A walk-in tub can be a lifesaver for anyone with mobility issues, or those preparing for their future needs. These tubs are specially designed to provide better form and functionality than other tubs offer.
All step-in tubs have a low step-in threshold—making it far easier for someone who is chair-bound to get inside—and an air-tight entrance door to protect against leaks. They have a chair-level seat for bathing, so all you need do is step inside and sit down for your bath. However, past these three universal features, there are many different options to consider.
Our Choice for the Top Rated Walk In Tubs
The Gelcoat Value Series of tubs has a variety of different shapes and sizes as well as a variety of different optional features. For tubs smaller than 60” long, they also provide a tub extender to retrofit the tub into a 60” space, which would be a similar fit as the previous bathtub. All of them are Whirlpool tubs, which means that the massage jets use water instead of air bubbles. They come in two colors: white and linen, which is off-white. Each tub has a shower drain in addition to the faucet to take a shower after bathing. American Standard tubs have Quick Drain technology that drains the tub in 2 minutes without any additional plumbing. This tub also comes with the Air Spa system, which has 21 air massage jets as well as a Whirlpool massage system with 6 water jets and an inline heater for a lower body massage. Gelcoat tubs come with a lifetime door seal warranty, a 10 year bathtub warranty, and a 5 year warranty on the tub components. One thing to keep in mind with the Gelcoat tubs is that due to the material they are made out of, they do not supply back panels for the tubs. Gelcoat tubs are meant to go into 3-wall alcoves. If you are trying to find a tub for two walls, consider getting an acrylic tub. The Gelcoat value series provides a good quality tub that costs less than more complicated tubs, which makes it a great option.
The Gelcoat Premium Series has a lot of the same features as the Value series but on a grander scale. It’s still a whirlpool tub with an Air Spa and Whirlpool massage system, but the Premium series has more jets. The Air Spa system has 26 jets and the Whirlpool massage system has 13 jets. This tub has a legs-only massage system, but the Air Spa system launches tiny bubbles into the water to exfoliate the skin so the rest of the body feels good too. The Premium series has a neck rest and is more comfortable than the Value series. It also has the Quick Drain technology that is found on other American Standard tubs. It’s made to fit small spaces but it’s also ADA compliant. Gelcoat tubs also come with a lifetime door seal warranty, a 10 year bathtub warranty, and a 5 year warranty on the tub components. One thing to keep in mind with the Gelcoat tubs is that due to the material they are made out of, they do not supply back panels for the tubs. Gelcoat tubs are meant to go into 3-wall alcoves. If you are trying to find a tub for two walls, consider getting an acrylic tub.
Overall, while the Premium series offers more massage jets and might be more comfortable, some people don’t like that it costs significantly more than the Value series. The Premium tubs don’t have any additional features, so if you just want a regular massage experience and aren’t interested in more, then the Value series might be a better fit.
The Ella Deluxe Walk-in Bathtub is 30”W x 52”L with a 20” seat. While these are technically two different tubs, the only difference between the two are the wave designs. The Zen comes with the wave design while the Malibu does not, but they still function the same. They both have a limited lifetime warranty on the shells, door, and frame of the tub. Just like most other Ella tubs, they have Dual Drain Technology for quicker draining time without using an electric pump. They also feature the hydro massage, air massage, and microbubble systems, which are available all together or in a mix depending on the package. The hydro massage system is strategically positioned for an optimal massage including an intensity dial and water heater.
The tubs themselves have 9 upper seat hydro jets, 6 lower area jets, and 2 floor area jets for massaging various parts of your body while you bathe. The air massage system contains an air pump and air jet massage system. Microbubbles are broken down water molecules that exfoliate your skin and relax your muscles while you bathe. Both the hydro massage system and the air massage system have automatic cleaning processes to prevent germ and mildew buildup. There are also other optional features, like a heated seat and backrest, LED lights, and an aromatherapy system. Just like all other Ella tubs, the Malibu and Zen tubs are assembled in the United States and come with customer support. This tub is more expensive than some other Ella tubs because it has more massage jets but is a very similar size to other models. Overall, the reviews are solid and it is a good midrange walk-in tub option.
The ANZZI Walk-in Tub is a much cheaper option than other tubs on the market, but it still has a lot of the same features as the more expensive tubs do. This tub is 27” x 53” and has 12 whirlpool massage jets and 18 air jets. It’s ADA compliant and has an aromatherapy feature for scented massage bubbles and a chromatherapy feature that lights up the tub with different colors while bathing. There is a 7” extension kit for fitting the tub into a larger space (up to 60”) and a Quick Fill faucet that fills the tub quickly. Draining the tub also takes no more than a minute.
This tub has a simple and smooth design. It’s not nearly as elaborate as other more expensive tubs, but if you care about function over form then it’s a nice cost effective option. It’s made of acrylic, which means it resists fading and is easier to maintain than gelcoat, which is what some higher end tubs are made out of. It’s a thicker material that is more difficult to scratch, dent, or stain. While gelcoat is more lightweight, having a more durable and easier to clean tub is definitely a plus to some people. With an ANZZI tub, you still get great customer service, a limited lifetime warranty, and a product assembled in the United States. While it does have fewer massage and air jets than other tubs, it still has some advanced features like aromatherapy and chromatherapy, which make it a solid budget walk-in tub.
