Title:
LOW STEP SHOWER UNIT AND METHOD
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A method of installing a low step entryway in a bathtub wall structure which comprises a front wall portion, a rear wall portion and an upper edge portion which together define an interior wall space. A portion of the front wall is cut away to form a cutout which is shaped in the form of the entryway which is being installed. After the open entryway is formed, a saddle structure is installed in the entryway. This saddle structure is shaped the same as the entryway opening which is being provided, and it comprises a lower middle portion forming a horizontal bottom wall, and two side saddle members extending upwardly extending components of alignment, with these providing side surfaces for the entryway.



Inventors:
Spiker, David W. (Rathdrum, ID, US)
Fasel, Stanley R. (Rathdrum, ID, US)
Application Number:
12/507760
Publication Date:
02/18/2010
Filing Date:
07/22/2009
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
29/428
International Classes:
A47K3/02
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ZHOU, QINGZHANG
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Schacht Law Office, Inc. (BELLINGHAM, WA, US)
Claims:
Therefore I claim:

1. A method of installing a low step entryway in a bathtub wall structure which comprises a front wall portion and a rear wall portion and an upper edge wall portion which together define an interior wall space, with the method being characterized as being capable of installing the entryway in at least two different situations, namely a first situation where the front and rear wall portions are generally parallel with one another and spaced from one another at a substantially uniform width dimension and a second situation where at least one of the front and rear wall portions is shaped to have a contoured wall structure portion so that at least a portion of one of the front and rear wall portions is closer to or further from the other, said method comprising: a. ascertaining planned border locations of the entryway to be installed and cutting out a separate section of the bathtub to create a cutout region with cutout edges that comprise a lower and two side cutout edge portions that match the border locations of the entryway; b. providing a saddle structure comprising the following: i. a lower central saddle section and left and right saddle sections connected to outer opposite end portions of the center saddle section and extending therefrom in a direction with a substantial upward direction component; ii. each of said three saddle sections comprising a middle plate section, with the middle plate section of the middle saddle section providing an upwardly facing surface to provide a person with vertical support in the entryway and said left and right saddle sections arranged to provide left and right inwardly facing entryway side surfaces for the entryway; iii. each of said three saddle sections also having front and rear flanges, each of which having a connecting edge portion connected to an adjacent edge portion of its related plate section and extending from its related plate section at approximately a right angle to its related plate section; c. positioning the saddle structure over the cutout region in a manner that the flanges of the saddle sections at least partly overlap the perimeter locations of the cutout region and connecting the saddle structure to the bathtub wall structure to provide the entryway with the three middle plate sections forming the bottom and side surfaces of the entryway.

2. The method as recited in claim 1, wherein said planned border locations of the entryway are determined by providing a template having an edge portion or portions corresponding to the border location or locations and making a line location or locations on the bathtub where it is to be cut to create the cutout region.

3. The method as recited in claim 1, wherein said saddle structure is provided with its pair of flanges spaced sufficiently far apart so as to be as great as a width dimension of one of the bathtub walls in which the entryway is to be made.

4. The method as recited in claim 1, wherein the width dimension of the pair of flanges is no less than the width dimension of the front wall where the entryway is to be located.

5. The method as recited in claim 1, wherein the width dimension of the flanges of the saddle structure shall be at least as large as seven inches, and no greater than about eight inches.

6. The method as recited in claim 1, wherein each of the left and right saddle sections are positioned on opposite sides of the entryway, and each of these has a substantial upward alignment component, with either or both of these left and right saddle sections being be at a more horizontal position or a more vertical position.

7. The method as recited in claim 6, wherein each of said left and right saddle sections is arranged to have an upward alignment component from about a right angle from horizontal and about one-half of a right angle from the horizontal.

8. The method as recited in claim 1, wherein after the saddle structure is in place in the entryway, the next step is to place the left and right seat caps which are positioned at opposite sides of the entryway and being positioned to conceal upper end portions of the left and right saddle structure sections and also adjacent portions of the adjacent upper edge portions of the front wall, with the cap seats mounted in place.

9. The method as recited in claim 1, wherein said middle left and right saddle sections are formed as one unitary structure as the saddle structure.

10. The method as recited in claim 1, further comprising providing a template tool to draw lines along the front wall along which cuts are to be made to create an open area, comprising two sections, namely a positioning section to raise or lower a tool, and a lower enclosing plate section which comprises front and rear plates with side and lower alignment edges which match the contours of the lower and side surfaces of the saddle contour, and positioning these to the proper elevation.

11. The method as recited in claim 1, wherein prior to positioning and connecting the saddle structure in the operating location, positioning one or more reinforcing members in a wall interior to provide additional structural strength to said bathtub wall structure in the vicinity of one or more locations where a wall structure portion or portions has been removed.

12. The method as recited in claim 1, including placing at least one reinforcing member at a location or adjacent to a location where one of the saddle sections is to be located.

13. The method as recited in claim 1, including providing reinforcement at a location where an upper end portion of one of the right and left saddle sections is located.

