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Upgrading to an accessible bathroom

All this month on the T.W. Ellis blog we’re sharing tips on ways you can improve your bathroom. This week, we’re examining tips for making your bathroom more accessible. Be sure to check out our earlier posts on other important bathroom topics.

Millions of Americans have mobility issues. An aging population means those numbers are only going to go up. Making changes today can help prepare your home for the future and today.

An accessible home will allow you to live in it longer by increasing safety and independence. As Certified Aging in Place Specialists, the T.W. Ellis team has been trained in the unique requirements of preparing a home for an aging population

A well-designed accessible bathroom needs to address several areas.

Doorway Clearance

First of all, you need to be sure there’s enough clearance to get into the bathroom. A 36-inch or wider opening is best, but a 32-inch wide entry should provide the necessary space for a wheelchair or walker.

Doors should be fitted with lever-style handles versus doorknobs for ease of gripping and opening. Pocket doors can be a great solution as they don’t require room to swing open and closed, making for easier maneuverability.

If at all possible, level out the floor between the bathroom and hallway with no raised thresholds for the transition between the spaces. 

Flooring Material & Layout

Floors should be made out of a slip-resistant material (a good call for any bathroom!), such as vinyl or non-slip tiles.

A wheelchair needs a minimum radius of 48 inches to turn around, and the Americans with Disabilities Act recommends a 5-foot turning radius in the bathroom.

Toilet Accessibility

The toilet needs to be raised to chair height, approximately 18 inches off the ground. Grab bars should be installed as well to help users get on and off the toilet. The grab bar should be placed within easy reach of the toilet and should be at least 36 inches long. The great thing is that grab bars no longer needs to look “institutional.” There are plenty of great decorative options available.

Whatever you choose, be sure they are a diameter of only 1 to 1 ½ inches for easy gripping. The wall where the grab bar is mounted needs to be reinforced as well to handle the extra weight. A towel rod is not a grab bar and shouldn’t be used as one!

Sink Height and Clearance

The sink should be mounted on the wall, with no cabinet underneath, to allow clearance for a wheelchair. A height of 30 to 34 inches is ideal. A single-lever faucet should be used for an easier grip. As touchless fixtures come down in price, those make a great option. 

Curbless Showers

Replacing your tub with a curbless shower makes the bathroom more usable. Most showers, even those without tubs, require you to step up-and-in to the shower. A curbless shower eliminates that transition, putting the shower entrance flush with the floor of the bathroom. A fixed or rolling shower seat, at a height of 17 to 19 inches, will allow a bather to sit while showering.

If keeping a tub is important, consider a walk-in tub that gives the benefits of a traditional bathtub without the need to step over a high surround. Grab bars need to be installed in the shower/tub as well. As with the toilet grab bar, the walls should be reinforced behind the bars. Grab bars should be mounted along the side wall, near the entrance to the shower, near the controls and anywhere else your layout necessitates. Your remodeler can help you make the right call.

Time to work on upgrading your home for today and the future? T.W. Ellis is ready to help you prepare your home for the future. Contact us today to discuss your remodeling needs!

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