Walk-in bathtubs are a way for you to upgrade your home, and make it easier for family members to stay at home for the remainder of their days. A walk-in bathtub is a major bathroom renovation, so choosing the right tub for your needs is a big decision. We look at what a walk-in tub is, different features available, and how to choose the right walk-in bath for your family.
What is a Walk-in Tub?
A walk-in tub is a bathtub designed to make it easier and safer for people to enter the tub and bathe. Normally, with a conventional tub, you step over the side of the tub to enter. With a walk-in tub, a door swings to allow the bather to enter without having to step over a threshold. The watertight door closes, and the tub fills with water. The person bathing can sit down on a seat, instead of laying down to bathe or standing to use a shower head.
Because of their design, walk-in tubs are usually taller than they are wide, but many configurations exist, including wheelchair accessible tubs. Usually, walk-in tubs are installed where mobility or safety is a concern, such as with older or mobility-limited family members.
Upon conclusion of the bath, the water drains through an outlet, and the bather can open the swinging door and exit.
Why do People Install a Walk-in Tub?
Most often, a walk-in tub is installed to help an aging or handicapped family member stay at home and maintain dignity and a consistent hygiene routine.
however, walk-in tubs can be installed by any homeowner who wants to enjoy a luxurious and relaxing bath experience. Many walk-in tubs include massaging water jets or air jets, which provide therapeutic massage relief for sore muscles or joints.
Common Safety Features of a Walk-in Tub
Most walk-in bathtubs have a handrail for balance, a low entry threshold to prevent trips and falls, slip resistant textured flooring, and ADA compliant seating. Almost all walk-in tubs also come with a quick drain, to allow the water to escape quickly, so the bather is not sitting in tepid water too long before they can safely open the swinging door to exit.
Types of Walk-in Tubs / Common Features
Some common variations of walk-in tubs that appear frequently include:
Soaking tub: The most basic type of walk-in tub, a soaking tub allows you to fill the tub and soak. Almost all walk-in tubs also include a handheld shower head with a long extension, allowing you to shower while seated.
Hydrotherapy / Whirlpool tub: These tubs are equipped with water jets to massage and soothe achy muscles. The direction and speed of the water jets are usually adjustable. Sometimes these also feature chromotherapy (different colored lights that help relax the bather).
Air jet / Aerotherapy tub: Similar to a waterjet massage therapy tub, but using air jets instead. The air is gentler on the muscles and skin than water jets.
Wheelchair-accessible tub: This special type of walk-in tub has a wider door to allow a wheelchair to enter, and has handrails built in for support, so a person can move from the wheelchair to the sitting position in the tub.
Bariatric walk-in tub: A larger capacity tub built with extra volume, wider door, and reinforced structure. This type of tub is designed for people 300 pounds or more.
Pros and Cons of Walk-in Tubs
1. The biggest advantage of a walk-in tub is it allows your family members with limited mobility to bathe easily at home. This is particularly important for older members of your family, or those who otherwise have trouble bathing in a conventional tub or shower. Older people can stay at home instead of going to a senior care facility. This allows your loved ones to maintain their dignity and keep up a good hygiene routine.
2. Another reason people install a walk-in tub is for the therapeutic benefits. Many tubs that have water jets or massaging water/air jets receive some of the same benefits that a soothing massage would provide. This helps relieve muscle tension and stress.
Hydrotherapy can help relieve some effects of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), particularly joint pain and stiffness in the hands and feet.
3. When loved ones have mobility issues, the chances of slip and falls increase. The National Institute on Aging (NIH) reports that 81% of injuries from falls were by people age 65 or older. These slip and falls can cause severe injuries for family members who are over 70.
Walk-in tubs make it easier for people to bathe and maintain good hygiene when they have vertigo, balance issues, limited mobility, or abnormal gait. Walk-in tubs also prevent slip and falls from other inherent environmental issues in the bathroom, such as uneven flooring, wet or slippery floors, poor lighting, and constricted or cluttered walkways.
1. The biggest hurdle with installing walk-in tubs is the cost of purchasing and installation. The most basic walk-in tubs run about $1000, while most soaking tubs cost $2500 to $3000. Hydrotherapy tubs, whirlpool tubs, microbubble tubs, or combination tubs can cost anywhere from $3000 to $7000. The highest end tubs with all features can run upwards of $10,000, and these prices are all for the tub alone. Removal and disposal of your old tub and installation of the new walk-in tub are costs to factor on top of this initial cost.
2 Walk-in tubs should be installed by professional bathroom contractors, as there are many variables that need to be planned. These include electrical, plumbing, caulking, how much water the tub will hold, and whether the floor can support it, etc. Also, many manufacturers will void the warranty if the tub is not installed by a professional contractor.
3. A walk-in tub holds more water than a regular tub, so you must know the capacity of your hot water heater. Generally, a walk-in tub will hold about twice the amount of water as a conventional tub using the same floorspace. Draining a walk-in tub also takes longer than a conventional tub due to the water volume. It is possible that the person bathing may be sitting in lukewarm water until the water drains to a point where they can safely open the bathtub door.
How Much Do Walk In Tubs Cost?
Soaking walk-in tubs can cost anywhere from $1000 to $3000. Water jet tubs can cost from $3000 to $7000. Walk-in tubs with specialized features may cost around $10,000.
How To Choose a Good Walk-in Tub
When choosing a walk-in tub, you will need to consider multiple factors, such as the footprint of your current tub, the amount of weight the floor must support, the features your tub will require, and total cost of the tub and installation.
For most walk-in tubs, they will need to fit into the space where your current tub resides. Your bathroom contractor will need to get precise measurements of the floorspace to install the correct size tub.
The subfloor must be strong and sturdy enough to bear the load of the new walk-in tub and the extra water volume. Most walk-in tubs hold about double the amount of water of a standard tub of the same size. The weight that must be supported by the floor must be accounted for. Extra renovation to bolster the subfloor may be necessary.
Soaking tubs are the most basic walk-tubs available, but you may need a tub equipped with water jets, air jets, or designed for the needs of a specific family member. If you have questions, consult with a local bathroom contractor for advice.
Cost and Installation
Most walk-in tubs require installation by a professional contractor to maintain the warranty. Talk with local bathroom contractors in your area to get an idea of what your options are for the tub features you require, and how much it will cost for the materials and installation.
If you think a walk-in tub may be a good choice for your family in the Northwest Chicago area, contact our team at (708) 860-9742 for a no-obligation estimate.
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Home Remodeling Contractors in Northwest Chicago
Sunny Construction & Remodeling helps homeowners in Schaumburg, Palatine, Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Mount Prospect and other Chicago neighborhoods with home remodeling. Our team has done hundreds of kitchen remodeling, bathroom remodeling, and basement finishing projects in the Northwest Chicago area. We offer complementary estimates and a five-year warranty on workmanship. If you have a home improvement project you need help with, call the contractor team at Sunny Constrcution & Remodeling for a free estimate at (708) 860-9742.