walk-in bathtubs?

northsongFebruary 13, 2013

I am hoping that some of you may be experienced with walk-in bathtubs and can offer some advice. My husband and I have just downsized to a bungalow, with 2 bathrooms and bedrooms on the main floor, as well as a finished basement with another full bathroom. I had a beautiful soaker tub in the old house, which I used daily, and don't like the basic tub in the new place.

I am thinking of replacing the tub in one of the bathrooms with a walk-in tub with hydrotherapy (air, not jets) as we are both in our sixties and hope to stay here for some time. The problem is that our Canadian city is not well-served. We have contacted among others Safety-Step, Premiercare, and Safetytub. There are no showrooms, information is sparse and the products are hard to compare especially sight unseen. One company seems to have a much more active presence than the others, which is a consideration. All the tubs are very pricey and not easy on the eyes.

In terms of resale, as this is an adult bungalow in a small enclave of retired persons, I am not too worried about having this type of tub installed. However, given the issues above in sussing out the walk-in options and as I am still quite mobile I am wondering if I should just go for a "short-term" solution and get a nice air-jetted soaker. Any views?

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I think you have to see and get in the tub to decide so if you don't have that option then I wouldn't get one. I thought they would be perfect for me but when I sat in a few I found they didn't fit me at all. I'm too tall at 5'9". Also I've heard you have to sit there in the cool water while it drains before you can open the door. I'd imagine the same would apply while filling them as you would have to get in and then fill the tub.

A traditional tub with well placed grab bars might be a better option.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 7:53PM
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Thanks mic111, I envy you that you could actually try some out! Although they did not suit you, could you let me know which brands/manufacturers you tried and what your impression was of their quality? And likely quality of installation and service from the supplier(s)?

You have a very good point about not buying unless you can try one out. One of the suppliers I contacted ("SST" above) couldn't even manage to return calls over a 2-day period when I wanted more information about their product after a visit from their local agent -- who was not available and referred me to their Canadian head office! None of them will provide for a visit to an installed tub, despite the absence of showrooms.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 8:51PM
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Hi Northsong,
I'm sorry but I don't remember the specific manufacturer names. The problems I encountered included things like foot wells not large enough for my feet to rest on the bottom when facing forward, water that would only come up to just above my waist before going out the overflow drain, and not big enough for me to sort of sink into the foot well to try and get wet all over. Since I just saw them dry at a home show I didn't get a sense of quality, installation or service.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 9:15PM
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I know of a few people who installed them and they aren't at all convenient

1 - You have to get in and then fill the tub, or clamber over the wall
2 - You have to drain the tub before you get out, or clamber over the wall
3 - they aren't useful for soaking because you can't lie down

If you like a soaking tub, consider a really good tub with anchor points for later installing a lift to get you in or out, and also a wheel-in shower stall.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 9:12AM
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Mic111, thanks again!

I hope someone else will have some walk-in tub experience or knowledge, if not their own, perhaps through a friend or family member?

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 9:12AM
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I've done several. There are a couple of things you've got to make sure you buy to go along with the basic tub. The first is an inline heater. The second is the quickdrain accessory. And even with both of those, it's a bit of a wait while the person is there naked and cool waiting for the water to go up and down. That's why I'd suggest having a bath vent fan with the accessory heater in it. Get the room extra warm first, and keep the door shut to contain all of that warmth while the bath is going on. To that end, the bathroom shouldn't be planned as being the size of a small ocean liner like so many are these days. And you have to balance that need for a smaller enclosed space with the needs of the individual for wheelchair access.

In many, if not most cases, the better option is a regular tub with a transfer bench and/or a lift.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 1:23PM
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Lazygardens and Live_wire_oak, I am seeing a common thread here for sure.

Thanks for hearing from the voice of experience. I certainly feel a shiver and cold feet now: I think I will look into a new "regular" therapeutic tub which could support a lift or bench when needed.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 3:08PM
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