Buying a Walk-In Tub
Seniors aging in place often turn their attention to the bathroom, which is one of the most dangerous rooms in the house. Walk-in tubs though costly are an excellent investment compared to the much higher costs of an accident or assisted living facility. Like a vehicle, these tubs fit a variety of needs, and options or configurations determine the final price. By the time you’ve gone through this guide, you should feel confident in your ability to find the type of tub you need, select a best walk-in tub company, and answer any questions you might have about buying a walk-in tub that meets your needs.
Top walk in tub tips:
- Consider your hot water heater capacity
- Plan features based on long-term needs
- Installation may be included
Tips for a Wise Walk In Tub Buyer
A walk in bathtub is one of the most popular ways to bathe for seniors looking to age in place at home. Not only are they safer than regular bathtubs and walk-in showers, but they can even provide water-massaging joint relief and an easy way for seniors with mobility restrictions to safely bathe.
This is especially important for seniors, since falls are the leading cause of emergency room visits for the elderly. And the bathroom is one of the most dangerous places in the house, with roughly 235,000 people going to the emergency room each year due to injuries in the bathroom. The elderly are particularly at risk, since injuries increase with age and peak at age 85. Around 28 percent of these emergency room visits are due to bathing.
Walk in tubs reduce bathroom injury risk
These tubs remove potential hazards by providing easy entry-exit, non-slip surfaces and a seated position for bathers. It’s no wonder why so many retirees and seniors look to replace their old tub with a new, safe walk-in tub—often one that’s much nicer than their previous bathtub.
Source: Cain’s Mobility
Walk-in bathtubs come in a variety of forms. All walk-in tubs will come with a leak-proof door, and often they have one or two built-in grab bars for safety. Buying one of these tubs may be unfamiliar to you, so to make the right choice, consider these things first:
1. First, look at the dimensions of the space you need to fill
You will also need to have enough room for your walk-in tub. A typical walk-in tub is usually around 60 inches long—the same size as your standard tub. Their width ranges from 25 to 60 inches (30 to 32 inches is the most common width size) and they typically have a height of around 40 inches.
2. Next, consider your hot water capacity
Many walk-in tubs require upwards of at least 50 gallons of water to fill. Check the size of your water heater—if you have a 40-gallon tank, you will probably need to wait for the water to reheat in the tank. Consider upgrading to a larger water heater or purchasing an additional tank-less water heater so you’re never sitting in cold water, or sitting in a half-full bathtub waiting for more hot water to come pouring in.
3. Pick a walk-in tub type that fits your needs
While looking for the best kind of walk-in tubs, we had to consider the following types of tubs and their various features. If you are looking for the simplest, most cost-affordable tub, you’ll want a soaker tub. Still, other tubs can serve specific needs and should not be overlooked — particularly if you plan to age in place. In other words, consider your long-term needs. The various walk-in tub types include:
- Soaker tub
The soaker tub is your basic walk-in bathtub. If you aren’t looking for anything too fancy, like water jets, this is the type of tub you’re looking for.
- Wheelchair accessible tubs
A wheelchair-accessible tub is beneficial for both those who use wheelchairs and those who need to move from a seated position into the tub itself. These walk-in tubs have a door which swings open wide, allowing for an easy transfer into tub’s seat.
- Bariatric walk-in tubs
Bariatric tubs are very similar to wheelchair accessible tubs but they are heavier duty, designed to accommodate individuals 300 lbs or heavier.
- Aerotherapy (air jet) tubs
These tubs are basically gentle massage tubs. The jets are designed to move water in a gentle way, provide a champagne-like bubbling. Additionally, these tubs have a cleaning feature: after a bath, drain the tub and run the jets to clean out water and prevent bacteria build-up in the jet piping.
- Hydrotherapy (water jet) tubs
Hydrotherapy tubs (may be referred to as whirlpool tubs) use jets to provide a massage-like experience. These jets are stronger and the extra water pressure is said to relieve some pain associated with joint pain like arthritis. The added power may be uncomfortable for seniors with sensitive skin.
- Aromatherapy tubs
Aromatherapy tubs mix essential oils with the water, which creates a relaxing scent that some bathers love. If you don’t want to mess with second-market products to get your water smelling like lilac or other types of pleasant scents, this is the way to go.
Walk-in tub with chromatherapy use subdued, colored lighting to enhance the relaxed mood of bathing.
- Combination tubs
Walk-in tubs aren’t restricted to just these categories only. In fact, most tubs you will look at will be a combination – for example, a wheelchair accessible bariatric whirlpool tub.
4. Insist on these walk-in tub features
Moreover, you should seriously consider investing in these useful and/or necessary features will help you maximize the benefit of using your walk-in tub.
