Walk-in tubs have many wonderful benefits and safety features over traditional bathtubs. But there are also some disadvantages as well. Some pros are that it reduces the risk of falling, it improves independence, gives it’s users the benefits of hydrotherapy and more. Some cons are higher water bills, cost, potential leaking and more.
For a lot of us, taking a luxurious warm bath is a great way to unwind, relax and regain some mental health. But for senior citizens with limited mobility, this luxury can become a chore when having to use a standard tub.
A walk-in tub can be a wonderful option for older adults who want a comfortable bathing experience. It can also bring some peace of mind for family caregivers knowing that the chances of falls and injury can be lessened.
Every time a National Review columnist writes a self serious and condescending article, I can’t help but think of their precious lines appearing next to a walk in tub ad lol pic.twitter.com/UyRLD9kxD6— Katherine Therese (@ktherese2) February 18, 2021
If you are considering replacing your standard bathtub with a walk-in tub in your home – read on to understand what the pros and cons of a walk-in tub are.
Remember that there are many different models to choose from and each one will have it’s own set of pros and cons so check out our list of what to look for further down in this article.
Table of Contents
8 Pros Of A Walk-In Tub
Here are the 8 benefits / upsides of a walk-in tub.
1. Helps Those With Mobility Issues
For anyone that has a mobility issue, a walk-in tub is a good idea if they value taking a bath. Whether you use a walker, a cane or a wheelchair, there are tubs that can provide easy access. Like the Ella Transfer60 tub that I found on Amazon – it is built so that a wheelchair bound person can get in and out of the tub easily.
And since walk-in tubs come with a tub seat – once you are in – you can sit comfortable to take your bath.
2. Combo Units
The walk-in tubs today also have shower features. As an Occupational Therapist I would often recommend walk-in tubs for some of my patients but back then, the shower features were not included.
So, seeing these on today’s models is wonderful. It means that the investment into this product is really for both a tub and a shower!
3. Reduces Risk Of Falling
Falls are the #1 fear of most elderly and their caregivers. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) the average hospital cost for a fall injury is over $30,000.
And the cost is not the most important factor because the truth of the matter is, falls result in over 800,000 hospitalizations and more than 27,000 deaths.
When it comes to caring for an elderly parent, preventing falls should be the #1 priority. The use of a walk-in tub greatly reduces that risk.
4. Improves Independence
Being independent is extremely important to everyone, especially the elderly. As a caregiver, it’s a very difficult task to balance safety with independence so using as many tools as possible to help you achieve both is beneficial.
Shower aids, long handled reachers and walk-in tubs are just a few of the products that you can use to not only help your senior parent be safe but to give them as much independence as possible.
5. Benefits Of Hydrotherapy
Most elderly are not able to reap the soothing benefits of soaking in a bathtub simply because they cannot (or are afraid to) get in and out of their tubs.
A walk-in tub can give them the benefits of hydrotherapy jets to help with their arthritis, circulation and all the typical joint pains and muscle aches that many older adults experience.
6. Low Threshold
The standard height of a walk-in tub threshold ranges from 3” to 7” high. That means that a senior doesn’t have to raise their foot too high to get into one like they do to for a traditional bathtub, which has a 14 inch rim.
7. Built In Grab Bars
In general, walk-in tubs are ADA compliant so they have at least one built in grab bar inside the tub. This makes it safer for a bather who might be in danger of sliding off the seat of the tub.
Grab bars allow more independence and reduce the chance of falling while transitioning into or out of the tub. Also, if the bather does slip off the seat, a grab bar can help them keep their head above water.
8. Built In Seats
Walk-in tubs come with seats that are chair height. An elderly person doesn’t have worry about falling when trying to sit all the way down onto the floor of a traditional tub. They also won’t freeze while perching on a stool.
Many walk-in tubs have contoured seats with anti-slip texturing. This gives the user more room to move around when bathing and makes it easier for them to get up or down without falling.
7 Cons Of A Walk-In Tub
Here are the 7 downsides about walk-in tubs.
