Walk-In Bathtubs For Seniors: All-In-One 2018 Guide

We can all agree that safety should come first. For seniors and elderly people, the bathroom is pretty much the most dangerous place at home with slippery tiles and hot water temperatures. Walk-in bathtubs are one of the most comfortable ways to take a bath safely.

According to CDC, almost 3 million seniors over 65 falls and some of them suffer severe injuries (broken hip or head injury). The average hospital costs for a bathroom fall cost above $30,000. For seniors, walk-in tubs represent a safer tub in the most fall-dangerous environment at home. These tubs are specially designed with ADA-standards for senior safety and can serve for decades if you know how to choose the right bathtub.

Walk-in bathtubs for seniors can cost more than $5,000 (+$2,000 or so for installation). It is important to make a solid choice when picking the best walk-in tub in 2018 – if you’re spending so much for the safety, you can’t just pick the first one. This is why a senior, a caregiver and pretty much the whole family should go through all-in-one comprehensive guide before deciding which walk-in bathtub to install.

You can share the all-in-one guide with your family and caregivers so that you’re all on the same page:

What Is A Walk-In Bathtub?

Walk-in bathtub, sometimes referred to as accessible bathtub, is simply put a safer version of a classic bathtub.

There are 3 main reasons why an elderly person could benefit from using a walk-in tub:

  1. Safety (accessible bathtubs are specifically designed to prevent falls and serious injuries).
  2. Luxurious bathing for seniors (an easier way for seniors to enjoy a bath).
  3. Therapeutic advantages (hydrotherapy, aromatherapy or massage therapy can elevate joint pain and improve health outlook in old age).
walk in bathtub vs classic bathtub
A standard and walk-in bathtub look very different.

Bathtub Safety Features

When comparing walk-in bathtub dimensions with a standard bathtub, there are several significant differences. Most of the walk-in tub design features were introduced to improve senior’s safety in every way possible.

Improving safety for older people is usually the main reason why seniors and their families are deciding to buy the walk-in tub.

What makes a bathtub safer?

When going through the bathtubs for seniors in order to protect them from falls, make a point to focus on these walk-in bathtub safety features:

1. Low Step-In Threshold

The key problem of bathtubs is that you have to put your leg way up to enter the tub. This leaves all of us in a dangerous position where we’re standing on one leg and struggling for balance.

Of course, we don’t have problems with keeping balance when we’re young. But what if we are 65+ years old and the floor is wet and slippery?

In fact, stepping into a shower or a bath is one of the most dangerous situations for a senior. Slipping in that situation can cause hip injury, broken bones or even a serious head injury.

The single greatest feature of walk-in bathtub versus the traditional bathtub is the low step-in threshold.

Imagine how high a person has to raise their leg and stability the other leg in a normal bathtub. Raising a leg 30 inches or even more puts a senior in a dangerous (potentially even a deadly) situation every time he or she wants to take a bath.

stepping into a bathtub for seniors
Low-step in is most important part of walk-in bathtubs. Instead of raising your leg 30 inches, a senior only has to raise it to 7.5-inch height.

This tub by Empava, for example, has a 7.5 inches high step-in step. A standard walk-in tub can have step height anywhere from 3 inches to about 10 inches.

If a senior is still considerably flexible and doesn’t have serious mobility problems, having a 10-inch step-in height should not be a problem. Kohler, for example, has the ultra-low step-in height of only 3 inches.

However, older seniors with less mobility can struggle to lift their leg up to 10-inches and still keep stable. You can try at home how comfortable you are lifting a leg to a certain height. Nonetheless, be aware that the older we get, the less flexible and less mobile we are.

In short, even if a person can lift a leg 10-inches today, will he or she be able to do that in 5 or 10-years? Buying a walk-in bathtub is a considerable investment and thus it should serve you for years or even decades to come. It might be useful to have that in mind when deciding what height the walk-in tub step should be.

Wheelchair Accessible Bathtubs

The low step-in threshold also give walk-in bathtubs an option to be wheelchair accessible. Many seniors depend on wheelchairs to move around the house and it is important to be able to use a bathtub even if you have a wheelchair.

With the 5-inch step-in, for example, all you need to additionally install is a wheelchair ramp. Usually the bathtub producer/installer can recommend one for the particular bathtub – on your part, just make sure that the ramp is up to ADA standards. You can check the basic requirements for ADA-approved wheelchair ramp here.

wheelchair ramp for bathtubs
Example of a wheelchair ramp for 4” to 8” high step-in. 

2. Bathtub Door

When comparison a walk-in bathtub with standard tub, the first thing we notice are the bathtub door on the walk-in model. In fact, the door itself makes possible for elders to walk into a bathtub.

