If you're considering installing a walk-in bathtub in your home, you'll want to understand the pros and cons of the project. Many users have balance or mobility issues and are looking for a safer way to bathe, but safety is not the only advantage when it comes to using a walk-in tub.
With so many different models and configurations to choose between, you'll no doubt be able to find one that'll work for your specific needs and bathroom layout. This article will cover the pros and cons of walk-in tubs to help you decide if adding one in your home is right for you.
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What is a Walk-in Bath Tub?
Walk-in tubs are designed for the user to safely enter and exit the bathtub through a water-tight door. The door aperture has a low entry threshold which allows for easy access in and out of the tub.
Once in, the door is closed and the water begins to fill the tub. The built-in seat enables the user to bathe in a seated position. When finished bathing, the water drains and the user can open the door and safely get out.
Walk-in tubs come in a wide variety of sizes and configurations to meet nearly every bathroom layout and user requirement.
There are even models (called a slide through tub) designed specifically to safely transfer an individual from a wheelchair to the seat of the tub. These types of tubs provide an alternative to roll-in showers.
Advantages of a Walk-in Tub
Although, it's true that the primary benefit of a walk-in tub is safety and accessibility, especially for seniors and those with limited mobility, there are a number of secondary benefits worth considering.
Walk-in bathtubs are designed specifically to provide a safe bathing experience, and they're built with many features to help reduce falls. One thing that sets them apart from traditional baths is their door. The door has a low step which makes the tub easier to enter and gives the walk-in tub it's name since you can literally walk into the tub.
They also have handrails to grab for balance, and anti-slip flooring, as well as a built-in seat which allows the user to sit comfortably in a chair-like position.
Some walk-in tubs even come with a handheld shower head to give the user the option of bathing, showering, or doing a combination of the two!
Walk-in tubs can offer their users many health benefits beyond the safety aspect of entering and exiting the bathtub.
Although we always recommend checking with your doctor if you have health issues before making any changes to your routine, many users have found walk-in tubs to be beneficial with the following issues:
Arthritis - For those who suffer from the aches and pains caused by arthritis a walk-in tub equipped with whirlpool jets can provide a soothing massage to sore joints. Hydrotherapy isn't able to reverse the affects of arthritis or eliminate the ongoing pain, but it can provide some relief. The same is true for those with fibromyalgia, rheumatism, and general joint and muscle discomfort.
Poor Circulation - One benefit of hydrotherapy is improved blood circulation. The warm bath water helps improve your blood flow throughout your body, including your legs and feet.
Stress and Anxiety - Simply soaking in a warm bath can help reduce stress and anxiety and leave you feeling more relaxed.
Traditional bath tubs fill to roughly a foot of water depth, but a walk-in tub has an entirely different design which allows it to fill somewhere between 2 to 4 feet. You'll be able to be more fully submerged which will allow for a more pleasant and therapeutic bath experience.
Adding a walk-in bathtub to your bathroom could increase the future resale value of your home.
When considering your home's resale value, you should think about who'll be buying your house. If you live in an area targeted to older adults or your home is built with handicap modifications, then a walk-in tub will likely be a desirable feature to potential buyers.
However, regardless of you home's value, if you need a walk-in tub then you should move forward with the investment since it'll provide your household with immediate benefits.
Disadvantages of a Walk-in Tub
With all the benefits walk-in tubs offer, they do have a few disadvantages.
One inconvenience with walk-in tubs is the inability of adjusting the water temperature prior to entering the tub. You'll need to find the right water temperature while you're seated inside the tub. This can lead to a few minutes of uncomfortably cold water until you get the temperature right.
Although walk-in tubs come equipped with anti-scald valves to prevent burns from dangerous hot water. It is important to understand that the water will be filling while you're seated, and that could lead to becoming acclimatize to warmer water than you'd normally choose.
Fill and Drain Times
Taking a bath in a walk-in tub can be a very enjoyable experience, but since they have a side door you'll need to be seated inside before the tub fills and after it drains.
Higher-end models typically are equipped with rapid fill and drain features which significantly speeds up the process, but you'll still be waiting in your tub exposed to the air where you could become chilled. Purchasing a tub with a heated backrest makes the filling and draining time more enjoyable and helps you relax and relieve tension.
