This buyers guide will help you better understand the features of a slide-in tub, as well as the advantages and disadvantages, so you can make a more informed, educated choice when selecting a slide-in tub.
What is a Slide-in Bathtub?
Slide-in bathtubs are a special type of tub that has both a door and a seat-height surface incorporated into the bathtub design. It is similar in many respects to a walk-in style bathtub, however, the door on a slide-in style bathtub is designed to open up to expose the seat itself, which allows for a greater versatility in transfer styles, making it a more age-proof, universally accessible design.
Who can use a Slide-in Bathtub?
People who can walk without difficulty, anyone who has weakness in one or both legs, or people who rely on a walker, wheelchair, scooter or mechanical lift for mobility can all use a slide-in style bathtub.
How do you get in and out of a slide-in style bathtub?
The versatility of this design allows users to choose from at least three different means of transferring into and out of the bathtub, and some models even allow as many as four different transfer styles. A user has the option to step-in to the bathtub; or they can bypass the stepping in part and simply turn around and sit down on the seat as if sitting on a regular chair, then once safely seated raise each leg in one at a time; or it is possible to perform a lateral sliding transfer from a wheelchair seat onto the bathtubs seat. Lastly, a mechanical lifting device can be used in conjunction with some slide-in bathtub models, which enables a caregiver to assist a more physically dependent person safely into the bathtub. The slide-in bathtub models that offer this fourth option have a cutout compartment at the bottom, which allows the legs of the mechanical lift to slide underneath the tub.
Slide-in Bathtub door styles
Some slide-in bathtubs have doors that open outwards, some have doors that slide upwards, and others have doors that slide sideways. (See pictures below.) If selecting a tub with a door that opens outwards, make sure it will clear the toilet, vanity and other fixtures in the bathroom when it is opened. Some outward opening doors have a cutout portion on the lower half that will allow it to pass over a toilet.
Lying down or Seated Versions
Some slide-in bathtub models have a molded seat inside the tub allowing for an upright, seated bathing experience. Other models allow for the standard lying-down style tub experience. In the latter type the entire height of the tub has been raised to seat height for easier entry and exit. (See pictures below.)
Functional skills required
For the seated style of tub, the user must have, at the minimum, the strength to remain in an upright-seated position for the duration of the bath. In the lying down style of slide-in tub, which contains a door that is physically pulled up by the bather, the user must have the ability to pull up the door once seated inside the tub (Some pull-up doors are electric and merely require the user to be able to push a button.) In the lying down version, with a sideways sliding door, the user must have enough arm strength to be able to lift and scoot their bottom to the opposite end of the tub to get in and out, as well as the ability to bend forward to slide the door open and closed, once seated at the back end of the tub.
Tub Frame and Materials
Tub frames can be made of wood, aluminum or stainless steel, with stainless steal being the strongest of these options. The molded portion of the bathtub can be made out of acrylic or fiberglass, however our latest research shows the slide-in style bathtubs currently on the market appear to only be offering the fiberglass option at this time. In most cases the fiberglass slide-in bathtub models come with a protective gel top coat. It is possible, though more rare; to find a model that has an acrylic composite on top. The acrylic is considered to be more durable, more color-fast, and better at withstanding cleaning and wear and tear over the years.
Water Jet System vs. Air Jet System vs. Soaker Bathtub
Most manufacturers offer bathtub models that can be ordered simply as a basic soaker tub, or optionally upgraded to a water jet system or air jet system. Following are some of the advantages and disadvantages of these options.
A water jet system offers reasonably strong streams of water. This amounts to a great massage-like experience for some people, while others feel that too much pressure concentrated on small areas can be painful, especially as age increases and the skin becomes thinner. In a water jet system, the water is recycled through the system, which has the potential drawback of allowing residual water in the pipes to grow mold or bacteria. This is not ideal for the elderly, individuals with compromised immune systems or those with respiratory problems. If you do opt for a water jet system consider one that is self-purging and has an ozonator, to reduce the likelihood of bacteria growing in the lines. If your intention is to use the bathtub for bathing, and not merely soaking, be aware that because the water is recycled through the system, soaps, oils and shampoos cannot be used.
An air-jet system relies on smaller water jets that deliver a gentler rush of air through more holes. This can best be described as a gently bubbling bath. The water does not get recycled through the air jet system, which means there is not a problem with build-up of mold or bacteria in the pipes and it is OK to use oils, scents and soaps in the water (confirm this with the manufacture of the model you select).
The cheapest version is simply a soaker-tub, which is equivalent to soaking in a hot bath in a standard bathtub. Soaps, oils and shampoos can all be used.
