“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, tend to be less readily compatible with basic bath benches. And to further complicate matters, clawfoot tubs themselves do not come in one standard shape and size. They can vary greatly in the amount of curvature of the tub’s floor and walls, can vary in the height of the tub walls, and can vary in the width and shape of the topmost edge of the tub’s walls. All of this combined further complicates the process of identifying an appropriate bath seat option for this type of tub.
We have identified six different bath seat options below, along with some tips to assist you in determining which of the options has the best potential to fit your clawfoot tub.
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, which can add, on average, anywhere from 3 to 8 inches of height to a standard bath bench. Be aware! The bath bench leg extensions that do exist are not compatible with all bath bench models. To learn more about bath bench leg extensions, visit the Homeability guide: Bath Bench Leg Extensions.
Simply raising the bath seat height alone, via the addition of leg extensions, may or may not be a sufficient fix to overcome all of the problematic features of your clawfoot tub. We recommend for you to quickly read through the other 5 solutions below to learn about some other issues common to clawfoot tubs and ways of addressing them. After doing so, you’ll perhaps come to the conclusion to forgo adding leg extensions and to pursue a different solution instead.
2. A Basic Bath Bench That’s Equipped With Screw-Style Legs
Most 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. A problem clawfoot tub owners frequently encounter is that this pre-fixed, leg-height adjustment feature 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 inside of a clawfoot tub. One solution that can help to remedy this problem is to purchase a bath bench that has screw-style height adjustable legs. The screw-style legs allow for more fine tuned height adjustments (via screwing the legs up or down) to best meet the tub floor’s height variances.
We are currently aware of only one brand, named Carex, that offers a bath bench model with screw-style height adjustable legs. It is further helpful to be aware upfront that most of the Carex branded bath bench models do not have screw-style height adjustable legs. [Carex was acquired by/merged with a company named Rubbermaid in the past, which were the original providers of the bath bench models with the screw-style height adjustable legs. The line of bath benches with the screw-style legs that was offered by Rubbermaid now exists under the brand name “Carex,” along with many other bath bench models.] Examples of bath seats models with the screw-style height adjustable legs are visible below. But… before you definitively do conclude that a bath bench with screw-style legs is a viable option for your clawfoot tub, there is another important detail for you to take into consideration first! Keep reading below.
The detail that it’s important to take into account is: the point at which your tub’s long sidewalls flatten out to meet your clawfoot tub’s floor.
Many, but not all, clawfoot tubs have sidewalls that curve fairly significantly inwards to meet the tub floor. The degree to which your clawfoot tub’s walls curve inwards could be a deal breaker in regards to whether a bath bench is a viable option for your tub or not. Why is this the case?
The reason is that a “bench-style” bath seat is designed to have two legs that rest inside of your tub and two legs that rest on the floor outside of the tub (see the picture for reference). The two legs of the bench that will rest inside of your clawfoot tub will ultimately rest on the tub floor at the point where the tub walls flatten out to meet the floor. If the point where your tub’s long sidewalls flattens out to meet the tub floor resides quite far inwards towards the center of you clawfoot tub’s floor, then the bath bench (and the seat you intend to sit on) will inevitably be forced to sit further outside of the bathtub. This in turn means you could be forced to either sit on the bath seat crammed up against one tub wall or potentially even be forced to sit with one leg in and one leg outside of the tub.
For those of you whose clawfoot does have long sidewalls that curve inwards significantly at the bottom edges and who anticipate that you’d likely be forced to sit half outside the tub if you were to try to use a bath bench, there is another alternative you might want to consider, which is: a bath “chair.” A bath chair is designed to have all of it’s legs rest inside the tub. When all 4 chair legs are positioned inside the tub, the tension gets dispersed more evenly between the tub’s walls, allowing for the chair to sit centered inside of the tub.
Ah, but what if you aren’t just seeking a bath seat to provide you with a place to sit while you are bathing, but you were also seeking to use the long, bench-style seat to scoot yourself over the tub wall? A bath chair that is equipped with a wide, flat seat has the potential to be used in a similar manner to a bath bench. To determine whether it has potential to work for you, you’ll need to take into consideration both your tub’s dimensions and your own physical skills. We’ve provided some tips below for how to assess whether it will work in your tub. You’ll ultimately need to be the one to judge whether you feel it is a solution that’s a compatible fit with your physical skills.
