Practical Bathtubs

By Christine Brun

June 24, 2011 4 min read

When a baby begins to crawl and walk, suddenly the most perfect house turns into a less gracious place. Out of the blue, a faultless living room has too much furniture, and the stairs down to the basement present a potential menace. Furniture may have to be pushed against the walls in order to make a large-enough area for baby to play in without banging his or her vulnerable head.

In the past, a young couple would be on a pathway toward a better home as soon as the walls began to close in on a growing family. These days, more people are inclined to find creative ways to formulate their space temporarily. Fortunately, there are inventive ways to make transitory improvements that coax your quarters to a higher level of function that better fits your lifestyle phase.

In the same way that younger people "baby-proof" their homes, seniors at the other end of the life spectrum prepare their homes to suit the changes of aging. "Aging in place" is the building industry's term for myriad physical changes that people can make in order to create a safe environment for those who are less steady on their feet or have vision difficulties.

At the recent Kitchen & Bath Industry Show in Las Vegas, something that kids everywhere would love debuted. A super-cool line of children's fun tub conversions was introduced, which raises the tub up to 37 inches above the finished floor. The reduced tub basin not only is at a more comfortable height for parents but also saves on water.

This kit fits right over an existing standard 60-inch bathtub and was recognized for its innovative design with the People's Choice Award at the KBIS. A kid-friendly acrylic tub deck fits atop a strong powder-coated aluminum frame that is concealed by a decorative apron front.

Parents can decorate the FunBath with removable wall decals from RoomMates or another manufacturer of peel-and-stick decals with children's favorite characters, for example, SpongeBob SquarePants and Elmo.

At the other end of life, a bather finds a raised tub equally useful. Kohler features a unique alternative to the standard walk-in tub designs, which have been on the market for years. Its Elevance rising wall bath complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Model K-1913 is an acrylic construction with a removable door for remodeling in the future. The door actually glides on a track system with a counterbalance system to make it lightweight. It comes with or without a grab bar on the sliding front panel.

Electrical service is required if one wants optional massage features, but the sliding door raises or lowers manually with less than 5 pounds of force.

There is one major difference between this product and the typical walk-in tub: In order to enter the tub, one simply sits down on the bench, which is positioned at standard chair height, and swings legs into the tub. The opening is the full 60-inch width of the tub instead of a narrow doorway, making things much easier for an attendant to assist the bather.

Elevance isn't cheap; it retails at nearly $8,800. But it is easy to find a discount, and considering how difficult it is to leave one's home, it is a good solution for many people.

Christine Brun's weekly column, "Small Spaces," appears at creators.com.

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