Wheelchair Accessible Home Modifications Can Make Your Life Easier
Many of us will experience at least a temporary disability. Accidents will happen and you could find yourself using a wheelchair or walker. As we mature and grow older, getting around our home becomes more difficult. Then we ask “How can I get up those steps or through that narrow door?” Planning for this comes from far sighted homeowners, builders and remodelers who anticipate our limitations and changing needs.
Traditional home builders have never really considered the needs of those who are disabled or elderly, and that can make life really hard to deal with at times. We want to help you make your life a little easier and more productive. We have the solutions to your home accessibility needs and modifications to enhance and improve the safety and accessibility in your home.
Move or Improve?
Most of us would choose to live and retire in our own home rather than move to a nursing home or assisted living center. Your home can be remodeled and modified to accommodate your needs and physical capabilities and conditions. Your house can become more accessible with a few minor home modifications.
The term handicap can be offensive and is not appropriate language when referring to someone with disabilities. We use the term only to reference certain aspects of accessible construction (for the benefit of our uninformed viewers). A person using a wheelchair would be much less “handicapped” in a building and surroundings that are wheelchair accessible, the extent of the handicap to an individual relates directly to accessibility.
Wheelchair accessible house plans:
What makes a home handicap and wheelchair accessible? It’s the ability to enter and move around without any of the obstacles such as steps and narrow doors. The bathrooms, bedrooms and kitchen are wheelchair accessible. Everyone’s needs are a little different, so you’ll have to make a few changes to any plan to suit your individual requirements and physical limitations.
Handicap accessible home modifications:
The demand for accessible housing will increase in future years as the elderly become a larger share of our population. Independent living and the ability to take care of ourselves allows us to remain active and depend less on others. Making your home accessible with simple home modifications, such as swing away hinges, can improve your lifestyle and the ability to live at home.
Your bathroom can be modified or redesigned for wheelchair access. Modifications to the bathroom will help avoid injury and is our most requested service.
- Let’s start at the bathroom door. Why do architects design, and builders insist on installing a 24″ door to the bathroom? Wheelchairs need a minimum 32″ door for a straight in approach. If the doorway is located in the typical hallway and requires turning a wheelchair, you’ll need a 36″ door.
- Doors can be widened for wheelchair and walker access. We remove the existing door unit, relocate the light switch, widen the framed opening, install a new wider door unit and repair the finished flooring. With experience, two good carpenters will complete this in about 8 hours. A swing away door hinge is also an option and will increase the door width by 2″.
- Bathtubs can be very hazardous. Transferring from a wheelchair to the tub can be difficult. The tub area must be carefully designed to provide maximum safety. Bathtub and shower grab bars can be installed to provide support. Tub transfer seats allow persons to sit in the tub and take a bath or shower without having to lower themselves to the tub floor. Many people find it difficult to use a tub. Bath tubs can be replaced with showers.
- It can be difficult for some of us to step in and out of a bathtub because of the high tub walls. We can make it easier by replacing your tub with a shower. We custom build our showers depending on your site conditions. The configuration of most existing bathrooms will limit the size of the shower to the tub area (standard tubs measure 30″ to 34″ x 60″).
- There’s also prefabricated molded acrylic/fiberglass shower units on the market. Some include built in shower seats. When remodeling, a 3 or 4 piece sectional unit can be used and assembled in order to get the shower through the door openings and into your bathroom.
- Roll-in showers can be more difficult to install and use. We suggest a shower with a curb but, there’s times when a roll-in shower is your only option. There are problems associated with roll-in showers in a remodeling situation. The size of most existing bathrooms limit the options to a tub to shower conversion. This limits the dimensions of the shower to the same floor area as the tub. A wheelchair will fit into the area but it is tight. The bathroom floor will get wet.
- We custom build ceramic tile roll-in showers using the same basic procedures as used for a shower with a curb. There is additional work required. The tub drain is usually the same elevation as the bathroom floor, requiring jack-hammering and removing the concrete, center and lower the drain, install a rubber shower pan and the new shower floor flush with the existing bathroom floor.
- Prefabricated, fiberglass/acrylic roll-in shower floors can be considered. They can replace and are available in the same size as your standard 5″ tub, and comes with a right or left hand drain. This makes it easier since no jack hammering is required and only minimal drain adjustment is needed. If you have the room, these units are also available in assorted sizes.
