“Is there a tub bench that fits a clawfoot bathtub?” -Yes!
Have you been struggling to find a bath bench to make it easier for you to get in and out of a clawfoot bathtub? If so, you have probably already come to the conclusion that there are very few, if any, bath seats available for clawfoot tubs. While it is true the choices are extremely limited, a handful of options do exist.
We have researched and identified the best bath seat options for clawfoot bathtubs and summarized these below.
Bath Seats for Clawfoot Tubs
Clawfoot tubs, in general, tend to be deeper, have higher tub walls, and have more curves than other tubs. These features, unfortunately, are less readily compatible with basic bath benches. Furthermore, clawfoot tubs do not come in one standard shape and size and can vary greatly in the amount of curvature of the tub’s floor and walls; vary in the height of the tub walls, and vary in the width and shape of the topmost edge of the tub’s walls, which further complicates the process of identifying an appropriate bath seat option for this type of tub.
Six different bath seat options for clawfoot tubs are listed below.
1. A Basic Bath Bench + Leg Extensions
One problem clawfoot tub owners frequently encounter is that the length of the legs present on basic bath benches is not adequate to allow the bath bench’s seat to clear the high walls commonly found on clawfoot bathtubs. One solution that can help to remedy this problem is to purchase and add bath bench leg extensions to the ends of a standard-type bath bench to raise up the seat to a height that’s high enough to clear the tub’s wall.
Bath bench leg extenders are available in different lengths that can add anywhere from 3 to 8 inches of height to a standard bath bench, even making it possible for some bath benches to clear a tub wall that’s up to 26 inches high.
Be aware: The bath bench leg extensions that do exist are not compatible with all bath bench models! To learn more, visit the Homeability guide: Bath Bench Leg Extensions.
2. A Basic Bath Bench Equipped With Screw-Style Legs
Another problem clawfoot tub owners frequently encounter is that the curvature of the floor and walls of their clawfoot tub is not readily compatible with the “pre-fixed leg-height adjustment feature” that’s present on the majority of basic bath benches. Most basic bath bench models have height adjustable legs that are designed to be moved up and down at pre-fixed height intervals via a button-notch system (like that commonly found on crutches). This system unfortunately does not allow for the fine-tuned height adjustments necessary to meet the floor height variances present in most clawfoot tubs. This in turn can make it difficult to get a basic bath bench to sit level and/or far enough back in the tub. One solution that can help to remedy this problem is to purchase a bath bench that’s equipped with screw-style height adjustable legs. The screw style legs can be more finely height adjusted (via screwing the legs up or down) to best meet the floor’s height variances.
There is currently only one manufacturer that we are aware of at this time (Carex), which offers a bath bench model with screw-style height adjustable legs. If you feel this is a solution that will work for your clawfoot tub, it will be further helpful for you to be aware that most of the Carex bath seat models do NOT offer the screw-style leg feature! The Carex line of bath bench models that do offer this it were originally offered by a company named Rubbermaid that Carex acquired in the past. Examples of the Carex bath seat models with the screw-style height adjustable leg feature are visible below. There is an additional relevant detail though that it will good for you to assess and consider before deciding whether this is the right solution for your tub or not. Keep reading below.
The point where your tub’s walls flatten out to meet the tub floor is an important detail for you to take into consideration when determining if a bath bench of any kind, (whether it’s made taller via leg extensions or it has screw-style legs) is the right solution for your clawfoot tub. Most, but not all, clawfoot tubs have sidewalls that curve inwards fairly significantly at the bottom. The degree to which they curve in can be a deal breaker for a bath bench being a viable option for your clawfoot tub.
Why is this the case? A “bench-style” bath seat is a type of bath seat that’s designed to have two legs that rest inside of your tub and two legs that rest on the floor outside of the tub. The two legs of the bench that rest inside of the tub will ultimately come to rest on the tub’s floor at the point where your tub’s walls flatten out. If the point where your tub’s long sidewalls flattens out to meet the tub floor is a point that resides quite far inwards towards the center of the bathtub’s floor, then the entire bath bench (and the seat you intend to sit on) will inevitably rest further outwards over the outer tub wall. This in turn means you could be forced to sit on the bath seat crammed up against one side of the tub or to even be forced to sit with one leg in and one leg outside of the tub.
If your tub’s two long sidewalls do curve inwards significantly at the bottom edges and you anticipate you’d be forced to sit half outside the tub if you were to try to use a bath bench, there is another alternative you can consider, which is: a bath “chair” (a model that’s designed to have all 4 of it’s legs rest inside the tub). When all 4 legs are positioned inside the tub, the tension gets dispersed more evenly between the tub’s walls, allowing the chair to be centered inside the tub.