For starters, “Does your clawfoot tub’s long sidewalls rest nearly perpendicular to the bathroom floor (stand mostly straight up and down) or do the walls flare significantly outwards?” If they rest mostly perpendicular to the floor, this opens the door to the possibility (physical skills permitting) for you to use a bath chair that sits inside the tub in a bench-like manner. How?
The use of a bath chair in a bench-like manner works like this: You’d turn around so your bottom is facing the tub, reach a hand out to hold onto a nearby grab bar or the top of the bath seat’s back rest for support, then sit down (over the tub’s outer wall) onto the side of the bath chair’s seat. Then, once you are safely seated on the side of the bath chair, you’s proceed to lift one leg at a time over the tub wall, meanwhile sliding your bottom across the seat and into the center of the tub.
The ability to use a bath chair in the bench-like manner described above safely (or at all), is much less likely, however, in clawfoot tubs with walls that flare significantly outwards at the top. The reason is that you’d need to sit much more deeply back over the tub wall in order for your bottom to make contact with the seat resting inside the tub. If you have balance problems, leaning far backwards to sit down is not ideal.
Have you already arrived at the conclusion that the bath benches and chairs with the screw-style, adjustable-height legs are not feasible options for your clawfoot tub and/or your physical needs? If so, skip down to option #4 down below to learn about other types of solutions.
For those of you who do, however, believe that a bath chair might have potential to work, there is one additional relevant detail for you to take into consideration before you conclude that this is a viable solution for your tub, and that is: Does the curvature of your clawfoot tub’s rear wall, (the wall where you’d be resting your back against if you were lying at the bottom of the tub), meet the flat portion of the tub’s floor at a point that resides extremely far forward in your clawfoot tub? If the answer to this is “yes,” then a chair-type bath seat is unfortunately probably not going to be an ideal solution for your specific clawfoot tub. The reason for this is that the bath chair’s two back legs will ultimately come to rest at the point where your tub’s back wall flattens out to meet the tub floor. And, if that point is rather far forward in the tub, the result would be that you’d likely find yourself sitting on the bath seat with your knees crammed up at the front end of the tub and/or you might experience difficulty stepping or lifting your legs over the tub wall into and out of the confined floor space that is remaining at the front end of the tub. If you have arrived at the conclusion that a bath chair probably won’t work for your clawfoot tub, skip down to option #4 below.
If you do, however, have a clawfoot tub whose rear wall does NOT curve significantly far inwards to meet the tub floor, then a “bath chair” has potential to be an option for your clawfoot tub. Here we’ll touch upon a few additional details it’ll be helpful for you to take into account as you begin your search for a bath chair that has potential to be used in a bench-like manner. Bath chairs, most of which dual as shower chairs too, come in a multitude of different types and styles. A bath chair model that’s equipped with a flat, wide seat is generally the best choice if you are seeking to use the chair seat in a bench-like manner because it provides a wider, level sitting surface for your bottom to more safely land on. Some bath chair models have seats that curve upwards on the sides. This type will not work well if your goal is to sit down on the side of the seat first. If your clawfoot tub’s floor has highly curved walls and floor, selection of a bath chair model that is additionally equipped with the screw-style hight adjustable legs is typically ideal because it will make it easier for you to get the seat to sit level inside of your tub.
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.) Regardless of which bath chair model you choose, it is always a good idea to confirm that the width of your tub will accommodate the bath chair model you’ve selected and that the maximum weight capacity is suitable for your needs, before ordering one. It would also be helpful to confirm that the seat height of the model you’ve selected can achieve a height that is on par with the height of your tub’s walls – if you do plan to sit down on the side of the seat and use it in a bench-like manner to enter the tub.
Dizzy yet?! Yes, there are a lot details to ponder and wade through when hunting for a suitable bath seat for a clawfoot tub. If none of the solutions you’ve read about above thus far appears to be a feasible fit for your clawfoot tub, don’t give up hope yet! There are still some more options below.
