How to choose the right walk-in tub for you
Choosing a walk-in tub is a brand new experience for almost everyone. There isn’t a lot of information available on the design and differences in tubs, so becoming an educated consumer can be difficult. We would like to educate you on walk in tub designs and options. By the time you are done reading the following sections you will have become a better informed consumer.
Acrylic Vs. Fiberglass
Most walk-in tubs are made of fiberglass. Fiberglass is also used in on-piece tub/showers and the base for most step-in showers. It is waterproof and durable. The downside of fiberglass is that the gelcoat on the surface is porous and stains. If you have ever had a fiberglass shower or tub, you know how impossible it is to get it completely clean. Acrylic is used in some of the better quality walk-in tubs. It is very durable and is non-porous so it is very easy to clean and difficult to stain. Most Acrylic walk-in tubs also use fiberglass behind the acrylic making it much stronger and more solid.
Sizes of Walk-in Tubs
The average size of a walk-in tub is 30″ wide and 52″ long. Most bathtubs are 30″x60″. The extra 8″ left when installing a walk-in tub is usually filled with an acrylic end panel that matches the tub and makes the tub go from wall to wall in a 60″ wide space.
For some bathrooms, the space where you want to install your walk-in tub may be larger than 30″x60″. Garden tubs and jacuzzi tubs that are built next to a glass shower are some examples. In this case, there are options to build a small “pony wall” on one side of the walk-in tub, and/or build a shelf on the back wall of the tub to bring it forward and avoid flooring repairs.
Most walk-in tub companies will offer one or two sizes (30″x52″, 28″x52″ or 30″x60″) and possibly an option of a transfer tub, which is more accessible for wheelchairs or bariatric customers. While these sizes will fit the majority of bathrooms, they may not be adequate for every customer’s body size. A larger person may feel squeezed in a 30″ wide walk-in tub, and if you are over 6’4″, then a 52″ walk-in tub may feel a bit cramped. Very few companies offer more than the sizes mentioned above, so if you have wide hips or are very tall, then finding a company with more model choices will be crucial to finding a tub that fits your body.
Small spaces are another consideration. Some houses have limited space for a walk-in tub. If the space for your walk-in tub is currently a 36″x36″ shower, you will quickly discover that very few companies will have a unit that will fit this size space. Colorado Walk In Bath has 22 model choices, including various seat widths, multiple door widths and a model that will fit in a 36″ space.
Getting it into your house
Getting a walk-in tub into a house can be difficult, and is best left to expert installers. The width of doorways, landings and halls can sometimes limit the size tub you can get, or even if you can fit one in your house at all. Part of the job of a professional walk-in tub consultant is to evaluate every aspect of the installation and take careful measurements to be sure that they can get a walk-in tub into the bathroom that you want it in. However, occasionally it may not be possible to fit it in your first choice bathroom, and you may need to be open to the possibility of a second choice location. With 22 different model choices and sizes here at Colorado Walk In Bath, this situation almost never happens, as we can find a model to fit any space.
Depth of the tub
The average depth of a regular bath tub is 14″. The average depth of a walk-in tub is 38″- 40″. When sitting upright with the tub filled, the water typically reaches your sternum. When you lay back onto the seat and slip down a few inches, the water can go all the way up to your neck. Sitting all the way into the water is a huge benefit of a walk in tub. Submerging your body completely helps reduce internal inflammation, it helps diabetics regulate their blood sugar, it helps reduce stress, and you will sleep much better. And all of these benefits happen before you even turn on the hydro massage jets!
Fill time and Drain time
Here is where some truth must be told. Many walk-in tub salespeople will tell you that all walk in tubs take 10-15 minutes to drain, but their tub is special and only takes two minutes to drain! The truth is that they all take two minutes to drain. There are more significant differences in the faucets in walk-in tubs. Many lower end walk-in tubs use off the shelf bathtub faucets with aerators and valves in them that slow down the water flow. These faucets take two to three times as long to fill as a faucet made for a walk-in tub. A good walk-in tub faucet will have a fill rate of around 18 gallons per minute. The one outside factor is your water pressure. If it is too low, then the tub will take longer to fill, even with an 18GPM faucet. All of the tubs that Colorado Walk In Bath sell have 18GPM faucets, and you can choose from chrome, brushed nickel or oil rubbed bronze. You can also choose a 5 piece faucet or a 2 piece.
