We have spent the last few months working with a contractor designing our “dream” bathroom. We had big plans, but due to an unexpected financial situation, the amount of money we originally budgeted has been significantly reduced. Ultimately, we need to ensure the bathroom is safe for my husband, who uses a wheelchair. He needs a roll-in shower, handicap toilet and a roll-under sink. Can you take a look at our existing bathroom layout and make suggestions on how we could achieve an accessible bathroom on our very “limited budget”?
Tammy, Lake City, MN
I am sure you are disappointed, both by the change in your financial circumstances and by being unable to achieve your “dream” bathroom at this time, but you still have options for improving accessibility with more cost-effective changes. We took a look at your existing bathroom layout and have a few simple suggestions.
First of all, remove the existing sink and vanity. Relocate the sink to the adjacent bedroom closet. This will free up floor space leading to the toilet and provide greater maneuvering space within the bathroom.
Unfortunately this will eliminate a closet in that spare bedroom. Until such time a new closet can be created, look at alternate storage options such as a dresser, armoire, surface mounted shelf/rod, or wall mounted hooks.
Mount the new sink and countertop at a height that provides sufficient knee clearance for your husband, (typically 29” above the finished floor). Install a medicine cabinet in the side wall and/or corner shelving so items you use every day are within reach. We often use the Kohler Invitation sink because the 3” counter overhang brings the bowl closer to your body for grooming and hygiene. This sink also has the plumbing installed to the side and back walls, allowing for safe and easy access around plumbing, as well as maximizing the knee clearance depth below the sink. Ensure hot water supply and waste pipes are protected to avoid hot water burns.
Next, remove the bathtub and replace with a pre-fabricated, retrofit, accessible shower kit which is designed to replace an existing bathtub. These showers are designed to minimize plumbing changes, as the shower drain is positioned to coincide with the existing bathtub drain.
Select a shower that has full plywood backing allowing you to customize grab bar placement. If you do not select a unit with plywood backing, you will not be able to install grab bars securely. Some manufacturers offer models that already incorporate grab bars, which may or may not suit your husband’s needs.
Install a hand-held shower head at the existing shower connection. Choose a model that offers a minimum 60” hose. Provide two shower-head mounting locations, one at standard height for those standing while showering, the other mounted at a lower height to accommodate your hus-band’s limited reach.
Replace the toilet with a model that offers a seat height 17” to 19” above the floor. Review options to determine if your husband needs an elongated bowl and/or open-front seat.
Add grab bars at locations needed adjacent to the toilet. Wall reinforcement is necessary for a safe installation. If you cannot afford to open the wall to install proper reinforcement, consider installing bars that mount directly to the toilet (toilet safety frame).
Widen the entrance door to the bathroom. If possible, consider hinging the door to swing “out” of the bathroom or installing a pocket door that slides into the wall. If not, there is enough room for the door to swing into the bathroom, but it may be a little awkward at times.
Finally, select a floor material that is water resistant, such as ceramic tile or marmoleum. Marmoleum is a linoleum product that is heat weld-able to create waterproof, hygienic seams. Marmoleum is stain resistant, indentation resistant and has natural anti-static properties which repel dust and dirt, making it easy to maintain.
Good luck on your project …and remember, with a new coat of paint, new floor and fixtures, your bathroom will feel rejuvenated, even if it isn’t your dream.
Questions for Jane? We’ll cover them in future issues of Home Access Answers. Please contact us at 952-925-0301, www.accessibilitydesign.com or [email protected]. Jane Hampton, CID, Access Specialist and president of Accessibility Design, founded the company in 1992 to enhance lives through design and project management. They provide design, consultation, project management, and product recommendation services specializing in home access for individuals with disabilities at all stages of life.