There's no getting around it, walk-in bathtubs are more expensive than traditional tubs, and the more features you choose, the higher the price.
In additional, depending on the complexity of your tub and the type of bathroom remodel necessary, you could be looking at a significant price tag.
Although some walk-in tubs can be installed by the homeowner if you enjoy DIY projects, in most cases, it's best to have the tub installed by a professional.
Common Optional Features
There's a wide variety of features available when choosing your walk-in tub, and as you might expect each brand has a high-end model with plenty of bells-and-whistles. The features you select may be functional, or purely to make your experience more enjoyable. Here's a few of the more common features to consider:
Choosing a walk-in tub with whirlpool jets provides the user with many health benefits.
Pain Relief - Whether you experience pain from arthritis, mobility-related aches, or a chronic disease, soaking in a tub with whirlpool jets helps relieve your aches and pains.
Hydrotherapy - Have you ever wondered why athletes sit in a whirlpool bath after a hard game or workout? The water and air jets stimulate blood flow to assist with recovery and massage tired muscles. Fortunately, everybody can benefit from soaking in a bath with whirlpool jets!
Stress Reduction - Whirlpool jets can create a spa-like experience in the privacy of your own home. You can listen to the gentle bubbling sounds and enjoy the warmth of the water with its soothing surface movement. Many users add to the environment by adding candles or soft music while they bathe.
Fast Fill and Drain Technology
If you only splurge on one feature, we recommend it's this one, as it'll make your bath time more enjoyable.
Unlike a traditional bathtub, you'll need to be inside your walk-in tub when it begins filling and won't be able to get out until the water has drained.
A fast-filling faucet shortens the time it takes to fill the tub since it's a pressurized faucet which delivers more water than a standard faucet. The result is a quicker fill time.
Fast-draining tubs greatly reduce the time it takes to drain the water. Many standard walk-in tubs take 6 to 15-minutes to fully drain, but if you invest in a tub that uses fast-draining technology it could drain in 4-minutes or less. Of course, you'll want to check the manufacturer's literature for the specifics on the models you're comparing.
Safety Grab Bars
Safety grab bars are an important feature to your walk-in bathtub, after all safety is one of the top reasons homeowners make the investment of installing these tubs.
Most walk-in tubs have safety grab bars built into their design, but their placement and style vary between models and manufacturers.
As an example, Kohler has both a grab bar inside the tub and an indented handrail along the rim of the bathtub to allow the user a secure way to transition in and out of the tub.
When you're shopping for your walk-in bathtub, play close attention that the safety grab bars are positioned to meet your individual needs.
Lap and Shoulder Belts
Many walk-in tub models offer support harnesses or lap and shoulder belts as optional features.
Whether you're simply looking for a little more security when bathing, or you want peace of mind for a special needs user, adding a lap and shoulder belt can be a great choice.
Another optional feature is adding chromotherapy lights to your walk-in tub. Color light therapy dates back to ancient times, and its goal is to restore balance to the body with the use of color.
The LED color lights are embedded into the tub and when turned on, leave the water a soothing color. Whether you're looking to add the health benefits of chromotherapy, or simply enjoy the look of the colored water, adding this add-on feature can make for an enjoyable experience.
Another popular feature is the heated backrest. There are often several different heat levels to choose between, or you can choose not to have it on at all.
The heated backrest helps relieve tension and stress as it warms your neck and back which is especially helpful when the tub fills and drains the water.
There are also seat cushions and pillows that are available from third parties it one didn't come with your walk-in tub, or you simply want something different. Many are designed with suction cups to secure them in place.
Is a Walk-in Tub Right for Me?
Adding a walk-in bathtub to your home is a big decision and one that should not be taken lightly. The optimal questions are whether it will suit your bathroom size, your family's heath and safety requirements, your budget, and the plans you have for your home.
Ultimately, you may choose to wait or not purchase one at all, but if you're ready to "take the plunge," there's a tub available to suit your wants and needs.
Seeking expert professional advice and a bathroom assessment can help you to answer any questions you might still have.