One important feature to remember with the bathtub door is that it is watertight. This means that when you sit down in the bathtub (to fit comfortably, look into walk-in bathtubs with seats), you safely close the bathtub door. When the hot water starts to fill the bathtub, you needn’t worry about the doors leaking – they are designed especially to be watertight.

The door in the bathtub dictates how elderly people use walk-in bathtub:

  1. Open the door and step into the tub.
  2. Sit down comfortably.
  3. Close the door.
  4. Open the water pipes and wait for the water to fill the tub.

Of course, having a door built into a bathtub presents a problem best described by Homeability (check out #1 misconception about walk-in tubs). A person taking a bath has to wait for 5-15 minutes while the tub is getting filled with water.

In short, it is impossible to pre-fill a walk-in bathtub. With a standard tub, people usually open the hot pipe, add some scented shampoo and in about 10 minutes the bathtub is filled with hot water. You don’t have to wait in the tub for 50 gallons of water to fill the tub.

However, the way walk-in bathtubs for seniors are designed, you have to wait for the water to fill the tub in the tub, with the bathtub doors closed. It may take up to 15 minutes for the water fill the bath from your toes to the full.

bathtub with right hand door
A bathtub with the right inward swing door. All the faucets are on the same side as the door.

A majority of high-end walk-in tubs have fast filling and draining system built in. According to Aquassure, the filling time of a walk-in bathtub can be reduced to 6-8 minutes. The filling and draining time is one of the most important factors when deciding which walk-in tub to buy.

Left Or Right Door?

Bathtubs with doors have a door in the left or the right side. Should you pick the right-hand door walk-in bathtub if the right hand is stronger? This is usually decided by personal preference. Some people prefer to open the door with their left hand, others with the right hand.

However, the decision between a right-hand or left-hand bathtub door should be made with the bathroom design in mind. From the installation point of view, it is advisable to choose a bathtub that will have the piping on the same side as the piping in your bathroom. Of course, many people prefer to install a walk-in bathtub so that it faces the whole bathroom instead of facing a wall.

Another thing to consider is that the bathtub doors can swing outward and inward. If you have a big bathroom and a lot of space, outward swing doors might be a better idea. On the other hand, if you’re considering a walk-in bathtub with inward swing doors do make sure the bathtub is large enough for you and the door. If you think about how the inward swing doors work, there has to be enough space for a person sitting in the bathtub as well as quite large doors. Here are some ideas for inward swing door bathtubs. You’ll see that they usually have ample space for legs in order to accommodate the opening of the door.

3. Anti-Slip Tub Seat And Floor

The problem with bathtubbing, especially for seniors, is that everything is slippery. For starters, the wet bathroom floor is the most basic danger we all face every day. However, we make best in order for the floor to be dry and use non-slippery mats and so on (here are few ideas for safe wet rooms). What do we do in order to keep our bathtubs safer?

anti slippery bathroom
Bathroom is the most dangerous place in the house for slipping and falling.

When we’re using a tub, it is always wet and, if with standard tubs, very slippery. One part of making walk-in bathtubs safer for elderly people is to use anti-slip materials everywhere. Bathtub floor and seat are two potentially dangerous parts of tubs that walk-in tub designers always try to make less slippery and less dangerous.

The walk-in bathtub designers tend to point how what kind of anti-slip measures were taken to prevent slipping and falling. These include anti-slip materials for the seat and the floor as well as add-ons like grab bars. When picking the safest walk-in bathtub, it is advisable to go through the safety features with the supplier – you can even ask to check out the anti-slip materials for bathtubs in order to see if they are really up to the standard.

4. Built-In Seat And Grab Bars

Grab bars are intended to help an elderly person to maneuver in a position inside the tub. Traditional baths lack bars or other objects you can grab on. What is more, an elderly person is usually left to grab the ceramic tub itself which is both slippery and can provide a false feeling of safety.

We can install grab bars to help facilitate the transition in and out of the tub. If a bathtub was designed with elderly people in mind, however, it usually has the grab bars built-in.

Additionally, when a person is sitting in the tub, a nice wide and anti-slip seat is exactly what traditional tubs are missing. If you look around or ask for help, you’ll sooner or later find a walk-in bathtub with the seat. Mind you that not every walk-in tub has a seat built-in; however, if you like some additional comfort and safety when inside the tub, the built-in seat is a smart idea. On the other hand, you can also choose to install a seat in your existing bathtub but that can be tricky – talk with people who install seats to figure out if and how it can be done.

5. State-Of-The-Art Maintenance

Walk-in bathtub is quite a complex machine and keeping it up and running in accordance with the ADA guidelines can be difficult. If you’re taking a bathtub every day, chances are that you’re using all the function your tub has to offer. How well does can one maintain the overall performance of the bathtub over the period of say 10 years?

