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Pros and Cons of Walk-in Tubs

Many homeowners want to improve their homes, and the bathroom is always on the top of the list. People with mobility issues or those who are aging in place also have special needs to improve their health. One solution for both of these concerns is to invest in a walk-in tub. 

Walk-in tubs are popular amongst older homeowners for a variety of reasons such as massage therapy and safety features. There are definite advantages to having a walk-in tub for many people, but there are a few issues that may stand in the way for some.

In order to help you fully understand what walk-in tubs can do for you and what to expect, we developed this guide for you to review that will tell you the pros and cons of walk-in tubs and other information.

What are Walk In Tubs?

Walk-in tubs are a special kind of bathtub that is not designed like traditional bathtubs. First of all, the walls on a walk-in tub are much higher. Water fills these tubs all the way up to the tops of these walls, which gives the bather a fully immersed or submerged experience. 

This also makes it possible for some massage and whirlpool options to be added that would benefit the health of bathers. These tubs typically feature a seat or seats that allow the bather to sit upright in the tub.  

Also, walk-in tubs other feature watertight sealed doors on the side of the tub for easy entrance and exiting of the tub. This makes it possible for those with mobility issues to enter and exit without much struggle. There are other features as well to a walk-in tub set something apart from standard tub design.


Types of Walk in Tubs

There are a number of different types of walk-in tub designs worth mentioning. Walk-in tubs are suitable for individual bathers or up to two bathers at a time, and some are also made for larger people and taller people and sometimes come with showers. Let's take a look at some of the different types of walk-in tubs here:

Wheelchair Accessible Tubs

Specially designed walk in tubs permits people in wheelchairs to be able to transfer easily and safely from their wheelchairs onto the tub seat. Because there is a wider door with a low step press hold and chair height seat that is adjacent to the door, bathers can quickly and easily transfer onto the seat completely unobstructed.

Bariatric Tubs

Bariatric tubs are created just for people who have larger bodies. The average bather can weigh up to 600 pounds and still be seated comfortably within the bariatric tub while being well-supported at the same time. Bariatric tubs have greater support underneath their seats and the frame is made to withstand a larger body weight, without having any issues that develop. 

Standard tubs that are not bariatric can usually fit bathers up to 300 lb.

Soaker Tubs

Soaker tubs are designed for people to soak for a long period of time while fully submerged. Strictly speaking, a soaker tub does not have the hydrotherapy and air massage options and the water is still when bathing. Soaker tubs are designed for those who enjoy a full immersion experience with the safety benefits of having a walk-in tub.

Lay Down Tubs

There are some models of walk-in tubs that are shaped like traditional bathtubs while still having a door on the side of the tub for easy entrance and exit. Lay down tubs come in a variety of models with other features, but usually don't include hydrotherapy or air massage due to the nature of the design of the tub.

Walk-in Tub Shower Combination

Some walk-in tubs contain a shower kit, and it is possible that people can shower using it for a daily hygiene regimen while not having to use the tub to actually soak in for long periods. Having a walk-in tub shower combination is necessary for some people who don't have the time and energy to take long baths every day and still need to stay clean.

Two-person Tubs

Other walk-in tubs are designed for two people to bathe in them at a time, although usually they're designed for just one. Two-person tubs have two seats but still just one door for people to enter and exit the tub.  Some two-person tubs are larger than others, but they are especially useful for those who have partners that they wish to bathe with, or if they need assistance bathing.

More About Walk in Tubs

There are tons of features in walk in tubs, and some come standard with the tub and others are options. Understanding what comes in your walk in tub will better prepare you to know what pros and cons there are to the tub you select.

Accessibility and Door Style

There are a number of different benefits to having a side door on a walk-in tub, and there are some things to think about too. The accessibility feature is important, but there are several different styles of doors to choose from when selecting your tub. Some of the aspects of door style and accessibility include:

Door Seal

One of the greatest concerns that many potential users of these tubs walk-in tubs have is that there is going to be the possibility that the seal might lead to flooding or leaking. The design of the door addresses this in key ways.