The weakest part of a Walk-In Tub- The Door
If you have ever read a bad review about a walk-in tub, they were most likely complaining that the door was leaking. Its more common than you might think. The door of a walk-in tub is the weakest part of the entire unit. There are three things you need to evaluate;
- The hinge Some walk-in tub hinges are screwed in with either a piano hinge or three independent plates. The weakness in this design is that the screws are going into the fiberglass (these type of hinges are always on fiberglass tubs) and there is a piece of wood behind the tub that the screws hold on to. This design allows the screws to come loose over time. The door then tilts off-center, and even a few millimeters difference is enough for water to work its way around the seal and onto your floor. A better design is to bolt the hinges on both sides, which creates an almost permanent hold on the hinge. Another hinge design is to glue it on. Many modern glues are very strong, but in the end, it is still glue and it can dry and come unbonded over time. One of the main tubs we sell at Colorado Walk In Bath has a stainless steel door with a hinge that is welded on. It will never move on come unglued and the stainless steel frame around the stainless steel door give the entire mechanism strength and rigidity and increases the structural integrity of the entire tub.
- The seal around the door Many tubs use a foam roll seal similar to a car door seal. These types of seals only work for a few years on a tub before the foam begins to break down and leaks are imminent. A better seal is a butyl seal. Butyl lasts much longer and is far more durable than foam. Some companies will glue a foam or butyl seal onto the door, but a better method is to feed it into it’s own channel around the door. This makes it much more durable, and it can easily be replaced if it tears or is compromised in the future.
- The door material This is an area that many people take for granted. If the tub is made of fiberglass or acrylic, then you will likely have a fiberglass or acrylic door. The way they make these types of doors is by forming two halves and bonding them together vertically. The problem is that the door isn’t very strong and water can leak inside of the door itself, causing mold and mildew as well as sloshing when you open and close the door. Some tubs even have a drain on the bottom of the door because they know their door will leak eventually. Once again, a door made of stainless steel or aluminum like several of the models at Colorado Walk In Bath will last longer and keep the water inside the tub where it belongs.
Options are typically not offered with most walk-in tubs. A majority of walk-in tub companies will tell you that their tub is the best because it has water jets, air jets, micro bubbles, aromatherapy ports, Chromatherapy lights, heated seats, Bluetooth speakers, a remote control, etc. While these can be great options, not everybody will use every option, and you don’t want to pay for something that you will
never use. At Colorado Walk In Bath, we can customize your tub with the features that matter most to you, and you wont pay for a bunch of features that you will never use.
While the lights in a walk-in tub that change the color of the water may look pretty, they serve an important purpose. Chromotherapy or “light therapy” is a relatively new discovery in the main-stream medical world, even though its benefits have been known for many decades. Colors affect our minds and bodies in many different ways. In a walk-in tub, lights on the side of the tub under the water that change color can be used to enhance the therapeutic experience. Many colors have been proven to have a specific effect on us. Red is known to wake us up and make us alert. Yellow helps with depression. Green and certain blue colors can act as a sleep aid.
Many higher quality walk-in tubs offer an aromatherapy option. Typically they utilize crystals or beads that you purchase from the tub company that pass air over them and come through the water as bubbles, while others allow you to use any aromatherapy oil you like and feed it through a specially designed port. Truly, you can do this on your own with any tub by simply dripping several drops of the oil directly into your bath water. Since you aren’t using a significant amount of oil, there is no slick residue left behind when you drain the tub.
A secondary option to hydro jets are air jets. Air jets aren’t as powerful as hydro jets, but they do feel good on your skin and offer a more gentle massage. One of the benefits of air jets is that by adding more air to the water, the water density is reduced and the hydro jets can massage your body with a little more force. Most companies include air jets and hydro jets, which isn’t bad, but you don’t have a choice, and so you pay for them whether you want them or not. On low-end walk-in tubs, you only get air jets (no hydro jets). This doesn’t really offer most users much benefit and you would almost be better served by choosing a tub without any jets at all and save your money.
Hydro jets are the most important part of a walk-in tub. Beyond the benefit of soaking your entire body inside warm water, the hydro jets give your entire body a massage and offer huge health benefits. If there are enough hydro jets, and if they are placed correctly, they can help you relive joint pain all over your body. The things you want to pay attention to when looking at hydro jets are;
- Are they flush or do they stick out? This is particularly important on your back when you lean back.
- Can they be directed? In some areas of your body you will want the jets to massage you in exactly the right spot, so you will want jets that can be aimed where you want them to hit you.
- How do they massage your feet? This is the area that most walk-in tubs fail to deliver a good option for. Many tubs require you to raise your feet up to the wall jets and hold your legs in an awkward position with your knees out of the water. Few tubs offer foot jets on the floor, which is a much better option. This is one area in particular that the tubs that Colorado Walk In Bath offer are very different. There are not just 2 jets for your feet, but four! Each foot has two jets that can be aimed exactly where you need your feet to be massaged. It’s a true treat!