Pretty well, actually. Most of the advances tubs have state-of-the-art maintenance system that helps you keep bathtub as perfect as on the first day. The durability is very important especially because the walk-in bathtubs are expensive.

Here are some maintenance systems that increases the durability and safety of walk-in bathtubs according to ShieldMySenior:

  • Anti-scald technology: the main goal here is to keep water in the tub warm for longer periods of time, without getting burnt. Accidental burn can happen in bathtubs without anti-scald technology included in the design.
  • Gel-coated interior: moist areas are where mold readily grows. Mold-free walk-in bathtubs come with a gel-coater interior that prevents mold from growing and keeps the tub clean.
  • Repair panel should be handy: because walk-in tubs are quite tricky to repair, it is very handy to have a control/repair panel easily accessible even when the walk-in bathtub is installed in your bathroom.

For practical bits of advice about how to keep your walk-in tub in prime condition, you can refer to SafeStepTub article about taking care of walk-in bathtubs.

Luxurious Bathtubbing

Chances are that an average senior will spend up to $10,000 for a walk-in bathtub and the installation. Safety is always first and these kinds of tubs were designed with that in mind. What is more, the walk-in also provides for one of the most luxurious bathroom experience that will make seniors more relaxed and happy.

In fact, the walk-in bathtubs are pretty much the most fun you can have in the bathroom.

What makes up the most luxurious walk-in bathtub? Here is a short list:

1. Deep Water For Relaxation

With standard tubs, it is almost impossible to sit upright and be up to your neck in hot soothing water. We all go from the sitting position to lying position in order for our bodies to be fully immersed.

The specific sitting design of walk-in tubs, however, enables us to sit upright and see the water fill the tub from the toes to the neck.

In terms of bathtub dimensions, the average depth of a standard tub is about 15 inches (14” to 17”). The depth of walk-in bathtubs varies a bit as well but most of the improved accessibility tubs are at least 30 inches deep.

bathtub for seniors depth
Spa World Venzi tubs in more than 30 inches deep and comes with 18 air jets.

In short, the water in the walk-in model is deep enough to embrace your whole body with ease. Full water immersion is de-stressing in nature and it has an affect on circulation, kidneys and fluid balance.

We all know that immersion in deep enough water feels good. Moreover, according to the article published in Sports Medicine, “Water immersion is increasingly being used by elite athletes seeking to minimize fatigue and accelerate post-exercise recovery.” If it works for elite athletes, the smoothing effect of water immersion can definitely be of benefit it elderly as well.

2. Jacuzzi-Like (Water And Air Jets)

The closest jacuzzi most of us have is the nearest wellness center. Practically nobody enjoys a jacuzzi-like experience every day, with one exception – walk-in bathtub owners.

While some high-end tubs have several waterjets or what not, almost all above basic walk-in tubs come with 10 or more water and air jets. These provide a very relaxing and soothing bathtub, and what’s better, you can use them every day to de-stress.

water and air jets for walkin bathtubs
Ella Bubbles walk-in bathtub for two comes with more than 20 jets (count the jet holes).

This kind of luxurious experience, however, can come at quite a cost. As much enjoyable as the water and air jets can be, they do spend a considerable amount of water and electricity to run. The water and electricity bill might be higher because of jets but the majority of the added cost due to walk-in bathtub usage accounts for filling the whole bathtub with water (50 or so gallons, you can read here about how much water does it take to fill up a walk-in tub) and water heating.

Nonetheless, there is nothing quite like having a jacuzzi-like bathtub at the privacy of your home.

3. Walk-in Bathtubs With Heated Seats And Backrest

Tubs for seniors are made for sitting; and it does help if you can sit on an actual seat. Many tubs come with seats already installed to provide an even more relaxing experience.

However, because these deep bathtubs need up to 15 minutes to fill, an elderly person will have to sit on the cold seat while waiting for the hot water to rise. The same is with the backrest – usually made out of ceramic, the walk-in bathtubs can be very cold at first.

This is why heated seat and backrest for the walk-in bathtub are such a luxury. They keep an elderly person warm while waiting for about 50 gallons of water to fill the tub. Nonetheless, there are not many tubs that come equipped with heated seats and backrest.

The price of walk-in bathtubs with inbuilt heated seats can increase for a few $100 just because of the addition of seats. A more affordable option is to install the heating system for seats and backrest yourself. Some companies such as Ella Bubbles offer a neat surface heating system for bathtubs that are easy to install and cost a fraction of a cost of in-build heated seats.

4. Smart Thermostat – Keep Enjoying The Bath Longer

When you fill any bathtub with hot water, the water will go colder and colder by the minute. For example, even if you fill a walk-in bathtub with 50 gallons of 110-degree hot water, it will eventually become warm and not warm enough to enjoy a bath.