14. The method as recited in claim 1, wherein with bathtub wall being in the second category, placing one wall portion spaced from a wall portion which it is facing so that there is a gap next to the wall portion, said method further comprising providing a reinforcing member that is sized to block said gap and inserting said reinforcing member in said gap and provide caulking as needed.

15. The method as recited in claim 1, accomplishing different sizes of the entryway by providing a saddle structure of a larger size or a smaller size where with the middle saddle section being horizontally aligned at a base location, upper end portions of the left and right saddle sections being made to be located at a higher level for the larger entryway and at a lower level for a smaller entryway, while maintaining the middle saddle section parallel to a line between upper end portions of the left and right saddle sections and positioning the saddle structure at a higher or lower level so that the level of the support surface of the entryway is lower or higher, respectively.

16. An apparatus which has been transformed into a low step shower unit, comprising: a. a bathtub structure having a front wall which has been modified so that the front wall has an entryway assembly in which the entryway is located; b. said entryway assembly comprising: i. a lower central saddle section and left and right saddle sections connected to outer opposite end portions of the center saddle section and extending therefrom in a direction with a substantial upward direction component; ii. each of said three saddle sections comprising a middle plate section, with the middle plate section of the middle saddle section providing an upwardly facing surface to provide a person with vertical support in the entryway and said left and right saddle sections arranged to provide left and right inwardly facing entryway side surfaces for the entryway; iii. each of said three saddle sections also having front and rear flanges, each of which having a connecting edge portion connected to an adjacent edge portion of its related plate section and extending from its related plate section at approximately a right angle to its related plate section; c. said saddle structure being positioned over the cutout region in a manner that the flanges of the saddle sections overlap at least partially the perimeter locations of the cutout region and connect the saddle structure to the bathtub wall structure to provide the entryway with the three middle plate sections forming the bottom and side surfaces of the entryway.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority benefit of U.S. Ser. No. 61/083,107, filed Jul. 23, 2008.

BACKGROUND OF THE DISCLOSURE

a) Field of the Invention

The present invention relates generally to low step shower units, and more particularly to converting a conventional bathtub or the like to a low step shower unit by cutting out a portion of a containing wall and substituting it with an entryway structure.

b) Background of the Invention

Over the last twenty years or more, there have been various designs of accomplishing this conversion of the bathtub to a low step shower unit, and there are a number of challenges to be met. For example, one of these challenges is that the existing wall of the bathtub can vary substantially with regard to its shape, and this makes it difficult to have uniformity in providing the entryway. Also, in cutting away some of the bathtub structure to make an entryway, this can weaken the structure. Further, there could be a problem of leakage of the water from and around the tub where the entryway is made.

It is toward these types of challenges that the system and method of the embodiments of this present invention are directed.

SUMMARY OF THE DISCLOSURE

The present invention is directed toward the method of converting a conventional bathtub or the like to a low step shower unit by providing the low step entryway. This invention is also directed toward the end product itself. One of the main advantages of the present invention is that it is possible to accomplish this task repeatedly even though there are a wide variety of the sidewall structures of the tub in which the entryways are to be made.

In the method of the present invention the first task is to cut out a portion of the tub sidewall into a configuration which is substantially the same as the desired size and configuration of the entryway. Then the method involves the use of what is termed a “saddle structure” to provide the main part of the support structure for the entryway. It comprises a lower center horizontal saddle section which is positioned in the low central part of the cutout to provide a support surface and left and right saddle sections which are attached thereto, with these arranged so that they extend upwardly and outwardly to provide side support surfaces.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is an isometric view of a typical prior art bathtub in which an entryway is to be made;

FIG. 2 is an isometric view showing the same bathtub as in FIG. 1, but with an entryway assembly fully installed and operational in the front wall of the bathtub of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a simplified front elevational view of FIG. 2, showing the entryway being installed at a lower location;

FIG. 4 is a view similar to FIG. 3, but showing the entryway being made at a higher elevation;

FIG. 5 is an isometric view of a saddle section which is a major component used in the installation of the entryway assembly;

FIGS. 6A and 6B are both isometric views, but taken from somewhat different viewing locations, showing the configuration of the two cap seats that are part of the entryway assembly of the present invention;

FIG. 7 is an isometric view of a template tool that is used to locate and draw the lines at which cuts are to be made in the wall of the tub to create an entryway cutout region in the front wall of the tub;

FIG. 8 is a side elevational view showing the template tool of FIG. 7 being lowered toward its operating position on the tub front wall;

FIG. 9 is a front elevational view similar to FIG. 8 showing the template tool lowered to its operating position, and showing a line location being made by a pencil or pen on the front wall;

FIG. 10 is a sectional view taken along line 10-10 of FIG. 9 illustrating the positioning apparatus of the template tool;

FIG. 11 is a view similar to FIG. 10 showing the same positioning tool as in FIG. 10, but with its positioning plank having been lowered to engage the upper edge portion of the front wall of the bathtub in an operating position;

FIG. 12 is a view similar to FIG. 11 showing the positioning panel being moved further downwardly to raise the template portion of the template tool to a position to create the entryway in a more elevated location;

FIG. 13 is a front elevational view showing the template tool being lifted away from the front wall of the tub, and with the location lines having been drawn on the front bathtub wall to indicate the locations where the cuts are to be made for removal of a portion of the front wall to form the entryway cutout region;