- Hand rails
The right walk-in tub should come with hand rails already installed. You don’t want to depend on using the door or slippery outside parts of the tub for stability when getting in or out of the tub. Depending on your needs, it can also be a good idea to install a hand rail on the wall near the tub.
- Textured flooring
It’s very important for a good walk-in tub to have non-slip, textured flooring. Non-slip mats aren’t an option for all seniors because it may be too difficult to clean and replace them on a regular basis—not to mention they might not adequately fit the entire tub’s bottom. Therefore, we felt the best tubs should have non-slip flooring already built-in.
- Quick drainage
You don’t want to sit in quickly cooling water, waiting for it to drain out when you’re done bathing. Remember, the tub door cannot be opened until the water has been drained.
- Easy cleaning
To find the best tub, we looked for tubs that did not require extensive manual cleaning of the jet piping. Good options have a self-cleaning option, such as an ozone cleaning system. Keeping the tub clean should be a priority, because research reveals bacteria can grow in a tub.
- In-line heating
If you want to soak for a while, you don’t want to be sitting in lukewarm water after fifteen minutes. An in-line heating system keeps your bathwater warm.
- Sitting or lounging layout
Most walk-in tubs come with a seat so the bather can sit. While many seniors will find this preferable, some may also want the option to sprawl out.
- Step-in height
The lower the step-in height on a tub, the better. Most tubs have a step-in clearance (meaning the height from the floor to the tub’s doorway) between 3 and 7 inches. Seniors with limited mobility should look for the lowest clearance possible.
5. Arrange quotes for professional installation
You may need to get your walk-in tub professionally installed or even remove your old bathtub to make room for the walk-in tub. That could be a big job, so be sure to get professional estimates before you proceed. Many walk-in tub manufacturers offer free in-person evaluations and bundle the removal cost of the old tub with installation of the new walk-in tub. This could be an expensive endeavor ($500-$2500+). If you don’t have the cash up front, look for a company that offers financing options.
How to Find the Best Home Walk In Tubs
We make our walk-in tub recommendations based on a series of criteria that we believe make an excellent walk-in tub for seniors with a variety of needs. Here’s how we did it.
We searched for a comprehensive list of walk-in tub companies
There are many walk-in tubs options: from no-name brands to manufacturers advertising on TV and radio. We started our search for the best walk-in tub companies with a broad selection of 25 companies that represented the market.
We evaluated these companies based on our expert guided buying criteria: reliability, safety and customer satisfaction
A good walk-in tub needs to be safe, therefore all walk-in tubs considered had to be ADA compliant. Companies with additional certifications, such as those from the National Aging in Place Council and the Arthritis Foundation, were given higher marks. We also checked for BBB rating and cut companies with failing scores. Businesses with excessive complaints, a poor rating, or those with no company response were dismissed.
Next, we researched company websites, read user reviews and checked product availability. If the user reviews were favorable, the website was clear and easy to use and the tubs were available anywhere in the country, we went on to the next step. Companies with reviews that mentioned “leaks” “problems” or with frequent customer service issues were removed from our shortlist.
We also called walk-in tub companies. Companies with friendly and helpful representatives were seen favorably. For example, whether or not a representative could clearly tell us what available options and models were available.
We removed walk in tubs not made in the USA
The market also has many foreign-made walk-in tub options. We chose to focus on manufacturers based in the USA, because we believe that still matters.
We insisted on some extras
We chose manufacturers who provided tubs with a range of options. To make the cut, a company could not just make the basic soaker tub. A good walk-in tub company should provide the option for things like hydrotherapy, areotherapy and additional heating.
We brought you the best walk-in tub companies for consideration
Just beginning the search for the best walk-in tub for your personal needs can be dizzying. There are many of walk-in tub manufacturers out there, so we combed through them and separated the best from the rest. We found that Safe Step, American Standard and Independent Home were the trio of walk-in bathtub makers to produce quality goods that matched our expectations.
Bathroom. Source: Getty
Walk-in Bathtubs Reviews
After our evaluation, we selected three types of walk-in tubs to represent the best for various buyer needs: Safe Step, American Standard and Independent Home.
Great for arthritis and joint pain |
The primary benefit of Safe Step walk-in tubs is ease of use for seniors with joint pain. Their tubs are equipped with hydrotherapy, aerotherapy and lower back heating systems which are designed to alleviate the pain of arthritis, back pain, muscle pain and other conditions. All Safe Step tubs come with an ozone cleaning system. Safe step walk-in tubs have received widespread, overwhelmingly favorable reviews. Safe Step is a company whose primary focus is manufacturing and installing walk-in tubs.