This is why many of walk-in tubs come equipped with a thermostat. Its job is simple – keep the temperature of the water perfectly hot all the time. For example, Smart Thermostat by Serenity Tubs is as simple to operate as possible. You just set the water temperature (usually 102-104 degrees is just perfect) and the walk-in bathtub thermostat will do all the rest.

In this way, you can enjoy a hot tub for hours on end. Without a thermostat, you can hardly so some light reading for about 15 minutes before the water gets cold (and you need to add more hot water). With a thermostat, you can relax and read a novel in the tub for as long as you wish.

Some of the thermostats for walk-in tubs come with an “intelligent high-limit”. For example, you can set a high-limit of 110 degrees and the thermostat should ensure that the water temperature won’t pass 110 degrees. This is primarily to prevent scalding and hot-water burns. However, do talk with your installer and walk-in bathtub provider about how specifically thermostat works and about how to set the high-limit.

Therapeutic Effects Of Walk-in Bathtubs

Bathtubs for seniors don’t only serve for personal hygiene but as a method of therapy as well. Stress reduction is one of the most obvious advantages of using a walk-in bathtub as well as helping in part with sleep disorders.

There are many claimed therapeutic effect of using deep bathtubs. Some claims go as far as to point out the improvements for patients with diabetes, arthritis, heart conditions and even Alzheimer’s diseases (Source: Bliss Tubs Healing Benefits article). Nonetheless, many of such claims are as of yet not fully accepted and endorsed by medical professionals. The rule of thumb is to take the therapeutic effects on serious diseases with a grain of salt.

What you can do when looking for a walk-in bathtub that best fits you is choose between special additions to a classic walk-in bathtub that may contribute to the therapeutic effects of taking a bath.

Here are some therapy-boosting bathtub options:

1. Aromatherapy

We’ve all heard about the aromatherapy. In short, we can use flowers, leaves, roots and other parts of plants to make natural oil extracts. Such extracts have strong fragrances and are believed to help with various diseases ranging from heart and respiratory problems to reduction in arthritis-like pain. Again, we have to take that with a grain of salt, but one thing is for sure: having a bath and being surrounded by an odorous fragrance amounts to a very relaxing experience.

Some walk-in bathtubs such as SecurityBath ones come with an in-built aromatherapy system. You get an already installed aromatherapy oil diffuser, fill it with your favorite fragrance (like peppermint, menthol, lavender etc.) and your whole bathroom will be full of terrific scent.

If you’re not prepared to pay a little extra for aromatherapy walk-in bathtub, you can simply buy an oil diffuser for less than $30. Here is the best selling one on Amazon:

aromatherapy oil diffuser for bathtubbing
Transform your bathtub experience with an aromatherapy oil diffuser.

2. Chromotherapy

Chromotherapy is basically therapy by the light with different energy states. One thing to remember is that chromotherapy is not a universally accepted method of therapy (here is a critical analysis of therapy by light) but is it readily and widely used even when it comes to walk-in bathtubs.

Some regular jacuzzi-like tubs offer chromotherapy for general well-being as well:

chromotherapy for corner walk in tub
Example of chromotherapy (blue, red, green light) corner tub.

Each color presumably has a different effect. Green, for example, calms the nervous system. You can read more about what each color does this walk-in tub chromotherapy system article.

The chromotherapy system of lights comes pre-installed in the walk-in bathtub and you can choose several different lights. Beside of the therapeutic effect, the lights really, well, light up the bathroom and create almost a magical bathtubbing experience. One of the most well-known sellers of chromotherapy walk-in bathtubs is Independent Home. You can contact them about what kind of walk-in bathtubs they are offering and even get a rough estimate of how much everything is going to cost.

3. Massaging Therapy With Water And Air Jets

As we’ve seen before, the sophisticated walk-in bathtubs with water jets can create a jacuzzi-like experience. It is not unlikely for bathtubs to have more than 10 different water and air jets.

Massage therapy has been studied for a number of diseases – NIH neatly summaries for which conditions a massage can help in their Massage Therapy article. For example, in their pain treatment section you’ll find the following: “A 2008 research review and 2011 NCCIH-funded clinical trial concluded that massage may be useful for chronic low-back pain.”

This study answers if massage therapy in walk-in bathtubs is useful for low-back pain.

What Type Of Walk-In Tub Is Best For You?

Walk-in bathtubs come in various different types, from simple soaker walk-in tubs to the walk-in bathtub and shower combos. They primarily differ in how complex they are – soaker tubs are simple to use and install while advanced ones with hydro and air jets are quite tricky to install on your own (almost everybody needs a professional installer).

