What Seniors Should Know About Walk-in Tubs
One of the biggest senior living trends in recent years is the growing number of seniors who seek to age in place rather than considering a facility like an assisted living home. This isn’t a new desire for seniors, but a mix of in-home care options and new types of businesses and technologies makes it more accessible for today’s seniors than it’s been in the past.
Many of the home modifications that make aging in place practical are fairly cheap and simple, but there are a few that require a bigger investment. A walk-in tub is one of the most expensive home modifications seniors make, which makes it important that any senior considering it takes the time to determine if it’s something they really need, and that they buy the right one if it is.
Should You Buy a Walk-in Tub?
Before you start considering which walk-in tub to buy, you have to consider if buying one is worth it to you. Walk-in tubs come with a few considerable downsides:
- You have to wait in the tub while it fills and drains. This can take a while and you may be stuck feeling uncomfortable and cold while you wait.
- You still need some ability to walk. Walk-in tubs get rid of the need to take a big step to get into the tub, but you still have to take a little one and be able to walk to the seat of the tub. They’ll solve the problem for some people, but someone with a walker or wheelchair won’t find them a good solution.
- They’re expensive. The cost of buying a walk-in tub and getting it installed is a considerable one. If the price tag looks beyond your reach, you may want to consider alternative options like bathtub benches or bath chair lifts first.
If you find yourself avoiding taking a bath because of the difficulty of getting into the tub though, or are worried about slipping and falling each time you do, then the issues may well be worth it for the peace of mind a walk-in tub can confer. But know that there are also alternatives to walk-in tubs that could suite your preferences.
What to Know Before Buying
The cost of a walk-in tub, combined with how expensive and involved installation is, means that once you buy one, you’re pretty much stuck with it. You want to be careful to make a solid decision about what you want before purchasing one.
On the low end, you should expect to spend at least $2,000 for the walk-in tub itself, but many models cost much more than that. Whether due to coming from a brand with a strong reputation, or adding in nice features like air jets or quick draining, higher-end tubs can cost as much as $10,000. For some seniors though, those extra features can make a big difference.
Whirlpool tubs can be good for easing aches and pains, and air baths are helpful for anyone who has circulation problems. And one of the biggest inconveniences of a walk-in tub is having to sit in there while you wait for it to fill and drain; a fast-draining feature helps with the latter.
The labor costs of installing your new tub will vary a lot based on the area you live in and the particular contractor you hire. If the installation is fairly standard and rates are on the low end in your area, you may get away with paying less than $1,000. On the other hand, if you need to make any plumbing or electrical upgrades to accommodate your new tub, the costs can quickly go up to several thousand.
Unfortunately, Medicare won’t help with any of these costs, although in some instances Medicaid will. It may also be worth looking into any veterans’ benefits you have that could help you pay for it, like the Aid & Attendance Benefit. And talk to your accountant about the possibility of a tax deduction.
For most seniors, you’ll have to expect to cover the costs of a walk-in tub (at least most of them) on your own, so take a look at your own budget and savings before starting your search.
Available Walk-In Tub Options
The main options you have when considering a walk-in tub is whether you want to stick with a basic soaker tub, or upgrade to one with air or water jets (or a combo tub with both). Any type of jets will add a lot to the cost, but they provide some extra comfort and benefits for seniors.
While they technically fall into a different category, consider also checking out slide-in tubs, which cost a comparable amount but make it easier for any seniors in wheelchairs or that otherwise have trouble walking to get in and out of the tub.
Another important consideration you need to make is finding a walk-in tub of the right size and shape to fit in your bathroom, and one with a door that will work for you. You can choose between doors that open inward and outward; the latter can be more convenient for those with mobility issues, but require more space in the bathroom. And you want to be sure the door is large enough to get through comfortably.
Also look for features like a leak-proof door (which will save you big problems down the line) and fast fill and drain options (which will make your bath experiences more pleasant and require less cold waiting).
With any purchase this big, you should take advantage of the customer reviews on the internet. Current customers can provide ample insights into the issues you’re likely to experience with a walk-in tub and the particular benefits each one offers. The main value of customer reviews is to steer you away from a product that’s likely to cause problems, but they can also be good for helping you determine different factors and issues to be aware of before you buy, and for helping you gauge whether costly additional features are really worth it.
As already mentioned, once a walk-in tub is purchased and installed, you won’t be able to easily trade it in for another option. That means you need it to last for the long term. Consider the warranties offered by each brand you consider. A strong warranty can potentially save you a lot of expense and trouble down the line, especially with tubs that have more technology like jets.
Walk-in Tub Brands to Consider
When you start browsing your walk-in tub options, you’ll come across a few main brands working in the space. Here’s a rundown of what to expect from each.
Safe Step Walk-In Tubs
Safe Step sells US-made walk-in tubs, walk-in tub/shower combination units, and low-entry showers designed for ease of use by seniors, wheelchair users, and other people with mobility or balance issues.
