The concept of a walk-in tub is fairly straightforward: It’s a bathtub with a built-in door on the side, which eliminates the need to make that big step up and over the side of a traditional tub. There are many reasons to use a walk-in tub, and there is a long list of options and add-ons to choose from, which is what this short guide will help explain.Keep reading for an overview of why these tubs are popular, and then continue to our detailed guide on walk-in tubs with comparisons of the leading brands.
The mobility factor is by far the most important reason to choose a walk-in tub over traditional bathtubs or showers. Most regular tubs have a height of 1.5′ or more, while walk-in tubs measure the step height in inches and some require none at all.
Larger walk-in tubs generally have a lower step height, such as the Sanctuary Full Bather from AmeriGlide which is designed for reclined bathing. This model has a step height of only 5 inches and the tub itself fits in the footprint of a standard bathtub.
On the other hand, smaller walk-in tubs tend to have a higher step height, such as the 10-inch clearance on the Sanctuary Petite. This is still roughly half the step height of a traditional tub, and it may be worth the trade-off considering that these petite options can fit in much smaller spaces.
Roll-in tubs have no step height, which are covered below, and it’s also possible to install many walk-in tubs below the level of the existing floor. This can eliminate the step height in models that would otherwise require a small step, but it’s usually not necessary.
Walk-in tubs with accessibility features and extra room to maneuver are available from the leading brands. These models usually have an outward-swinging door, which helps give the user more clearance when entering and exiting the tub, and the door opening itself is wider. This extra space is achieved without necessarily increasing the size of the tub, which means there are options available that will fit in the same area as a traditional bathtub.
Variations such as frameless walk-in tubs make wheelchair transfer much easier, and these models are often available in widths beyond the 30-inch standard. Another popular feature for wheelchair accessibility is the L-shaped door. This shape makes the transfer process much more comfortable for the user.
Air and hydro jets are included in many wheelchair accessible walk-in tubs, or are available as add-ons for an additional cost. These jets provide light massage in needed areas, such as the feet and shins, which can be beneficial for relaxation and physical health. Light-based therapy, or chromotherapy, may be added, which also helps make the bathing experience more calming and peaceful.
Roll-in tubs equipped with a small ramp and wide doorway provide an option for wheelchair users to simply roll into the tub. The ramp decreases the clearance height to zero, which is necessary for wheelchairs and also helpful for any other users with reduced mobility. However, these roll-in tubs usually come in the form of a conversion kit to modify an existing bathtub and are only suitable for showering, not bathing.
Hoist transfer tubs are also available, such as the Ella Transfer3060HL Hoist Transfer Bathtub. This model incorporates accessibility features, such as the L-shaped door, with the addition of a built-in hoist that can safely lift a person of up to 440 pounds in and out of the tub. The hoist requires more space in the area around the tub, but it can often fit in a standard home bathroom.