In turn, there are different prices for each type of walk-in tubs. The cost of walk-in bathtub installation goes up the more complex the type of walk-in bathtub is. Here is a list of different tub types:

1. Soaker Tub (Simplest And Budget-Friendly)

Of all the bathtubs you can walk into, the soaker walk-in bathtub has the most simple and basic design. This also makes it the most affordable walk-in tub because it doesn’t have all the extra luxurious features like water jets or heated seats. However, it does have all the necessary safety features that are usually the main reason for buying a walk-in soaker tub. The most important point is to protect our elderly and seniors and in that soakers tubs are not outdone by other more advanced and expensive walk-in tubs.

As you can see from the photo below, soaker walk-in tub has a low step-in threshold and watertight doors. Do notice that on this tub model the walk-in bathtub doors are of standard size; this is too narrow for a wheelchair access (we’ll go through wheelchair accessible walk-in tubs further down):

soaker walk in bathtubs
Soaker is the basic type of walk-in bathtub. Designed for safety, it is the most affordable tub for elderly (around $2,000).

Albeit being the most budget-friendly walk-in bathtub, the soakers are designed to be sturdy and durable. For example, they are made out of reinforced fiberglass and can even come with super-fast draining pipes (you have to wait for less than 10 minutes for the tub to be completely drained).

Because the safety of a senior is the primary concern here, you’ll often find soaker tubs with grab bars or built-in seat. Of course, if you buy the most basic model of a soaker bathtub, you can easily add grabs bars or a seat, but usually you get a better price if they are already included in the tub.

This Huffington Post article very appropriately estimates that the best walk-in bathtubs for seniors cost anywhere between $3,000 and $10,000. The most basic walk-in soaker will even cost you as low as $2,000.

The cost to install a walk-in soaker is also lower than for other types of walk-in tubs. The installation work alone can cost up to $1,500 for a tub where a plumber has to call in an electrician to properly install air and water jets. In the case of a soaker, you’re looking to spend less than $1,000 for the whole thing (given the proper 3/4 inch pipes are already in place). You’ll probably only need a plumber to remove your existing standard bathtub and install a walk-in soaker – this usually takes more than 8 hours and plumbers charge $50 or more per hour.

Nonetheless, if you need a walk-in tub for safety reasons and are looking for an affordable tub, choosing a soaker will cost you the least – about $3,000 to $5,000 for a walk-in soaker with installation included.

2. Walk-In Tub With Shower Combo (Have A Bath And Shower Afterwards)

Most of the tubs come with a fixed showerhead. You can turn it on and more it around a bit, but you can hardly reach all your body parts with it – and we don’t want the unwashed shampoo captured under your armpits just because it couldn’t be reached by a fixed walk-in bathtub showerhead.

That’s why most people prefer to have a hand-held showerhead in the walk-in tubs. This is a neat combination of the walk-in bathtub with walk-in shower. Basically, if you can’t decide between a walk-in bathtub and a walk-in shower, the best compromise is to buy the walk-in bathtub and shower combo and save more than 50% as well as on the installation.

Here is an example of a walk-in tub and shower combo by Spa World:

walk in tub and shower combo
Walk-in tub with a hand-held shower head creates a perfect showering experience.

With the combo, you have an option to stand up in the walk-in bathtub and have a decent shower. Nonetheless, be aware that whenever you’re standing up, there is a danger of a fall. For this reason, the walk-in bathtub and shower combo producers put the textured anti-slip floor to make falls less likely, but the danger of falling is still there.

The price of a walk-in tub and shower combo is in the mid-range. You’re looking to spend anything from $3,000 to $6,000. The installation is a bit more expensive than for just a soaker tub, but considerably more affordable than hydrotherapy walk-in bathtubs because you just need a plumber, not an electrician. The estimated cost of installing a walk-in tub and shower combo is around $1,000.

With the combination you get the best of both worlds. What is more, if you want to save on water a bit and would like to just take a shower, you can do that with the walk-in shower and tub combo. Just stand in the tub and have a regular shower. That is a clear advantage of the combination – you don’t have to spend an hour in the bathroom because you can take a regular walk-in shower in less than 5 minutes.

3. Bariatric Tubs For Heavier Seniors (Wide And Comfortable Tubs)

Ordinary tubs with seats are made for seniors who weight less than 300 pounds. That simply means they are about 25 to 30 inches wide. An elderly person who weights more than 300 will have a problem taking a bath in such a slim walk-in bathtub.

That’s why bariatric walk-in tubs were designed. Their main feature is that they are wider even up to 50% than a normal walk-in tub. In such a way, a heavier person can sit comfortably in a bariatric walk-in tub for seniors. What is more, with a bariatric type you have more space on your left and right. That’s why they are more appropriate for people with mobility issues.

For example, this bariatric tub by Meditub is 40 inches wide:

bariatric tub for seniors
Bariatric tubs are perfect for people over 300 pounds and people with mobility problems.