Cost is a big factor for many who are considering a walk-in tub. With a range of $2000 to $9000 for the tub alone and then adding the cost of installation – well you can see that the entire project could be extremely expensive. Check out some options to help you pay for it.
2. Can Be Chilly
It can take up to 15 minutes for a walk-in tub to fill up – in the meantime you are sitting in there waiting for it to fill up. During this time you may feel cold and since seniors are more prone to hypothermia – this is not a good thing.
So I would recommend to purchase a walk-in tub with heated seats and floors and you can also install a ceiling heat lamp over the tub.
These heating elements will also help when you are waiting in the tub as the water drains.
3. Installation Issues
Installation can be a problem if it is not done correctly. I strongly recommend that you use a professional company to install your tub in as efficiently and proficiently as possible.
4. Higher Water Bills
Walk-in tubs tend to be larger than standard bathtubs and as a result require more water. This not only means that your water bill may be higher but you may also need a more powerful water heater as well.
5. High Walls
In a medical emergency (or if you were to get stuck), walk-in tubs have high walls that make it much more difficult to get someone out of the tub. These high walls also mean the tub hold more water, which is a drowning hazard.
We realize that people can also drown in a traditional tub, but bathers want to fill walk-in tubs with more water so they can use the jets. If the tub doesn’t have a quick drain safety feature, it could take about 15 minutes to drain one.
6. Leaking Potential (Mostly Through The Doors)
Although walk-in tubs have a watertight door – Consumer Reports reviews reveal these tubs can leak around the seals, causing water to puddle on the floor. This is a slip and fall hazard. Other owners have reported issues with the stoppers leaking, so the tub won’t hold water.
Additionally, it can be tough to close and latch the doors on some models. An improperly-latched swing-out door could open while the tub is full, causing the bathroom to flood.
7. Scalding Water
Bathers sit in the tub as it fills, so a mobility-impaired senior may get scalded if the water is too hot and they can’t adjust the temperature fast enough. If you are considering a walk-in tub, make sure to look for one with anti-scald technology.
How To Choose A Walk-In Tub
There is a general checklist of items that you want to look for when you are looking over the many different walk-in tub models available.
- Tub Type – there are multiple types of walk-in tubs to choose from. Some are wheelchair accessible, some are just a soaker tub, some have water jets, some are bariatric (for very large people).
- Tub Options – things like aromatherapy, in-line heating system and other accessories can make your bathing experience more enjoyable.
- Tub Door – width and height of the tub door can be inconvenient so make sure that it suits your physical capabilities. For wheelchair users, you want to ensure that there are wide doors that can accommodate your chair.
- Heated Seat – some walk-in tubs come with a heated seat which can be a great feature if you tend to get cold while you are waiting for the warm water in the tub to drain.
- Anti-Scald Valves – stay safe by avoiding getting burned by very hot water with a scald prevention valve which can come installed in your walk-in tub.
- Cost Of Water – you want to know how many gallons of water it will take to fill up this tub. After all, you will be paying for that water every time you take a bath.
- Anti-Slip Flooring – most walk-in tubs should come with anti-slip flooring but you should still check to make sure that the model you are looking at has it installed.
- Quick Fill and Drain – how quickly does the tub fill up and how quickly does it drain?
- Warranty – what kind of warranty comes with the product? Some come with a limited warranty and others with a lifetime warranty.
Does A Walk-In Tub Add Value To A House?
A walk-in tub can be a valuable asset when you get ready to sell your home IF the buyer is a senior and/or handicapped person who needs this type of equipment.
Anytime you are making home modifications you should ideally consider the resale value but of course, that only works if the person who is purchasing your home likes and/or needs what you added or modified in your home.
Where Can You Get A Walk-In Tub?
If you’ve decided the the Pros outweigh the Cons then the next step is to research where to purchase one from. Here are some recommendations:
If you purchase your walk-in tub from Lowe’s or The Home Depot you can ask them about installation as well. Otherwise, I would recommend that you contact your plumber for information on who they can recommend to make the installation.