- Toilet seat height varies from one individual to another, usually between 17″ to 19″. Toilets can be replaced with special units or raised seats can be installed. Toilet grab bars can be installed for balance and support and to allow individuals to safely transfer from a wheelchair.
- Sinks can be installed to allow wheel chair access. Vanity cabinets can be removed from below the sink. This will expose the plumbing pipes requiring covering with insulation or boxed in to prevent contact with sharp edges and burns by hot water pipes. Pedestal style sinks can give you a little more room to maneuver, but can be difficult to use from a wheelchair and are usually a couple of inches higher than the standard vanity top. We suggest a wall mounted lavatory.
- Faucets can be replaced with single lever controls. Consider the use of anti-scald temperature controls that prevent the water temperature from exceeding an established limit.
Handicap Wheelchair Ramps:
Wheelchair ramp installation is also one of our most requested services. Although the ADA and Texas Accessibility Standards do not pertain to private residential applications, we use these guidelines to build wheelchair ramps in Houston, Texas.
Although there’s times when a wood ramp is the only alternative, we recommend aluminum wheelchair ramps or concrete as the preferred material. Concrete, when installed properly will last many years, requiring no maintenance and can be finished with a rough texture. Wood requires constant maintenance and lasts only a few years when exposed to the Houston outdoor elements. Wood can be a real hazard, it’s slippery when wet. Although slip resistance can be improved by painting the surface with a sand additive or applying those stick on grit strips, neither method will last long, requiring repeated applications. Outdoor carpet has been used, but we find that it traps moisture and promotes rot, even when using treated wood. One solution we’ve found to this problem, is to apply rolled asphalt roofing to the ramp surface. For more information go to wood ramps.
In order to accommodate a wheelchair, (a standard wheelchair is 24-27″ wide), doorways should be a minimum of 32″ wide. If the doorway is located in the typical hallway and requires turning a wheelchair, you’ll need a 36″ door. It can be difficult to open a swinging door without a clear floor space (18-24″) on the pull side of the door. An alternative could be the installation of an automatic door opener, but they are very expensive. We don’t recommend an accordion door because of the space it takes up in the door opening. Pocket doors can be an option. Look out for plumbing and electrical lines. If there’s utilities located in the wall you can consider double wall installation.
Swing away offset hinge:
Additional door clearance can be economically obtained by using the swing clear, expandable door, offset door hinges, increasing the width by about 2″, and is often enough to provide the necessary minimum width for a wheelchair or walker to pass through the doorway.
It can be difficult for people in wheelchairs to use standard counters because of the cabinets below. Under counter base cabinets can be removed to provide access to the sink or work area. A pull out or drop leaf shelf can be added for working space. Sliding shelves can be installed in lower cabinets. Electric receptacles, garbage disposal and exhaust fan switches can be moved to the front of the counter or cabinet.
Handicap Grab Bars:
We install grab bars and safety rails to insure you won’t lose your balance and provide a safe, accessible surrounding. Safety bars provide stability for everyone, including the elderly and those with physical limitations. It’s the most cost effective home modification we make! To learn more, check out grab bars and handrails.
The Solid Mount allows the installation of grab bars into existing fiberglass shower and tub walls. The Solid Mount installs through the face of the fiberglass using a patented mounting assembly that attaches to the stud, filling the hollow space, sealing the hole and leaving a mounting surface to which a standard grab bar can be safely attached.
Most walk-in closet doors are only 24″ wide. The door can be widened, shelves and rods lowered or adjustable shelving installed. Usually the light switch must be relocated and made accessible to the individuals requirement.
Do you need our help?
Finding a contractor familiar with handicap accessible home construction can be a real challenge for anyone. We offer wheelchair accessible home remodeling and modifications in Philadelphia and the surrounding area. Our service begins with an evaluation of your home. Contact us today to see how our experience in handicap wheelchair accessible home modifications and accessories for the elderly, senior citizen, or physically challenged, remodeling and construction can work for you. We also offer a wide range of accessibility and safety products for your home including a full line of bathroom accessories, grab bars, railings, shower units, shower and tub seats. Custom grab bars and railings is one of our specialties, contact us with your specifications. We have the accessible solutions for you and make recommendations with your current and future needs taken into consideration so we can make your life easier!