Because the bariatric walk-in bathtub for seniors is wider is also requires more water. Some tubs even need up to 100 gallons of water to be completely full. How does that effect your water bill? Less than you would think. A gallon of water costs way less than 1 cent. For a one-time big bath, you’re looking to pay way less than $1 for 100 gallons in water costs.

Before buying a bariatric walk-in tub for your elderly, let them try it first. Usually, the problem is never the seating space because the tub is very wide; the bariatric tub door, however, is not always wider than with a standard walk-in tub. For wider doors look into wheelchair accessible bariatric walk-in tubs for disabled. Those have very wide and user-friendly doors and usually come equipped with grab bars and wheelchair ramp.

The price of bariatric walk-in bathtub can be significantly higher than the price of a standard soaker bath. Prices start at about $4,000 for the most basic wide bariatric tub models and can reach as high as $10,000 if you add the water and air jets.

4. Hydrotherapy Tubs (For Massage And Therapy)

The high-end walk-in tubs have a number of water and air jets that create a jacuzzi-like environment in a tub. For the purposes of hydrotherapy both kinds of jets – water and air – are used to deliver the best massaging performance.

As far as the advantages of hydrotherapy as treatment goes, you can read a Wikipedia article about hydrotherapy. In short, it is a part of alternative medicine commonly used to treat pain relief and a number of other medical conditions.

The budget-friendly version of hydrotherapy walk-in tubs includes only one kind of jets. For example, if you prefer water jets, you can buy a hydrotherapy tub with only water jets – this kind of tubs are commonly referred to as “hydrotherapy walk-in tubs” or “whirlpool baths”. On the other hand, if you prefer air jets with air bubbles, you can choose air jet’s only tubs – commonly referred to as “air baths”. Why not both? Well, usually the combination of both water and air jets in the walk-in tub will add up to $2,000 to the final cost.

hydrotherapy bath with water jets
Hydrotherapy bath with only water jets (without air jets) costs about $2,000 less than a bath with water and air jets.

A thing to remember is that more water jets don’t mean a better hydrotherapy walk-in tub for seniors. The massaging effect really depends on what kind of water jets are installed. When checking the walk-in tub, be sure to look how wide the water jets are. Everybody who has ever enjoyed a jacuzzi knows that those slimmer and powerful water jets can be irritating and even hurtful. This is, of course, a matter of personal preference, but going for bigger water jets is the safest way.

Of course, hydrotherapy tubs don’t necessarily be used for therapeutic purposes. In fact, pretty much everyone prefers to have an option of water jets in a tub because it feels relaxing and enjoyable. Nonetheless, the jets are considered a bit of a luxury and will increase the price of the tub. Low-end hydrotherapy tubs can start even at below $5,000 but if you want both water and air jets, you can even find a hydrotherapy walk-in tub that costs more than $10,000. These are, in fact, the most advanced and expensive kinds of walk-in tubs.

What is more, whenever you have some kind of jets, you’ll probably need an electrician for the installation (in addition to a plumber). With two experts needed to install a hydrotherapy walk-in bathtub instead of one, the cost of installation goes up – you’re looking to spend around $2,000 for hydrotherapy tub installation.

5. Wheelchair Accessible Baths (For Elderly And Disabled Seniors)

For people who use wheelchairs for their mobility, everything is a bit more difficult, including taking a bath. As you might imagine, it is very hard to access a standard tub if you’re in a wheelchair. To ease these problems, a special kind of walk-in tub for wheelchairs is an option.

Wheelchair accessible baths come equipped with broad doors (around 30 inches width). Wheelchair width is usually around 30 inches as well; thus a wheelchair should fit in the walk-in bathtub door. From there on, it is easier for a disabled person with a help of a caregiver to maneuver of the tub seat and enjoy as great as a bath as everybody else. In order to even further help to maneuver in place, grab bars are installed – here is an example of such bathtubs that is wheelchair accessible:

wheelchair accessible tub
Wheelchair accessible tub by American Tubs has a wide 27” door and stainless steel grab bars.

Grab bars are especially important for a disabled person to hold himself or herself in place while taking a bath. Nonetheless, in most cases, a caretaker should be near to the bathtub at all times to ensure the safety. You can check out Karin’s article about her experience with wheelchair accessible wet tub.

Wheelchair bathtubs don’t usually come with a ramp. The step threshold is anywhere between 3” and 7” high and in order to roll the wheelchair to the walk-in shower, you’ll need to additionally get a ramp.

Depending on the model, wheelchair accessible tubs come with water and air jets as well. A hand-held shower is also built-in in some models but not all.

The price of wheelchair accessible bathtubs start at $4,000 but can go up if you add the jets.

Top 5 Best Walk-In Bathtub Brands

If you’re buying a bathtub, there are a number of different producers and brands to choose from. The world of walk-in bathtubs is a bit smaller but there is more than a dozen small producers of accessible tubs that also perform the removal of your existing bathtub and the installation of the new walk-in bathtub.