Safe Step walk-in tubs include features such as air jets for a whirlpool experience, heated seat and back areas, simplified controls, and pull-out handheld shower heads. Other features include aromatherapy dispensers, colored lights, and built-in anti-bacterial cleaning systems.
The low-entry showers offered by Safe Step have safety features including a built-in seat that can safely support 350 pounds, anti-scald protection, grab bars, and anti-slip flooring. Both the showers and tubs are designed to fit into existing shower and tub spaces to minimize the need for remodeling.
Safe Step offers a lifetime warranty on its tubs that covers manufacturing defects, door seal, faucets, water pump, heater, and blower. Warranty registration is required. Customers may need to upgrade their water heater to ensure that it can fill the tub completely.
Varies by style and features. Safe Step offers free estimates and provides discounts and free upgrades to qualified customers. Safe Step doesn’t list prices on its website, so you’ll have to get in touch to get a personalized quote.
American Tubs describes itself as the country’s fastest-growing maker of walk-in bathtubs. The company is headquartered in City of Industry, California, makes its tubs in the US, and has them installed by its national network of licensed contractors.
The company website says it aims to offer affordable tubs that fit into existing bathrooms, replacing existing tubs and showers without the need for extensive remodeling. They offer more than a dozen customizable tub designs grouped into three product lines.
- The Care series contains the most options—10 models ranging from the 50-gallon capacity, designed to replace a typical shower stall, to the 115-gallon capacity.
- The Love series features three tubs with doors that open outward, including two designed for ease of wheelchair-to-tub transfers and one that replaces a shower stall for walk-in convenience.
- The Sain series is, at this writing, one extra-deep tub. The 100-gallon 3055 model is 47 inches tall to allow for a full-immersion experience and to make bathing more comfortable for tall people.
All American Tubs have stainless steel frames and gel-coated fiberglass shells, leak-proof door seals, grab bars and anti-slip floors, and wall extension kits to allow for a good-looking fit into existing tub spaces. Optional features include a system of 20 air jets, a 6-jet hydrotherapy massage system, upgraded faucets and handheld showers, aromatherapy and chromatherapy kits, in-line water heaters, and ozone sterilizer systems.
American Tubs offers a limited lifetime warranty on its tubs’ steel frames, door seals, and tub shells, as well as a 2-year limited warranty on parts. The company’s dealers and installers are licensed and insured.
American Tubs prices each tub, delivery and installation package individually, so you’ll have to contact the company for a quote. Be aware that several tub models hold more than 100 gallons of water, which may require the purchase of a larger water heater.
Tub King knows the bathtub business from the ground up. Brothers Alan and Terry Knight started out refinishing vintage tubs, trained contractors across the US, and had tubs custom built. After their mother fell in her own tub at home, the brothers added affordable, accessible walk-in tubs and easy-access showers to their product line.
Tub King offers six walk-in tub models, six zero-threshold shower models for wheelchair access, and two low-threshold shower models for easy walk-in access.
- The Seaspray 051 walk-in tub is the smaller of Tub King’s two tub platforms. It measures 48 inches long, 28 inches wide, and 38 inches tall.
- The Seapsray 202 is larger, measuring 54 inches long, 30 inches wide, and 40 inches tall.
Both model numbers are available as walk-in soaking tubs, as hydrotherapy walk-in tubs with air jet massage features, and as dual-system walk-ins with both air jets and whirpool water jets plus an inline heater for long, chill-free soaks.
Among the standard features on all Tub King walk-in tubs are ADA-compliant faucets and seats, slip-resistant flooring, a leak-proof door seal and lock, and handheld showerheads. The tubs are made from gel-coated marine-grade fiberglass and are pre-plumbed.
The low-threshold shower suite has a 60-inch by 32-inch footprint and a 4-inch threshold to prevent water spillage while reducing the likelihood of tripping. It’s available in two finishes at different price points and includes HansGrohe hardware.
Zero-threshold shower suites for wheelchair access are available in 6 sizes, ranging from 48” by 36” to 60” x 36” to fit a variety of tub and shower spaces. Safety seats, accessible plumbing fixtures, and grab bars are included in each shower model.
Tub King walk-in tubs feature a patented watertight door seal and lock system with a lifetime warranty. Customers must inspect items for damage on delivery and file any damage claims within 24 hours. Uninstalled items may be returned within 30 days of the ship date and are subject to a 25% restocking fee.
Prices range from $2095 for smaller soaking tub models to $2695 for a larger model with whirlpool water jets and an inline heater. Zero-threshold Safety Suite Shower packages range from $2995 to $3195. Specialty finish and feature upgrades are available for extra fees. Free shipping is available on walk-in tubs. Shipping rates for other large items range from $150 to $350 per item across the continental US; shipping to Alaska and Hawaii is $450 per item. Additional charges may apply for deliveries to some New York City boroughs and to island addresses.
