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How to build an ada compliant bathroom

Posted 04-13-2009 at 11:58 AM by faucetman886

As promised in my previous blog “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” I discussed the importance of having a safe and comfortable bathroom for seniors in the family or someone suffering from a disability. I took the first shot at the problem by discussing how you can change a bathroom with out major renovations and most importantly without breaking the family budget, a budget that is probably already taxed to the maximum if you are a senior, disabled or family trying to care for someone in that situation.
Now lets discuss pulling out all the stops. You’ve got unlimited funds and talent and need to do it all right. To accomplish this feat you may as well decide to tear the old bathroom back to the bare studs.
1. Structurally things that will have to be done include widening the entrance door to a width that will accommodate a wheel chair or someone with a walker. The average wheelchair is 24” to 27” wide so a handicapped door should be at least 32” wide jamb to jamb. The old door will have to come out, a wider framing installed and a new wider door assembly purchased and installed.
2. The next most important item in the handicapped access bathroom would be to install either a walk in tub with a door or a roll in shower with a flat sill. The walk in tubs are becoming more popular for their ease of entry and comfort. These tubs are deep and have a swing open door that seals up tight once you’re in and allows for the tub to fill. These tubs can also be purchase with whirlpool options which can provide additional therapy and comfort for someone suffering from maladies. A simpler option would be to tile the entire area where the old tub was from side to side and floor to ceiling with no sill and a slope front to back to allow for easy wheelchair access and proper drainage. These showers are usually supplemented with a shower curtain but there are more decorative doors available for privacy but you must be certain the door installed is made of safety glass or lexan to protect from any possible shatter glass. Remember a person with a walker or wheelchair cannot always be well balanced.
3. I discussed in the other blog the replacement of the existing toilet with a new one with an elongated bowl and at the recommended ADA height of 17” to 19”. I have these in my home and although they male all the difference in the world to me you would be surprised at how many guests comment positively on the height having never noticed or experienced one in a private home. These can be found reasonably priced at very little more cost wise than a standard toilet. They are money well invested.
4. When installing a new vanity you will want to consider either a unit at wheelchair height (lower than the normal vanity) which should be no lower than 29” from the bottom of the counter top to the floor and no more than 34” maximum from the top to the floor. If this height will interfere with other family members multiple height vanities can be found with a lower and higher sections to accommodate all family members. You may also want to look into faucets that are easily turned on and off by someone disabled. Single handled models with large easy to grip handles work best.
5. You should also consider the height of all ancillary hardware in the bathroom. Toilet paper holders, towel bars, soap dishes light switches door knobs etc should all be adjusted to a comfortable height for the disabled.
6. New floor surfaces should be of a non-skid variety, easily cleaned and well drained. While you have the bathroom gutted you may want to install a floor drain for easier cleaning. Accidents do happen and a floor drain can make your job disinfecting and cleaning a much easier task.
7. Grab bars should be installed near the toilet, by the entrance and inside the shower/tub . Fir these grab bars to be safe please note that they MUST be attached to the wall studs. You cannot depend on expanders or “molly” bolts to give you the strength to hold a person up.
8. Last but not least, as provided by all electrical codes today, any electrical outlet within reach of a sink or tub must be wired to a GFCI. These are safety circuits which prevent accidental electrocution. If your home is older it may very well not have those in place.
Hopefully this has given you some ideas as to what you can plan on needing for your senior years. If you are building new construction from scratch and feel that you may stay in your new home for a time extending into your senior years it is a good idea to plan some of these adaptations into at least one of your bathrooms.
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