Walk-in tubs: a discussion

jkom51June 5, 2010

As the "walk in bath tubs for seniors and handicapped" was apparently an advertisement for these tubs, I thought I'd join johnfrwhipple in asking serious questions about these. It's especially relevant as we Boomers age, and many have to take care of elderly parents. My DH and I have discussed putting one of these in for his mother, but haven't gone any further than the verbal "yeah, that's doable."

In the previous thread john mentioned he's demo'ed at least one of these because the threshold was too high. A lot of people don't realize how incredibly difficult even a few inches can be, when you're disabled. Many houses don't always have the room to install a no-threshold shower, especially one that has sufficient aisle space for walkers, let alone wheelchairs.

I also had personal experience with disability issues. I broke my leg with a compound fracture when I was 54, and was dismayed to find in those early days I could not even manage even a four-inch step without difficulty. It was amazing how much strength one loses, especially with the weight of a cast dragging your leg down. The fracture badly damaged the nerves in my ankle, and to this day I have to be careful going down any stairs, because I can't be sure that ankle will always hold up under me.


Has anyone actually installed these walk-in tubs? Are there any installation issues people should be aware of? Salesmen are always reassuring customers that "it's easy!" but as we all know, one can't always rely on their salespitch for accuracy.

What brands have you installed/used? And what has been the feedback after some real usage?

Do the rubber seals deteriorate over time, causing any leakage problems?

How comfortable is it to wash one's hair? I assume a sliding shower bar would be a good addition.

Anything else that would be useful, please add it in!

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I've installed two. One in a house, the other in an apartment.

The one that went into the house was a walk-in, it had a narrow in-swing door and the seat was located away from the door. It still had a curb to step up and over to get into the tub, I dropped the unit into the floor a few inches to get around that, essentially eliminating the curb. The tub was an American Standard tub, I don't recall which model. The homeowners sourced it themselves, they were at a home show and bought it off the floor as a demo. The bathroom wasn't designed for the tub from the get-go, it was a change order of sorts. The only modification I made was the drain system.

The apartment got a wheelchair accessible tub. A wider door with the seat located right at the door. The door was twice as wide and was out-swinging. For accessibility, out-swinging is easier.

Personally I tried them both, I preferred the wheelchair accessible unit with the out-swinging door.

Both had jets, I installed an in-line aftermarket heater in the wheelchair unit. Cost about $250 for the heater.

For the outswinging door unit I made the entire room a wetroom.

If safety is an issue, then the outswinging door is the way to go.

I still socialize with the couple that has the narrow-door unit. If they were having problems with it they'd let me know, even after all these years.

I sold the apartment building a few years ago but at inspection the tub with the outswinging door was still in pristine shape. I don't recall for sure the brand of it, but "Handi-Tub" or something like that comes to mind. There was space under the tub for the legs of a lift to slide into so a lift could be used to lift someone out of a wheelchair and insert them into the tub.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2010 at 2:57PM
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I've designed 2 baths that used them. An American Standard one and a Safety Tub one. Both were inswing doors. These are designed to be a tub only, not a tub/shower combo unit. You would have to apply an aftermarket tile flange to them to be able to have the ability to be used as a shower, and you would have to engineer a shorter shower curtain ring type setup.

Both were pretty darn expensive by the time you got through adding the accessories. One was 8K and the other was 9K, without the labor to install. You want the Quick Drain and the heater added at minimum. Otherwise, draining the tub takes a LONG time and you there cooling off and shivering because you can't get out until the water is out of the tub because of the inswinging door. THe inline heater is also a necessity for anything other than a 5 minute soak.

While these are great options for people who really love a tub bath and aren't able to utilize a standard tub anymore, the cost of the product and the install is prohibitive for most. Most people would much prefer the ability to have a barrier free shower with bench, and the costs would be lower as well unless a significant redesign of the space is needed.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2010 at 5:59PM
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Just saw one mentioned on one of those HGTV specials on the latest and greatest Kitchen and Bath equipment. This was a walk-in tub by Aquatics called the Ava tub. You stepped in and it had a electronic wall that came up. The tub filled quickly with one of those "scupper" type features (similar to in a swimming pool). The cool thing about it was that it said it could empty 70 gallons of water in 30 seconds versus the 7 minutes for a regular tub. When it was finished emptying, the sensor could tell the water was out and would automatically lower the wall. Here is a link about the tub.

Here is a link that might be useful: Ava tub by Aquatic

    Bookmark   June 24, 2010 at 12:54AM
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Anyone know the cost of an Ava tub? excluding installation?
But heck whatever cost info you have, would appreciate it.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2011 at 6:44PM
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As my mother was aging, I was looking out for some good options in the area of walk-in tubs, as due to her increasing age she is getting less agile. But personally speaking, I was never much in favor for installing walk-in tubs, as I felt those are really waste of money and ultimately occupies your bathroom space in no good way.Walk-in bathtubs usually have a watertight door on one side that allows someone with limited mobility to step into the tub without having to climb over the side of a standard tub. But one my friend recently installed these walk-in tubs from Safeguard Tubs, she highly recommended that to me. Though having no alternatives I went by her suggestion and installed & I must say it was worth every single penny. The best part was it had non greasy floor and support bars which acted very helpful to my mother and left me tension free. Definitely a good deal to crack !

    Bookmark   January 14, 2014 at 12:27AM
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A relative invested in one that took several minutes to empty a few years ago. Even though she loved baths, that post bath wait was just too miserable for her even though we ensured the room was warm and still. She only tried it a few times. However, if the new models empty really fast, that would take care of that problem. I don't remember the model she had, but it had enough holds to allow her to get in safely, though the curb was high enough to make it difficult.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2014 at 1:03AM
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My mother-in-law has one and I hate it. It is the only option in her guest bathroom, so we use it every time we visit - once or twice a year. I think it is a jacuzzi brand (not sure); the door swings out and besides having jets it has totally useless colored lights that randomly light up. It takes forever for the water to reach the point where you sit. Usually by that time, the hot water has run out. When you are done bathing, you have to wait for the water to drain before you can open the door. I usually bring in a stepladder so I can climb in and out without waiting - totally not safe as I'm wet on the way out. I do love baths, but when I'm no longer mobile, this won't be a contender. I'll go with a shower that I can wheel myself in.

My two cents!

    Bookmark   January 14, 2014 at 1:27AM
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I call BS on AVA's claim of a 30 second drain time.

I'm not a math wiz but that would require something on the order of a drain system supporting 125 + gallons a minute of flow.

That's not physically possible with a 2-3" drain standard in home tubs. I think a 4" dia. drain could handle it though.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 1:33AM
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The material on the Ava tub indicates that the fast draining is achieved by first draining the tub into a holding tank below the tub, then the door can open while the water is still draining at a normal speed out of the holding tank.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 9:26AM
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Still, the hole would have to be very large to move that vol. of water.

I suppose it could be done with a pump, but the holding tank would be pretty large.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 8:33PM
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Saw some of the advertisements of the Safeguard Tubs which are creating therapeutic walk in tubs for the customers . Also coming up with safety bars and low level of entrance to get into the tub which is very much beneficial for the elderly people.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 1:54AM
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