Home bathrooms are not always built with accessibility in mind. Unfortunately, a handicap bathroom is essential for people who have recently fallen or were diagnosed with a chronic condition that has resulted in any mobility issue.
If you need to redo the bathroom(s) in your home fast for yourself or a family member, the good news is that disability remodeling doesn’t have to be stressful. You just need to plan properly and get the right pros on the job.
Use this guide to know exactly what changes need to be made and how you can make them effectively. Creating an ADA bathroom in your home will help you age in place with ease and provide the easy access necessary for you and any caregiver or other visitor you may have.
Planning Your Accessible Bathrooms
What’s needed to make a bathroom disability accessible?
Before you start remodeling your bathroom, you will need to choose a design that makes the bathroom “easy access” for you and other guests who may be using it.
Additionally, you want to think about your needs now and as you age in place. You will also need:
- A bathroom to use while remodeling is underway
- A budget for remodeling projects
- Advice from handicap accessible contractors who understand universal design and what can be done to help you reach the level of accessibility you need
How can you build a handicap bathroom?
Accessibility looks different for every person. Some common modifications include:
- Widening each doorway to fit a wheelchair or walker
- Adding grab bars near the toilet, shower, or tub
- Raising the toilet seat
- Smoothing out the transition between bathroom flooring and bedroom/hallway flooring
- Lowering shelves and other storage areas
- Converting a bathtub to a walk-in shower
- Making changes to the lighting, flooring, or other accessories that may affect your ability to use the bathroom
What are some options for accessible bathroom designs?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) offers guidelines and standards for bathrooms in order to make the room accessible. If you are looking to remodel a bathroom so that it accommodates someone with a wheelchair or walker, this is a great option.
Universal design is also a useful way to approach remodeling your bathroom. This approach can help any house become accessible to people of all abilities, ages, or sizes.
How big should a handicap bathroom be?
According to the ADA an accessible bathroom should meet the following size criteria:
- 30 inches by 48 inches from the door to the sink
- At least 60 inches around the side and 56 inches from the rear so a wheelchair can turn around
The toilet in the bathroom should be at least 17-19 inches off of the ground to make transitioning from a wheelchair to a toilet seat easier.
How wide is an ADA bathroom door?
The doorway should be at least 32 inches wide to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers. Clearance around the door should be at least 36 inches.
Note, you’ll also want to opt for easy access shower doors instead of a shower curtain. Best to follow those width guidelines for your shower doors too.
What is required for bathroom handrails and grab bars?
Since your toilet is most likely not located in a stall, you will need a grab bar either on the rear wall or on the wall parallel from the toilet.
Grab bars on the rear end of the toilet should be between 33-36 inches off of the ground and at least 36 inches long. The end that is closest to the sidewall should extend at least 12 inches from the centerline of the toilet and extend 24 inches from the other side.
If the grab bar is on the sidewall parallel to the toilet, it should be between 33-36 inches off of the ground and at least 42 inches long. The bar should start no more than 12 inches away from the rear wall and extend to at least 54 inches away from the back wall.
The bar should have a diameter of 1 ¼ to 1 ½ inches so that it can be easily gripped.
Walk-in Shower FAQs
What is it?
A walk-in shower is one that you can walk (or roll) into without any obstacles. This means that it has no doors, curtains, or steps. This allows for easier entry for anyone (including seniors) with a walker or wheelchair.
While many “walk-ins” still have steps leading in, this may not be accessible for everyone. Safety grab bars may also be necessary to ease the transition into the space, and you may need to add a shower seat as well.
How can you build one?
Depending on the design you currently have, you may be able to make simple adjustments to create an accessible shower. Many people remove their current model and install a kit that works for their handicap bathroom. If you have a tub in your current bathroom a remodeling contractor can remove the tub and install a walk in shower.
What are some options for walk-in designs?
There are a lot of ways to approach designing an ADA shower. Most likely, you will have to look at your current bathroom and how much space you have to work with.
Walk-ins should be enclosed by two walls that are parallel or perpendicular to each other. To further enclose the space and prevent water from reaching the rest of your bathroom floor, you could:
- Install a glass wall to seal off the third side
- Install a curtain rod and shower curtain if that is accessible (although we recommend the glass instead)
- Build a shelf that blocks the floor from the rest of the bathroom, but leaves an open space for access and storage
- Add a shower seat
- Add accessible a showerhead and faucet that can both be reached from a seated position – a handheld showerhead is generally a good option
- For an added luxury, consider soap dispensers for easy access to your bath products
Consult a Certified Aging in Place Specialist for more ways that you can design a walk-in shower that provides accessibility and safety.
What materials are used to waterproof the floor?
One of the biggest concerns with this type of project is waterproofing. This is because a walk-in runs the risk of letting water flow throughout the bathroom, creating wet floors and increasing the chances of a slip and fall. Strategic design, along with proper waterproofing materials, can help to keep you safe.
