What Is A Bathtub Board?
A bathtub board (aka tub board, shower board or bath board) is a wood or plastic board that rests across the top of the bathtub walls. It serves two purposes:
- It provides a convenient place to sit while performing bathing tasks.
- It effectively creates a bridge between the inside and outside of the bathtub, providing bathers with the option to sit down on the side of the bath board prior to getting into the tub, similar to sitting down on a standard chair. From a seated position, the bather can lift each leg over the tub wall, thereby eliminating the need to ‘step’ into the tub.
Bath Board Types
- Rests on Tub Walls: Most bathtub board models rest across the top of the tub’s walls and are equipped with adjustable rubber stops underneath the board which hold it in place.
- Suction Cups Lock to Tub Wall: This type of bath board rests on top of the tub walls and is further enhanced with super-strong suction cups to help more firmly lock the board in place.
- Clamps to Tub Wall: One side of the board is designed to clamp to the bathtub wall to help hold the bath seat more securely in place. The other side of the board either rests on top of the wall opposite or has two legs that extend down inside the tub for added stability.
- Screws to Tub Wall: Some models are designed to be screwed into the bathroom wall. While these are generally safer, they will require someone who is handy to secure it safely to the wall with a drill and hardware.
Tub Board Considerations
Following are considerations to keep in mind when picking a bathtub transfer board.
- Weight Capacity
Confirm the weight capacity is appropriate for your needs. If it is not, it can buckle in the center, leading to a fall.
- Width of Tub Walls
Bathtubs vary in width as do tub boards, so it is important to confirm the bath board model you select is appropriate for the width of your tub. Most tub board models have a fixed width. Some models have an adjustable width, allowing for more fine tuned adjustments in unusually shaped tubs.
- Top of Tub Walls: Width of Exposed Edges
Most bath bench models require there to be one inch minimum (or more) of flat surface present on top of both tub walls for the board to safely rest on top. If the top of the bathtub wall located next to the bathroom wall has an extremely narrow ledge present on top, then the models that rest across the tub walls are unlikely to work well. Other alternatives you may want to consider include: models that clamp to the front tub wall with two legs that extend down inside the tub to support the board or models that are designed to be attached with screws to the bathroom wall.
- User Height
A bathtub transfer board usually works better for persons of shorter stature. Reason being, most bath board models are designed to rest directly on top of the tub walls and the height of bathtub walls is usually too low for a tall person to easily sit down on and stand up from. A few bath board models, however, have a part attached underneath (aka skis) that are designed to rest on top of the tub walls and elevate the board above the height of the tub walls, making them a possible consideration for some taller individuals.
- Tub’s Contours
Tubs will vary in the shape and contouring present inside. Bath board models that are held in place by rubber stoppers attached to the underside of the board may be forced to sit quite far forward in the tub, because they will typically rest where the tub walls flatten out. If the board (and you) are scrunched forward in the tub, it can make it difficult to lift your legs over the tub wall from a seated position.
If your tub curves in significantly at the back (aka head) of the tub, the bath board models that get screwed to the wall are a good consideration, because they rest fully on top of the tub walls, making it possible to install them further (or all the way) at the back end of the tub.
- Tipping Hazard
Many bathboards have rubber stoppers attached to the underside of the board that can be adjusted to prevent the board from sliding side to side. Bath boards held in place only by rubber stoppers can provide a nice seat to rest, but this type of bath board may tip forward when you bend down to wash your feet or may tip backward if you lean too far backwards. If your stability is compromised, opt instead for models that have a heavy-duty locking-style suction cup to further stabilize the board; models that are designed to clamp to the tub wall, or models that are screwed to the bathroom wall.
- Wall Can Be Used as a Backrest
One drawback of bath boards is there is no backrest to rest against. A backrest can be created by moving the board all the way to the back end of the tub, making it possible to use the bathroom wall as a backrest. Of note, some models, such as the ones that rely on rubber stoppers on the underside of the board to hold it in place, are likely to be prevented from resting all the way at the back end of the tub due to the interior contours of the bathtub. Most of the bath board models that are designed to be fastened via screws to the wall can be positioned all the way at the back of the tub.
- Handle Attached to Bath Board
If there isn’t a grab bar present on the bathroom wall, consider purchasing a bath board model with a handle attached to one side. This gives a good hand-hold to use when sliding yourself across the seat and into the tub.
- Bath Board With Swivel Seat
Bath board models with a swivel seat that rotates side to side, allow easy boarding of the seat and assist with pivoting hips to face the showerhead. Models with armrests provide added safety and support when sitting down and standing up. Some models have an additional leg that extends to the floor of the bathtub for further support.
- Bath Board Materials & Colors
Bath boards are offered in a variety of different materials which include, but are not limited to: solid plastic, plastic-coated steel, phenolic, teak, and cypress. If you experience visual deficits, it can be helpful to choose a bath board in a color that contrasts with your tub or bathroom walls and/or one with a colorful handle to enhance depth perception.
- Water Containment
When a bathtub board is resting on the tub wall, it will prevent the shower curtain from being tucked into the tub making it more difficult to keep water inside. To contain water in the tub, special pre-cut shower curtains can be obtained that are designed for use with tub benches/boards. Alternatively, slits can be cut in the existing shower curtain so it can be tucked around the board.
- No Return Policy!
Due to FDA regulations, bathtub products sold in the USA cannot be returned (unless they are still in their original packaging). Therefore, it is good to confirm the product will be suitable for your bathtub, prior to purchasing. If you opt for a model that clamps to the tub wall, check that the model selected will accommodate the height, width, and shape of your tub’s wall. If you opt for a model that rests on the top of both of the bathtub walls, confirm that it is suitable for the width of your tub and for the amount of flat surface present on top of the tub walls, as explained above.
Who Can Benefit from a Bathtub Board?
A bathtub board is a great solution for use in small bathrooms, because it is fully contained within the tub itself, which in turn means it doesn’t take up valuable floor space outside the tub that a person using a walker or wheelchair may need in order to turn around inside a small bathroom while using their mobility aid.
It is a good consideration for persons who…
- can’t tolerate standing for long periods of time
- have trouble stepping over the bathtub wall to get in and out of the tub
- are able to perform a lateral sliding transfer from a wheelchair seat onto the board
- have enough strength to sit upright unsupported on a seat that lacks a backrest
The Homeability Advice™
A bathtub board is a simple, inexpensive solution for making a bathtub more accessible. The models that “only” rest on the tub walls, however, do come with one notable drawback: They have potential to tip forward if you lean down to wash your feet or shave your legs. To reduce the risk of involuntary movement of the bath board during use, we highly recommend selecting one of the models that clamps to the tub’s front wall, or screws into the bathroom wall.
Make sure to keep in mind the height of the user when determining whether or not this is a good option. As we noted in the guide above, a bathtub board tends to work best for persons of shorter stature. It is not typically an ideal solution for taller users.
If the inside of your tub has unusual or highly curved contours, we recommend considering one of the bath board models that is designed to rest across the top of both tub walls and screws into the bathroom wall. The ones that get fastened to the bathroom wall are not reliant on the shape of the walls “inside” the tub for stability (as are the ones that have rubber stopper or suction cups), making them a better option for highly contoured tubs.
One drawback of bathtub boards 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. Obviously, sitting while bathing is definitely safer and easier, but it also comes with its’ own drawback, which is that you will be further away from the shower head. A simple remedy is to add a handheld shower head. To learn more about selecting an appropriate one for your needs, visit our Handheld Showerhead guide.
As always, we recommend you seek advice from your qualified health care professional about the appropriateness of a given solution or product for your needs.
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