FIG. 14 is a view similar to FIG. 13 showing the front wall cutout section being removed from the cutout region of the entryway which is to be made;

FIG. 15 is a front elevational view of the front wall with the removal of the cutout section of the bathtub wall having been removed, and three reinforcing members (blocks) being positioned in three different locations in the cutout portion of the front wall of the bathtub;

FIG. 16 is a sectional view taken at line 16-16 of FIG. 15 showing a lower base reinforcing member, and an upper right located reinforcing member, and also illustrating the overall cross-sectional configuration of the front wall of the tub;

FIG. 17 is a sectional view taken along line 17-17 at two locations in FIG. 15 showing two similar reinforcing blocks being secured by screws in its operating position at two different locations in the entryway location;

FIG. 18 is a front elevational view similar to FIG. 15 showing three different cross-sectional locations at which an adhesive strip is located, and which could be used in caulking edge portions at the entryway region;

FIG. 19 is a sectional view taken along section 19-19 of FIG. 18 showing the left reinforcing block in its operating position, and indicating two locations where caulking could be used;

FIG. 20 is a sectional view taken along line 20-20 of FIG. 18 showing a cross section of a left saddle section with the adhesive ribbon being used in connection with caulking;

FIG. 21 is a sectional view taken along line 21-21 of FIG. 18 and encompassing a larger view from the very top elevation of the front wall in which the entryway is made, and extending downwardly into the bottom of the front wall, also indicating two locations on the base block where caulking is being used;

FIG. 22 is a view showing the entire saddle structure being lowered into its operating position in the entryway recess that has been made in the front wall of the tub;

FIG. 23 is a view similar to FIG. 22 showing screws (or nails) being used to secure the saddle structure in its operating location and it can be seen that the upper edge portions of the side members of the saddle structure are above the top edge of the front wall;

FIG. 24 is a side elevational view similar to FIG. 23 but showing the two top edge portions of the saddle structure being cut down to the level of top edge portion of the front wall;

FIG. 25 is a partial-sectional view taken along lines 25-25 of FIG. 24 showing in broken lines the entire front top and rear portions of the outer members of the front wall, also in broken lines showing an upper right reinforcing block located in the upper part of the front wall, and also showing a base reinforcing member or block in cross-section, and in its operating position at the lower base of the entryway showing in broken lines a cross-section of the front wall and the left reinforcing block, showing in cross-section a lower front portion of the tub, and also showing around the base reinforcing block the adjacent portion of the middle saddle section;

FIG. 26 is a view similar to FIG. 25 and showing in addition a bottom plate in the entryway having an inward slope leading into the interior of the tub;

FIG. 27 is an isometric view similar to FIG. 6B but showing a notch cutout of one of the flanges so that it could be placed in its operating position at an upper right side location of the entryway assembly;

FIG. 28 is an isometric view substantially the same as FIG. 2 but showing the right cap-seat being installed in its operating position; and

FIG. 29 is a sectional view which is quite similar to the view in FIG. 16; however, FIG. 29 differs in that it has an additional reinforcing block to provide greater structural strength in the embodiment shown in FIG. 16 and also to prevent leakage of water if needed;

FIG. 30 is a front elevational view of the front wall of a second embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 31 is a sectional view of FIG. 30 taken along line 31-31 of FIG. 30;

FIG. 32 shows the front wall of a third embodiment of the present invention where the front and rear walls are parallel to one another and equally distant from one another, and there is the entryway assembly installed in the wall; and

FIG. 33 is a sectional view taken along line 33-33 in FIG. 32.

DESCRIPTION OF THE EMBODIMENTS

The embodiments and methods of the system of the present invention are directed primarily toward the task of converting an existing bathtub to a low step shower unit. This is done by modifying the configuration of the front wall of the bathtub by removing a portion of the front wall of the bathtub and replacing it with an entryway assembly which provides a low-level entryway leading into the bathtub.

The configuration of the wall or walls of the bathtub can vary substantially from one bathtub to another. However, the system of this invention is arranged so that the entryway assembly is able to be installed for substantially all tubs and/or tub/shower units that are presently in use in the United States, and possibly in other countries.

For example, in FIGS. 1-29 one embodiment of the present invention is shown being used in one type of a tub where there are differences in shape and width dimensions between upper and lower portions of the sidewall of the tub where the entryway assembly is to be located, and in FIGS. 30-33, a second type of a tub is shown where the front and rear wall portions are parallel and at a uniform width dimension.

Further, the structure of the entryway assembly of these embodiments is such that it has substantial structural strength to bear the weight of a large person. Also, the system is arranged so that leakage of water from and around the tub is avoided. In addition to that, the entire process of the removal of the portion of the front wall of the tub and configuration are accomplished in a relatively short time frame (e.g. a half a day), and are able to be done rather conveniently and economically.

Introduction to the Main Components and Method of the System

In FIG. 1, there is shown one type of a conventional bathtub 10, which could be used in implementing the system of the present invention. The tub 10 has a front wall 11 with a horizontal upper edge portion 12 and a rear wall 19.