One way that this is taken care of is through rubber or another material is placed around the door hinges and other potential points where water could leak. This watertight seal can be reinforced by the use of latches or other types of reinforcements that pin the door in place against the weight of the water in the bathtub.

Shape of the Door

Many swinging walk-in tub doors will either come in an "L" or "U" shape. L-shaped doors look like an upside-down L and are specifically designed so that wheelchair users can easily slide into and out of the seat in the tub. U-shaped doors are most common and they are suitable for average bathers and can be configured to swing outwardly or inwardly or are inserted into the bathtub.

Inward vs. Outward Swinging Doors

The majority of walk-in tub doors are hinged so that they must either swing outwardly or inwardly as bathers would open the tub to enter or exit. The benefits of an inwards swinging door are that they are ideal for small spaces and are more compact, though they would offer a little less space in the tub itself.

The benefits of an outward swinging door include taking up less room in the tub, however, there is more room for larger bathrooms with more space to open the tub door.

Threshold Height

The low entry threshold for most walk-in tubs is approximately 3 in, however, they can be higher, sometimes up to 5 in. You will want to find out what the threshold height is for your walk-in tub before you order it because if you have mobility issues, your access ability will be reduced with a higher threshold height.

Typical Pros and Cons of Walk in Tubs

Walk-in tubs are wonderful for many people and there's no doubt that they have incredible benefits, yet there are occasionally some downsides to the experience.

Understanding what walk-in tubs can and cannot provide is important when you are evaluating whether to purchase a walk-in tub. Overall, walk-in tubs provide many good benefits that outweigh the disadvantages of owning one.

In order to understand the benefits that are specific to walk-in tubs, we have created a list of pros that you may want to focus on to understand what you can get from a walk-in tub. We have also created a list of cons so you understand what disadvantages will be present in your walk-in tub if you decide to get one. 

Let's take a look at the pros and cons of walk-in tubs here below so you can gain a full understanding of what to expect when you get yourself a walk-in tub of your own:

Safety Benefits Pros and Cons

Safety is a major issue for anyone who has mobility issues or who is aging in place, so you need to understand what exactly a walk-in tub provides in the way of safety. There are undoubtedly unique safety features that make walk-in tubs a beautiful investment in your health, but there are a few drawbacks to consider.

Low Step Threshold

If you are getting in and out of a tub, the last thing you want to do is trip and fall and hurt yourself severely. You have come to your tub to have a relaxing experience that is going to provide therapy, not injure yourself. A low threshold step of just a few inches present in walk-in tubs will allow you to enter and exit the tub without the danger of slipping and falling.

These low thresholds are part of what makes a walk-in tub so valuable. When you have mobility issues or are aging in place, you just don't have the mobility that you used to have when you were young. Low thresholds make it possible to enter and exit the tub safely at all times.

Full Immersion

The nature of a walk-in tub is that it provides a full immersion experience. The high walls of the tub make it possible to be fully submerged in water while you are bathing for either long soaking or spa experiences with hydrotherapy or other massage options. 

Having a walk-in tub is an unbelievable experience for many people, and yes they do cost a considerable amount of money, but their health benefits make every penny worth it.

Less Risk of Slipping

Anti-slip textured floors present in many walk-in tubs make the possibility of slipping and falling almost non-existent. In traditional bathtubs, the floor is slippery and people with mobility issues can easily fall. Those who are aging in place are especially at risk when they are trying to maintain their hygiene regimen. With an anti-slip textured floor, you can easily walk around the tub and position yourself as you see fit for maximum comfortability.

Built-in Grab Bars

Built-in grab bars are another safety feature that is necessary for many who are aging in place and have mobility issues. Usually, there is at least one grab bar, perhaps two or more located around the walk-in tub that makes it possible to grab onto it to prevent slipping or falling.

Grab bars also make it possible to maneuver your body into position in the bathtub so that the jets from hydrotherapy or air massage therapy fall on the surface of your body the way you would like them to.

Grab bars are a common fixture in institutional bathing facilities, and they are a standard safety feature that just about every walk-in tub features.

