Walk-in tubs: cost and installation factors

Jim Mallery | Improvement Center Columnist | October 6, 2016

For anyone with limited mobility, a walk-in bathtub can be just what the doctor ordered. You open the door, step across a low threshold, sit in a chair-height seat, and bathe or enjoy the benefits of hydrotherapy.

Here's an idea of what you're looking at to purchase and install a walk-in tub.

Walk-in tubs: basic costs and added features

Costs for walk-in tubs range quite a bit depending on quality and which features you add. The ballpark cost for a walk-in tub including installation typically ranges from $10,000 -- $15,000. The largest variables in pricing, aside from the size of the tub, are optional features like jet systems, which add to the tub's final cost. However, many of the following features and options are desirable and even necessary if you're going to benefit from a walk-in tub:

  1. Safety handles
  2. Non-slip floor
  3. Outward door
  4. Low threshold
  5. Flexible shower hose
  6. Power drain
  7. Jets for hydrotherapy
  8. Stainless steel, leveling frame

Installation considerations

You might spend on installation as much, or more, than the cost of the tub, but this is definitely a job for a licensed plumber and electrician, and in some cases, even a carpenter.

Here are four concerns that could affect the cost of installation.

  1. Access: Bathroom doors may be only 28 or 30 inches wide. Depending on the width of the tub you select, you may have to remove the door jamb to get the tub into the bathroom.
  2. Space: Walk-in tubs are made to fit the standard sizes of showers and tubs. Matching panels are available to fill in between the tub and the standard 60-inch space, or you can add built-in shelves or drawers.
  3. Plumbing: Standard hook-ups might require you to move plumbing, both for the drains and the supply. Because walk-in tubs are likely to hold more water than a standard tub and you want the tub to fill rapidly while you sit in it, water supply lines should be ¾-inch pipes rather than ½-inch pipes. Make sure you have enough hot-water capacity to fill the tub -- a walk-in tub can use over 50 gallons.
  4. Electrical: The tub's drain pump typically needs a dedicated 15-amp electrical circuit from your service panel. Water and air jets can require an additional circuit of 15 or 20 amps. All circuits must be on ground-fault-circuit interrupters (GFCI).

A walk-in bathtub is a wonderful addition for someone with limited mobility, and your options are many. Thoroughly research your tub choices to make sure you get what you want -- and that the features and installation requirements are within your budget.

About the Author

Jim Mallery, a semi-retired journalist and onetime registered contractor, has extensive experience remodeling, repairing and rebuilding homes.