Must Have Features in a Bathroom Remodel…

February 16, 2022

Filed in: {Home Safety}

Bathroom remodel, aging in place, bathroom modification, bathroom safety, fall prevention, seniors, older adults
By Janet Engel, OT/L, CAPS

   Bathrooms can be a messy place. They shouldn’t be dangerous and ugly too. This article is going to educate you on how you can make your bathroom safer, more accessible, and comfortable. Our goal is to help you create a home for life! If you read my last blog, “The ABC’s of Fall Prevention,” you learned about simple changes that can be a real game changer when it comes to reducing your fall risk. Today, I am going to talk about remodeling recommendations that are sure to change the way you function in your bathroom, not to mention give it a needed update and facelift!

Before you reach for the sledge hammer let’s point out what we want to achieve with our bathroom remodel. We want to….

  1. Increase accessibility
  2. Increase safety
  3. Increase comfort
  4. Increase ease of use
  5. Incorporate Universal Design Features

     A Bathroom remodel should fit our existing needs but should serve our future needs alike. No one wants to spend money twice on the same remodel in less than a 5 year span. Therefore, we need to plan for our future needs as well. Unfortunately, our abilities change as we age and we need to take this into consideration. Planning and being prepared means we get to live in our homes longer or forever, regardless of our changing abilities. Must-have features in an accessible, universally designed bathroom include:

  • Entry: Create a doorway that is at least 32 inches wide, so it can easily be accessed with a walker or a wheelchair. Threshold should be no higher than ½ inch bevel.
  • Curbless or No-Threshold Shower: Provides a clear entrance to the shower that can be accessed with or without a mobility device (cane, walker, wheelchair). *Universal design standards are 30×48 inch space for wheelchair use; 60 inch diameter required for a full turn; or 36x36x72 inch space required for a T-turn. 
  • Block the walls of the shower for future placement of grab bars or a wall hung seat. It’s better to have this in place and never need it than have to tear up tile to add reinforcement later. 
  • If you have the space, consider making your shower large enough to fit a caregiver as well (i.e., planning for the future). If you never require assistance in the shower at least you will have a nice, great, big space to relax in. 
  • ADA Height Toilet: Toilet that is at least 17 inches high. Can be taller. A wall hung toilet can be installed to fit a person’s height perfectly or take the average height of 2 individuals. *Recommended basic clearances for the toilet are a minimum of 30 inches in front, 30 inches on the side, and or placement of the toilet in a 60×60 inch space. 
  • Hardware: Use closed handles, cup handles or “D” handles to avoid snagging clothing on them. Avoid knobs. They are not ergonomically friendly for the aging hand. 
  • Switches: Use paddle or motion sensor switches or ease of use and safety.
  • GFCI Outlets: Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter – damp areas can make you prone to dangerous electric shock. GFCI outlets can reduce your risk for injury. Install one near the toilet. 
  • Low maintenance – Non skid Materials: Materials such as vinyl are a safe, durable,  low cost flooring solution for bathrooms. 
  • Bathroom Storage: Create accessible storage to store commonly used items to avoid reaching overhead or bending over to look inside dark, deep cabinets.
  • Vanity Area: Install a roll under sink or a sink with removable drawers in case you need to access the sink from a wheelchair or a seated position.
  • Multi-level counter height: So you can perform grooming tasks from a seated position. It’s safer and more comfortable that way.
  • Mirror: Install an LED back lit  mirror or tilt in space mirror.  
  • Lighting: Be generous with lighting. Add it on the sides of the mirror, ceiling, and especially in the shower. It can also be placed under vanity for wayfinding (LED strips) and inside drawers and cabinets. Use LED white light for better visibility and to reduce your energy costs.
  • Maintenance and Safety: Consider slip resistance when choosing tile. Minimum threshold of 0.42 DCOF as measured by the DCOF AcuTest. Also consider durability in damp environments and resistance to chemicals for general cleaning when choosing finishes. Avoid glossy finishes. They increase glare.

     These are all changes that can save you time and money and not to mention lots of headaches in the future. Planning is the name of the game when it comes to aging-in-place. Remodeling your bathroom with aging-in-place and universal design features in mind, also increases the value of your home. And that is something we can all get excited about!

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