3. Bathtub Board
Clawfoot tubs come in varying widths. 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, thereby 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. A Custom Bath Board
Is the top of your tub too wide to accommodate any of the off-the-shelf bathtub boards? Then, another option you may want to consider is to consult with a reputable local handyman and ask them if they can make a custom bath board-style seat for your clawfoot tub.
A custom bath seat can be designed in a variety of different ways. One example is to cut a wide board/s 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 sideways.
The custom-built bath board seat should be refinished in a way that will make it waterproof and safe for you to scoot your bottom across. The wider and sturdier 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 simply 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 obviously 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 tub and your physical needs. It would be helpful to consult with a qualified healthcare professional about the suitability of this solution for your specific physical needs before delving into having a bath seat created for you.>
Do you feel like none of the solutions that’s been discussed yet is a good fit for your clawfoot tub and/or your physical needs? If so, there are still two additional clawfoot tub bath seat options to consider below.
5. A Bath Seat that Slides or Swivels
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 for you to transition over the tub wall. A model which is further equipped with armrests fixed to one or both sides of the bath seat can help to make it easier for you to push yourself up from a seated position to standing upright when you need to do so. One armrest is helpful, and two can be even more so. A seat that is equipped with two armrests (one on either side of the seat) that you can use to push yourself up from can help to provide you with some helpful added “oomph” if you struggle to transition from sitting to standing.
A reminder: Make sure to choose a model that is also compatible with an existing set of leg extensions — if your clawfoot tub has high tub walls! And, confirm that the leg extensions that are available come in a length that will raise the seat height to a level you need it to be to clear your tub’s wall. A last reminder here: Also, make sure to take into consideration the point where your tub’s two long walls flatten out to meet the tub floor (as described in section #2 above) and the point where the rear wall flattens out to meet the tub floor (as described in section #2 above), to help you
in determining whether this option is a viable solution for your clawfoot tub.
There are a number of different bath bench models available that offer a seat that slides and/or swivels, some of which have one armrest fixed to one side of the seat. We are only aware of one manufacturer at this time (Platinum Health) which offers a bath bench model (the “Carousel”) that slides, swivels and has two armrests. The bench can be purchased from a variety of vendors. Platinum Health offers 3 inch leg extenders for it for sale on their own company website. Confirm that the bench paired with the 3″ leg height extenders will achieve a combined height that you need it to for your tub. If it does not, there are other benches available that slide and/or swivel, which can be paired with leg extenders of different lengths, some of which will include one armrest. It is often helpful to begin by searching for the leg extensions themselves and seeing which bath benches they claim to work with. To learn more about bath bench leg extensions, visit the Homeability guide: Bath Bench Leg Extensions.
6. Bath Slider Transfer Systems
A bath slider transfer system, on the surface, appears similar to a basic bath bench, like those described in #1, #2, and #5 above, but it is not. There is a critical difference: It has 4 legs that reside inside the tub. This helps to center the seat inside the tub, eliminating the problem described in #2 above, namely: the problem that pertains to the tub’s curved floor causing a bench that has just 2 legs resting inside the tub to get forced further outwards over the tub wall. Some models also include additional horizontal appendages with suction cups fixed to the ends to help further stabilize the track inside the tub.
Bath slider systems generally come in two forms: The more basic form has a seat, 4 stationary legs that rest outside the tub, 4 stationary legs that rest inside the tub, and a track connecting the two parts together that the seat is designed to slide across. This type can be used independently, physical skills permitting. If you are someone who is able to walk, you’d need to be able to sit down and stand up from the seat that’s initially positioned outside the tub. If you use a wheelchair, you’d need to have the skills to flip the bath chair’s armrest upwards and slide yourself from your wheelchair over onto the seat. Once you’ve arrived on the seat, you’d need to be able to slide the seat you are sitting on across the track and into the tub. The installation of a grab bar on the wall can be useful to help you in pulling yourself across the track and over into the tub. The physical skills that are required to use this equipment independently: You’d need to be able to lift your legs over the tub wall yourself as the seat (and you) slide over the track and into the tub. You’d also need to have the physical strength to manually glide the seat back and forth across the tracks as you enter and exit the tub. This equipment can also be used with a caregiver’s assistance. The caregiver can assist you to raise your legs over the tub wall and can assist you in sliding the chair seat back and forth across the tracks.
