Remodeling your Bathroom for Handicap Accessibility
If you intend to retire in your home or plan to move in an elder family member, having a handicap accessible bathroom will allow your home to accommodate all ages and mobilities. Whether you’re building a new home or remodeling your current home, making smart design decisions will ensure that your custom home or custom remodeled bathroom is prepared for the future.
Even if you don’t plan to need a handicap accessible bathroom in the future, consider it for added safety and the potential resale of your home. “More than one in three seniors over age 65 fall each year, and the National Institute on Aging (NIA) says 80 percent of these falls are in the bathroom (newsusa.com).” Additionally, if you’re building or modifying your home to handicap accessible for medical reasons, the costs may be a tax deduction. Here are a few guidelines to get you started on the design of your handicap accessible bathroom.
Handicap accessibility starts from the ground up. Flooring should not impede the movement of a wheelchair, walker, or cane. And because bathmats can impede movement, bathmats should be avoided, and floor materials should be textured and non-slip. Textured tile, non-slip vinyl, cork, or bamboo flooring are all good options. The floor should not have high thresholds that may cause difficulty getting a wheelchair over or may cause trips. The floor area should also have enough space for someone to easily maneuver with a wheelchair and possibly a personal caregiver. And who doesn’t want a spacious bathroom?
Outlets & Lights
Standard light switches and outlets may be too high for someone in a wheelchair to reach. Consider motion sensing lights and some low set outlets. If you opt for traditional light switches, select ones that have large toggles.
Showers & Tubs
Falls happen in showers and tubs when flooring is slippery, there’s not enough space, or you must reach too far. Stepping into a high, wet tub is dangerous for even the most agile person. Avoid tubs altogether unless you budget allows for a walk-in/wheel-in tub. Grab bars on all 3 walls at multiple heights should be installed along with a bench and a removable handheld shower-head that is mounted low. It’s also wise to avoid shower curtains whenever possible. Instead consider an open, slightly sloped shower, or sliding glass door. Shampoo bottles and soap can fall on the floor and cause trips. To avoid this altogether use wall-mounted, refillable dispensers. As a bonus, you’ll save money on shower products.
Sinks & Toilets
Handicap accessible sinks should be no higher than 34 inches and have knee clearance below the bowl for a wheelchair. Mirror accessibility will be limited above the sink so installing a full-length mirror nearby is a better option. Also consider storage accessibility. Low, open cabinets are your best option to not limit the mobility of someone in a wheelchair.
A handicap accessible toilet will be lower and have grab bars so someone in a wheelchair or walker can safely maneuver onto the toilet. If you want to retrofit your current toilet setup, you’ll need to install a toilet riser and reinforced walls for the grab bars. Toilet paper dispensers should also be place in front or to the side of the toilet to avoid twisting.
If you’re building a new custom home consider adding the ability to add handicap accessibility later, even if you don’t feel you will need it. It will be much more cost effective to plan in the design process for handicap accessibility now than to have a major remodel later.
Ilcor Builders has been building custom homes on your lot in Austin, Texas and the surrounding areas since 1963. We are a family owned business with over 50 years’ experience building custom homes. We would love the opportunity to discuss your custom home in our design studio in North Austin or in the comfort of your home. Please contact us at 512-476-7568 or request a free consultation.
NewsUsa.com. Sept, 19, 2012. Preventing Senior Falls Starts in the Bathroom. http://www.newsusa.com/articles/article/preventing-senior-falls-starts-in-the-bathroom.aspx