In FIG. 2 there is shown the same bathtub 10 as in FIG. 1, but with the entryway assembly 16 of this first embodiment of the present invention being completely installed and functioning. There are three main structural components which are combined in forming the basic structure of the entryway assembly 16, namely a saddle structure 13, a left cap seat 14, and a right cap seat 15. Other components will be discussed later.

In the method of the system, there is the first step of cutting out a portion of the front wall 11 to provide a cut-out region 17 for the entryway (see FIGS. 14 and 15). After this, these three above-mentioned components 13, 14 and 15 are eventually assembled in or at the cut-out region 17, as shown in FIG. 2, in the completed assembly. In the completed entryway assembly 16, there is the entryway 18 which is defined by a bottom entryway surface 20 and left and right side entryway surfaces 22 and 23.

Another feature of the method of the system of the present invention is that it is arranged so that the overall size of the entryway 18 can be conveniently selected so that it can have a larger or smaller overall cross-sectional area and also so that the bottom support surface 20 of the entryway 18 can be at a lower or higher level. By way of example, two different sized entryways 18 are shown in FIGS. 3 and 4. This will be discussed in more detail later in this text.

To describe the saddle structure 13 in more detail, reference is now made to FIG. 5 which shows a pre-installed saddle structure 13 by itself ready to be installed in the front wall 11. The total saddle structure 13 of this embodiment is a single unitary structure, and it can be considered functionally as comprising three quite similar saddle sections, namely, a lower center horizontal saddle section 24 to provide vertical support for a person, a left substantially vertical saddle section 26 to define a left side surface, and a slanted right saddle section 28 which extends laterally and upwardly to the right to form the complete entryway assembly. The saddle structure 13 could be made of fiberglass, plastic or other suitable material.

The slant of the two side saddle sections 26 and 28 could be made the same, or these two slopes could be different from one another. However, there is one requirement which is that each of the two saddle side sections 26 and 28 must have a slope with a substantial upward slope component so that each is steep enough to provide the function of a side surface of the entryway 18.

The three saddle sections 24, 26 and 28 have the same basic configuration. For clarification, the center saddle section 24 will now be described in reasonable detail, giving the three components of the central section 24 numerical designations. Then the left saddle section 26 will be described, and those components which are the same as, or similar to, corresponding components of the middle horizontal section 24 will be given like numerical designations with an “a” suffix distinguishing those of the second left vertical saddle section 26. This same procedure will be followed in describing the basic components of the right saddle section 28, using the corresponding numerical designations of the middle section 24, but with a “b” suffix distinguishing those of this third saddle section.

With continuing reference to FIG. 5, the middle saddle section of the center saddle section 24 comprises a rectangular horizontally aligned bottom plate section 30 which provides the previously mentioned upwardly facing support surface 20, a downwardly extending front flange 32 which has a horizontally aligned straight bottom edge surface 33, and a similar oppositely positioned downwardly extending rear flange 34 that extends downwardly from the rear edge portion of the middle plate 30. For convenience, only a lower end portion of this inner flange 34 is shown in FIG. 5, and its bottom edge is indicated at 35. Each of the two flanges 32 and 34 are positioned in a vertically aligned plane that is perpendicular to the plane occupied by plate section 30 so that in its operating position, each of the flanges 32 and 34 are engaging adjacent surfaces of the front and rear wall portions of the front wall 11.

Since, as indicated above, the middle, right and left saddle sections 24, 26 and 28 have basic structures quite similar to, or the same as, each other, each has a center planar rectangular plate section 30a and 30b respectively, and a front and rear laterally extending flanges 32a and 32b, respectively, which are positioned to be perpendicular to their plate sections 30a and 30b, respectively.

The three front flanges 32, 32a and 32b are all interconnected to form an entire continuous front flange, and the three rear flanges 34, 34a and 34b are similarly connected to form a continuous inner flange. With the entire saddle structure 13 being made as one integral structure, all three of the plates 30, 30a and 30b, and the flanges 32, 32a, 32b, 34, 34a and 34b, form a saddle structure that is in and of itself a unitary waterproof structure.

To now turn our attention to the two previously mentioned cap seats 14 and 15, these are shown in FIGS. 6A and 6B which are isometric views taken from different viewing locations and showing the previously mentioned cap seats 14 and 15, which are (or may be) identical, or at least be mirror images of each other. Accordingly, in both FIGS. 6A and 6B the details of both cap seats 14 and 15 will be given the same numerical designations relative to their component parts. To describe briefly the cap seat section shown in FIG. 6A, there is a square (or rectangular) upper cover portion 42 and four downwardly extending perimeter flanges 43 joined to each other in a square pattern and extending downwardly from all of the four edge portions 44 of the upper horizontal cover portion 42. These two cap seats 14 and 15 will be discussed later in this text.