Premier Care in Bathing
Premier Care in Bathing manufactures, sells, and installs walk-in bathtubs, easy-access showers, and other adaptive bathing equipment for home use. The company, founded in 1985, has its headquarters in South Daytona, Florida, and has its factory in Lexington, North Carolina. Premier Care showrooms are located in South Daytona, San Diego, and Indianapolis in the US. Canadian showrooms are located in Surrey, British Columbia, and Mississauga, Ontario.
Premier Care offers five types of walk-in tubs and three styles of easy-access showers. Among the tub options are:
- Tub/shower combination models that can replace a traditional soaking tub
- Powered bathtubs for those who cannot use a traditional or walk-in tub, featuring a mechanized chair lift or an automated tub seat that raises and lowers for entry and exit
- Compact and oversized walk-in tubs
- The Blue Spring series of tubs outfitted with spa features such as heated and reclined seats, roomier soaking areas, air-jet massage, and other perks
The watertight door seals on Premier Care tubs carry a lifetime warranty against leaks. The bath frame, shell construction, shower trays and walls carry a 10-year warranty. Other items—mechanical parts, accessories, fixtures, and shower doors—are warrantied for one year for parts and labor.
Prices are not listed on the Premier Care website. The company writes a bid for each project based on the customer’s needs, design consideration, and installation costs. The company offers a discount program for military veterans, so be sure to mention your service, if relevant.
Premier Care offers financing plans with monthly payments as low as $150 for customers with credit approval who pay 1/3 of the total down and pay installments for up to 120 months at a 9.9% annual percentage rate.
If any brand is synonymous with home spas and luxury bathing, it’s Jacuzzi. The Italian company has been in the hydrotherapy business for more than half a century and now has operations all over the world. Among its product lines are custom-built luxury tubs, showers, and walk-in tubs in a range of sizes.
Jacuzzi’s walk-in tubs are available in compact sizes that can replace a typical shower stall, standard sizes designed to replace a conventional tub, and oversize models with more interior room and slightly larger exterior dimensions that can fit into a large soaking tub space. Features include Jacuzzi’s hydrotherapy massage system of air and whirlpool jets, aromatherapy dispensers, colored lights, and safety features such as non-skid floors and grab bars. These tubs are sold and installed by Jacuzzi-certified remodelers across the US.
The company also makes the Finestra model, which is intended for new homes under construction or total bathroom remodeling projects. The Finestra is available through plumbing supply showrooms and authorized retailers including Lowe’s, Wayfair.com, and Build.com.
Jacuzzi walk-in tubs carry a lifetime limited warranty, and their door seals are fully guaranteed against leaks.
Tub prices for existing homes include shipping and installation and are available from the company’s sales representatives. Third party financing is available for qualified buyers. Online prices for Jacuzzi’s Finestra tub for new construction range from $7,000 to more than $10,000 for the tub alone.
American Standard is a well-established brand from a company that dates back to 1875 and is now part of LIXIL Corporation, one of the world’s leading bathroom fixture and building materials companies. Among the company’s products are walk-in tubs, sold through major retailers and plumbing supply companies.
With more than 30 walk-in tub models plus optional factory-installed features and accessories, American Standard’s product line has something for most shoppers. All tubs are available in left- and right-hand drain configurations and in white or an off-white color called linen. These tubs are built to fit against the wall, either as part of new construction or as a replacement for a traditional soaking tub. Options include air-jet systems and whirlpool massage systems, chromatherapy colored lights, supplemental heaters, quick-drain systems, and grab bars for safety.
All of American Standard’s walk-in tubs carry a lifetime warranty on the door. Acrylic walk-in tub models carry a 15-year warranty on the tub and a 10-year warranty on the components. Gel-coat tubs carry a 10-year warranty on the tub and a 5-year warranty on the components.
Return requests must be made within 30 days of delivery, and the buyers must pay the cost of freight shipping plus a 15% restocking fee.
List prices range in price from $5,029 for a 28-inch by 48-inch gel-coat tub to $10,486 for an acrylic 36-inch by 60-inch tub with air jets and a whirlpool massage feature. Optional add-ons for tubs are priced a la carte; these include $90 for ADA-compliant grab bar, $494 for a factory-installed quick-drain system, and $312 for an inline whirlpool heater to maintain hot water temperature during long baths.
If you plan to stay in your home for the long haul, a walk-in tub may be worth it to help you avoid bathroom falls and the increasingly difficult work of getting into the tub. Make sure to take the time to do your research though, so you’re more likely to end up with one you’re happy with long term.
Before you make an investment of this size though, consider if aging in place truly does make sense for you. If you end up realizing that a move to assisted living is actually what you need within the next few years, you’ll have spent a lot on that tub for just a little bit of use. Think about your ongoing needs as well as your current ones.