The in-package installation is very useful because installing a walk-in bathtub is a tricky thing and a great majority of walk-in bathtub owners needed an assistance of a professional as far as plumbing and electrical services are concerned.

Here is a list of top 5 best walk-in bathtub brands and a short summary of what they offer. Of course, if you have an experience with a specific brand, you can share it in the comments:

1. American Standard (Best Known Accessible Tubs Brand)

American Standard is well-known for their variety of bathtubs and showers with all the additional faucets you might need. They have a 140-year tradition of plumbing and are generally known as one of the best walk-in bathtub brands.

As far as accessible tubs go, they have everything from the simplest soaker tubs to the most sophisticated hydrotherapy walk-in tubs. If you’re deciding to buy a tub, you can browse what they have to offer at American Standard website and if you’re interested, you can contact them and get a free estimate for the walk-in tub and the installation.

2. Universal Tubs (Affordable Tubs)

If you’re looking for a company that is specialized for walk-in bathtubs, Universal Tubs is a good idea. While American Standard offers a wide portfolio of products for bathroom, Universal Tubs is more focused on walk-in bathtubs and a small number of other products.

They are relatively budget-friendly and you can pinpoint exactly what kind of walk-in tub door you need and get them at Universal Tubs (they even offer extra wide doors for larger wheelchairs). Prices range from $1,500 to $4,000 but you can contact them for your specific tubs and they’ll give you a quote. If you look a bit around, you’ll find they offer a free brochure on their website.

It appears that you can buy their walk-in tubs at Home Depot, not directly from their website. For more detail information you’re advised to consult them directly.

3. Ella’s Bubbles (Best Style And Design)

Ella is probably the company that is most focused on every kind of walk-in bathtubs. They have a rich portfolio of tubs, including two-seat walk-in bathtub – this is something you’ll hardly find with any other walk-in tub brand.

The expert craftsmanship and beautiful design are apparent in their walk-in bathtubs. Nonetheless, the prices are a bit (but not that much) higher because of the luxurious and rich nature of the tubs. On the Ella’s Bubbles website they include all the photos of the walk-in tubs they offer. You can also contact them for a free brochure and an expert advice, or scroll through their special offers on Amazon.

4. TheraTub (Founded By Veterans)

TheraTub is a solemnly walk-in bathtub company that takes care of the walk-in tub, installation and even offers purchase support with financial loans. Founded by veterans, their walk-in tubs are officially made in the US. What is more, TheraTub offers a 100% lifetime guarantee on every tub they sell

If you want to see how a bathroom looked before and after the installation of a walk-in bathtub, you can see TheraTub before and after photos. As you can see from the website, they have a personal touch and you can further talk with them to recommend the best walk-in tub for seniors.

They are also proud of the lowest step-in threshold they over with their tubs. The standard in the bathtub industry is a 3” to 7” step-in but TheraTub went even further and designed tubs with less than 2” step-in threshold.

5. Safety Step Walk-In Tubs (Best Overall Service)

Arguably most accommodating brand in the world of walk-in bathtubs is Safety Step. Specialized for accessible bathtubs, they offer a wide variety of bathtubs, ranging from standard soaker tubs to high-end hydrotherapy and chromotherapy walk-in tubs.

They’re very focused on safety benefits of walk-in bathtubs and can advise you on what tub is the best for your specific needs. What is more, Safety Step offers great incentives if you eventually decide to buy one of their baths. The most prominent is their current $1,500 discount – you can check at Safety Step discounts if your household qualifies for the discount.

Furthermore, they offer free estimates and even go so far as to include heated seats and backrest free of charge. They truly provide the best consulting for walk-in bathtubs, complete with free estimates and fast installation service.

How Much Do Walk-In Bathtubs Cost?

Buying a walk-in tub for seniors is a big and long-term investment. According to Angie List and several other sources, the price of a walk-in bathtub can be anywhere between $2,500 and $10,000. For $2,500 you can get a simple soaker tub with little to none extra features; for $10,000 you get a hydrotherapy jacuzzi-like experience.

In order to get an idea what you get for your investment, we’ve found the cheapest and the most expensive walk-in bathtub on Amazon:

cheapest walk in tub
The cheapest walk-in bathtub – 65-gallon Ariel soaker tub – costs about $1,700.

In fact, there are several soakers with a price of around $2,000. On the other hand, this is the most expensive way for a senior to take a safe bath:

most expensive walk in tub
The most expensive walk-in tub – MasterCare barrier-free next generation bathtub – costs more than $12,500.

The MasterCare tub is the most expensive one but is a unique next-generation tub and may not be representative of what expensive walk-in tubs look like.