A Template Tool to Draw Cut Lines in the Front Wall 11 of the Tub 12

FIGS. 7-13 show a template tool 46 which is used to draw the lines where cuts are to be made with a jigsaw or the like in the front wall 11 of the bathtub 10 to form the access opening for the entryway 18 in the front wall 12. As can be seen from viewing FIGS. 2, 3 and 4, the entryway 18 has a trapezoidal configuration with the left edge at the left saddle section 26 being substantially vertically aligned, and the right edge at the right saddle section 26 having an upward and outward slant. In order for the saddle section 22 to be installed in the bathtub as shown in FIG. 2, it is necessary to cut out a portion of the front wall 12 of the bathtub that matches the contours of the saddle structure 22 which in the installed position defines the edge surfaces of the entryway 18.

Reference is now made to FIG. 7 which shows a template tool 49 which is used to draw the lines on the front wall 11 along which cuts are to be made to create an open area having the same overall configuration as the saddle section 22 within reasonably close tolerances.

The template tool shown in FIG. 7 may be made of wood or other material and comprises functionally two sections, namely:

    • i) an upper vertical positioning section 48 to raise or lower the tool; and
    • ii) a lower enclosing plate section 50 which comprises front and rear plates 52 and 56 which have side and lower edges which match the contours of the lower and side of inner surfaces of the saddle contour, and are used to trace the lines where cuts are made at the front and rear wall portions.

The two plates 52 and 56 are connected to one another by an upper wooden plate or plank 58 (see FIGS. 10 and 11) having front and rear edge portions which are connected to the upper edges of the front and rear tool plates 52 and 56 as part of the positioning section 48. There is a reinforcing plank 60 immediately below the upper plank 58.

The upper positioning section 48 functions to raise or lower the plate section 50 of the template tool 46 by using the four corner height adjustment positioning bolts 62 which extend through stationary interiorly-threaded bolt-receiving members (not shown) in the upper plate or plank 58. By rotating the wing shaped heads 64 of the bolts, these bolts 62 can be rotated so as to be moved upwardly or downwardly relative to the plank 58. The lower end portions of each of the bolts 62 has a rotatable, but also axially fixed, connection to a lower positioning member in the form of a positioning plank 66 so that the positioning plank 66 is moved upwardly and downwardly with the upward and downward movement of the lower ends of the bolts 62. In this manner, the entire template tool 46 can be positioned at the desired height location by engaging the positioning plank 66 on the top edge surface of the front wall 11 of the bathtub and rotating the bolts 62 to raise or lower the entire enclosing plates 52 and 54 and the plank 58.

Thus, by moving the lower positioning plank 66 downwardly from the upper plank 58, the plates 52 and 56 of the plate section 52 can be raised. Thus, it can be seen that in order to make a larger entryway 18 with greater depth, the entire plate section 50 can be brought to a lower position which will place the bottom middle section 24 of the through entryway at a lower location and have the two side sections 28 and 26 spaced further from one another at their upper end portions. Or by raising the template plate section 50, the smaller opening of FIG. 4 could be made.

To illustrate this, reference is made to FIGS. 9, 10, 11 and 12. In FIG. 10, the positioning plate 66 is at a higher level, which causes the positioning plate 66 to be spaced above the top surface 14 of the front wall 12 of the bathtub 10, and the plate section 10 is at a low position. In FIG. 11, the bolts 62 have been rotated to lower the positioning plate 66 so that it is now engaging the upper wall surface 14 and is just beginning to raise the wall section 50 of the template tool 48 upwardly. Then in FIG. 12, the positioning plate 66 has been lowered yet further to raise the wall section 50 yet higher.

It is to be understood that the terms such as “plate” or “plank” are not to be interpreted in accordance with the dictionary definitions, but are to be interpreted to be members which perform the functions as described.

To turn our attention back to FIG. 9, we will assume that the template tool 46 has been used to bring the wall section 50 to a desired low location. Then a marking pen or pencil 68 is used to draw the lines 74 at the location where the cuts are to be made (see FIG. 13), with these lines 74 being along bottom and side edge portions of the front template wall 48 to indicate the location where the front bathtub wall 11 is to be cut. Similar markings are also made at the opposite side surface of the front bathtub wall. If the rear wall portion of the front wall 11 has an irregular shape, the markings on the outer side of the wall 11 could be used as a guide to make matching markings on the rear wall portion.

When the cutting lines 74 have been drawn on the bathtub wall 11, the template tool is removed (see FIG. 13), and tape can be placed first inside the lines 74 so that the jigsaw or other cutting tool could use the tape as a guide. Then the next step is to cut through the front and rear wall portions of the front wall 10 along the lines indicated at 74 and along the back side of the wall 11. Then the separated section 75 of the front wall is removed (see FIG. 14) to leave a cutout region 17 defined by bottom, left and right edge portions.

At this point, the saddle section 22 should be temporarily placed into the earlier mentioned cutout region 17 to be sure that the saddle structure 22 is making a proper fit with the cutout region 17. The upper surface of the saddle structure 22 should be even with the upper edge surface 14 of the front wall 12. Therefore, if the saddle structure 22 does extend higher than that level of the cutout region 17, the jigsaw can again be used to cut off the upper portion or portions of the saddle structure 13 that is or are above the upper edge 14 of the front wall 12 of the bathtub 10. Or, this could be done later, but before the cap seats 14 and 15 are put in place (see FIGS. 23 and 24).

