Reasons to make your bathroom accessible
Our bathrooms meet our basic needs so well that we rarely have cause to think about them. Until something wears out. Or fails. Or we find the finishes unpleasantly outdated. Or our bathrooms stay the same but our ability to use them comfortably changes with age.
We are all familiar with stepping into a bathtub to take a shower. The ubiquitous bathtub/shower combination, an innovation from the 1960s, was so successful that a “full bathroom” now has both a bathtub and a shower. As we age, we unconsciously adapt to feeling unstable stepping into the bathtub. We find ways to steady ourselves. We hold onto a towel bar or put our hand on the frame of the sliding door or hold the bar on the door itself. Imagine losing your balance, would a towel bar hold your weight, would the sliding door remain in place? The greatest threat to one’s independence is a debilitating fall injury: 80 percent of falls at home occur in the bathroom. Obviously, modifying your bathroom is a top priority if you want to safeguard your independence.
If your bathroom needs major repairs, is dated, or if you plan to stay in your home for the foreseeable future, then you would be wise to pay for good design with features that build in safety. Your return will be twofold. First, peace-of-mind: your bathroom will be ready to accommodate you or your loved ones, come what may. Second, a sound investment in your home’s value: you will recoup much of the project’s cost in increased resale value.
Do you have to remodel your whole bathroom to make it safer and more functional?
No. Here are five ways to make your bathroom better suited to aging-in-place.
- Comfortable: Taller toilets, commonly called “right height” or “comfort height,” are easier for adults.
- Hygienic: Many of our clients specify automatic, bidet toilet seats. Their clever design and functions leave one much cleaner. They help reduce the frequency of bathing, when bathing becomes taxing, and lower the susceptibility to Urinary Tract Infections.
- Attractive yet safe: Grab bars come in numerous finishes and designs. Many are attractive enough to be used as or taken for towel bars; others are integrated with other common fixtures like a combination toilet paper holder/grab bar, or a shampoo shelf/grab bar for the shower.
- Wheelchair accessible: A common project is removing a combination bathtub/shower and replacing it with a low threshold shower. We recommend a standard-sized remodeling shower kit that has a wheelchair accessible shower base with a low, removable threshold on which we can install a glass door. If, in the future, someone needs walker- or wheelchair-accessibility, we can remove the door and threshold and install a collapsible rubber water dam and weighted shower curtain.
- Value added: Bathrooms remodeled for accessibility using Universal Design promise good returns in terms of increased property values and marketability. Remodeling Magazine publishes an annual Cost vs Value report. In the Indianapolis region, in 2017, the first year it included data on “Universal Design Bath Remodel”, Remodeling reported that 59 percent of the cost was recouped in increased resale value. In 2020, 81 percent was recouped, and the five-year average was 70 percent.
Good reasons for renovating your whole bathroom.
- The best is that you are retired or your kids are launched, your bathroom is dated, and you now have the resources to make your home closer to your dream. You plan to stay for the foreseeable future, and you are confident that a tasteful remodel will make your home more desirable and may increase its value, if you choose to sell.
- You or a loved one are experiencing age-related changes like stiffness, imbalance, instability that erode your peace of mind when you perform activities of daily living. Recognizing this, you decide to be proactive rather than reactive.
- You or a loved one has suffered an injury or illness, and your bathroom no longer serves you well.
Features that we design into accessible bathrooms
- We try to configure a five-foot radius of clear space so a manual wheelchair user can turn around.
- In very small bathrooms, we create “wet rooms” with curbless, gently sloping floors, fixtures that can get wet, and tiled walls.
- Sufficiently bright & warm LED lighting.
- Alternatives to “Walk-In Bathtubs” for people who like to take baths. In our experience, walk-in bathtubs are not as easy to access nor do they offer the bathing experience people expect. We have specified and installed soaker and hydro-therapy tubs with various assistive devices to help our clients get in and out.
- Shower controls that switch between a fixed shower head and a handheld shower wand or both simultaneously, which are within easy reach when sitting or standing.
- Freestanding shower benches rather than built-in benches. Freestanding benches maximize the flexibility of a limited space, i.e., facilitating access for caregivers while assisting a bather.
- Properly sized exhaust fans, which can incorporate a heater to direct warm air toward a wet bather.
- Slip-resistant tile flooring that meets the Dynamic Coefficient Of Friction (DCOF) standard ANSI A137.1.
- Wider doorways and pocket doors, which are carefully placed, installed, and modified for mounting assistive devices.
- Modified vanities with room beneath to accommodate a user in a wheelchair.
- Vanity fixtures that use either lever or touch controls.
Isn’t bathroom remodeling expensive?
It can be expensive, depending on the size and the selection of fixtures. A fall injury resulting in a stay in a rehabilitation facility, however, or a move into an assisted living residence are also expensive and disruptive. For comparison, our average, moderately high-end, Universal Design bathroom remodels cost about what 6 months of living in one of our local assisted living residences costs.
How to start
Here are steps you can take
- Schedule a Home Safety Assessment.
- Following your assessment, organize your modifications by priority and break them into phases.
- Find someone to do the work. Most people make one of three choices.
- Ask a handy friend or relative.
- Hire a general contractor.
- Find a remodeler who is a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) by AARP and the National Association of Home Builders. Of the three choices, the CAPS-certified contractor is most likely to have earned the specialized knowledge of what works.
How we work
- Initial Complementary Consultation:
- First, we sit down and ask questions to get a clear understanding of the situation.
- We answer questions about us.
- We review and assess the living spaces.
- If we mutually feel that it is a good fit, we discuss the next step.
- Schematic Design: We charge by the hour for several hours.
- Measure living spaces.
- Create floor plans with several options.
- Write specifications of the products we recommend.
- Meet and revise the floor plan and specifications based on feedback and budget.
- Estimate: Based on the final design choices. Our estimates are a range from a lower-cost, best-case scenario, to a higher-cost scenario that factors in as-built conditions that must be addressed and client-initiated changes.
- Scope & Sequence & Job Journal: We provide an outline of the sequence of work and approximately how long each phase will take. We leave a written record onsite of what was accomplished each workday and what comes next.
- We do not prepare a final invoice until the project is finished to our clients’ satisfaction.
The benefits of creating a bathroom you love.
You can take pride in your updated bathroom because you participated in its creation.
- It works well and reflects your tastes.
- It gives you peace of mind knowing that it has built-in features to meet future needs.
- It will reassure your loved ones that you have chosen to age wisely.
Are You Ready to Transform?
Contact us for a complimentary initial consultation that focuses on your needs and identifies options and approaches to making living spaces safer and more convenient.