For those with limited mobility, walk-in bathtubs offer a safer alternative to traditional tubs and showers. Consumers may choose tubs with a variety of features, including safety bars, built-in seats, and slip-resistant floors. Models vary in more than potential safety features. Different depths and widths as well as door placement further broaden your choices in a walk-in tub.
People with limited mobility often have difficulty lifting their legs over the wall of a bathtub. A walk-in tub addresses that difficulty with a watertight door. You find this door on either the front or side of the tub and it swings open to allow easy access. At the same time, thanks to the door's sealant, the water stays where you want it: in the tub.
Some tubs include a fast-drain capability to ensure you do not spend a lot of time sitting in the tub waiting for the water to drain. This type of tub usually requires professional installation to ensure it functions correctly.
Pricing on walk-in bathtubs varies widely, due to the many different features. Size, also, plays a role in determining the cost of your tub. Pricing starts at around $1,500, but extends to over $7,000 for larger models with extra features, such as air jets, built-in grab bars and seats, and adjustable showerheads.
Another cost consideration is installation. If you choose a model that fits into the space your current bathtub occupies, installation costs are much lower, around $600 to $900. That rate varies depending on your location and it should include removal of your old tub or shower.
If you choose a model larger than your current model, pricing may go as high as if you completely remodeled your bathroom. This is due to the work inherent in the job, which includes significant reframing. In either case, you want a licensed contractor who has experience installing bathtubs.
Installation for a walk-in tub larger than your current model easily costs as much as the cost of your tub, and maybe more. The project may require three separate contractors: a licensed plumber, electrician, and carpenter. You have four main logistical considerations when installing a walk-in tub.
First, access. Measure the door to your bathroom. Standard bathroom doors measure between 28 and 30 inches. If your tub's width exceeds that, your contractor has to remove the doorjamb to create a wide enough space to get the tub into the room.
Second is space. If you choose a tub of the same size as your current model, your installation won't require extra labor. If, however, you choose a model that's smaller or bigger than your current tub, that requires more work and therefore a higher labor cost.
Third is plumbing. Installing your new tub may require moving plumbing features, including the water supply and the drain. You also may need pipes wider than the standard 1/2-inch size. This is because you sit in the tub as it fills (obviously you can't open the door after the tub is full of water). A 3/4-inch pipe allows the tub to fill more quickly. You also may need more hot water capacity, as some walk-in tubs hold 50 gallons and more.
Finally, you may have electrical issues. Most tubs come with a drain pump, which requires a dedicated electrical circuit of 15 amps. If your model has water or air jets, these also require dedicated 15-amp circuits. For safety, these must use ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI).
Understanding all of these factors hopefully helps you choose a tub that fulfills your needs while remaining within your preferred budget.
You may qualify for financial assistance to pay for your walk-in tub. Though these options aren't available for everyone, you should check to see if you qualify. Some states offer older adults non-Medicaid financial assistance for certain home modifications, including walk-in tubs. As of 2016, 26 states have these kinds of programs.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a program benefitting elderly residents in rural areas with reduced income. The program provides grants for home modifications, including safety improvements such as installing a walk-in tub.
Some nonprofit organizations help fund the installation costs of a walk-in tub (though not the cost of the tub itself). You may also be able to finance the tub through the manufacturer. This financing option applies to the tub, not the installation.
Now that you know the various factors dictating the cost of installing a walk-in tub, you know what to look for to keep the cost of installation down. Look for a tub with the same measurements as your current model if at all possible, and make sure you hire a licensed contractor to complete installation.
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