How to Install a Walk-in Tub

By Kerry Knight

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We here at Tub King have attended many special events, such as annual Home & Patio shows, where we can show a large audience the specialty tubs and showers we carry.   Invariably, upon entering our booth, most people are drawn to our Walk-in Tubs that offer hydro- or water therapy, such as the Air-Jetted System or the Water-Jetted System.

We receive all sorts of inquiries about our Walk-in Tubs such as: “Who is it for?” “What does it do?” “What’s the difference between the various models?” “What are the different features?” “Can you ship these outside of Jacksonville?” And a range of other questions. 

Invariably, someone will ask, “How much do they cost?” We pride ourselves in having the very best prices available.  This is usually followed up with questions that pertain to the installation procedure and costs, 
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usually consisting of three questions:
  • Who does the installation?
  • How much does it cost?
  • What is the procedure?
Let’s look at each one in turn.  First, who does the installation?  We recommend you have a licensed plumber or contractor to do the work as it requires plumbing and possibly electrical work.  In several cases, the customer has the skill and expertise to do it themselves, or they have family or friends who can do the installation for them.  If their bathroom doorway is too narrow to get the Walk-in tub through, it could require widening the opening, so a carpenter or contractor might also be needed.  A one-stop handyman service is ideal because they usually offer all the different skills in a single package price. 

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The second question arises about the installation price.  Installations are solely dependent upon the amount of work that must be done and if there is any special work that must be undertaken outside of the basic installation.  A basic installation would involve taking out the old bathtub (if there is one) and replacing it with the Walk-in Tub.  The Walk-in Tub typically comes with an extension or filler panel. That means if you have a 60-inch opening and your new Walk-in Tub is 54 inches, it will fill in the entire space, making a shelf behind the seat for soap, shampoo and towel.  A basic installation would involve doing the electrical and the plumbing work, and should in most cases cost less than $3,000.  It could be as low as $1,800, if you shop around. If the entire area around the tub has to be tiled, for example, then that would be an additional charge.  If a new floor is required, that would be another charge as well.

The third installation question involves the procedure itself.  Let’s take a look at each step.

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Demolition.  The first day is devoted to removing the old tub and making a clean space for the new Walk-in Tub.  If the old tub is cast iron it will weigh approximately 400 pounds.  If it is a garden tub, it will weigh even more.  After removal from the walls and floor, the tub can be placed on furniture dollies and moved out of the house.  The tub is usually turned on its side to get it through the doorways and hallways.

If the tub is a fiberglass shower surround, it will be too large to go through a doorway.  It will have to be cut into pieces using a special saw and removed.  The floor will then be cleaned and checked for any necessary repairs.  The next step would be water proofing the walls around the tub, unless ceramic tile is already there.  Some tile repair might be needed.  

Arrival and Pre-Testing/Pre-Measuring. The Walk-in Tub will be delivered by freight line in a box with a skid.  The larger ones will weigh approximately 200 pounds, but two men can typically manage it.  It will be important to inspect the box for any damage (it is insured for shipping, incidentally).  A necessary step is to measure all doorways going into the house and into each room the Walk-in Tub must pass through before it gets to its new “home” in the bathroom. Ditto with hallways, if you think they may be narrow.  The Walk-in Tub is normally 30 inches wide or slightly smaller on some models.  If the doorway is too narrow, door jams can be removed to gain another couple of inches.  Before entering the house, the tub should be water tested in a garage or outside, if it is possible, for any leaks.  Fittings can sometimes work loose during cross-country travel in a big truck.  Once everything is checked and tightened, the tub can be set in place, and the drain and water lines can be attached to existing plumbing in the bathroom.  The good thing about the Walk-in Tub is that it stands on six steel legs with levelers so it can be made perfectly level.

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Electrical System. There are three possible electrical components:  An air pump, a water pump and an inline heater.  Each comes with a cord and plug and/or can be hard-wired.  They require a dedicated circuit and a Ground Fault Interrupter or GFI (GFI devices protect us from receiving electric shocks from faults in the electrical devices used home. It works by comparing the input current on the hot side to the output current on the neutral side.)  All Walk-in Tubs run on 110 volts.  The heater requires a 20 amp circuit and the two pumps (air and water) can run off another 20 amp circuit.  There are two panels on the front of the tub, on either side of the door, that are magnetic and removable.  This allows you to access the underneath area of the tub even after installation.  As already stated, an extension or filler panel is available if you’re trying to fill in a 60-inch opening.  Once the tub is installed, many will simply install a shower curtain, if needed, to keep water off the floor while using the handheld shower sprayer. 

If you’re not replacing a bathtub, end panels are available that will cover either end of the tub.  There are any number of ways to design your bathroom around a Walk-in Tub, but the one described above is the most common.  

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Pre-Use. Make sure you or your contractor cleans the rubber seal around the door when it is installed using warm, soapy water.  This will remove any debris that might collect and interfere with the proper seal of the door.

Once the tub is installed, it should be tested to make sure everything is working properly.

Now that your Walk-in Tub has been installed, it’s time to enjoy it.  You can test the water temperature before you get in the tub and start to fill it.  There are about two inches of threshold at the door that will allow you to get it started.  Enter the tub at the door, sit down and enjoy.  The tub will fill quickly and you can engage the air jets right away.  When the water jets are over the ports you can engage those too.  The heater will work along with the water pump to maintain a comfortable temperature.  

As far as cleaning goes, we recommend that use a non-abrasive cleaner such as Simple Green, which can be found in most stores.  Wipe the tub down after each use.  You should enjoy many years of service out of your Walk-in Tub thus ensuring yourself a better quality of life, especially every time you bathe.

In this article, I shared and answered some of the most common questions we receive about the installation of Walk-in Tubs. I discussed the details of pre-installation and current tub removal (and/or demolition), preparing the pathway to move the Walk-in Tub, key installation steps, recommended cleaning procedures and more.  

If you found this article useful, please share it with your family, friends and co-workers. If you have a comment related to this article, leave it in the Comment section of this blog. 

Thanks again for visiting with us.

How Much Should it Cost to Have a Walk-in Tub Installed?

If you’d like to receive a FREE Walk-In Tub Buyers’ Guide, click here.  Have a question? Feel free to contact me at the number or email listed at the end of this article and I’ll personally get back to you.

Alan and Kerry Knight are the owners of Tub King, Inc., and  in Jacksonville, Florida. Together they have many years of experience in the antique and senior bathtub industries. Their companies not only provide superior products, they are also award winners, receiving the “Best of Jacksonville Chamber Award” four years running. If you’d like to contact them, call (800) 409-3375 or (800) 843-4231; or send an email to
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