After the fit of the saddle structure has been found to be satisfactory, the saddle structure 13 is removed temporarily, and this brings us to the next steps which are shown in FIG. 15 and following.

Background Information Relating to the Initial Procedures in the Installation of the Entryway Assembly

In the portion of the text that follows there will be discussions of items which would involve the front wall 11, and to have consistent terminology the two wall portions that make up the front wall structure will simply be called the “front wall portion 45” and the other wall portion of the rear of the wall 11 will be called the “rear wall portion 46”. The contained region between the two will be designated the “front wall void 47”.

It is evident that cutting out this rather substantial portion of the front wall 11 to form the cutout region would to some extent weaken the structure of the bathtub 10. Further, since the interior of the wall structure of the bathtub 10 would usually be enclosed empty space (i.e., would be a void), and since forming the cutout region 17 opens up a substantial portion of the void or empty chambers of the front wall 11, then it would be highly desirable to arrange the installation of the entryway structure 22 so that the interior region of the front wall 11 is closed off so that water would not seep in and/or out. This brings us first to FIG. 15.

It is believed that a better understanding of the following text relating to completing the installation will be obtained by first reviewing some background information relating to the varying configurations of the walls of the tub 10. Earlier in this text, it was stated that one of the features of the embodiments of this invention is that they are adapted for use with bathtubs having varying configurations of the wall of the bathtub in which the entryway installation is accomplished. It is believed that a clearer understanding of how this is accomplished with the present system will be gained by selecting at least one example of a bathtub wall which has some variations from a bathtub wall that would simply have totally planar parallel side surfaces spaced evenly from one another.

Accordingly, in the following discussion and in the drawings, the front wall 11 of the tub, which is being described in this text and shown in the drawings, has deviations from the tub wall with the planar parallel wall configuration. One typical example has been selected, and this selected wall construction will now be discussed briefly with reference to FIG. 16.

FIG. 16 is a sectional view of the total front wall 11 taken along line 16-16 of FIG. 15, and this front wall 11 is the front wall in which the entryway assembly 16 is being placed. This front wall 11 has a front substantially planar front wall portion 45 and a rear “non-regular” wall section which is called the rear wall portion 46 The rear wall portion 46 can be considered as having differing upper and lower inner wall portions 84 and 85, with the upper inner wall portion 84 being positioned closer to the outer wall portion 82, and the lower inner wall portion 85 being spaced further from the outer wall section 82. Then these two inner wall portions 84 and 85 are joined by an interconnecting horizontally aligned connecting shoulder 86. The lower end portion of the inner wall section 83 terminates in a rounded lower connecting portion 87 that connects to the lower bottom wall 88 of the bathtub.

With that background information being given, let us now return to the subject of completing the installation of the entryway assembly 16.

Proceeding with the Initial Installation Procedures

In FIG. 15, there are three reinforcing members 90, 91 and 92 which are shown being placed in positions in the front wall 11 prior to the time that the saddle structure 13 is placed in its completed operating position. In addition to being used for reinforcement, these reinforcing members 90, 91, and 92 may also have an additional function of closing off voids in the front wall 12 to make them water leak proof. This is done in large part by sizing and shaping the reinforcing members as rectangular prisms (i.e., in the form of a “block”) which could be made from processed wood, outdoor component material, or other waterproof material that is then inserted adjacent to its related void area. Alternatively, the block could, if needed, deviate from the rectangular prism configuration. For convenience, these reinforcing members will simply be referred to as “blocks”, and this term “blocks” is to be interpreted more broadly to a member which would occupy the region to provide support and, if needed, prevent leaking. Further, these blocks are, or can be, selectively sealed with caulking or the like, or other sealants, to prevent water leakage.

The originators of the present invention have found that a practical course of action is to have various shaped “blocks” or other wood members, and shaping some of these at the actual location where the apparatus of the invention of the embodiment is being installed. This way any measurements can be taken and the wood members could be made to size and shape. For example, a stationary power saw could be used, or a hand held saw (e.g. a circular saw). With the building materials which are currently made and also the structural characteristics of calking materials and the like enable these to be installed so as to provide a waterproof characteristic and also provide adequate structural support.

To proceed further with the description of the blocks, as shown in FIG. 15, there is a lower rectangular elongate base block 90 which is shown in full lines being moved to an installed operating position that is shown in broken lines in FIG. 15, and in full lines in FIGS. 16, 21, 25 and 26. Specifically, in FIG. 16 the forward positioned elongate surface of this block 90 bears against a lower part of the front wall portion 82 and the rear elongate surface 94 of the block 90 bears against a lower end portion of a rear wall portion 85 at a junction location where a lower rear portion of the rear wall portion of the bathtub is beginning to enter into a 90° downward bend portion 87 to transition into the horizontal tub floor 88 (see FIGS. 16 and 21). Screws 96 are inserted at front and rear sides of the block 90 (see FIG. 16) locations to secure the block 90 in place.

The remaining reinforcing members (i.e., the two blocks 91 and 92) are very similar to one another, and we will direct our attention first to the left reinforcing member 91 (which will be called the “block 91”).

