in tubs provide a variety of benefits that make them the perfect choice for older adults or those with accessibility issues:

  1. Increased accessibility: The low step-in height and wide doors make it easier for people with varying mobility needs to enter and exit the tub easily.

  2. Enhanced safety: Besides the side door, most walk-in tubs have non-slip floors and handrails to minimize the risk of slips and falls.

  3. Comfort: Walk-in tubs are usually larger than traditional tubs and have built-in seats, which creates a comfortable bathing experience.

  4. Promotes independence: By reducing the risk of slips and falls, walk-in tubs help older adults to maintain their independence through self-care and self-reliance. 

How much do walk-in tubs cost?

Walk-in tubs can be expensive—the average cost of a walk-in tub is $4,000 - $15,000. The tub itself is anywhere between $2,000 - $5,000, and the installation cost can range from $2,000 - $10,000. If you purchase a tub with luxury add-ons, such as hydrojets or chromotherapy lights, the price of the tub and installation will be higher.

Despite the high price tag, a walk-in tub may still be worth considering. Walk-in tubs could provide you with a high return on investment if you decide to sell your home, especially if you live in an area where homebuyers are elderly or experience mobility issues. 

What does the installation process look like?

Walk-in tubs should be installed by licensed contractors and the process varies depending on your current bathroom and the walk-in tub model you’ve chosen. Generally, you should expect installation to follow 6 steps:

  1. Your contractor will remove your current tub and any fixtures that may get in the way of installation.

  2. Your space will be prepared for a new walk-in tub. Your new tub may require plumbing or electrical modifications, such as new water lines, drains, or electrical outlets. 

  3. The new tub will be positioned in its designated area, and any drains and faucets will be aligned with the tub. 

  4. All of the fixtures and features will get connected. This includes attaching the water supply lines, drain pipes, and electrical wiring.

  5. Once everything is connected, the area around the tub will be sealed to prevent water damage.

  6. The installation should be thoroughly tested and inspected to ensure the tub functions properly. 

A few popular brands/models

Before you buy a walk-in tub, it's important to consider all of the brands and models available to you. Below are some popular brands and models to help you get started:

The Ella Ultimate Walk-In Tub is rated as the best overall walk-in tub by both U.S. News and World Report and the National Council on Aging.

Features Include:

  • Hand-held shower head

  • Two grab bars

  • 17 water jets and 17 air jets

  • Colored LED lights

  • Foot massage

  • Dual Drains 

  • Auto-clean system

This tub is ranked as a top model for those looking for a shower with added safety features.

Features Include:

  • Wall mounted showerhead and hand-held shower head

  • Grab bar

  • Adjustable water jets and air jets

  • Heated backrest

  • Quick drain system

The Ariel Walk-in tub does not have as many luxury amenities as the tubs above, but it is an affordable model that performs well.

Features Include:

  • Hand-held shower head

  • Grab bar

  • Several thousands of dollars cheaper than more luxurious models

Walk-in tubs offer older adults and those with mobility issues a bathing solution that prioritizes safety, comfort, and independence. So, if you're looking to age in place or seeking greater comfort and convenience in your daily routine, a walk-in tub may be the perfect addition to your home.

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