Remodeling for Accessible Living

Sometimes injury, disability or even just the normal effects of aging make it more difficult for one or more occupants of a home to access basic utilities, such as the bath or shower, toilet and sinks. If the thought of moving to an assisted living community seems too drastic a measure, there is another option: remodeling.

With just a few modifications and adjustments, almost any home can be remodeled with an eye toward accommodation and accessibility. At Flooring Masters & Professional Remodelers, we can help remodel your home so that you and your loved ones can continue enjoying it long into the future. Our process is simple and straightforward, and with our upfront pricing you’ll know exactly what to expect when the bill arrives. 

Getting Things Rolling

Transitions between rooms must be leveled for wheelchairs, walkers and other mobility devices.

The first area of your home we’ll address is the flooring. Mobility devices such as wheelchairs and walkers make different demands of floors than regular floor traffic, so it’s important to reduce or eliminate any potential structural deficiencies or obstructions.

First, the integrity of the floors needs to be examined to make sure they are strong enough to accommodate the added weight of a mobility device. Do the floors sag? Do the joists shift under load? Any structural issues need to be addressed before the remodel can begin.

Second, what type of flooring is currently in the home? Tiled floors with wide grout work or old wooden floors that have shifted over time may create impediments that need to be fixed. Whether using a mobility device or not, these kinds of obstructions can be dangerous for disabled or elderly inhabitants. 

Next, one of the most common obstructions needs to be addressed: thresholds. Some houses, especially older homes, have floors that use different materials or are uneven between rooms. Often these floors are connected with a wooden or metal seam binder, which, much like a speed bump on the road, is more difficult to traverse than a flat surface. 

Laying consistent, smooth, even flooring throughout the entire home remedies both of these issues and creates an aesthetically pleasing surface that is far safer to move around on.

Federal Accessibility Guidelines

The Americans with Disabilities Act offers guidelines for commercial structures that can be useful when designing accessibly residential interiors.

Once the flooring has been addressed, it’s time to look at the rest of the home’s infrastructure to ensure it can accommodate older folks or people with disabilities. It’s important at this stage to do more than just eyeball it. We need a guide.

Thankfully, the federal government has us covered. The Americans with Disabilities Act provides guidelines for constructing facilities that maximize accessibility. 

Unlike offices, businesses, and other public spaces that are required to adhere to ADA regulations, private homes are not mandated to follow such rules. That said, the ADA still offers a useful set of standards that, if followed, will help reduce or eliminate many of the common difficulties that people with disabilities or elderly folks often encounter.

Making sure the floors are smooth and even is just the first step to ensuring ease of mobility throughout the home. Next it’s time to turn to entryways, transitions and doors. 

The ADA recommends a minimum of 32-inches clearance between rooms, whether there are doors in place or not. This is enough that people using wheelchairs, walkers and canes can easily pass from room to room. Unfortunately, most residential doorways are only 24- to 30-inches wide. 

In areas where space is limited, or even just to add a little flair to a room, a pocket door or barndoor might be an option. These styles of doors open side-to-side, rather than out into the room, the main difference being that pocket doors recede into the wall, whereas barndoors hang from a track outside the door and open by sliding in front of the adjacent wall. Either option may open a doorway up to 32 inches or more without requiring significant reconstruction of the door frame.

Putting the ‘Room’ in ‘Bathroom’

An accessible bathroom doesn’t need to be boring. Designers apply the same style and flair to accessibility features as they do their standard collections.

One of the most difficult spaces for a mobility-challenged occupant to maneuver can be bathrooms, especially in older, smaller homes. 

Once again, looking to ADA recommendations for guidance, the most important figure to pay attention to is 60-inches, or five feet. Bathrooms should allow a 60-inch diameter of open space throughout the bathroom, which maximizes maneuverability for both wheelchairs and walkers. This is quite a bit of space for a residential bathroom, but, once again, ADA regulations were created for publicspaces and it’s not absolutely necessary to adhere to them in your home.

That said, there are many innovative ways to modify a bathroom to create an open area that at least comes close to the 60-inch standard .

Most residential bathrooms have cabinet sinks, which are great for storage but not so accommodating for wheelchairs or walkers. Replacing the sink with a pedestal or wall-mounted unit will open up the floor space, which creates the sense of a more open, airy space, as well as makes room for mobility-challenged users. The ADA recommends mounting the sink so its top surface is 29 inches above the floor (standard sinks are 36 inches), leaving plenty of room in the open space beneath.

For inhabitants who use wheelchairs, it may be necessary to install an angled mirror to facilitate grooming at the sink. Some mirrors actually have a hinge so they can be adjusted for multiple users. 

Also regarding sinks, a single-faucet fixture is preferred, as it allows users to maintain a free hand for stabilizing themselves while washing.

Because of the need for a lot of floor space, as well as the possible need to accommodate wheelchair users, storage spaces should be designed with these considerations in mind. Storage is best built into the wall, such as recessed shelving in the shower for shampoo, soap, etc., and additional recessed storage near the sink for other hygiene items. 

Toilets also require special consideration and should have seats that are 17-19 inches off the floor. This is 1-3 inches higherthan standard commodes, as it creates a more level transition to and from a wheelchair and/or places users in a more elevated position, thus making it easier to get off the porcelain throne when they finish their business.

Compliance, the Easy Way

There are many considerations when planning an ADA compliant bathroom remodel. Flooring Masters & Professional Remodelers have extensive experience remodeling bathrooms for maximum accessibility and are familiar with the ADA guidelines listed here, as well as many more. Our certified installers have the ingenuity and know-how to assist you in transforming your bathroom into the most convenient and accessible it can be. Call or email today for a consultation and let us guide your next project.

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