In your search for the perfect walk-in bathtub, you’ll encounter a large volume of extra features and technical specifications. The following glossary provides definitions and descriptions of all the walk-in bathtub jargon you need to know:
A mid-range walk-in bathtub material, more expensive and durable than fiberglass, moldable, with a glassy look. Not the same as a gel coat.
A bathtub, shower, bench, or other fixture that satisfies the criteria of the Americans with Disabilities Act, often providing special features such as additional handles or non-slip flooring.
Also known as: safety tub, walk-in tub, step-in shower, ADA compliant tub
air massage system
This walk-in bathtub upgrade offers a lighter, gentler massage alternative to more powerful typical hydrotherapy jets. Air massage systems employ arrays of chrome air jets to provide therapeutic warm air bubble massage. They often come with variable speed options and a variety of pulses and self-cleaning mechanisms.
air and hydrotherapy massage system
This dual system combines the most popular walk-in bathtub features, offering both therapeutic air and water jets massage in individual or simultaneous use. In one integrated system, you enjoy both gentler, light touch air massage bubbles and invigorating heated water jet massage. The systems often offer rotatable jets, adjustable jet strength and pulse speeds, and self-cleaning capabilities.
Aromatherapy systems augment the naturally therapeutic benefits of a soaker tub with added therapeutic fragrances. These systems use diffusers and air pumps to distribute essential oils of your choice such as lavender, lemon, tea tree, eucalyptus, or peppermint around the tub. This multisensory approach reinforces relaxation, therapy, and healing, and reinvigorates the body and mind.
bariatric shower seats
A padded, secure bathtub and shower seat, often designed to accommodate bathers weighing as much as 700 pounds, bariatric shower seats offer contoured backrests and adjustable frames to meet the needs of any bather. They are typically outfitted with non-slip feet to provide greater stability and security in the bathtub or shower.
A bath lift is a secure, removable seat that lowers you into and raises you out of the bathtub. It provides a more economical alternative to a walk-in bathtub installation, does not require installation, and is easily transportable.
Chromatherapy uses multicolored lights inside the tub to produce therapeutic colors and color transitions that promote specific health benefits. The benefits of light and color have been used for thousands of years to promote physical, mental, and emotional health. A walk-in bathtub’s programmable color arrays help stimulate one’s circulatory system, combat fatigue, facilitate relaxation, improve mood, accelerate healing, and aid respiration. Select between various color cycles, spectrums, and transition speeds for an enhanced therapeutic bathing experience.
drain and overflow system
As in most other bathtubs and showers, a walk-in bathtub comes with a built in overflow system to prevent the water level from exceeding the height of the tub. These overflow drains are not placed at a standard height, so before selecting a walk-in tub, be sure its drain allows a satisfactory water level for you.
Many walk-in tubs come with an adjustable extension that will fill any leftover space between your tub and the surrounding walls. This is useful especially when your walk-in tub is smaller than the preceding bathtub fixture, as it provides a custom fit and saves you from having to tile or finish the adjacent walls.
Also known as: deck extension
An inexpensive walk-in bathtub material, fiberglass is also lightweight and low maintenance. However, finish options are limited, and it is less durable than most other walk-in bathtub options.
five-piece faucet set
Most walk-in bathtubs come with a standard five-piece faucet set that is mounted on one end of the tub. Finishes and materials for these may vary and are often customizable. In addition to hot and cold knobs, the faucet set includes a push down diverter, a faucet head, and a detachable showerhead.
gel coat finish
A thin material used to finish a fiberglass base on tubs, showers, and walls. A worn out gel coat can cause the base item to stain.
Grab bars are the wall-mounted handles that allow bathers to steady and assist themselves while sitting down or standing up in a bathtub. At least one grab bar often comes standard with a walk-in tub, but additional grab bars can be positioned to suit a bather’s the specific needs.
Also known as: handles, assist bars,
A showerhead design in which the head is connected to a flexible hose and allows greater range and distribution of the water flow.
Also known as: detachable showerhead, retractable handheld showerhead
hydrotherapy massage system
One of the most common walk-in bathtub add-ons, this popular therapeutic feature adds invigorating, powerful water jets to the already more fully immersive walk-in bathtub experience. Similar to Jacuzzi-style water jets, hydrotherapy massage jets come in a variety of arrays to target common areas of need, such as feet, hips, legs, and back. They often come with variable speed options and a variety of pulses and self-cleaning mechanisms.
This is an optional, additional heating system for hydrotherapy massage tubs, to ensure that the water maintains a constant temperature as it flows through the jets and back into the tub. Some heating units may require you to install additional electrical wiring and circuits.
Also known as: ceramic heaters, built-in heating system
inward or outward swinging door
All walk-in bathtubs have doors which saves the user from stepping up or down into the tub. Walk-in bathtub doors can swing out away from the tub or into the tub, and this is an important feature to take into account when gauging the space in your bathroom and the size of your bathtub.
This safety feature comes standard on most walk-in tubs, and consists of a bathtub floor coating that maximizes traction on a web surface.
Also known as: anti-slip floor
porous and non-porous
Terms referring to the penetrability of the surface of a fixture. A porous material has tiny holes, and is susceptible to mold, mildew, and stains. Non-porous materials are solid and are not susceptible to mold, mildew, or stains. Because of its non-porous nature, acrylic is more durable than a porous fiberglass fixture.
right-hand or left-hand door
In addition to selecting whether your walk-in bathtub door swings inward or outward, you can often choose between a door that opens left or right. Take into account your bathroom layout and your specific physical needs when selecting which way your walk-in bathtub door will open.
Synonymous with walk-in bathtubs, a safety tub refers to a bathtub featuring a watertight, sealed door that eliminates the 20+ inch step up or down into a standard bathtub. They are designed to prevent injuries resulting from dizziness or loss of balance while bathing, thereby making bathing a safer experience for the elderly, disabled, or injured.
Also known as: walk-in tubs, ADA tubs
This feature is offered by many walk-in bathtub manufacturers, and can make your walk-in bathtub and tub systems virtually maintenance free. Self-cleaning mechanisms typically use an ozone cleaning system to sanitize a tub, plumbing, and jets by oxidizing and eliminating microorganisms.
Also known as: self-cleaning sanitary system, ozone cleaning system
shower transfer bench
This is a common ADA bathtub and shower add-on to facilitate easy transfer of bathers with restricted mobility into and out of a bathtub and shower. They come in a variety of designs, and like bathtub lifts, shower transfer benches provide a much more economical alternative to a full walk-in bathtub installation.
Also known as: bathtub transfer bench, bath chair, wall-mounted shower transfer,
speed drain capability
Some walk-in bathtub manufacturers offer systems designed to expedite the water draining process and reduce your wait-time in the tub. These systems typically consist of a combination of a mechanical lever, stop, and extra large diameter pipes.
Water supply refers to the amount of water your plumbing is able to supply to a walk-in bathtub in a given time. Water pressure and the width of the water supply pipe have an effect on water supply. A better water supply means that your walk-in tub will fill more rapidly as you sit inside it with the door sealed.
Another common accessibility and comfort feature of walk-in tubs, wide doors enable users to move in and out of a tub with even greater ease. It is important to evaluate the space available in your bathroom when considering whether to include a wide door on your walk-in tub.
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Most walk-in bathtub manufacturers offer this add on to provide a more spacious, comfortable bathing experience to users. Note that a wide seat walk-in bathtub design can add 3-5 inches to the width of a tub, so it is important to evaluate the space available in your bathroom when considering whether to include a wide seat on your walk-in tub.