Questions to Consider Before Buying a Walk-In Bathtub

How much space do you have for your walk-in bathtub?

Most walk-in bathtubs are built to fit in typical bathroom alcoves. If you are replacing an average-size standard bathtub, a walk-in tub should fit in that space. However, because walk-in bathtubs tend to be taller than standard bathtubs (40 inches, on average, compared with about 14 to 20 inches for standard bathtubs), you may need to measure your space to ensure you can get the bathtub into your bathroom.

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For example, if you need to remove door frames or other potential obstacles, that can increase the cost of installation significantly

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What is your budget?

As with many purchases, budget may be the biggest factor when you're choosing a walk-in tub. While prices of these tubs range pretty widely, all cost more than average standard bathtubs. In addition, the costs of installation, heating, increased water usage and electricity can increase the total cost of owning and using a walk-in bathtub. It's a good idea to consider all of these factors before making a commitment.

Will your insurance, Medicare or Medicaid cover a walk-in bathtub?

In some cases, it's possible to receive financial assistance or reimbursement for a walk-in bathtub — typically, in instances where the tub is deemed a medical necessity and/or durable medical equipment. Policies and guidelines vary widely. Medicare typically does not cover walk-in bathtubs, for example. Some states may provide assistance through Medicaid, and some Department of Veterans Affairs programs may provide some assistance. Your best option is to carefully review your relevant policies and inquire directly with a representative before making any assumptions about potential coverage. Do not take a salesperson's advice on coverage before asking your insurance directly.

Do you own your home or have permission to make alterations?

If you do not own your home, you may need to gain approval from your property owner or landlord.

Will you need professional installation?

Very few bathroom installations or upgrades are cut-and-dry. You should carefully consider your capabilities and options before committing to a purchase. Most bathtub manufacturers and retailers offer manuals and product guides online, which can often help you or your loved ones understand what it will take to install a particular walk-in bathtub. If you've opted for jets, lights or other extras, installation will likely require more electrical work, in addition to plumbing. It's a good idea to carefully review the bathtubs' warranties as well; some manufacturers honor warranties only if the tubs are installed by certified installers.

How large is your water heater? Does it hold enough water to completely fill the bathtub?

Be sure you know the capacity of your water heater, to determine if it will be large enough for you to fill these deeper bathtubs with as much hot or warm water you'll need. If your tub holds 80 to 100 gallons of water, for example, your hot water heater should be able to send roughly that much hot water to the tub (provided that you're not using hot water for something else simultaneously). Any upgrades you need to make to your water heater will add to the costs of the project.

What safety features are included, and which ones are optional?

Most walk-in tubs include safety features such as nonslip surfaces, grab bars, easily accessible knobs and retractable shower heads. To be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, walk-in tubs must include grab bars, a 17-inch to 19-inch seat, as well as unobstructed controls, drains, faucets and shower wands. But not every walk-in bathtub is completely ADA compliant, though they may include some ADA-compliant features. As such, be sure you understand which features are included before committing to a purchase. If the tub you're looking at doesn't include some of the features you'd like, you may want to look at other models in your price range.

Do you need a special design, like a larger door or wheelchair accessibility?

Evaluate your needs in a walk-in tub, and consider how those needs may change over time. Given the cost, potential complication and change it will bring to your living space, you'll want this upgrade to last as long as possible. Additionally, make sure you have complete measurements of your space as you look at your options. Depending on the model, wheelchair-accessible tubs may need more clearance because of their wider doors, for example.

Do you want to simply soak, or do you also want therapeutic air, water or combo jets?

Most walk-in tubs offer the options of a basic soaker model and therapeutic upgrades, including hydrotherapy (water) jets, air jets or a combination of the two. Keep in mind that the upgrades add to the cost. Air jets are typically the least expensive of the three options, followed by water jets and finally combination jets.