Additional Functional ConsiderationsA feature that many people overlook when researching slide-in bathtubs is that in contrast to a normal bathtub, which you can prepare with hot water prior to getting in, you must first get into a slide-in style bathtub, close the door and then sit inside while it slowly fills up, and you cant exit until is completely empty. Models and features vary, but it can take on average 6-15 minutes to fill and empty depending on your homes water pressure and plumbing.In order to maintain warmth while waiting for the bathtub to fill or empty, consider installing a heat lamp above the tub. And, if it is not included in the base model, consider adding the adjustable showerhead option, so you can begin bathing while the tub is filling.Some manufacturers offer a high flow faucet feature for helping fill the tub more quickly and an enhanced drain system for helping to empty it more quickly. Note that your homes existing water pressure and piping system will affect the filling and draining speeds, so it is possible that no matter what you add it may always fill and drain slowly.Make sure that the size of your water heater is conducive to using a larger bathtub. In many cases people find it necessary to replace their existing water heater in order to run the tub.Many sales people will try to persuade you to avoid smaller models and opt for a larger model, claiming it is more luxurious. Keep in mind that it takes longer for a larger tub to fill and empty. Also be aware that these types of bathtubs can hold up to 40-80 gallons of water, which can translate to higher water bills if used regularly.Check that the dimensions of the tub you select will fit through your doorways and hallways between the outside of the home and the bathroom. If not, you will need to pay to have the doorframes removed and reinstalled to get the bathtub into the bathroom.For the seated style of slide-in bathtubs, ask how high the overflow drain sits above the height of the seat. In some models this can be rather low, meaning the water may only fill to about your belly button level, which is probably not what you had in mind when you set off to buy a bathtub for a nice, fully submerged soaking experience.Ask how the drain system works. Does it use a chain and stopper combination, which you need to be able to reach down to operate, or does it have a dial to turn or button to push, which can be accessed from a seated position?Your own height should be taken into consideration when deciding whether or not to buy a slide-in style bathtub. If you are extremely tall this type of tub would not be an ideal option, unless your main intent is to soak your legs and feet.Weight also needs to be considered when deciding whether or not to purchase a slide-in tub. If you require a bathtub designed for a higher weight capacity, be aware that these models tend to be wider, which means you will likely incur additional expenses to have the door frames removed and reinstalled to get the bathtub into the bathroom.Seat heights vary so make sure that the model you select has a seat height that allows you to easily sit down and stand up; or if you rely on a wheelchair choose a seat height similar to the height of your wheelchair seat so you can easily perform a lateral-sliding transfer onto the seat. In regards to the tubs seat, also note that some seats are fully exposed and others have a small portion of wall blocking the back edge of the seat. The seats that are fully exposed are easier to transfer on and off of.If you plan to use an adjustable showerhead, consider installing a shower curtain around the upper portion of the bathtub to help contain the water.Your bathroom may require extra structural support to manage the weight of the bathtub, so be aware this could be an additional expense.Ask if your current plumbing and electrical system will meet the bathtubs requirements, and if not, what will be the cost to add the necessary outlets or modify the plumbing.If you have a chronic medical condition, you should talk with your medical doctor prior to purchasing a slide-in bathtub, to ensure it is not contraindicated for your medical diagnosis.
Other Important ConsiderationsIt is difficult to find showrooms that display slide-in style bathtubs, and next to impossible to find a showroom that has more than one model of a slide-in style tub on display, so it is wise to start your search online. Once you have it narrowed down to the one or two you like most, call the manufacturer to ask if they know of anyone who has one on display locally. If you can find one on display, jump in and try it out. Make sure the seat is a good height, that you can reach all the controls from a seated position, and that you can easily manage the door controls.A slide-in bathtub is not considered by Medicare to be a medical necessity and therefore not a piece of equipment they typically cover. There is a slim chance that if you can prove you truly cannot function without it that you might get some reimbursement for it from Medicare. In order to do so you will need to have your doctor write a Letter of Medical Necessity stating why it is medically necessary for you. If you have Medicaid you have a better chance of getting it covered, but the ability to do so varies by state, so check with your Medicaid representative.Ask what features are included in the bathtubs base price. Equivalent parts meditative and practical, todayâs bathroom offers been transformed into a spa, a place to unwind and refresh the body. Situated at the heart of the relaxation center may be the tub. Once a utilitarian device, the tub has become a glamorous and, in many cases, interesting feature in bathroom design. Consider how you would like the bath to end up being installed within that area. Nowadays deciding on a tub for your personality and comfort is just as important as functionality.
Some slide-in tubs come standard with features such as a non-slip floor, handrails, adjustable showerhead, warrantied door seal system, massage system and a self-cleaning system for example, while others may consider these to be options, which you need to add at an extra cost.Bathtub manufacturers rarely cover labor costs if repairs are needed, so it is strongly recommended that you use a professional installer who will warranty the work. Ask to see their contractors license and proof of insurance, which covers all workers who will be involved with your project.When researching local installers, ask how many slide-in bathtubs they have installed, and specifically how many they have installed of the model you have selected. These types of bathtubs often need subtle adjustments to make them function optimally and each model has different nuances. With this said, the bathtub models change often, so though it is ideal to have an installer with experience, it may be impossible to find a local installer who has installed multiple models of the specific one you desire.Pricing: Pricing to purchase and install a slide-in bathtub can range from roughly $3,500 $17,000, depending on the model and features you select. Some sellers offer the installation services; others do not, in which case you will need to identify a contractor who can install it for you.Last, but not least, prior to purchasing the bathtub, check the bathtub model and manufacturers name online in conjunction with the words Scam or Complaint to ensure that there isnt a negative history, or problems with the specific model or manufacturer.
Do you have a personal experience you want to share about one of the slide-in bathtub models, or want to see something else added to the list for people to consider prior to purchasing a slide-in bathtub? If so, please add your thoughts in the comment section below.