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 understand these difficulties (our owner went through them!), and we want to help you make your life a little easier and more productive. That's why we offer handicap accessible remodeling and accessibility modifications in Houston, Texas. 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.
Wheelchair accessible house plans:
Older homes were not planned and built for accessibility. It may be impossible to modify your home to be wheelchair and walker friendly. Therefore you may have no choice but to move. Fortunately many of the newer homes are being built “open concept”. What makes a home handicap and wheelchair accessible? It's the ability to enter the home and move around without any of the obstacles such as steps and narrow doors. There must be one entrance door without steps. The bathrooms, bedrooms and kitchen must be wheelchair accessible. We like a one story open concept home with direct access to the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. The doors need to be at least 32” wide with a straight in approach. If the doors are located in a hallway you need plenty of turning space and 36” door. Everyone's needs are a little different, so you may have to make a few changes to the plans 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 walker and 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 too narrow can be widened for wheelchair and walker access.
We remove the existing door unit and trim. We may have to relocate the light switch. Cut out the
wallboard to accommodate the wider door. Cut out the studs to widen the framed opening. Depending on the
door size it may be possible just to remove the cripple studs. We then install a new wider door unit and trim.
Paint all new work and repair the finished flooring. You’ll need flooring material to match. With experience
and proper tools, two good carpenters will complete this in about 8 hours.
Many times we find a door that can only open 90 degrees because it opens against a wall. This leaves the door end still in the frame opening. If you only need a couple of inches you can use swing away door hinges that will swing the door completely out of the opening.
- 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 requirements vary
from one individual to another. Standard residential units are usually 17" high.
This can be too low for some making it difficult to get up. Consider replacing it with the 19" ADA toilet
or installing a raised seat. Many toilets are located next to the tub. We find that our #30-30 wall to floor grab bar
can be very useful when installed between them. It not only helps at the toilet but also getting in and out of the tub for balance and support.
The 30” length will put it just to the front of the toilet and not limit access to the bathtub..
- 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.
An assessible kitchen should provide a minimum 5 foot diameter floor space clearance to allow room for a wheelchair to turn around. It can be difficult for people in wheelchairs to reach over standard 36" high counter tops, they should be lowered to 30" providing a minimum knee clearance of 27" from the floor. Under counter base cabinets can be removed for access to the sink or work area. The sink should be shallow and pipes or sharp objects covered to prevent injury. A single lever faucet should be used. A pull out or drop leaf shelf can be added for a working space. Sliding shelves or baskets can be installed in lower cabinets. A "Lazy Susan" can be added to the pantry. 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.
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.
The term “handicap” can be offensive and is not appropriate language when referring to someone with disabilities. We apologize if we have offended anyone, that’s not our intent. We use the term only to reference certain aspects of accessible construction (for the benefit of our uninformed viewers). We know that 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!
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 Houston Texas and the surrounding area. Our service begins with a free 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 can ship those hard to find items anywhere in the US. 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!