Retrofitting Bathroom for Seniors: Best Bathtub Lifts and a DIY Walk-In Bathtub

We all love our homes.  However, there may come a time when it becomes necessary to change, update and/or retrofit our castles to compensate for age and a lack of mobility. With scores of seniors living longer while remaining independent, it’s important to keep up with the times.

So if you are among the new-age seniors who are aging-in-place, you may be looking to make home modifications in order to enjoy your castle for as long as you can.

Instead of giving up your homestead, consider a bathroom remodel to retrofit your bathtub to a walk-in shower or walk-in tub. There are loads of opportunities to turn your current abode into a senior-friendly home.  Since the bathroom shower can pose the biggest challenge, we will take a look some options in that area of the house.

Retrofitting Homes for the Elderly: Making your bathtub user-friendly 

Let’s face it, Father Time marches on for everyone, and eventually certain tasks within our home begin to become more troublesome and arduous—tasks that can be made easier with a little know-how and retrofitting. 

Whether you are a senior citizen living on your own, or if you decide to move into a Senior Living Community–some minor adjustments such as bathroom retrofitting can make it much easier for you to bathe or shower without the help of a caretaker.

Or perhaps you are the adult child who has decided to have your elderly parent move in with you (Kudos to you!) There are many steps you can take to retrofit a home for someone of advanced age. 

These steps include adding bars to showers and in bathrooms, building or purchasing wheelchair-accessible ramps, adding stair lifts and more. 

In this article we will focus specifically on two of these potential retrofitting methods: Bathtub Lifts and adding a DIY Walk-in Bathtub

We first reviewed several of the best and most popular bathtub lifts currently on the market, and highlighted the pros and cons associated with each lift.  Below we outline our findings.

We have also provided some very basic steps on how to add a DIY walk-in bathtub to further retrofit your living space.

**Please note this post contains affiliate links, meaning I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on some of our links.

Best Bathtub Lifts

One of the best ways to retrofit a home for the elderly is to equip the bathtub with a high-quality bath lift.  These gadgets help seniors and people with limited mobility raise and lower themselves into the bathtub via a remote control that gently lifts the backrest into the desired position. 

Below we have reviewed three such devices as a way to introduce you to all the great features of these products.

Drive Medical Whisper Ultra Quiet Bath Lift



Designed to give users a renewed sense of confidence, the Drive Medical Whisper Ultra Quiet Bath Lift is specially designed to provide assistance to individuals when entering and exiting the bath, making the bathing experience much more enjoyable. 

The Drive Lift needs no tools to be installed. With its two piece bath lift construction, the unit is simple to piece together and install. It is also quite portable, thanks to its easy folding capability for quick and simple storage and mobility. 

The bath lift will never slip, as the 4 suction cups, each of which is designed with a quick release function, ensure both security and stability on the bathtub floor.

Additionally, the padded seat on the unit, coupled with the ergonomically designed backrest, add a measure of comfort and luxury to every bath.

The backrest on the Drive Medical Whisper Ultra Quiet Bath Lift is very versatile. 

Users can raise, lower and recline it up to 50 degrees from center, and the specially sealed, watertight hand control features large accessible buttons that are very vivid. 

Besides the easy to access button, the hand control can also float atop the water, which assist users greatly while bathing. This feature allows the bather to easily find the control when the bath lift needs to be adjusted. 

The bath lift is anything but bulky, as it has a hygienic cutaway and slimline profile for easy handling.

The Drive Medical Whisper Ultra Quiet Bath Lift measurements are as follows: 

  • The seat measures 16.54 inches
  • The back of the chair has a height of 25.1 inches and a base width of 22 inches. 
  • The backrest can recline up to 140 degrees 
  • The bath lift as a whole has a weight capacity of 300 pounds, enabling it to accommodate people of all sizes.

Full disclosure: This is the lift that my mom has been using for over 4 years. Don’t tell her I told you, but she weighs around 212 pounds (on a good day).

Pros

  • Great control handle.  The floating control handle on the Drive Medical Whisper Ultra Quiet Bath Lift has vivid, easy to read buttons for the user’s convenience.
  • Easy installation.  There are no tools needed to assemble this very convenient bath lift.

Cons

  • Problems with wings.  According to some users, the wings on the armrests of the Drive Medical Whisper Ultra Quiet Bath Lift can crack or break when too much weight is applied.

Bathmaster Deltis Motorized Bath Lift



With its ultra-plush seat, durable transfer flaps and easy-recline backrest, the Drive Medical Whisper Ultra Quiet Bath Lift makes sitting and bathing much simpler for those individuals with mobility problems and for people for whom standing in a standard shower is difficult or impossible. 

The seat on the bath lift is made from high-quality plastic that has been covered for the user’s comfort. The side transfer flaps are equipped with protectors for security; and the four never-slip suction feet on the unit ensure the lift always stays in place.

The bath lift also comes with a comfortable backrest, durable motor and cable, easy to use hand controller and a convenient battery charger.

Very compact and lightweight, the frame of the Drive Medical Whisper Ultra Quiet Bath Lift can accommodate 309 pounds of capacity. 

The frame fits most bathtub types and can be conveniently separated into two parts to make the installation process easier and hassle-free.

The durable, waterproof motor on the unit has a very long life expectancy.  This motor helps to lift the bath seat to chair height, and is specially manufactured to resist operational damage of any kind.

