Generally walk-in tubs are put in the place of the existing bathtub. Many look pretty similar, but there are some important considerations.
1. You need to be able to walk to use a walk in tub! If you cannot walk unassisted, have bad foot drop, expect to be wheelchair bound in the future, or need to bath children in the tub, the walk in tub is probably not the best choice. Instead, consider a slide in bathtub, like the ADL Spa tub.
2. Walk in tubs work best for those that like to bath, but want to have the option for a standup or seated shower too. If you only shower, consider an accessible shower with a seat instead. If you prefer to bath, then the ADL Spa tub gives you a full size bathtub, with a seated shower.
3. Swing out or swing in door. Swing out doors require more clearance in front of the tub and may burst open and flood the room (and the downstairs) if you fail to latch it properly. They often require you to drop a latch pin in and if you forget, the door may fail. Swing in doors require the bather to step around the door when entering or exiting the tub. Best Bath has a fold up seat to give the bather lots of room to open and close the door without sacrificing seat or door size.
4. Walk-in Tubs range from around $3000 – to over $25000. Most cost in the $6-$10000 range. Be aware that price doesn’t always equal quality. Tubs in both the lower and upper price ranges suffer from quality, poor design and warranty problems. The company selling the tub should be able to give you a price range on the phone and should have printed price lists available. Some rely on high-pressure in-home sales tactics instead of honest pricing. Installation can vary depending on the bathroom, speed of install, local building permit costs and finishing work needed, but most installations are under $3500.
5. Make sure your tub and fixtures comply with local building and plumbing codes. They should be Iapmo or C-UPC or equivilent certified. Non-certified plumbing fixtures may affect your insurance and may be prohibited by your strata. All walk-in tubs require a secondary drain in the door track to be certified.
6. Get the measurements of the tub – both inside and outside.
How wide is the tub? Many tubs will not fit through narrow doorways and hallways. Before you buy, measure the doorways into the bathroom and make sure your tub will fit. The Liberty tub will fit through a 27″ doorway and the ADL Spa will fit through a 25″ doorway.
How big is the door of the tub? Can you easily walk through it? (hip width).
How big is the seat – width and depth. If it is too small, it can be very uncomfortable.
How high is the seat? Some tubs have seats that are only 9″ high. Generally most people require that the seat be at least 16″ in order to stand up.
What is the water depth above the seat (to the overflow)? Some tubs only have 3-4″ above the seat in water depth.
How much water does it take to fill the tub? More water means a deeper soak, but with large models, you may need to replace your hot water tank and it may take a long time to fill.
6. Fill and drain time. It is important to ask how long the tub takes to fill and drain. It varies by water pressure, but some fixtures fill faster than others. Best Bath walk-in tubs fill and drain in 6-8 minutes, others, like some hardware store discount tubs, take over 15 minutes to fill and drain.
6. Look for sturdy construction with a written warranty. Not just a guarantee.
7. Check out the company selling the tub. Do they have a physical office? Can you see a tub model? Many companies in this industry have terrible reputations. A good start is to look at their Better Business Bureau rating.
8. You don’t want to get chilled while bathing. A heated seat can help keep the bather warm during filling and draining. Heated air and/or water jets keep the jets from cooling off the water. Many jetted systems are not heated, and this can cool the bathwater.