What if you were not just seeking a bath seat to sit on while you are bathing, but you were also seeking to use the bench’s seat to scoot yourself over into the tub? In some cases, a bath chair with a wide, flat seat can be used in a similar manner to a bath bench. If your clawfoot tub’s long sidewalls rest nearly perpendicular to the floor (stand mostly straight up and down), then it opens the door to the possibility (physical skills permitting) for you to back up to the tub wall, lean yourself slightly back over the tub’s outer wall and sit down on the side of the wide bath chair’s seat inside the tub (while both of your legs are still outside of the tub). Then, once you are safely seated, lift one leg at a time over the tub wall while you are sliding your bottom across the seat and into the center of the tub, thereby effectively eliminating the need to “step” in and out of the tub over the tub wall. If, however, your clawfoot tub has walls that flare significantly outwards at the top, (resulting in the tub being much wider at the top than at the bottom), then the ability to use a large, flat-seated bath chair that’s sitting inside the tub in this bench-like manner safely (or at all), is much less likely. If you don’t believe a wide-seated bath chair is a feasible option for your clawfoot tub or your physical needs, skip down to the next section to learn about other options.
For those of you who do believe a wide, flat-seated bath chair might work in your clawfoot tub, there is one last important detail for you to take into consideration: Does the curvature of the rear wall of your clawfoot tub, (the wall where you’d rest your back against if you were lying at the bottom of the tub), flatten out to meet the flat portion of the tub’s floor at a point that resides extremely far forward in your tub? If so, then a wide-seated bath chair is unfortunately probably not going to be an ideal option for you tub because the chair’s back legs will come to rest where the tub’s floor flattens out and the result would be that you’d find yourself sitting with your knees crammed up at the front end of the tub and/or you might experience difficulty stepping your legs over the tub wall into and out of such a small, confined space.
If, however, you have concluded that you do believe a wide-seated, bath chair will work inside of your clawfoot tub, the bath models with the screw-style legs tend to work best in conjunction with a curved clawfoot tub floor. Carex, once again, is the only manufacturer we are currently aware of that offers bath chairs with the screw-style height adjustable legs. (Examples are visible below.) Of note, the bath seats that are present on these Carex models do generally tend to be wider than on other bath chairs, so it would be good to confirm the width of the bath bench will fit in your tub, before ordering one. It would also be helpful to confirm the bath seat can achieve a height on par with your tub’s walls if you plan to sit down on the side of the seat and use it in a bench-like manner to enter the tub. If you have made it this far and still haven’t identified a solution yet that seems like it will be a feasible fit for your clawfoot tub, continue reading below to learn about more options.
3. Bathtub Board
Clawfoot tubs come in varying widths at the topmost portion. If your clawfoot tub is similar in width to a standard bathtub, a bathtub board that rests across the top of the tub walls is a possible consideration. Bathtub boards can provide a place to rest while bathing and can also create a bridge between the inside and outside of the tub, allowing you to back up and sit down on the side of the seat first and then from a safe seated position you can lift one leg at a time over the tub wall and then scoot yourself across the board and into the center of the tub. To learn more about bathtub boards, visit the Homeability guide: Bathtub Boards: The Basics.
4. Custom Bath Seat
If the interior of your tub has molded contouring that won’t readily permit the use of a bath bench and the top of your tub is too wide to accommodate a standard bathtub board, then you may want to consider consulting with a local handyman and asking them to make a custom bath seat for your tub.
A custom bath seat can be designed in a variety of different ways. One example is to cut a wide board to fit across the top of the tub’s walls and then attach small wood wedges underneath the board, on the outer edges, to prevent it from sliding.
The custom-built bath seat should be refinished in a way that will make it waterproof and safe for you to scoot your bottom across. The wider and heavier the board used to create the seat, typically the safer it will be. Rubber pieces should ideally be attached to the bottom of the seat to add additional friction between the seat and the tub walls to help prevent the seat from moving.
A drawback of a bath seat that rests on top of the tub walls is that it has potential to tip forward if you lean down to wash or shave your legs. For added safety and stability, we recommend to secure the seat to a nearby bathroom wall. Or, if there isn’t a nearby wall, consider adding straps to the ends of the bathtub board and fastening them underneath the belly of the tub (similar to the strapping system used to secure luggage to a mule).
It goes without saying that it’s important for the bath seat to be constructed safely and in a manner that is suitable for both your specific tub and your physical needs. Make sure to hire a reputable handyman or contractor to tackle this project. It would be further helpful to check with a qualified healthcare professional about the suitability of this solution for your specific physical needs.
5. Bath Seats that Slide or Swivel
Do you have greater physical needs than a simple bath bench will accommodate? If so, a bath bench with a seat that is designed to slide and/or swivel can help to make it easier to transition over the tub wall. A model which additionally comes equipped with armrests fixed to one or both sides of the bath seat can help make it easier for you to push yourself up from sitting to standing upright when you need to do so.
There are a number of models available which offer a seat that slides and/or swivels, some of which have one armrest fixed to the side of the seat. We are only aware of one manufacturer at this time, Platinum Health, which offers a bath bench model they named the Carousel, that slides, swivels and comes equipped with two armrests. A seat that is equipped with two armrests you can use to push yourself up from can help to provide you with some added “oomph” if you struggle to transition from sitting to standing.