To give you a rough estimate here is how much a particular type of walk-in bathtub costs:

Type Of Walk-In Tub Estimated Price Range
Soaker Tub $1,800-$4,000
Walk-In Tub Shower Combo $3,000-$9,000
Bariatric Tub (300 lbs or more) $4,000-$6,000
Hydrotherapy Tub $4,000-$10,000
Wheelchair Accessible Tub $4,500-$8,000

When looking at how much do the walk-in bathtubs cost it is smart to think about why do you need the tub. If you’re buying a tub for safety reasons, you can go right ahead and choose a soaker tub. If, on the other hand, are looking for luxurious bathing experience with massages and chromotherapy and what not, the soaker tub alone won’t do but your budget should be considerably bigger.

ShieldMySenior additionally points out that buying walk-in tub online might save you $1,000 or more.

Financial Assistance (Medicare And Home Modification For Aging In Place)

Can you get subsidies for buying a walk-in bathtub? Maybe. Medicare might cover it but as far as our understanding goes, they really decide on individual cases and the chances of getting financial assistance are slim.

Another option is to tap in the Home Modification For Aging In Place state programs. About half the states offer some sort of financial assistance when modifying a home for seniors and you can check if they cover some of the walk-in bathtub costs as well.

How you’re going to install a walk-in bathtub is, financially speaking, almost as important as choosing the right bathtub.

How Much Does It Cost To Install A Walk-In Tub?

Installation usually follows in 3 difficult steps:

  1. Removal of the existing bathtub – Plumber, Carpenter
  2. Installation (plumbing, electricity) of the walk-in bathtub – Plumber, Electrician
  3. Re-installation of bathroom tiles and tiding up the bathroom – Plumber

As you see, installing a walk-in bathtub is not a one-man job. The essential person in any bathtub installation is the plumber. Indeed there are several plumbing services that offer to install a walk-in bathtub.

Can you install a walk-in tub yourself?

Installation costs quite a bit and if you could do it yourself, you’re looking to spare as much as few thousand dollars. Generally, installing such a sophisticated tub is almost impossible if you’re not an expert. However, the most basic tub – soaker tub – usually comes without tricky electricity and if you’re an avid installer and have technical skills, you can try to install a walk-in bathtub yourself. It is a lengthy process that requires you to know some advanced plumbing and carpeting. Before you decide to DIY walk-in tub installation, you should check this John Hughes video in order to get a good idea about how difficult it is:

In the great majority of cases, however, you’re faced with two facts:

  1. You’ll need a professional team of installers.
  2. It will cost you quite a bit.

Unfortunately, the costs of installation are pretty much unavoidable. For the advanced hydrotherapy walk-in tub installation, there is usually a team consisting of a plumber, electrician and a carpenter that you’ll have to hire. On the bright side, the majority of walk-in tub distributors offer installation services so you don’t have to worry about the process yourself. Of course, the professional walk-in bathtub installation doesn’t come cheap.

According to Fixr, a service that connects you with a local installer, the US national average for buying and installing a whirlpool walk-in bathtub is from $5,000 to $7,000. This number might be high but walk-in tub installation is pricey and will easily run into a thousand dollars. The typical cost of installation alone is anywhere from $700 for a soaker tub to $3,000 for the most advanced models.

Here are some numbers that explain why installation costs are high:

  • You need at least a plumber, carpenter and usually, an electrician – their wage is roughly $50-$100/hour. If you hire this team of 3 for let’s say 4 hours, you’re looking at $600-$1,200 already just for labor.
  • The 1/2 inch pipes won’t do – walk-in bathtubs need 3/4 inch pipes for fast draining. The upgrade of the piping system can skyrocket the costs of walk-in tub installation.
  • In case you’ve decided for a tub with water and air jets, you’ll need an electrician to create a 15 amp dedicated circuit together with GFCI grounding.
  • Existing bathroom tiles might be broken during the process and a carpenter will have to replace them (and you’ll have to find the tiles that fit the bathroom).

All in all, $5,000 to $7,000 for tub and installation is a fair estimate.

Best Course Of Action

Given the high investment, it is best you’re sure you need a walk-in bathtub and decide on what kind of tub you need.

Consult with the elderly person that is going to be using the walk-in tub and look around a lot about which tub is the best for that person. When you finally pinpoint the tub you like, contact the distributor and go over everything – price, installation, warranties, safety certifications and so on – and only then, fully informed, make a decision.

Taking care of your senior might come at a high financial cost but, as always, safety is of utmost importance when it comes to elderly people.

We hope that this all-in-one 2018 walk-in bathtub guide helped you make a more informed decision about buying your first walk-in tub.

On the other hand, if you have anything helpful to add – your experience with walk-in tubs, tips for the installation process and so on – you are most welcome to contribute them below in the comments.