Handicap Bathtubs: 2 Basic Tub Choices for the Handicapped
Handicap Bathtubs: 2 Basic Tub Choices for the Handicapped
There are two basic choices of handicap bathtubs that can be installed in a disabled bathroom: a specially designed walk in tub or conventional tub that is retro-fitted with handicap accessories.

Handicap bathtubs allow those with disabilities and mobility issues to enjoy the simple pleasure of a relaxing bath without having to depend on others. 

There are two main types of handicap bathtubs:

  • A conventional bathtub which has been retro-fitted with grab bars and lowered shelves.

Retro-fitting an existing bathtub is simpler than installing a new tub. Unless you have experience both in carpentry and plumbing, it is best to leave the installation of a new tub to a professional. However, if you have done DIY projects before that required carpentry and plumbing skills, you should be able to install your new bathtub. 

Retro-fitting an existing bathtub

Any easy way to retro-fit a conventional tub for handicap use, is to install a portable bathtub lift as well as appropraite grab bars for extra safety. Simply follow product instructions on any bathtub lift you choose for easy installation.

When installing safety bars in disabled bathrooms, keep in mind that the typical type of grab bars are narrow, long, and mounted to the tile in the tub and shower area. This allows those using the grab bars to position themselves however needed in the bathtub, yet still allows them to reach the grab bars with ease. 

Note: These instructions are to give you an idea of a what is needed. These should not be used as complete instructions on installing a handicap tub or retro-fitting an existing tub. 

Supplies needed: 

  • Pencil
  • Tape measure
  • Silicone
  • Caulking
  • Stud finder
  • Screws
  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Cordless drill with masonry drive and masonry screws (may be known as tile screws)
  • Grab bars

1. Purchase grab bars from a home improvement store or a plumbing supply store. You should purchase grab bars that can support up to 1,000 pounds. Even if the people using the grab bars are not overweight, more force is exerted on the bars if they are being used to lift. 

2. The ADA recommends the installation of a 24-inch bar on the main wall of the bathtub. The bar should be placed at a 45-degree angle. This makes the grab bar easier to access and grab and fits exactly against the studs behind the tile, which are normally 16-inches. Note: You can also later add portable grab bars for additional safety and support in certain areas.

3. Next, measure, mark, locate studs, and begin drilling. 

4. After drilling, the screw holes will be created and you will then install the bars. You will want to test the bars before use. 

Installing a Walkin tub.

1. Choose a the right tub. The most popular handicap bathtubs are walkin tubs. Some have doors that swing inward and some have doors that swing outward. Newer models have an electric door that slides downward. There are also hydrotherapy tubs and whirlpool bathtubs that are also designed as walkin models.

2. Tear out the old tub and the tiles surrounding it also, leaving the wooden studs. 

3. Measure the new tub and line it in place. Re-route any electric or venting, and ensure the drain is properly placed. Inspect all plumbing lines and see if anything looks broken or worn. Now is the time to replace anything that needs replacing. 

4. Ensure the handicap tub is level. It may need to be shimmed. Hook the plumbing to the handicap tub.

5. Attach the handicap tub fixtures, including the faucets and shower connection, and tighten them along with the drain. Turn on the tub and check the handicap bathtub for leaks. 
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