How To Install a Walk-In Tub

Bathrooms are the most dangerous room in the home. This is especially true for seniors or people with limited mobility. Most injuries occur entering or exiting the tub. A walk-in tub can keep you or your family member safe from unexpected accidents in the bathroom.

Time to complete (1-3 days)

Walk-in Tub Install

Installing a walk-in tub can take between one and three days. Steps for installation include widening the door to get the old tub out and the new one in, removing the old tub, making necessary changes to plumbing and electrical, prepping the floor and walls, and installing the tub making all plumbing and electrical connections.

Sounds simple enough, right? The reality, however, is that this is a complex job that is not for your typical DIYer. Hiring a contractor that has experience installing walk-in tubs is going to be your best route to getting a safer, more independent experience when taking a bath or shower.

Pro Tip:

Many accidents in the bathroom also occur when getting on and off of the toilet. A convenient height toilet is another excellent choice when trying to make your bathroom safer. These toilets sit 20” high versus your standard toilet, which is only 15”.

What Is a Walk-in Tub and Why Do I Need One?

A walk-in tub is very different from a standard bathtub. They are made to be easily accessible. This is great for anyone who has a hard time getting in and out of the tub.

Falls can be disastrous when you get older. A walk-in tub has tall walls with a deep cut-out and a low threshold (usually around 3”). These combined with a waterproof door and a built-in seat make bathing independently an altogether pleasant experience again.

Handrails, a handheld shower fixture, and slip-resistant floors come standard in most walk-in tubs, adding to their safety and convenience. Things like hydrotherapy jets or air jets add extra therapeutic benefits on top of being able to soak in a nice warm bath.

One of the best things about these tubs is the ability to have a deep soak, completely submerged, in a seated position without the need to lie down at the bottom. The health benefits afforded by the use of a walk-in tub are reduced inflammation, easing of stiff and achy joints, and stress relief and relaxation just to name a few.

There are a wide variety of walk-in tubs. Of course the more features, the higher the price. But, they are ideal for anyone with mobility issues.

How Much Does It Cost To Install a Walk-in Tub?

Before we get to the actual installation of a walk-in tub let’s talk about the budget needed for the purchase and installation of said tub. There are a couple of downsides to installing a walk-in tub.

One of these is the price point. Buying the tub and having it installed can run you anywhere from $2,500 to $20,000. That’s a big difference. Fortunately, as with most bathroom fixtures, there are a lot of different models and styles to choose from.

A basic walk-in tub without installation is going to cost around $1,500. This is without any of the premium features like jets and the fast fill and drain options. 

This leads us to another downside of walk-in tubs. You can’t fill the tub until you are inside. The same goes for draining the tub. You cannot exit the tub until it is almost completely drained.

Many tubs come with fast fill and drain options but, to be able to utilize these options, it takes upgrading your drain and supply lines to accommodate the fast fill and drain times.

The national average for purchase and installation is $5,500. Many walk-in tubs fit in the space of your existing bathtub. With a base model and straightforward installation, including minimal tile work to finish off the space, you can have your new tub installed for as little as $2,500.

An upgraded model with therapeutic jets and heated water with renovations will cost around $13,500. With all this being said, adding a walk-in tub can add value to your home, especially in retirement communities or places where there are a lot of retirement-age residents.

This makes it more of an investment than an expense. A worthwhile investment when you consider all the benefits.

Pro tip:

Also available are walk-in tub conversion kits. These are a less expensive alternative to walk-in tubs. They convert your existing tub into a walk-in. They don’t offer all the benefits of a full-size walk-in tub, but they can be installed in one day for around $1,500 or less.

Walk-in Tub Installation

Walk-in tub installation will vary from model to model. The existing layout of your bathroom and specific plumbing and electrical needs may also affect the scope of work to be completed.

Step 1

The first step any installer is going to want to do is to water test the tub. While these tubs are tested at the factory, transportation, and handling can cause fittings to loosen and possible damage to occur. 

The best place to test your new tub is outside or in the garage. The tub needs to be on a flat surface with all sides exposed. Fill the tub with water, let it sit for thirty minutes, and then check for leaks.

After this process is complete, you will want to check the electric components while the tub is full of water. Things like the air blower, water pump, and heater all need to be plugged into outlets with a three-prong extension cord on different outlets.

When all components are verified to work, check the water connections again, especially around the pump and heater. Never run the pump or heater unless the tub is full of water at least above the jets.

Pro tip:

Never lift the tub by anything other than the frame. Do not lift by the plumbing or other fixtures.

Step 2

Step 2 involves preparing the existing structure to first make sure you can get the new tub into the space. Secondly, removing the old tub and making sure the rough in plumbing is in the right location as well as proper electric service has been installed.

Often, the size of the tub is known in advance. This means the demo process can start before the new tub arrives. After the old tub has been removed, make sure the floor is level and will support the weight of the tub full of water with the occupant inside.

Each electrical component will require its own circuit. The electrical outlets will also need to be placed in locations where they’re close enough to the pump(s), heater, lights, etc.

Pro tip:

All electrical outlets will need to be GFCI. Also note that with electrical components, fire-rated drywall may need to be installed before installation of the tub. Your contractor should check all local building codes prior to work beginning.

Step 3

Install the new tub ensuring that the tub is level from all sides. Next, secure the tub frame to the studs. 

Install the tub overflow and drain according to the manufacturer’s instructions. There may also be a door drain and check valve that needs to be installed. Now you can install the other plumbing fixtures such as the faucet and possibly the in-line water heater.

After the plumbing and electrical are hooked up, the tub is now ready to be water tested in place to check that all connections are secure and there are no leaks.

Step 4

Now that the plumbing and electrical work is finished and the tub has once again been water tested, it’s time to install the panels underneath. If necessary, the extension kits can be installed at this time as well.

Step 5

Now that your new walk-in tub has been installed, it’s time to finish any remaining work. This will include tile work to finish off the surround above and next to the tub. Any other renovations that were necessary may also need to be completed at this time.

Any fixture that had to be removed to get the new tub in can also be re-installed. The existing toilet and vanity or sink may have had to be moved to get the new tub in.


And there you have it. Your new walk-in tub is installed and the remainder of the work is complete. Now all you have to do is sit back, relax, and enjoy the benefits of your new bathtub. Some maintenance will be required, as well as regular cleaning, but the hard work is finished. Your new tub should bring you many years of enjoyment. 

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