Updated: June 8, 2015
Walk In Bathtubs Reviews:As the baby boomers age homebuilders will have to adapt and create homes that are more livable for an aging population. Our house was built in the mid-1990's and it has a sunken jetted tub that is very hard for even I to get into and out of (I'm in my 40's). I can't imagine my parents (in the 70's and 80's) being able to manage such a maneuver. Even regular bathtubs with hand rails would be tough for them to deal with. The solution, it appears, are the walk in bathtubs that you see on TV commercials and I've even seen displays at shopping malls for them. You may need to retrofit your current bathroom to accommodate a walk in bathtub, but with the older population living longer I would assume that the marketplace for walk-in bathtubs will explode in the near future. These tubs allow for senior citizens to walk right in and sit down. No more having to have one foot in and one foot out, or try balancing while you step in and out.
Choosing a Walk In Bathtub - Keep in mind that walk in tubs are not for everyone. Most are bought for seniors or those with disabilities that require easy access to take a bath. The bathtubs are designed so that you can easily get into the tub and out without having to lift your body weight or support yourself. Just walk in and sit on the bench and let the tub fill. If you are concerned about the safety of the person using the tub, make sure it has a bench seat to added safety. Size - Many walk in bathtubs will simply take over the space where your current tub or shower is located. Many are between 2 and 3 feet wide with length ranging from 3 to 5 feet. Height is most often 40", but some will offer extensions allowing for a 5' stall so that you could actually take a shower. Some people prefer the deeper bathtubs that soak the entire body. They can add on extension kits to help the bathtub fit your space. Check with the manufacturer and see what size models they offer. Fiberglass vs Acrylic - Bathtubs for the elderly, or walk-in tubs are made primarily with fiberglass or acrylic molds. The fiberglass gel-coated bathtubs are made from a porous material which brings on a set of problems. Over time, things like mold, mildew, soap scum, and other bacteria can get into the pores of the fiberglass. This results in a harder to clean surface and one that stains faster than those made with acrylic. The advantage to acrylic walk in bathtubs is that they are made with non-porous materials resulting in a product that is both mildew and mold resistant. Acrylic may cost more, but the overall benefits outweight those of fiberglass. You get a surface that is stain resistant, will not fade or chip, and is a healthier option. Inward or Outward Swinging Doors - This is actually a tough question to answer for many buyers. Inward swinging doors are great space savers, especially if you have a small bathroom to begin with. They are also more leak resistant as compared to the outward swinging doors largely due to the water pressure from the inside which provides a tighter seal. It has been noted by several experts, that the one big drawback to inward swinging doors is that they would be hard to open in an emergency situation - you would have to wait until the water drained down far enough for the door to open. The outward swinging doors on walk in bathtubs for seniors have a higher % of leaks as water in the tub is pushing against the door. They will take up more space as you need to have room for the door to swing open. For those that need wheelchair access, the doors that swing outward the best solution. Bench Seat - In almost all the reviews we read, a bench seat makes a huge difference and is practically a requirement. There's no sense in having to stand to take a bath or crouch down. The seat/bench will make it easier to relax and enjoy the soak. Jetting Systems - Accessible bathtubs, as they are often referred to, provide hydrotherapy to those with back or leg pain and arthritis. The jets, powered by either water or air, are perfect for whirlpool therapy. The jetting systems are commonly 'variable speed' which means the user will be able to find a setting that they prefer. Air jets are less powerful but can still provide a relaxing bath and they tend to have less bacteria in the jets compared to water jets. Water jets, on the other hand, give you a stronger spray of water. The drawback to water jets is that some leave excess water in the pipes (jets) which can lead to bacteria and mold. There are solutions that you can put into the water to help keep bacteria to a minimum. Features - Look for walk in bathtubs with internal grab bars, anti-slip floors and seats, and handheld showerheads. Many come with 3 or 5 piece faucet sets. Prices/Cost - Home Depot carries the American Standard walk-in bathtubs between $3500 and $5500. Lowe's carries acrylic walk-in tubs priced at about $5500-$6000. Costco has the Access Tubs Walk in Jetted Bathtubs for less than $4000. Amazon.com lists Ella's Bubbles and Safety Bath products from $4500 to $7000. Delivery can be an additional $300 and installation could set you back another $1000 or more depending on what needs to be done. You can browse the best selling walk-in bathtubs here.