Easy Cleaning

One of the most overlooked safety features of a walk-in tub is the fact that it is easily cleaned by its owners. It's just as easy to slip and fall when cleaning a tub as accidents occur when you are bathing in it. 

The fact that the surface of these tubs is usually coated with a gel coat makes the surface of it easy to clean, which makes for shorter cleaning times and less risk of falling or slipping.

Now that we have looked at some of the pros of the safety features of walk-in tubs, now let's take a look at some of the drawbacks or disadvantages that you may find in some circumstances.

Inconvenient for Helpers

In many cases, it may be difficult for people to help people assist in bathing with a walk in tub.   The design of walk-in tubs does make it a little bit more difficult for some people to assist bathers while bathing. There are ways to overcome this disadvantage, but it can be out perhaps a little more challenging for some.

Delayed First Aid

There may be delays in getting help in the tub before you get out of the tub. If a bather is having an emergency due to their health, they have to wait to call 911 until the water has drained out of the tub. Fortunately, fast-draining systems make it possible to be able to reach help within 1 to 2 minutes usually, but it can play a factor in some health issues.

Danger of Flooding

Usually, watertight seals on doors are properly affixed and in good condition, but sometimes if they are defective or are older, there could be the danger of water flooding onto the floor. This doesn't usually happen and with proper maintenance steps, this can be avoided entirely, virtually.

Health Pros and Cons

For those using walk-in tubs, soaking in the hot water will help the body relax and alleviate pains and aches. This is great for managing the symptoms of arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pain, muscle pain, stiffness, and many more health issues.

Let's take a look at some of the health pros for just about everybody who uses a walk-in tub here:

Deep Relief

The design of walk-in tubs permits bathers to soak their bodies in deep water, fully submerged, which is different than a traditional tub. This can assist with circulation and skin health, and often bathing in a walk-in tub will completely rejuvenate your body and alleviate all kinds of physical pain.

Benefits of a Hot Tub

Bathers have the luxury of entering and filling their walk-in tubs anytime that they like with complete privacy, unlike outdoor hot tubs. Walk-in tub models with massage options often include an inline heater which will keep the tub warmer for longer periods of time as well, for longer relief.

Hydrotherapy and Air Massage Therapy

For many people, this is the most important aspect of having a walk-in tub. There are so many health issues that are beneficial from the use of hydrotherapy and other massage therapy.

Although Medicaid and Medicare don't pay for the installation of hot tubs walk-in tubs, most medical professionals will heartily agree on the long-term health benefits that come with using a walk-in tub. 

For those who are aging in place or who have other mobility issues and health issues, having a walk-in tub and using it regularly can lead not only to the alleviation of much pain but can also lead to better overall health and even a longer lifespan.

The health benefits of a hydrotherapy and massage option package in your make it well worth any amount of money that you would have to spend, and although it is considerable, proper budgeting of these health benefits by getting a walk in tub is within reach for many people.

There are some drawbacks to walk in tubs when it comes to health, but none of them will impact the pros concerning this matter.

Longer Wait for Fill Up

It can take a good while for your tub to completely fill up with water once you enter it, and in the age of instant gratification, this may be a turn off certain bathers. However, with the inline heater available in massage packages, the fill up time for the tub may seem long, but they can stay in the tub for longer periods of time and still drain quickly when finished.

Chills while Draining

If you don't have an inline heater in your tub with a massage package, you may have to experience colder water temperatures when you are at the end of your bath. Fortunately, this is offset by the quick draining strange systems present in most walk-in tubs. With quick draining you only have to spend one to two minutes in a walk-in tub that has reached lower temperatures before you are able to get out of the tub.

Economic Pros and Cons

There are many economic benefits of a walk-in tub but there are indeed several drawbacks that you should be aware of. Walk-in tubs tend to hold their value and last a very long time, and they are a significantly good investment overall. Let's take a look at some of the pros and cons of walk-in tubs as far here:

Payment Plans

Some walk-in tub vendors require you to pay for the entire tub in one payment, which is often substantial. However, with some vendors, you can actually get a payment plan setup that you can pay a monthly amount that will be within a regular budget that most people could afford. 

