What Is A Bathtub Board?
A bathtub board (aka tub board, bath board,shower board) is a board designed to rest across the top of the bathtub walls. It serves two purposes:
- Seat: It provides a convenient place to sit while performing bathing tasks.
- Bridge: It effectively creates a bridge between the inside and outside of the bathtub, giving bathers the option to sit down on the bath board prior to getting into the tub. From a seated position, a bather can lift each leg one at a time over the tub wall, thereby eliminating the need to ‘step’ into the tub.
Bath Board Types
Bath boards are available in four different types. The key difference among the types lies in how the board is held in place.
- Rests on Tub Walls: Most bathtub board models simply rest across the top of the tub’s walls and are held in place by adjustable rubber stops attached underneath the board.
- Suction Cups Lock to Tub Wall: Bath board rests on top of the tub walls and has heavy-duty suction cups to help 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 has two legs that extend down inside the tub for added support.
- Screws to Tub Wall: Some models are designed to be screwed into the bathroom wall. This type is generally safer because the screws help to prevent the board from moving or tipping. It will require someone who is handy to secure it safely to the wall.
Tub Board Considerations
Make sure to take the following into account when deciding whether a bathtub board is a suitable solution for you and/or which type or model is right for you.
- Your Height
Bath boards usually work better for persons of shorter stature than for persons of taller stature. Most models are designed to rest directly on the tub’s walls, which means the seat rests at the height of the tub walls. Most tub walls have a height that is too low for tall persons to easily stand up from. A few models have ‘skis’ fixed to the underside that function to elevate the board above the height of the tub walls, making this type a possible consideration for a taller individual.
- Width of Tub
Bathtubs vary in width as do tub boards, so it is important to confirm the bath board model selected has an appropriate width for your tub. Most tub board models have a single fixed width. Some models have an adjustable width, allowing for more fine tuned adjustments in unusually shaped tubs.
- Width of Exposed Tub Wall Edges
Most bath board models are designed to rest across the top of both tub walls and usually require there to be, at a minimum, one inch of flat surface present on top of both tub walls for the board to safely rest on top. What if your tub resides next to a bathroom wall and there is an extremely narrow ledge present where the tub meets the wall? Then a bath board model that rests on top of both tub walls is unlikely to work. In this case, a bath board that clamps to the front tub wall and has two legs that extend down inside the tub for support may be an option. If you do opt for the latter, confirm the leg’s will achieve a height equivalent to the height of your tub’s front wall.
- Tub’s Contours
Be aware, bath board models that are held in place by rubber stoppers attached to the underside of the board usually do not work well in highly contoured tubs. This is because the board will typically rest at the point where the tub wall flattens out, which could cause the board to rest rather far forward in the tub and you may in turn find yourself scrunched up at the foot end of the tub. If your tub’s interior walls are highly contoured, a bath board model that rests across the tub walls and gets screwed to the bathroom wall is usually a better consideration. Most models that can be screwed to the bathroom wall are designed to rest completely on top the tub’s walls, thereby bypassing any problems posed by a tub’s contoured inner walls and making it possible to position the board all the way at the back end (aka. head end) of the tub.
- Tipping Hazard!
Bath boards scan provide a simple, effective seat to rest on while bathing, but be aware this type of bath seat may tip forward when you bend down to wash your feet or may tip backward if you lean too far back. Models designed to clamp to the tub wall, models that get screwed to the bathroom wall, and models that have a heavy-duty locking-style suction cup to further stabilize the board will generally be more stable than models that are just held in place with rubber stoppers underneath. Models with heavy-duty suction cups should periodically be removed and reattached to ensure the vacuum effect is maintained. If your balance skills are compromised, a bath chair or bath bench is usually an even better consideration than a bathtub board.
- Wall Can Be Used as a Backrest
One obvious drawback of bath boards is there is no backrest to rest against. A backrest can be created by positioning the bath board all the way at the end of the tub, making it possible to use the bathroom wall located at the back (aka. head end) of the tub as a backrest. Note: The tub board models with four rubber stoppers fixed to the underside of the board are likely to be prevented from resting all the way at the end of the tub by the curved shape of the interior tub walls. The bath board models that rest across the tub walls that are fastened via screws to the bathroom wall will usually work best if you do plan to use your bathroom wall as a backrest.
- 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 will provide you with a hand-hold to use when sliding yourself across the seat and into the tub.
- Bath Board With Swivel Seat
A bath board model with handles and a rotating seat can make boarding of the seat and transitioning over the tub wall easier. The seat is turned to face the outside of the tub first, a user sits down, then the swivel seat makes it easier to pivot the hips to face the showerhead. The armrests provide additional safety and support when sitting down and standing up. Some models have a single leg that extends down to meet the bathtub floor for added 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. Do you experience visual deficits? If so, it can be helpful to choose a bath board in a color that contrasts with your tub or bathroom walls to aid with depth perception.
- Weight Capacity
Confirm the weight capacity is adequate for your needs. If it is not, it could buckle in the center leading to a fall.
- Water Containment
A bathtub board rests on the tub walls which means it will block the shower curtain from being tucked into your tub, making it more difficult to keep water inside. A special pre-cut shower curtains can be obtained that is 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 normally 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 that there is enough flat surface present on tub of your tub walls to support the model you have selected.
Who Can Benefit from a Bathtub Board?
A bathtub board is a great solution for use in small bathrooms because it resides fully inside the tub! In other words, it doesn’t take up valuable floor space outside the tub that a person using a walker or wheelchair needs to be able to move around freely inside the bathroom. A tub board 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 or are able to install the board at the back end of the tub so the bathroom wall can be used as a backrest.
The Homeability Advice™
A bathtub board is a simple, inexpensive solution for making a bathtub more accessible. Make sure to keep in mind your height when determining whether or not a tub board is a good option for you. As we noted in the guide above, a bathtub board tends to work best for persons of shorter stature, but it is not typically an ideal solution for taller users. If you need a taller seat height or feel you would benefit from greater support than a bathtub board provides, we recommend to visit the guide: Getting in & Out of the Bathtub: Benches, Lifts, and Transfer Chairs to learn about other options.
Another noteworthy 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 generally 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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