To determine pricing, Safe Step has committed to send a safety specialist to your home to take a look at your bathroom. Once there, the specialist will measure the dimensions of your bathroom and hallways and discuss available options. They will give prospective buyers an exact price, along with available discounts, which is valid for one year. There is no obligation to buy, and the in-home walk-in tub consultation is complementary.
Generally speaking, Safe Step tubs offer discounts of up to $750 per individual or a total of $1,500 per household. Free heated seating and backrest upgrades are also available. Additional discounts for members of the American Seniors Association are also available. Safe Step has the Arthritis Foundation’s Ease of Use certification, an A+ Better Business Bureau rating, and is a National Aging in Place Council accredited company.
For more information, read our Safe Step review
|Product Highlight – Safe Step with Dual Hydroptherapy Option|
– Arthritis Foundation Ease of Use approved
– Step threshold is less than four inches
– Includes dual hydrotherapy and aerotherapy jets, positioned in key locations to provide joint relief
– Lifetime warranty
– Easy, no-strength locking handle
– ADA compliant anti-slip seating and floor
– Option rich (chromatherapy, lower back heating systems, aromatherapy and more)
– You must call to request a free price estimate. This is because Safe Step’s price includes both
– ‘One stop shop’ service for removing and replacing existing tub
|– You must call to request a free price estimate.|
Kohler Walk-in Tub Review
Great Warranty |
Kohler makes and sells the Walk-in Bath – a walk-in tub with multiple safety and comfort features avaialbe to be added on for an improved bathing experience. Kohler offers an industry-leading warranty for the Walk-in Bath. It’s a limited lifetime warranty which can be found at other companies, however, Kohler’s warranty covers more. Pumps, motors, jets, the bath door seal and hand shower are all covered under the warranty.
Read our full Kohler walk-in tub review for more details.
|Product Highlight – Kohler Walk-in Bath|
– Low 3-inch high threshold
– 2 handrails
– Textured flooring
– Lifetime warranty
– Easy-to-reach control panel
– Hydrotherapy whirlpool jets
– Adjustable heated surfaces
– Retractable handshower
– Custom finishes
– Fast-drain technology
|– The Walk-in Bath is not wheelchair accessible|
American Standard Review
Most relaxing |
American Standard is one of America’s most recognizable brands, having been a manufacturer of home appliances for 140 years. American Standard builds practically everything home related, kitchen related, from walk-in bathtubs to kitchen sinks and even heating and cooling systems. American Standard products consistently rank in the upper-rating echelons of home appliances, and their products are most likely at your closest small or large hardware store.
American Standard walk-in tubs have a ton of options, so you shouldn’t have any problem finding a walk-in tub of your desire, from basic soaking tubs to aromatherapy and whirlpool systems. Most American Standard tubs come with an ozone cleaning feature to eliminate bacteria.
If you purchase through an American Standard store, installation is included in the walk-in tub price. New American Standard customers receive $1,000 off their walk-in tub, plus a free $500 Cadet Pro Toilet. Qualified customers can receive 18-month, no-interest financing.
American Standard has the Arthritis Foundation’s Ease of Use certification and has an “A-” Better Business Bureau rating. The warranties are 10 to 15 years on the shell, with 5 to 10 years on all other components and a lifetime warranty on the door seal. Free in-home evaluations are available.
|Product Review – Acrylic Luxury Series with Combination Air Spa and Whirlpool Massage Systems|
– Rapid draining system
– Uses 26 air jets and 13 water jets
– Chromatherapy light system
– Lifetime warranty on door seal, 15-year warranty on tub shell, 10-year warranty on everything else
– Self-cleaning system
– In-line heating
– ‘Legs-only’ massage option
|– No aromatherapy option
– Price point from $8,000 to $10,300
Independent Home Review
Great Bariatric tub |
Like Safe Step, Independent Home is a company whose primary purpose is the manufacture and installation of walk-in tubs. Independent Home offers eight walk-in tub models with a variety of additional features like heated seating, aromatherapy, LCD control panels, 60-second speed drains, designer faucets and quiet water pumps.
Independent Home walk-in tubs are all ADA compliant and come in a variety of sizes. Reviews online from verified customers are consistently positive. The variable sizes and amenities of Independent Home’s walk-in tubs should be considered for larger individuals and those with serious mobility issues. For example, their “Royal” walk-in tub model is equipped with a motorized seat which safely lowers or raises the person into or out of the tub.
|Product Review – Independent Home Celebrity Walk-in Bathtub|
– 17-inch chair height seat
– 18 air jets for hydrotherapy
– 31 x 50 x 38 inch size accommodates individuals up to 500 pounds
– Dual massage system
– Combination of air and water jets
– Comes with extension panel
– ‘Legs-only’ massage option
|– 80-gallon capacity requires a large water heater or additional tankless system|
Related Walk-in Tub Resources
Readers of this walk in tub guide also read these related articles.
