A walk-in tub is a bathtub with a watertight door and low threshold allowing the bather to safely step into the tub while getting into the bath. The door closes, the tub fills with water and after draining the bath, the person opens the door and steps out safely.
While many models are taller than they are wide, there are many different configurations available to meet the needs of almost every customer and housing situation. For example, walk-in tubs are available for easy transfer from a wheelchair to the tub seat. Often called slide through tubs, nearly the entire front of the tub opens to give the necessary width.
- Pro: Water Depth
Because there is no need to step over a tall wall, walk-in tubs provide a deeper water depth when compared to traditional tubs. A standard bathtub has a depth of 13 to 14 inches, while walk-in tubs can provide up to nearly four feet of water depth for a comfortable immersion experience while seated securely.
Seats are generally placed at 17 inches high, leaving almost 20 inches of depth to immerse the torso, well within the average torso length of an adult. Many walk-in tub models also have optional hydrotherapy jets and other luxury features such as chromotherapy lighting and heated seating.
- Con: Time to Fill and Drain
Because a walk-in tub has a door in the side of the tub itself, water cannot be added or drained while the door is open. This means the bather will spend a considerable amount of time sitting in the tub while waiting for it to fill or drain, sometimes as long as 15 minutes.While some high-end models have features to speed up this process, even with rapid fill and rapid drain features walk-in tubs can average around eight minutes to fill or drain, leaving a significant amount of time where much of the body is exposed to air and can become chilled. One possible way to reduce chilling is to purchase a model with a heated seat.
- Pro: Combined Features
Certain walk-in tub models offer multiple features in a single tub. Rather than purchasing modifications such as over tub seats, add-on handrails, anti-scald valves, and non-slip flooring, these walk-in tubs combine all of these features and more in one package. This reduces the amount of construction needed in your bathroom for remodeling as well as reducing the time required to make the modifications.
- Con: Installation Cost
Walk-in tubs can be pricey and Medicare does not consider them Durable Medical Equipment (DME) or cover any part of the costs. A few states may offer some assistance under their Medicaid programs, but most do not. The base price of a walk-in tub can range from just under $1,000 to well over $5,000. Installation costs also vary widely, with costs running up to $10,000 for both tub and installation, depending on the complexity of the construction needed for installation.
Walk-in Tub Safety
- Pro: Safety Features
Much of the remodeling suggested for aging in place revolves around safety, specifically preventing falls. Over one-third of adults over age 65 fall each year and over 80 percent of those falls are in the bathroom. Walk-in tubs generally provide an array of features designed to reduce falls. These often include built-in handrails, an ADA compliant overall design, anti-slip flooring, contoured built-in seating and a low step height for entry.
- Con: Flooding
While most tubs have swing-in doors, that is, doors which swing into the tub for entry, some have swing-out doors for easier access. While the swing-out doors can make the tub easier to enter, it also brings the possibility of flooding should the door not be latched properly. If not secured properly, the weight of the water in a filling tub could cause the door to open and dozens of gallons of water to spill out into your home. While doors are also water sealed, there is always the chance of a seal failure that could also lead to leaks or flooding.