The Ella Deluxe Walk-in Bathtub is 30”W x 55”L with a 20” seat. Made to fit the average bather, the stainless steel door and glass finish make the tub look clean and polished. Most Ella tubs also have Dual Drain Technology, which features 2 drains per tub to speed up draining time. There are three different packages offered with the purchase of this walk-in tub: hydro massage, air massage, and infusion microbubble therapy. You can pick from multiple different package options with different combinations of the three features. The hydro massage system is strategically positioned for an optimal massage including an intensity dial and water heater. The air massage system contains an air pump and air jet massage system. The tub itself has 2 bidet air jets and 8 floor jets for massaging while you bathe. Microbubbles are broken down water molecules that exfoliate your skin and relax your muscles while you bathe. Both the hydro massage system and the air massage system have automatic cleaning processes to prevent germ and mildew buildup. There are also other optional features, like a heated seat and backrest, LED lights, and an aromatherapy system. Just like all other Ella tubs, the Deluxe is assembled in the United States and comes with customer support. According to customer feedback, the tub itself is pretty easy to install, works well, and the customer support is quite responsive. Compared to other tubs, this one is on the cheaper end but still works well and offers quite a few features.
Walk In Tub Buying Guide
Things to consider before buying a walk in tub
Walk in tub Size
You need to consider the size of your walk-in tub and the size of the room it is to be installed inside. If you plan to replace a current bath or shower, you may need to keep the walk-in tub close to the old dimensions. On the other hand, you may decide to remodel the entire bathroom to accommodate new safety features that include a walk-in tube. In any event, care should be taken to consider the capacity of your hot water tank.
Walk-in tubs generally have very low step-in thresholds, but they can differ. Thresholds are generally between three and seven inches tall. For someone with mobility problems, the extra inches can make a huge difference in their ability to use their tub and bath themselves.
Filling and Draining Systems
Walk-in tubs, by their very nature, cannot be opened while the tub is filling or being emptied. A fast-draining system can generally work in as little as 90 seconds to drain the water from the tub. Fast filling systems can have the tub full inside of three minutes. Normal filling and draining systems, on the other hand, can take as much as fifteen minutes to fill or to drain the tub, and because you cannot exit the tub until the water level is below the low-step threshold, that could be a huge inconvenience. Of course, fast working drains and fillers are costly, and it could be you are willing to sit an extra fifteen minutes if it means you can still afford to purchase a walk-in tub with water jets.
Walk in tub Safety Features
When a person decides to purchase a walk-in tub, it is generally the result of a recent fall or accident, or the anticipation of aging in place. As a result of the many built-in safety features of a walk-in tub, they make a sound investment for anyone with mobility problems. Some walk-in tubs are designed specifically with the wheelchair-bound person in mind. These tubs will be significantly easier for someone in a chair to get in and out of, and as an example might have a different type of door setting or exterior hand-grips. Other walk-in tubs are better suited for those who use walkers or for the elderly who are still mobile, but for whom high steps may be a problem.
- Anti-scald valve—Easily one of the most important features on a walk-in tub, the anti-scald valve compensates for the differences in hot and cold running water flowing into the system and ensures there are no sudden changes in temperature while the tub is in use.
- Doors—Walk-in tubs can have two different types of doors. Inward swinging doors are easier to close and require less space. Outward swinging doors are preferable for those who are wheelchair-bound or who need help getting into or out of the tub.
- Textured Flooring—These floors are a must for anyone with mobility problems but are not present in every walk-in tub, so care should be taken to ensure you do not purchase a model that lacks this important safety feature.
- In-Line Heater—For tubs that include water jets, in-line heaters provide a constant temperature to prevent discomfort.
- Grab Bars—Most walk-in tubs come with textured grab bars and handrails as a standard feature. Their placement should be carefully considered during installation to ensure both convenience and safety needs are met.
- Built-in Seat—Almost all walk-in tubs include a large, textured seat.
Therapeutic Tub Features
This is the fun stuff! There are so many different features available today that were not even a consideration ten years ago, and it would be a shame to go through the expense of purchasing a walk-in tub without considering the different add-ons available. Because new features come out all the time, no one can provide a truly complete list, but the ones included here are by far the most popular in the industry.
- Lay-down Walk-in tub—This type of tub combines the safety features of a walk-in tub with a traditional bathtub. With a low step-in threshold, air-tight door, non-slip surfaces and plenty of hand-holds, this type of tub is perfect for those who enjoy laying down to bathe.
- Reclined Walk-in tub—If you miss being able to lay back as you bathe, but still need to be in a semi-upright position, this tub may be the right fit for you.
- Walk-in Shower/Tub—This walk-in is a combination bathtub/Shower that allows owners to have the best of both worlds. You get all the functionality of a walk-in tub, but also have the convenience of a shower for days you don’t want to soak.
- Hydrotherapy Walk-in tub—These are tubs that include water jets that provide for better water circulation, but also offer an intense water massage.
- Aerotherapy Walk-in tub—These tubs use air jets to circulate water throughout the tub, and offer a lighter massage experience.
- Bariatric Walk-in tub—A Bariatric walk-in tub is created specifically for obese individuals. They are generally larger and more sturdy models.
There are so many different considerations to think about when making an important purchase like a walk-in tub, that it can leave your head spinning. However, sitting down and making a list of the most important features you desire in your new tub will significantly decrease the amount of stress you would otherwise feel. Take measurements so you know how much space you have to work with. Decide ahead of time how important the filling and draining systems will be to you. Figure out the safety features you cannot live without. Finally, go over the list of therapeutic features. This is an important purchase that will impact your life or the life of your loved one for years to come.