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 bath slider system model that includes a wheeled transport chair with it as well. You’d simply need to transfer to the transport chair from your bed (or another chair), then the caregiver would wheel the transport chair into the bathroom. Next, a small piece of track is inserted to create a bridge between the transport chair’s seat and the stationary portion of track that rests inside the tub. The top portion of the transport chair, the seat portion, is then designed to glide across the tracks (with you on it) over the tub wall and into the tub.
This type of equipment effectively works to eliminate the need to perform two physical transfers, namely: the transfer into the tub and the transfer out of the tub. This in turn helps to reduce the overall number of physical transfers that you need to perform, which is beneficial if performing transfers is something that is difficult for you to do. Furthermore, eliminating the need to perform these two specific transfers, in particular, is likewise good because the transfer into and out of the bathtub are two of the generally more dangerous transfers to perform and the ones that are more prone to result in a potential injury for yourself or your caregiver because (1) most bathrooms are small, confined, awkward spaces filled to the brim with other fixtures (toilet, sink, vanity) that can make it harder for a caregiver to position themselves safely by your side as they are assisting you into and out of the tub, and (2) because you are wet at the end of the shower, which can make it more difficult for a caregiver to safely hold onto you as you are stepping in and out of the tub.
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, off-the-shelf 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.
Make sure to take into consideration the point at which the rear tub wall flattens out to meet your tub’s floor when you are assessing whether this solution will work for your clawfoot tub, or not. The fact that this equipment has 4 legs that rest inside the tub will help to center it between the two long sidewalls, but if the rear wall curves significantly inwards, the equipment will be forced to sit quite far forward in the tub, which may in turn cause you not to have enough space for your knees to comfortably rest at the front end of the tub.
Last, but not least, make sure to take into consideration the fact that the bath seat on bath slider systems will be positioned on a portion of track that is located outside of the tub at the start. If you imagine yourself sitting on the chair seat when it is outside of the tub, do you foresee that your knees will have enough space to clear any nearby fixtures, like the toilet or vanity. If not, there is potential for it to be set up over your toilet to start. Then a longer bridge is inserted between the seat and the portion of track that rests inside of the tub. Be aware, you might end up with your back facing the shower controls, depending on where your shower and controls reside. If a caregiver is assisting you, this should not be a problem.
Aren’t quite certain if a bath slider system will work for you? Some manufacturers of the bath slider systems offer the option to have a representative personally visit your home who can assist you in determing if this solution will work for your physical needs and the dimensions of your bathtub and bathroom. You can try reaching out to the manufacturers directly to ask if they have a local representative who can assist you.
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, like those addressed in #5 above, will cost, on average, $120-$300 dollars. The more complex bath slider transfer systems, addressed in #6 above, typically range from $1,500-$4,000. Yes, the more complex bath slider systems can sound expensive on the surface, but it is helpful to keep in mind that this is a one-time expense, which could actually assist you to save money in the long run. If you are someone with more complex physical needs that would benefit from a bath slider system, 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, paying a caregiver to visit the home routinely to assist with bathing can add up quickly and significantly over time. This equipment can make it possible for a family member to safely assist an individual to transfer into and out of the tub, thereby reducing and/or eliminating the need to routinely hire a caregiver to come to the home and assist 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 lower level spinal cord injury, to transfer into and out of their tub independently, thereby eliminating their need to routinely pay someone 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 comes 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 curbless showers visit the following article: Curbless Showers – A Great Age-Proof Bathing Solution! Is remodeling your bathroom not an option? If so, a wall-mounted bath lift or ceiling-mounted bath lift are other options that can be used to enter and exit a clawfoot tub. Some models can be used independently. Most are designed to be used with the assist of a caregiver. Number 2 and 3 in this article provides a quick overview of these types of lifts: Comparison of Wall, Floor, and Ceiling Mounted Bath Lifts
If you are unsure which, if any, of the solutions listed above is a suitable match for your tub and your 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