The Drive Medical Whisper Ultra Quiet Bath Lift has a very clever and intuitive design which allows an ultra-light lift to provide incredible support and security during bath sessions. 

Those who purchase this product will also get the handy remote control device that allows bathers to move the backrest to their desired height during different portions of the bath.

It also comes with a battery charging pack that is equipped with an LED readout for when the battery is low; and a colorful step-by-step instructional manual that makes installation a breeze.

Pros

  • Quick charge battery.  When it comes to battery life, no like product on our list (or on the market) can beat the Drive Medical Whisper Ultra Quiet Bath Lift.
  • Lightweight.  The lightweight design of this bath lift makes it incredibly easy to store and travel with.

Cons

  • Premium priced.  Although you get a lot of bang for your buck with the Drive Medical Whisper Ultra Quiet Bath Lift, the unit may not be suitable for consumers on a budget or fixed income.

Lumex Splash Bath Lift with Ultra-Compact Design and Remote Control



Designed for the customer that appreciates subtlety, the inconspicuous and unimposing Lumex Splash Bath Lift with Ultra-Compact Design and Remote Control is a true wonder. 

This bath lift has an all-white design that blends unobtrusively into any bathroom décor. In fact, when it is reclined to its lowest position, most people won’t even notice it is there. 

Like most products of this kind, the Lumex Bath Lift is blessed with a very lightweight design, is very compact, and it is easy to store and transport, weighing only 14.3 pounds when fully assembled.

As users bathe with the help of the Lumex Splash Bath Lift with Ultra-Compact Design and Remote Control they will definitely notice the fixed back design with which it is equipped. 

This design allows for optimal legroom, as the back of the chair fits snugly against the back of the bathtub.

The easy, quiet movement and the four suction-cupped feet that hold the unit securely on the bathtub floor, make this bath lift one of the most stable in the industry. 

The remote control is equipped with large simple to read buttons which make it extremely easy to use.

Plus the slim price tag on the product makes it perfect for those users on a budget.

Pros

  • Very compact.  When it comes to compactness, there is perhaps no better bath lift than the Lumex Splash Bath Lift with Ultra-Compact Design and Remote Control.
  • Subtle.  Colored all white, this bath lift is very inconspicuous and subtle, blending effortlessly into any bathroom environment.

Cons

  • May not fit very large tubs.  Because of its compact design, the Lumex Splash Bath Lift with Ultra-Compact Design and Remote Control may not fit into extra-large tubs.
  • Only upright position.  The seat back on this bathtub lift stays permanently in the upright position.

DIY Walk-In Bathtub

Installing a walk-in bathtub can be a big job, but for those with some experience working with tools it is possible to complete the task yourself.  Therefore, we will very briefly (and very generally) take you through the steps for installing a new walk-in bathtub at your home, without the help of contractor. 

For the sake of brevity, we will assume here that your old bathtub has already been removed.

General Steps for Installing a Walk-In Bathtub

Turn Off the Water Supply

Anytime you are working on plumbing, it is imperative that you turn off the main water supply for your home.  Sometimes this water supply is located near outdoor spigots, and sometimes it is located near the street.

Install the Ledger Board

The first step for installing a new walk-in bathtub is to install the ledger boards to the area in which the tub will sit.  Once these 2 x 4 pieces of lumber have been installed, they will serve as support pieces for the new tub.

Install the Drain Lines and Overflow 

The drain lines and overflow, which you will have removed from the old tub, should now be installed into the new tub.  The best way to do this is to lean the tub on its side.

Mix and Spread Your Mortar

You will need to mix, and then spread with a trowel, enough mortar to cover the entire space where the tub will be placed.  Before doing that, be sure to place a rag over the top of the drain line so that no mortar accidentally goes in that line.

Once you have covered the entire subfloor in the tub area, remove the rag from the drain line.

Set in the New Walk-In Bathtub

With your mortar spread and still wet, it’s time to install the walk-in tub.  When seating the tub onto the subfloor, be sure the back edges of the tub are up against the ledger boards you previously installed. 

Also, make sure the holes in the front of the tub and bottom of the tub are lined up with the overflow and drain line, respectively. This is much easier when two people work together.

Allow Time for Mortar to Set Up

In this step you are really doing nothing but waiting.  However, as you are waiting for the mortar beneath the tub to set up, you can read through your instruction manual for how to install the drain and faucets, and then gather those parts in the areas they will be installed.

Install the Drain

With the tub now in place, you will now need to go and secure the drain line to your new walk-in bathtub.  To do this, you will either need to go to the access space on an adjacent wall, in the basement (for downstairs tubs) or to the ceiling of the room directly below the bathtub’s drain hole.

Secure the Faucets and Hardware

Carefully read the instructions for your tub and begin installing the two faucets and any other hardware needed.  These should be secured in the same way the old faucets and hardware were.

Check for Leaks and Enjoy!

Go back to the main water supply and turn on the water.  Next, turn the faucets on in your new bathtub and check for leaks around the faucets and drain lines.  If you DO spot leaks, turn all the water off again and address them. However, if there are no leaks, congratulations—you have successfully installed a brand new walk-in bathtub.

Last Word

Of course, this was just a very basic and general guide for installing a new walk-in bathtub, but now that you are familiar with the various steps that will be involved, hopefully they will give you the confidence to try and do the installation for yourself.

 

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