Foam cushions are heavy-duty and won't split. Higher-quality aluminum construction. Fits over narrow bathtubs. Adjustable swivel and slide settings. 330-pound weight capacity. Easy to assemble, no tools required.
Control buttons located in front, between user's legs. Seat depth is shallow.
Easy to assemble (no tools) and install. Suction cups provide stability in tub. Right or left chair orientation. 400-pound weight capacity. Blown plastic molding is lightweight but sturdy.
Some water collection and rusting issues reported. Suction cups can be difficult to release. Instructions are challenging.
Chair orientation is reversible. Adjustable for uneven tub surfaces. Lightweight construction. Provides good back support. Wide seat. Affordable price point. 250-pound weight capacity.
Complicated assembly process, tools required. Some concerns about parts breaking unexpectedly.
Easy no-tool assembly. Seat locks into place. Backrest is detachable. Right or left seat orientation. 400-pound weight capacity for bariatric use. Nylon seat strap for additional security. Nonslip textured plastic seat.
Total weight capacity might be overstated. Plastic parts prone to breakage.Center seat cut-out poorly designed.
Additional bracing on legs. Arrives partially assembled, no tools required. Seat is left/right reversible. Generous amount of drainage holes. 350-pound weight capacity. Removable chair back.
Total bench length might not be ideal for all users. Instructions difficult to follow. Sits at a noticeable angle.
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A transfer bench is invaluable not just for those with reduced physical capabilities due to age or illness but also for those with bariatric challenges or anyone recovering from a wide range of injuries or operations. These benches provide a variety of solutions that either allow users to safely bathe themselves or make it easier for carers to do so.
We at BestReveiws have been looking at both the practical and safety aspects of transfer benches from all the top manufacturers and have made recommendations that will suit a variety of users. We've also put together the following transfer bench buyer's guide, which looks at the important features you need to consider and answers some common questions.
Fixed vs. sliding
Transfer benches can be divided into two main categories: fixed and sliding. The suitability of each depends on the level of the user's physical capabilities.
Fixed: A fixed transfer bench is considerably cheaper than a sliding one, but it relies on users being able to move themselves the short distance from one end to the other. Those with lower limb difficulties can often manage this. Wheelchair users, for example, frequently have good upper body strength.
Sliding: A sliding transfer bench removes the necessity of users moving themselves. A user is seated and is then moved horizontally along the frame rails into the tub or shower cubicle. The seat can be locked at either end so it's fixed into position when the user is getting on or off and when bathing. On the more expensive models, the seat can also swivel 90°, which can make the initial transfer easier.
Adjustability in the bench legs is important for two reasons. The first is to ensure that the seat can be set at a height that is comfortable for the user to mount and dismount, minimizing any potential for strain. The second is so that the difference in height between the bathroom floor and the interior of the tub or shower can be compensated for and the seat remain level. At least several inches is usually provided, but if the user is particularly short or tall, it's a good idea to check.
The pins that secure the legs in position need to be strong and lock securely. We have heard of occasional weaknesses in this area. Fortunately, they’re rare, but it's a situation that would be uncomfortable at the least and potentially dangerous.
The feet, either rubber caps or suction cups, serve two purposes. They are nonslip for the safety of the user, and they protect the surface of the bathtub or shower. Rubber feet make the bench easier to move into and out of the bathing area, while suction cups give a firmer grip on the tub or shower surface.
The weight capacity of the transfer bench is obviously vital for the user's safety. All the models we looked at had a minimum safe load of 250 pounds, with 300 to 400 pounds the norm. Specific bariatric models can manage between 600 and 850 pounds.
Plastic is easy to clean and won't rust, but it can be subject to impact damage and is difficult to repair. Transfer benches with aluminum frames won't rust and are less likely to suffer impact damage. While the benches do have plastic seats and backrests, these are relatively minor parts that can be replaced if necessary.
You need to check the overall size of the bench, particularly if you have a sink or toilet near the tub or shower. There are models that are designed to run from toilet to tub. Others are very compact. Most are light enough to be moved around by an able-bodied person if that's necessary. A few models fold so they're easier to store when not in use, though there aren't many.
Drainage: It's vital that water doesn't pool beneath the user, which can cause great discomfort and irritation. Solid seats usually have holes to prevent this. Others have contoured grooves to channel the excess water away.
Padding: Padding on the seat, back, and armrests can make the transfer bench more comfortable and prevent it being unpleasantly cool on first contact. However, these benches do require a little more effort to move around on.
Although some transfer benches come without armrests, in general, the armrests provide a useful leverage point for users and/or carers. Unless there is a strong reason not to have them, we suggest you look for a bench with armrests.
A lap belt adds extra security. Usually this can be removed if necessary.
Some transfer benches have removable sections (perineal), so they can be positioned over a toilet or accept a commode. If the latter isn’t usually supplied, you'll want to check how it would fit and then look for one to suit.
Inexpensive: The cheapest transfer benches cost around $55, for which you'll get a basic but functional platform either made of plastic or with an aluminum frame. Given that they usually have load ratings of 300 to 400 pounds, one of these ought to be perfectly safe. At the budget end of the market, we would expect the aluminum models to be more durable.
Mid-range: From that price up to around $80 there are a few variations in size and accessories, and load limits of up to 500 pounds, but little real difference until you get to models with sliding seats.
Expensive: Benches with sliding seats run anywhere from $120 to $300. At the upper end of that price range you get padded armrests and backrests, padded seats that swivel as well as slide, and frames that are adjustable for width as well as height.
If your budget is small, the Carex Universal Tub Transfer Bench is a basic but perfectly functional solution. It's got good adjustability, there are no metal parts (so rust won't be a problem), and it can hold up to 400 pounds. The Moen Nonslip Adjustable Transfer Bench has a unique leg design, which the manufacturer claims increases stability. It's a compact, stylish unit, with a 400-pound capacity, and in our opinion is best suited for those recovering from injury rather than those with general infirmity. The safety net on the Drive Medical Folding Sliding Transfer Bench is designed to catch anything dropped, so the user doesn't need to bend over. Capacity is 300 pounds, and the safety belt is a nice feature on such a competitively priced model. The soap dish seems like a good idea – and it is removable – but it will probably get in the way unless you have a wide tub.
Q. What's the difference between a transfer bench and a shower chair?
A. Although there is some overlap, normally a transfer bench sits partly inside the shower or tub and partly on the bathroom floor, so it's possible to get into the shower or tub while seated. A shower chair sits entirely within the shower or tub, providing a place to sit once you’re inside. If someone is generally mobile but can't stand for the duration of a shower, a shower chair will do the job. If mobility is reduced, the transfer chair is the answer.
Q. My bathroom is very compact. How do I know the transfer bench will fit?
A. The manufacturer should provide full dimensions. Usually, if there's room for a person to stand by the shower or tub, there's room for the transfer bench. If space is really tight, it's often possible to remove the backrest and/or arms of the bench without compromising overall rigidity, although it's worth checking just to be sure.
Q. Will I need to assemble the transfer bench?
A. Transfer benches invariably require some assembly. Many can be put together without extra tools, which is convenient. Components are lightweight, and the task shouldn't be difficult, but our research found that some instructions aren't as clear as they could be, which left some owners frustrated. Having someone lend a hand is probably a good idea.