You will still have to factor in installation cost, but you may be able to work out a payment plan with a contractor or someone who could install your tub to be able to afford a low monthly payment for that as well.

Reduced Healthcare Cost

One great advantage of having a walk-in tub is that it will have such a marvelous effect on your health if you are aging in place that other healthcare costs will be reduced significantly and the tub will pay for itself. 

The health benefits are so profound with a walk-in tub that there is no question that your health will improve significantly most of the time. Health, of course, is the priority in this matter, but the cost of improving your health to the same degree by other means would be significantly greater than purchasing a walk-in tub, which makes a walk-in tub very economical overall.

Property Value Increases

Having a walk-in tub is a great investment in your home. The value of your home could increase up to 10% overall just by having a walk-in tub installed. If you are going to sell your home, in many cases the walk-in tub could be a major selling point in any transaction.

If you are older and plan to sell your home eventually, having a walk-in tub could clinch the deal for potential buyers, especially for those who are older buyers and have health issues.

Combined Savings

There are many deals you can get on walk-in tubs, both on the purchase of the tub and its accessories, as well as installation cost. Before purchasing a walk-in tub you should look into making a deal on both the walk-in tub and the installation cost with a contractor. Many specials are available in both cases.

Although walk-in tubs have so many benefits that people may just get them anyway regardless of expense, you should be aware of some of the economic pitfalls of potentially owning a walk-in tub.

Surprising Hidden Figures

Many of the options for walk-in tubs cost extra money to install, so you should be prepared for the extra expense if you want a number of features such as water jets, adjustable showerheads, quick fill and drain, and built-in seating and temperature controls. 

Part of the process of getting a walk-in tub is understanding exactly what features you are going to need and want the most and then selecting the ones you can live with, and the ones you can live without.

Expensive Installation

Although there is no question that the installation of a walk-in tub can be very costly indeed, there are ways to work around this, such as selecting a contractor with care who can work a deal for you.

You may also want to find other people besides professional contractors who have the knowledge and skills to install the tub, and will do the work without the high price tag. Perhaps some local engineering college students could pull it off quite easily and they are not going to charge near the rate of a professional contractor.

Upgrades to your Systems

Plumbing and electrical system upgrades can be a hidden factor in the cost of your tub, and in many cases, you won't know what these expenses are going to be until you install your tub. A good contractor or someone who knows what they are doing can tell you if your existing water heater is sufficient to handle the additional water for the use of your tub.

Electrical systems may need to be upgraded anyway, and this can be a hidden cost of purchasing and installing a walk-in tub.

Preparing to Install a Walk-in Tub

Before you get ready to order a walk-in tub, if you are interested, there are a few things you should do in order to prepare to do so. You should be fully ready to take on all the responsibilities for all the expenses before you go ahead and get your tub.

The first thing you should do is make a list of the needs that you have for a walk-in tub. Understand the features that come with tubs and what you can and can't live without. Make a list of the features that you want in your tub and compare them to the different models.

In this way, you can select a short list of one to three tubs that you are going to select from. At this point, you have to understand how much the installation cost will run as well. You can get somebody who knows what they are doing to install the tub, install the tub yourself if you have plumbing and electrical skills, or hire a contractor who is your professional and will install the tub with a contract.

If you are hiring someone to install your tub for you or help you do it, get a written estimate or at least a good verbal contract from a friend if they are helping you. You should probably take a look at the electrical and plumbing systems in your home and see if they are sufficient for the needs of your new walk-in tub.

Once you have everybody on board and you know how much the expenses are going to run for everything, talk it over with your partner or others and select the table that would be ideal for you.

At this point, you can order your tub and schedule your installation services. Once you have ordered your tub and it arrives, have the tub installed and then carefully clean the area when the installation is finished.

You may want to invest in new bathroom accessories such as towels and other fixtures to complete the look of your walk-in tub bathroom.

Once the tub is installed and fully decked out with everything you want, learn how to use your tub properly and then you can begin to enjoy a lifetime of the health benefits and pleasure that your new walk-in tub will bring.

Learn more about walk-in tubs on our walk-in tubs resource page.