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Fold Down vs. Folding Shower Seat. What’s the Difference?

Updated on November 12, 2010

A few letters can make a big difference when it comes to selecting a shower seat. A fold “down” shower seat is not the same as a fold “ing” shower seat. In short, the fold down seat, also called a retractable shower chair or hinged shower chair, attaches to your shower wall. It becomes a permanent part of your shower enclosure. A folding seat, like its name says, can be folded or collapsed and removed from the shower. It does not attach to the shower wall.

That’s the primary difference between the two shower seats, but there are other differences. And there are ways in which they are similar. Below I’ll explain the differences and similarities between these two shower seat options.

Different Benefits

Each type seat offers different benefits depending on what you want your shower seat to do.

When you want to use the fold down shower seat you simply fold it down from the shower wall it’s attached to and lock it into place. When you’re done, you lift it back up. (Some of these seats are built to be lowered when not in use.) These seats stay flat when not in use. The benefit is that when not being used they don’t take up any space in the shower. If someone doesn’t want or need to use the fold down shower seat, they have more space in which to take a shower.

Additionally, because this type shower chair is attached to the wall, it is always available when someone wants to use it. You don’t have to search for a shower chair if you want to use one.

The primary benefit of the folding shower seat is that it’s portable. When you want to use it, just bring it into the shower and unfold it. When you don’t want to use it, you just fold it up and put it in storage.

The portability benefit means the folding shower chair can travel. If you’re going on a trip and want the benefits of a shower chair, you just pack the folding shower chair and take it with you. For portability, most folding shower chairs are made of lightweight materials.


Differences and Similarities in Materials

Teak wood is a popular material used for both fold down and folding shower chairs.  Teak is used because it resists the moisture found in showers.  For the fold down chair, that stays in the shower, it offers a chance to add a stylish or accent element to your bathroom.  But teak is usually the most expensive material option for the fold down shower chair.

There are also folding shower chairs made of teak.  Its portability allows you to use it both in an inside and an outdoor shower, if you have one.  However, a teak shower seat will be the heaviest option for a folding shower chair.

People who want a fold down shower seat that looks a lot like teak can choose rubberwood.  This is also a water resistant wood.  It is less expensive and lighter than teak, but can be stained.

Most folding seats use molded plastic that is either smooth or textured.  You may see the term “phenolic” which is a type of water resistant plastic.  Drain holes in these seats also contribute to making them light so they are easy to carry around. 

Mesh is another type of material you’ll find in folding shower chairs.  Mesh shower chairs are often the lightest type of chair.  It is also a quick drying and mildew resistant material which makes this type folding chair ideal for taking on camping trips.

Other Differences

The weight these chairs can hold is another important difference.

A typical fold down shower seat, when attached properly, can hold about 250 pounds (113 KG).  This is the same capacity as a typical folding seat.  But fold down shower chairs are available with legs that also fold up and down.  With legs attached, these seats can hold weights up to about 400 pounds (181 KG).

Fold down shower seats will usually offer more options in the size of the seat, specifically in length, width, and depth.  Folding shower seats, because they are portable, typically have seats that are a bit smaller.  Before buying either of these type seats, check the seat dimensions to be sure you’ll fit in it.

Safety

The folding shower seat is considered safe if it fits you and it sits on a flat surface.  They even make some with back supports and arm rests for added safety.

The primary safety concern with the fold down shower chair is how it is attached to the shower wall.  Just attaching the shower hardware to drywall or sheetrock can be dangerous.  The brackets, bolts, and/or screws used for this type seat have to be attached to a reinforced shower enclosure backing such as steel or wood.

Some Other Considerations

Folding shower seats sometimes have handles on the side so they can be more easily lifted and carried around.

If a person is handicapped, a fold down shower seat might be a better choice because once installed, it will always be available.  Commode type chairs are also available for the physically challenged person that needs it.  And for additional comfort, this type shower chair can also be bought with backs and arms. 

Think about what you’ll be using your shower seat for when choosing between fold “down” or fold”ing”.

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