With reference to FIGS. 15, it can be seen that the block 91 is being moved from an outer location (solid lines of 91) to an inner left location (solid lines 91). This block 91 is also shown in a sectional view of 17-17, looking downwardly, and is also seen in a larger size in the view of FIG. 21, which is taken from the location line 21-21 being shown in FIG. 18. In viewing FIG. 21, it can be seen that the block 91 is between an upper portion of the outer wall portion 12 and an upper inner wall portion 84, and just below a top wall portion 97. In FIG. 17, it can be seen it is secured in place by screws 96.

Then there is the second similar block 92 which can be seen in FIG. 15, as being located on the right side of the installation opposite from the block 91. This block 92 has the very same cross-section as the block 91 as shown in the view at 17-17. Further, it can be seen in FIG. 16 (which is at a section line taken along line 16-16 of FIG. 15) that the block 91 is in an upper position from the upper edge surface of the adjacent wall portions of the outer and inner wall portions 82 and 84 (see FIG. 21).

The term “caulking”, whether used as a noun or verb, is not be limited to a dictionary definition, but is intended to include the various techniques or practices which could be used to seal liquid leaks or prevent any leaks from occurring.

Earlier in this text, it was pointed out that caulking would be used at various locations to make the entryway assembly 16 sufficiently waterproof so that there would not be leakage from or around the region of the bathtub 10. In general, some sort of caulking or similar steps would be taken where there is an interface between two separate components.

Reference is made to FIGS. 18 through 21 to discuss the various applications of caulking in the system of the present invention.

To discuss this further, reference is first made to FIG. 21 which is a cross-sectional view of the base block 90 that is positioned between the outer and inner walls 45 and 46 of the front wall 11. It can be seen in FIG. 21 that at the upper edge portions where the side surfaces 93 and 94 of the reinforcing block 90 bear against the outer and inner walls 82 and 83, there are two caulking locations 110 and 112 which are shown simply as very small circular caulking portions. These caulking applications 110 and 112 extend entirely around the upper perimeter of the block 90 to prevent any leakage.

Attention is next directed to FIG. 19 which shows the upper reinforcing block 91 which is positioned between the front and rear upper wall portions 45 and 46. It can be seen that there are two caulking applications at 114 and 116 at the juncture location where the sides of the reinforcing block 91 press against the adjacent interiorly facing surfaces at the front edges of the wall sections 83 and 84. In finalizing the installation of the entryway assembly, the saddle structure 13 is pressed downwardly into the entryway opening. Surface portions of the saddle structure 13 press against these caulking applications to press the caulking material into the creases or seams that exist between the components which are pressing against one another.

It will be noted in FIG. 18 that the cross-section at 19-19 cuts through the left block 91 and the adjacent walls 82 and 84. Then, again with reference to FIG. 18, if we look at the section wall 19-19 and then observe the section line at 20-20 we see a different situation. The location of the section line 19-19 is through the block 91, and the caulking 114 and 116 can be wedged into the juncture location of the walls 82 and 84 and the block 91. The section line through 20-20 is a location between the two walls 82 and 83. It can be seen that in the section lines of FIG. 20, there are not only the two caulking applications 118 and 120, but there is also two items identified by numerals 122 and 124.

These numerals 122 and 124 are to indicate two portions of adhesive ribbons which can be used to provide a better seat for the application of the caulking.

To discuss these adhesive ribbons 122 and 124 further, reference is made to FIG. 18. The numerical designation 122 which is used for the adhesive ribbon is shown in FIG. 18 at a left location 122, a bottom location 122, an upper right location at 122, and there is a ribbon end portion at 122 in FIG. 18 that is illustrating the ribbon end portion as being out from engagement with the adjacent portion part of the saddle structure simply to show that it is a separate flexible ribbon. The other ribbon 124 is placed in a manner similar to the first ribbon 122, but on the opposite side. By placing these two ribbons 122 and 124 as described above, there is provided a base to which the caulking application could be applied.

After all of the applications of caulking have been made as discussed previously and with reference to FIGS. 18 through 21, the next step would be, as shown in FIG. 22, to insert the saddle structure 13 into the entryway opening, and press it against the three main surfaces 20, 22 and 23 (middle, left and right) in the entryway region. The pressure of the surfaces of the saddle structure 13 will cause the caulking itself to be pressed into the juncture areas and any seams which are potential routes for water leakage.

When this has been accomplished, then, as shown in FIG. 23, screws or nails 96 are inserted through the plate portions of the saddle structure 13 and to penetrate into the reinforcing blocks 91 and 92 to hold the saddle structure 13 in place.

With the saddle structure 13 being secured in place, the final step is to install the two cap seats 14 and 15 onto the upper surface portions of the front wall immediately next to the side walls of the assembly 16. In FIG. 28 the left cap seat 14 is shown as being already installed, and the right cap seat 15 is positioned at an upper location to be lowered into its proper location in the assembly 16.

Reference is made to FIG. 27, showing that a notch 130 has been cut to remove a small section 132 of one of the side flanges 43 so that in placing the cap seat 15 in its proper location, the upper edge portion 12 of the front wall 11 will fit into the notch 130.

