Now, imagine yourself approaching the entrance to the walk in tub. The first question to ponder is whether the door is wide enough or not? Being able to get in and out of the tub without a hassle is important. It’s also a safety issue because if you have to twist and turn your body and you’re not steady on your feet, you could fall.
Next, does the door swing inward or outward? For quality built handicap bathtubs, water leakage won’t be a problem no matter how the door opens. So the first real question here is will the way the door opens make it more difficult to get in or out of tub? What if a wheelchair is involved? The third question is if the door opens outwardly, is there enough space in your bathroom for that to happen? Note that a severely disabled person with no mobility may require that the door be nearly as wide as the entire tub.
In general, handicap bathtubs designed to be used with wheelchairs have doors that open out. That’s because the doors need to be wider and people in wheelchairs also like to get a tub with a seat that swivels or pivots, making it easier to transfer back and forth.
Still with me? Good!
The next thing you want to do is imagine yourself about to step inside the tub. Would it help if there was a grab bar to steady your balance? If so, where should the bar be located for your comfort and convenience? The manufacturer can install additional grab bars or you can do it yourself.
Now that the walk in tub’s door is open, how high will you have to lift your legs to get over the threshold? Is it too high for you? Again, if your balance is not good, you’re putting yourself at risk of injury when stepping in and out of the tub. You can find plenty of walk in tubs where the step-in height is barely higher than the floor.
Next, as you navigate yourself inside the tub, check for three things — well placed grab bars, a nice wide comfortable seat with a backrest, and a skid resistant floor. These are all important for your safety and comfort. If you use a wheelchair, is it important to you that the seat swivel and can be powered up and down? Do you need more grab bars to assist you in getting out of the tub?
When you’re comfortably seated in the tub, close and lock the watertight door. Could you do it easily with one hand? Is the locking mechanism or switch within easy reach? Is there any sort of emergency release option if something bad happens?
Now, check out the placement of the fixtures. Are they in easy reach? Some manufacturers will put certain switches right near the seat or include them on the handheld sprayer.
Finally, imagine the tub filling up with water and then draining after you’re finished. Did the tub fill up in a reasonable amount of time or did it take 15 minutes? The same goes for draining the tub. Is there a secondary drainage for fast or emergency draining? It shouldn’t take more than 5-7 minutes for a tub to fill and drain.
I know it’s hard to imagine being in the tub based on a picture. But when you’re talking to the seller or have an opportunity to sit in a real handicap bathtub, you’ll have some idea of what to look for and what questions to ask. So now I’ll summarize the kind of walk in tubs offered in the marketplace.
Overview Of Available Handicap Bathtubs
– Walk-in bathtub with high walls, narrow doors, and moderate step in threshold heights – This is great bathtub for elderly people and others who may have nagging injuries and pains, but are still pretty mobile. The water can be filled to chest level for deep soaking. The stationary seat will be about 17 inches high and all controls will be within easy reach. Pay careful attention to the step-in height. For some “so-called” walk-in tubs, you may have to raise your legs 7″- 8″ or more to get in and out and this might still be too high for some people. It’s not a big problem to find walk-in tubs with 2″ thresholds.
– Slide-in bathtub with high walls – These types of handicap bathtubs are great for people with severe mobility issues. This person is probably using a wheelchair to get around or has to be lifted into the tub. The door on this tub will be quite wide and the seat will be able to swivel so that minimal twisting is needed to move from the wheelchair to the tub. The walls of this tub will not be as high as a standard walk in tub. However, the walls will be higher than a traditional tub. So the bather will still be able to fill it so that the water is well over his or her hips.
– Stroll-in bathtub with walls about as high as a traditional tub – This handicap tub looks similar to a standard tub except that it has a watertight door panel on one side. The individual can stroll through the gate-like door without having to raise their legs over a high edge. The bather would then take a seat on a bench rather than sitting on the bottom of the tub. They would then close and lock the door, and fill the tub. With this tub, you can still purchase many of the fun accessories such as hydrotherapy to enhance the bathing experience.
– Modified traditional bathtub – If your budget is tight, this is a very good option. Essentially, you would purchase a tub conversion kit. A qualified professional would then cut-out a U-shaped section from the wall of your traditional tub. The installer would then put in a watertight door assembly that’s made of polyurethene. It’ll really look like it was professionally done and that you purchased the tub that way. So just like the stroll-in bathtub, someone with mobility issues will be able to walk into the tub with ease. The door would be locked and there should be no worry about water leaking from the tub. The conversion kits are available from the same manufacturers that sell the walk in tubs.
– Round handicap bathtub – you don’t see these around in great abundance, but they are out there. Other than being round, they are similar to their rectangular counterparts. The walls on these handicap bathtubs are about medium height and they’ll give you a little more room inside to move around. In addition, handicap bathtubs easier to clean because there are no corners for dirt and grime to hide.