Microbubbles are created by a special pump that reduces the size of the bubbles to a very, very small size. The benefits of microbubbles are a bit controversial. Proponents claim that microbubbles clean and exfoliate your skin and reduce the need for soap. They say this is due the the size of the bubbles which are so small that they can get into your pores and clean you much better. Well, we did some research and read the actual scientific data on the effects of microbubbles. We were a bit surprised to see that they actually do make your skin cleaner, but we weren’t as excited when we saw the numbers. Microbubbles make you .78% cleaner, which is less than 1% and is an insignificant number. A slightly larger (but still very small) benefit is that microbubbles can help your skin retain 1.72% more moisture. While we offer this option on our tubs at Colorado Walk In Bath, you can decide for yourself if it is worth it or not. One thing you can be assured of is that you wont have to pay for microbubbles if you decide they aren’t for you.
When you take a bath, the one thing that you can count on is that the water will begin cooling the second it leaves the tap. Bath water cools so quickly that within 2 minutes it’s already at a temperature that you would have felt was too cool when you were filling the tub.
So, if you want to stay in the water for any significant amount of time you will need to add hot water to the tub to keep it comfortable. While this method works well in a regular tub with a few inches of water in it, it doesn’t work well in the deep water of a walk-in tub.
Walk-in tubs are heated using one of two methods. One method is to put a warming pad behind the seat back to keep your back warm. While this helps for a little while, eventually the water cools and the only thing warm is your back. The second, and better option, is to heat the water through an in-line heater as it moves through the jets. This can keep the water warm almost indefinitely. Most every walk-in tub company will offer one of these options to keep you warm. The walk-in tubs we offer at Colorado Walk In Bath come with the in-line heater as a standard option, and a heated back and seat is also available as an upgrade option.
You can certainly turn your walk-in tub into a tub/shower combination. Most companies walk-in tubs come with a hand wand that you can use to manually shower with. You can also mount a bar on the wall that will hold the hand wand in place. Some companies will offer a shower column with a rain head that is a more permanent shower option. In either case, you will need to keep the water in with a shower curtain. Some companies offer a glass screen to keep the water from splashing onto your floor. At Colorado Walk In Bath we offer a folding glass screen that can be stored flat against the wall and unfolded when you need it.
Quite simply, almost every walk-in tub company offers one style faucet in chrome and no other options. That’s fine if you already have chrome faucets in your bathroom, but what if you have brushed nickel or oil rubbed bronze?
At Colorado Walk In Bath you can choose from three different styles of five-piece faucet sets, a two-piece faucet or a thermostatic faucet. You also have your choice of chrome, brushed nickel or oil rubbed bronze finish.
What Makes a bad tub?
This is a very good question. The simplest answer is that a bad walk-in bath is one that either doesn’t work well, doesn’t last long or doesn’t fit your needs. It’s tempting to purchase an inexpensive walk-in tub off of Amazon and use your extensive DIY skills to put it in yourself. Unfortunately, even if you do an impeccable job of installing it, these tubs are infamously unreliable.
There is a high probability that a low-quality walk-in tub will begin breaking down within a short time frame. The most dangerous problem with these tubs is their high risk for leaks. Once the door begins failing, you have to stop using the tub immediately and have it replaced. In the end, you end up spending more money and time fixing and replacing these tubs than they are worth, not to mention the never-ending headaches.
Additionally, if a tub doesn’t meet your needs, then you are stuck trying to make a square peg fit into a round hole. Maybe you had the perfect location for your tub, but the company you hired didn’t have a tub that fit that space, so you ended up spending more to make or remove walls and other modifications to get it to fit. Or, maybe you ended up putting it into a bathroom that wasn’t ideal. If it’s on an upper or lower floor of your house that may become inaccessible to you in a few years, then it doesn’t help you for very long.
Maybe you ended up paying for all the bells and whistles that came with the tub that you chose, but you really don’t need or use many of those features. You didn’t have a choice because the company doesn’t offer options.
The walk-in tubs we offer at Colorado Walk In Bath are customized for each customer. Do you like hydro jets, but don’t need microbubbles? Maybe you like chromotherapy lights, but aromatherapy isn’t your thing. Maybe you would rather have a separate pump for the lower body jets so you can fill the tub partially and massage your feet and legs. Want a two-person tub or a laydown walk in tub? We have those! And we can make your tub exactly the way you want it without charging you for features that you may never use.