In preparation for the installation of the cap seat 15, an adhesive caulking material 136 is distributed over the entire upper surface portion of the upper edge surface portion 136 of the wall 11, and also in the area of the adjacent upper portion panel structure. Then the entire cap seat 15 is lowered into place and becomes bonded to become part of the entryway assembly 16.

With this last task, with the cap seat 15 completed, the restructured tub with its new entryway 18 is ready for full operation.

A Brief Presentation of Location Relationships

FIG. 25 is a sectional view 25-25 as taken through a middle portion of the entire assembly 16 as shown in FIG. 24.

At the very bottom of FIG. 25 there are several components shown in cross-section at a middle section line at a middle location of the base block 90. These are the base block 90, the middle saddle section 24 with its horizontal plate 25, and its front and rear flanges 24, 32 and 34 of the saddle structure. Also, at the bottom right-hand portion of FIG. 25, there is shown a portion of the bottom wall 88 of the bathtub 10. There is also shown the plate section 24 of the left saddle section 26, and this extends all the way to the top of FIG. 25.

Attention now is directed to FIG. 29 which shows the configuration of the front wall 11 and the arrangement of the components rather clearly. However, FIG. 29 differs somewhat from FIG. 25 in that in addition to the block 21 at the top of FIG. 25, there is an addition to that, a second lower block 97 which presses against front and rear walls 45 and 46 to provide greater overall structural strength. This is simply to illustrate the point that throughout the various arrangements shown in this patent application, there can be additions of blocks and/or at a multitude of locations to provide a number of benefits, such as a system in making certain arrangements more waterproof, and structural strength.

A Second Embodiment of the Present Invention

The second embodiment of the present invention will now be described with reference to FIGS. 30 through 33. Components of this second embodiment that are the same as, or similar to, components of the earlier embodiment will be given like-numerical designations with a “d” to indicate those are of the second embodiment.

Earlier in this text, the present invention was introduced by stating that it is capable of installing the entryway assembly in the front wall of the tub in all, or most all, of the tubs that are currently available in the United States, and possibly outside the United States. In the first embodiment which is described earlier in this text, the situation is presented where the wall 11 of the tub has a cross sectional configuration where the upper and lower parts of the wall differ from one another. It was pointed out that this creates certain problems. In the first embodiment it is shown how the method can be adapted to install the entryway assembly under those circumstances.

It was indicated in the third paragraph under the heading “Description of the Embodiments” that FIGS. 30-31 would show the second type of tub where the front and rear wall portions are parallel and at a uniform width dimension. The following text describes, in conjunction with the FIGS. 30-33, the manner in which the entryway assembly 18d is provided in this second embodiment.

In FIG. 31, there is shown a cross section of the front wall 11d. There are front and rear wall portions 45d and 46d, and both of these have a planar configuration and these are at equal distances from one another.

This same front wall is shown in side elevational view in FIG. 30, and it can be seen that the cutout from the wall has already been accomplished, and the saddle sections 24d, 26d, and 28d have been indicated in FIG. 30.

FIG. 30 shows the front wall 11d where the entryway has already been cut out, but the saddle section 13d has not yet been installed.

Now we turn our attention to FIG. 31 which is a sectional view of the bathtub taken along the middle location indicated at 31-31. It becomes evident in viewing the steps taken in the first embodiment that the task of installing the saddle section 13d in this second embodiment is substantially simplified. Also, in this second embodiment, the various reinforcing blocks and the caulking could be utilized much in the manner of the first embodiment, but the task is greatly simplified.

The inventors of the present patent application have previously done surveys of the various types of bathtubs which are available in the United States, and the width dimension of the walls of these bathtubs at the locations where the entryway would be made were found to be slightly over 7¼ inches and slightly less than 8 inches. Accordingly, in structuring the apparatus of the present invention, the spacing between the inside surfaces of the front and rear flanges 32 and 34, 32a and 34a and 32b and 34b, as indicated at “F” in FIG. 31, is presently 8 inches. Of course, this would be, in all likelihood, modified if the dimensions of the tub walls would also change.

In FIG. 31 it is shown that in the upper portion of front wall 11d, there is a rectangular shaped reinforcing member 92d which is installed in the upper portion of the front wall 11d, and with the front and rear wall portions 45d and 46d being parallel to one another, there is automatically a proper fit of the reinforcing member 92d. Also, as needed, the caulking can be accomplished, and by way of example, two of these caulking locations 110d and 112d are indicated in FIG. 31.

FIG. 32 is essentially the same as 30a, except that it is shown that the saddle structure 13d has been installed. Also, FIG. 33 is simply a sectional view taken at 33-33 from FIG. 32. It is believed that further comments on FIGS. 32 and 33 is not needed.

While the present invention is illustrated by description of several embodiments and while the illustrative embodiments are described in detail, it is not the intention of the applicants to restrict or in any way limit the scope of the appended claims to such detail. Additional advantages and modifications within the scope of the appended claims will readily appear to those sufficed in the art. The invention in its broader aspects is therefore not limited to the specific details, representative apparatus and methods, and illustrative examples shown and described. Accordingly, departures may be made from such details without departing from the spirit or scope of applicants' general concept.





 
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