Choose a paint for the floor that is waterproof and can withstand steam. Waterproof pan liners can also help to protect the rest of your bathroom floor. A rubber flooring outside of the walk-in may also help to prevent water from leaving the actual showering area.
Homeowners should also consider waterproofing the showering area from behind the tiles. Ceramic tiles and grout are not waterproof, but a membrane beneath these surfaces can help to protect the foundation of your home from excess water.
How do you clean a walk-in?
Cleaning a walk-in is not much different than cleaning a regular shower. Keep a mop and cleaning agents nearby to remove soap scum from the floor and keep all surfaces looking nice.
Use a spray after each use to make sure that the walls and surfaces stay fresh. If you choose to have a glass barrier, buy specialty glass cleaner to keep it sparkling.
The main concern is keeping clear space for accessibility and ensuring clean, dry surfaces to avoid accidents.
Cost of Remodeling to a Handicap Bathroom and Resources
How much does it cost to build a bathroom for aging in place?
Costs will vary depending on how many modifications you need. Installing safety grab bars and replacing the flooring may end up costing upwards of $2,000. If you need to completely change the design and layout of your bathroom, those costs may reach five digits.
Consult with a professional before you start to build your budget.
How much does a walk-in shower cost to install?
If you are buying a walk-in kit, expect to pay between $800 and $2,500. Costs will vary depending on whether you want to install tile, waterproofing, or add storage.
Will Medicare pay for a handicap bathroom remodel?
Medicare may be able to take care of some of the costs that you will need to pay bathroom remodeling contractors. Likewise, Durable Medical Equipment (DME) like commode chairs may be covered by Medicare.
But don’t expect every expense to be covered by insurance. If your modifications are not considered “medically necessary,” you will most likely have to pay for them out of pocket.
What specialists can help me begin this remodel?
Seek out a contractor who is also a Certified Aging in Place Specialist. They can help you adapt your bathroom based on universal design concepts and ADA regulations, among other qualifications.
What It Means to Hire a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS)
Seeking out a contractor who is also certified as an Aging in Place Specialist (or CAPS-certified) will ensure your bathroom renovation meets the highest of standards. Part of their training involves learning the principles of Universal Design. Part of their study is dedicated to understanding national ADA guidelines. Let’s look at a few important highlights of each…
Why would I choose a plan based on Universal Design?
Universal Design actually strives to create an environment that can meet the needs of every person who uses it. It isn’t meant to address only a minority population (those with disabilities or handicaps for instance). Rather, it establishes “good design” as a fundamental condition.
When you choose a contractor who specializes in a universal concept of accessible design, from light fixtures to shower rails — down to toilet seat options — you know the result of your accessible bathroom remodel will be beautiful and functional. It will be an accommodation you and every visitor you have loves.
Aren’t American with Disabilities Act guidelines actually for public places?
The Americans with Disabilities Act ensures that those with disabilities have equal access to work, education, and their community. This includes certain guidelines for developing public accommodations for the handicapped population, yes.
ADA requirements do primarily address projects in the United States that involve a commercial facility or some type of multi-family housing. However, our CAPS-certified contractors incorporate the same level of quality provided by ADA standards into private facilities’ accessible design, as well.
What are some of the most common ways you incorporate ADA requirements?
Besides ones we’ve mentioned throughout this article, common updates taken from guidelines on a place of public accommodation include:
- doors with lever handles (levers instead of knobs) that require no more than 5 pounds of force to open
- each doorway designed to be wider than normal to allow enough room for passage by a wheelchair user
- clear floor space enough to provide accessible routes for a wheelchair user throughout a dwelling
- light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats, etc. placed so they are accessible by all
- countertops 38 inches or lower, counter edge protectors less than 2 inches, and under a built-in vanity, knee clearance is 17 inches minimum
Should I plan for another remodel in the future to specifically address aging, too?
That all depends. Talk with your Certified Aging in Place Specialist about both short- and long-term goals. Perhaps you want to go ahead and remodel for all life stages. Maybe it makes more financial sense to execute in stages. Whichever option you choose, you can expect that your CAPS contractor will design something that works for now and will be adaptable in the future.
Additionally, you’ll find working with a contractor with these certifications typically maintains the same overall goals for their clients as set forth by the Older Americans Act, Title III:
- Provide support services to secure and maintain maximum independence and dignity in a home environment
- Remove barriers — both individual and social — to economic and personal independence
- Play a small part in providing a continuum of care to aging adults
Who should I contact about a CAPS-certified contractor?
Today, we’ve only covered a few of the considerations a CAPS-trained contractor will make when designing lavatory updates to meet the needs of people who require special accommodations.But it doesn’t stop there! Some CAPS-certified contractors even consult international organizations like the ICC for building safety guidelines.
The bottom line is, these guys care about both your safety and beautiful design. Ultimately, when choosing a bathroom contractor for your bathroom modifications, CAPS is the way to go for aging in place!
Here at Living In Place Designs, we pride ourselves on being CAPS-certified professionals. Contact Us for more information on your handicap bathroom remodel.