Considering Different Bathing Solutions: Door Kits vs. Walk-In Shower

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Recently, I read about the perceived value of door kit tub conversion kits, which involve cutting out the tub wall and installing a door for access.  The author, who is also an installer, wrote that many of his senior clients have chosen this option, because of cost and less intensive renovation.

 The example given was a door kit ($1500) plus a safety seat/transfer bench ($2000).  I am assuming these are installed costs.  So for about $3500 and less than a full day of time, the tub can be converted and a seat or bench installed.  The door will reduce the obstacle of stepping over the tub wall.  

 I had a lot of questions about this solution, so I turned to Jason Multanen, National Sales Manager for Best Bath, a leader in the industry of safe bathing, including walk-in tubs, zero-step showers, and elevated bath tubs.  

From Jason, I learned that:

-conversion kits do not have to meet any qualifications or codes

-existing drain size must be evaluated:  if you modify the tub to be a shower, will the water properly drain?

-are there seal requirements?  In the case of walk in tubs, a door needs a double seal or a door drain, how can I tell if a conversion kit meets that requirement?

In their Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) courses, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) teaches that it is crucial that any transfer seat/bench and grab bars be installed with blocking behind them to ensure that they do not pull out from the wall.  As blocking for these items is not commonly built into a home, the walls will need to be opened, blocking installed, and dry wall or tile will need to be patched. 

Let’s take a look at cost and renovation time for a new walk-in tub installation:

Generally, the cost of a tub shower conversion to a walk-in shower is between the range of $4,500 to $7,000 and takes 1-2 days to be completed. 

If the conversion is on the higher end in cost, it generally has to do with unseen issues IE wood rot, leaky pipes, mold, etc.  

“A major benefit to a full remodel is the ability to identify problems behind the scenes.

Ultimately, converted tub units will need to be replaced, and a full remodel need to be done.  Unfortunately, this eliminates any upfront cost savings.”

Closing thoughts from Jason:

“Overall, these type of products have a place in the market. People under significant financial constraints can find these “tub cut” products acceptable, particularly  in the short term. However, from a value stand point, spending the additional money on a full conversion will provide a longer term and safer solution.”

Again, like any other home modification or renovation project, it is important to research the options, compare costs vs. benefits, and then decide what is best for the particular situation.