A walk-in bathtub is a sizable purchase that isn't easy to return, so it's important to thoroughly explore your options before choosing one. These tubs provide those with mobility issues the ability to bathe independently, but they don't work for everyone or solve every problem. Be aware of both the positives and the negatives before choosing your new tub.
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Walk-in tubs cost between $2,500 and $10,000, as of the time of publication, depending on their quality and features. You may also have the additional cost of buying and installing a new hot water heater. Walk-in tubs typically use 5 to 6 gallons more water than a standard bathtub, so make sure your hot water heater is up to the task of filling such a large tub. A water heater that holds a minimum of 50 gallons is recommended.
Because the door to the tub is on the side or front of the tub, you must get into the tub and close the door before you can begin filling it with water. This means that you may sit in the tub for as long as 10 minutes naked and possibly getting cold while waiting for the tub to fill. When you're ready to get out of the tub, again, you must wait for the tub to drain completely before opening the door to exit the tub.
Some walk-in tub manufacturers have increased the water flow into and out of their tubs to try to minimize wait time. While this is a nice feature, be wary of the hype. Remember that your home's existing plumbing is a factor -- a wide drain funneling into a narrow pipe won't really speed the tub-draining process.
In most walk-in tubs, the controls for the tub are in the front of the tub, but the seat is in the back. When shopping for a tub, visit a showroom that actually has the tub you're considering, so you can sit in it to make sure you can reach the controls comfortably and safely before you complete the purchase.
The doors to walk-in tubs can and do spring leaks, which can present a big problem with a tub that holds 40 to 80 gallons of water. Make sure you choose a company that provides a lifetime warranty on door seals, or you could end up spending money on replacement seals and mopping up a lot of water.
Some tubs have drains built into the doors to help avoid a mess if the door does leak. Consider purchasing a tub with this feature to help avoid leakage problems.
Although getting into a walk-in tub is much easier than climbing into a traditional bath, you still must be able to walk into it. This requires the ability to step over a lip that is generally about 4 inches in height. Though 4 inches isn't very high, it requires enough stability and balance to step into the tub without fear of falling. If you need help standing and walking, this small step could pose a challenge.
A Relaxing Soak?
Be aware that walk-in tubs allow you to sit but position you in an upright position to do so. While this arrangement is ideal for those who believe in maintaining perfect posture at all times, it may not be the relaxing soak you were hoping for. You won't be seated in a relaxed, reclined position during your bath. Instead, expect to sit up perfectly straight throughout.