There are a few factors that control the cost of a walk-in tub.
If you’re on the fence about making a purchase, this article is for you.
Regular cleaning and maintenance will make sure your walk-in tub lasts a lifetime.
This resource explains what you know when shopping for and purchasing a walk in tub.
Other Walk-in Tub Companies
Known for their hot tubs, Jacuzzi makes two models of walk-in tubs with varying features. Read our comprehensive Jacuzzi walk-in tub review.
Frequently Asked Questions about Walk-In Bathtubs
What are the disadvantages of walk-in tubs?
Walk-in tubs are more expensive than regular tubs. They often require professional installation. This is usually done by removing the old tub, which both opens up space and provides adequate plumbing hookups.
Unlike a bathtub, a walk-in tub cannot be filled before you enter. For a walk-in bathtub to work, you’ll have to enter the tub, lock the door and wait for the tub to fill up.
What are the advantages of walk-in tubs?
Walk-in tubs are great for seniors with mobility restrictions. Those in wheelchairs can transfer from their wheelchair to the seated position of the tub and bathe. Seniors who have a hard time standing up for long periods of time will also benefit from the tub’s seat. Massage jets can help soothe pain, while other options, like aromatherapy and chromatherapy, provide a relaxing experience.
How long will my tub to fill up?
It depends on both the tub you choose and your plumbing system’s pressure capacity. Some tubs can take upwards of 20 minutes to fill completely.
How long does it take to drain my tub?
Most modern walk-in tubs drain in less than two or three minutes.
Will the water stay warm in my walk-in tub?
This also depends on your tub. If you have a 55-gallon tub but only have a 50-gallon water heater, you will likely deplete your hot water before the tub fills up. This can be alleviated by replacing your hot water heater with a higher capacity one, or buying an additional tank-less water heater for your walk-in tub.
Will Medicare pay or help pay for my walk-in tub?
Unfortunately, Medicare will not pay for your walk-in tub.
Will the VA pay for my walk-in?
In the past, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has provided walk-ins as a medical benefit for veterans.
Are walk-in tubs safe?
Yes. Walk-in tubs are equipped with handrails and non-slip surfaces so you won’t fall. Walk-in tubs are designed in such a way that falling in them is practically impossible, and the ADA-compliant seats ensure a safe bathing process.
Many walk-in tubs have the option for the door to swing in or out. Which should I choose?
Doors that swing inward take up slightly less room since the door folds into the bathtub itself. However, these bathtubs are usually larger in size. The biggest downside is that, in an emergency, it would be very difficult to open the door inward while the tub was full.
Outward swinging doors are more common in smaller tubs and can easily be opened in an emergency.
Many walk-in tubs come with the customizable option to switch the door from swinging inward or outward, so you can pick which one you want after testing.
How do I clean my walk-in tub?
It depends on the type of tub you have, so you’ll want to contact the manufacturer. For example, cleaning the innards of a Safe Step tub is as simple as adding automatic dishwashing soap and a cup of bleach to a running system for 15 minutes, draining, and then running the system again for another 15 minutes. Check your owner’s manual or call the manufacturer for specifics.
Concluding Thoughts on Walk-in Bathtubs
Walk-in tubs can significantly cut down on bathing-related injuries.
Erring on the side of caution may prevent or help you cope with a life-altering injury. As an added bonus, while you will have to sit down in the tub and wait for it to fill, a good walk-in tub will have enough features to offset the inconvenience. Aside from safety, a walk-in tub can provide a truly spa-like experience, replete with pleasant smells, soothing lighting and massaging jets of water. There really is a walk-in tub for everyone.
The type of tub you choose comes down to what you’re looking for. Massage jets can soothe aching joints and other ailments, while air-powered jets can provide a low-pressure therapeutic massage for those with sensitive skin. There are tons of options, with the price to match.
That’s why it’s no wonder why walk-in tubs can get so expensive. Adding extra bells and whistles like aromatherapy and chromatherapy can cost more, but may not be necessary if you’re on a budget. Don’t shy away from getting several quotes from competing companies and see if any will price match or offer additional discounts when shopping for your ideal walk-in bathtub.
The Best Walk-in Tub Companies
|Walk In Tub Company||Best For||Phone|
|1||Safe Step||Great for arthritis and joint pain||888-653-9934|
|2||American Standard||Most relaxing|
|3||Independent Home||Great bariatric tub|