Don’t forget! Make sure to choose a model with a seat that slides or swivel that is also compatible with an existing set of leg extensions — if your clawfoot tub has high tub walls! And, confirm the leg extensions that are available come in a length that will raise the seat level to the height you need it to to clear your tub’s wall. (Of note, the Carousel bath bench itself that is mentioned in the paragraph above can be purchased from a variety of vendors. If you need it to be taller, the manufacturer (Platinum Health) offers 3 inch leg extenders for sale for it on their own company website.) A last reminder here: Also, make sure to take into consideration the point where your tub walls flattens out to meet the tub floor (as described in section #2 above) to help in determining whether this option is a viable solution for your clawfoot tub.
6. Bath Slider Transfer Systems
Do you require significant physical assistance from a caregiver in order to sit down, stand up, or perform transfers to and from the bath seat? If so, you may want to consider a more advanced Bath Slider Transfer System that includes a wheeled transport chair with it as well. This type of system helps to cut down the number of physical transfers you need to perform. A bridge gets inserted between the transport chair and the track portion that sits inside the tub. Once the bridge has been inserted, the transport chair’s seat is designed to slide across the tracks, over the wall, and into the tub. This effectively eliminates you needing to perform two physical transfers, namely the transfers into and out of the tub, which are two of the most dangerous transfers because of (1) the space where the transfer is being performed (in a bathroom that is typically a small, confined space) and (2) because you are wet at the end of the shower, which can make it harder for a caregiver to hold onto you.
Bath Slider Transfer systems are offered by manufacturers such as Nuprodx and Showerbuddy. Most Bath Slider Transport Systems come equipped with height-adjustable legs that can achieve higher heights than standard bathtub benches. Some can clear tub walls as tall as 24-25 inches in height. If an existing Bath Slider System’s standard dimensions aren’t sufficient for your tub or your needs, you can try reaching out to the manufacturer directly to discuss the possibility of ordering the equipment with some customized modifications. Some manufacturers offer the option to add taller legs or a wider track.
A basic bath bench will cost an average of $50-$100. Bath bench leg extensions must be purchased separately and will cost, on average, an additional $15-$75.
The bathtub boards cost an average of $40-$400, depending on the model selected. The cost of having a custom bath seat built will vary based on a handyman’s hourly rates, your own personal aesthetic preferences, and the geographic region in which you live. You can try calling a local handyman and asking them for a ballpark estimate of what they believe it would cost to build a custom seat for your tub, which would help to give you a sense of whether this is financially feasible option for you or not.
Bath benches with a seat that slides or swivel will cost, on average, $120-$300 dollars. The more complex bath slider transfer systems typically range from $1,500-$4,000. Yes, the more complex bath slider systems can sound rather expensive on the surface, but it is helpful to keep in mind that is a one-time expense, which could actually help to save you money in the long run. So, if you are someone with more complex physical needs, it is helpful to closely compare it to your other options before dismissing it outright. How can a bath slider transfer system help to save money? Firstly, this type of equipment can actually make the tub accessible for some persons for which it otherwise would not be accessible at all, eliminating their need to undergo expensive bathroom renovations. Secondly, it can make it possible for a family member to assist an individual, reducing the need to hire a caregiver routinely to come to the home and assist an individual with bathing. Thirdly, some bath slider transfer system models can make it possible for a person, such as for example a young person with a spinal cord injury, to transfer in and out of their shower independently, thereby eliminating their need to routinely pay a caregiver to come into their home and assist them with this transfer.
The Homeability Advice™
One drawback of bathtub boards and bathtub benches is that they make it impossible to tuck the shower curtain inside the tub and therefore make it more difficult to keep the water inside. To learn more about selecting an appropriate shower curtain, visit our Accessible Shower Curtain guide.
Sitting while showering is definitely safer and easier for many people, but it does come with a drawback, which is that you will be further away from the shower head. A simple remedy is to install a handheld shower head. To learn more about selecting an appropriate one for your needs, visit our Handheld Showerhead guide.
If you have a tub with unique dimensions and none of the solutions identified above will work, you may want to consider removing the tub and replacing it with a curbless shower stall. To learn more about the benefits of curbless showers visit the following article: Curbless Showers – A Great Age-Proof Bathing Solution!
If you are unsure which, if any, of the solutions listed above is right for your tub and physical needs, a local Occupational Therapist can be hired to help you in determining which one is right for you.
More Topics You May Be Interested In
- Beginner’s Guide to Accessible Showers
- Tips for Selecting a Prefabricated Accessible Shower
- Comparison of Wall, Floor, & Ceiling Mounted Bath Lifts
- Getting In & Out of the Bathtub: Benches, Lifts & Transfer Chairs
- Slide-in Bathtub Buying Guide