CASE STUDY: ACCESSIBLE BATHROOM IN RIDGEFIELD, WA.
WHAT MOTIVATED THE HOMEOWNER TO WANT AN ACCESSIBLE BATHROOM?
Paul is a Baby Boomer with one health issue. He knew that he wanted to transform his existing bathroom into an accessible bathroom for the future and had great ideas, but he didn’t know how to do it. He had set aside money for the project, suspecting that the remodeling project would be expensive. But was it enough money? He knew he needed help. We talked about what he wanted to achieve and his investment range during a long phone conversation. His goals included:
A roll-in shower with an inline drain that he’d seen online when he searched for “accessible bathrooms.”
An accessible toilet. Paul described the existing narrow toilet room that had a door. He wanted to remove the door to make the toilet accessible from a wheelchair or a walker.
Replace the existing linen closet with cabinets for better storage and accessibility.
Radiant heating below the bathroom and closet floors.
Paul invited me to see his home and bathroom at the end of our conversation. The help he needed is my specialty, creating accessible bathrooms.
Approaching the neighborhood, I observed that Paul lives in a new development, one of many in his area. Young trees are a giveaway. Developers mow down all established trees to make construction easier and faster. While planned communities have the advantage of new construction technology, the homes often lack accessibility for homeowners with health problems or limitations.
EVIDENCE THAT BATHROOM ACCESSIBILITY WAS AN ISSUE
Paul purchased one of the few one-story homes in the development. A brief tour of his home proved the developer’s lack of knowledge about accessibility. Here are significant problems that I’m showing on the “Before” plan:
There was a narrow hallway next to the master bedroom, not enough space for accessibility.
The bedroom door was only 30 inches wide; no way to widen the door or use offset hinges.
A 36-inch walkway between the king-size bed and the bathroom doorway prevented clear access to the bathroom.
The bathroom had a 28-inch wide door, 4 inches too narrow for a wheelchair or walker.
Inside the bathroom, here’s what I observed — major use problems:
Although there were 50 inches between the lavatory countertop and the shower, sliding glass doors on top of a curb enclosed the shower, making it inaccessible for a wheelchair or walker.
The interior of the shower was 60 inches wide by 32 inches deep.
A narrow 28-inch door limited access to the toilet room, which was 64 inches wide by 33-3/8 inches deep.
- There wasn’t space anywhere in the bathroom for a 5-foot turning radius required for wheelchairs.
DESIGNING AN ACCESSIBLE BATHROOM
I was happy that Paul hired me to help him transform his bathroom. He asked great questions, weighed all the information, and did a lot of research. However, it took about four months for Paul to make decisions because one feature relates to all other features.
Paul asked if we could add a window in the wall between the shower and the toilet room during the design phase because he wanted more daylight in the bathroom. This wall had the existing showerhead and valve. We discussed the pros and cons, then agreed that the best location for the new showerhead and valve was at the opposite end of the shower, the wall dividing the bathroom from the bedroom. Paul’s decision made the other wall available for a tempered-glass window. But his decision increased the investment in framing and rough plumbing. He realized that the money he’d set aside wasn’t enough. He could forego the new window, or he could add money to the investment. He decided that the new window added value and personal enjoyment to the bathroom. Natural daylight is something we all need, especially in bathrooms and kitchens.
We went shopping together for countertop material, tile, and flooring. Also, we exchanged emails about plumbing and lighting. I included all decisions in four 24″ x 36″ pages of Paul’s plans. Soon after I completed the plans, Paul interviewed several contractors and decided to hire a local company specializing in building accessible homes. It was a well-considered decision, like every other decision he made.
SOLVING BATHROOM INACCESSIBILITY PROBLEMS
How did we solve the problems to create Paul’s accessible bathroom?
There is no door between the bedroom and the bathroom, and the doorway is wider.
- There is no glass shower door or glass shower screen, so Paul can move safely and turn a wheelchair around freely. Now there’s enough room for accessible safety and comfort.
Floors in the bathroom and closet have radiant heating.
There is no shower curb — a requirement for accessible bathrooms.
There’s an inline drain against the back wall in the shower.
We removed the toilet room door and made the doorway as wide as possible for better accessibility.
We’ve planned a convenient shelf for personal-care items next to the toilet.
There are significant changes to the cabinets, too:
There’s an open knee well on the right-hand side for wheelchair and walker accessibility.
We’ve placed the faucets on the sides of both lavatories for easier control. NOTE: Faucets at the rear of lavatory sinks make it nearly impossible to reach when someone is sitting in a wheelchair or using a walker.
A new pantry cabinet replaces the linen closet. It has three drawers at the bottom and a pair of doors at the top.
All cabinets feature soft-close hinges and glides that are easy to operate.
VIRTUAL-REALITY RENDERINGS: SHOW AND TELL!
Paul’s favorite color family is warm green. Here are the finishing products he selected:
After receiving a Sherwin-Williams newsletter with their color of the year, “Evergreen Fog,” I recently recommended it to Paul. I shared two virtual-reality perspectives to show him how it looks. Read more about “Evergreen Fog,” and don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter where I intend to share more information about accessibility, colors, and design.
The design phase was as smooth as butter in warm weather because Paul took (and made) time to make informed decisions about everything for his remodeled accessible bathroom. I’m sure that the actual remodeling will be as smooth. Construction will begin within a month. I can’t wait to see the results!
Accessible bathrooms are an important part of total home accessibility, vital for all ages and all stages of ability. I previously wrote about important features of accessibility.
But an accessible bathroom has to be visually and emotionally pleasing, too. To be successful, accessible bathrooms (and accessible kitchens) must look like they belong
in your home. They should fit in with your lifestyle and personal preferences. This is why I’d love to help you!
Universal Design is a synonym for accessibility. I prefer accessibility and Universal Design to the term “Aging In Place,” don’t you? Leave a comment about your opinions!