Bringing ADA Vanity and Cabinet Remodeling within Reach

Ron Hatchett

ADA bathroom remodeling can seem like a daunting task. There’s a lot to remember: grab bar requirements, toilet seat heights, and shower and bathtub accessibility. But it’s relatively simple when taken one step at a time. Something that doesn’t usually come to mind right away when it comes to an ADA compliant bathroom is the idea of accessible vanities and cabinets. Sure, you might think about countertops needing to be out of the way for someone to make it through the bathroom with a wheelchair or a walker, but a lot of times the actual height of the vanity isn’t a consideration a lot of people make—at least not at first. So let’s break handicap accessible vanity bathroom remodeling down a little bit to help you get the ADA compliant bathroom you’re working towards.

What Are the General Requirements?

Let’s start with the basics: what is required of the sink and vanity area for a bathroom to be considered accessible?

  • Height of the sink: Since everything in the bathroom must be easily accessed by someone in a wheelchair, the sink cannot be more than 34 inches above the ground at its highest point. If the sink is being built into a countertop, it must be placed as near the edge as possible to avoid overreaching by the user. Keep in mind that if the rim of the sink protrudes from the top of the counter at all, this will need to be taken into consideration for the 34 inch maximum.
  • Space for knees: At least 8 inches of space must be available for the knees of someone using a wheelchair while in the bathroom. That gap must be from the front of the sink in. Something that goes along with this is also the requirement that the pipes underneath the sink must be protected by either having padded coverings or by having a protective cover of some sort applied to them. A gap of 27 inches is also required from the bottom of the sink apron to the floor.
  • Space for toes: To have safe grounding, there must be 11 inches of space for a person’s toes to reach in from the front of the sink. The toes of a handicapped user must also never be more than 6 inches from the wall of the sink, 9 inches being left between the bottom or the base of the pipes and the floor.
  • Space in front of the sink: There must be 48 inches of space in front of the sink in order for someone in a wheelchair to easily navigate. There must also be at least 30 inches available to one side of the sink.

Some other things to consider in addition to these specific ADA bathroom sink requirements are things like whether a single-handle faucet will be easier for a wheelchair-bound individual to use or how close to the edge of the counter things like soap dispensers or toothbrush holders should be placed.

Work with What You Have

Handicap accessible vanity bathroom remodeling doesn’t have to be nearly as stressful or time-consuming as it can seem to be initially. In fact, there are a lot of not so obvious ways you can use some of the features already in place in your bathroom to make it happen, you might just have to make a couple of tweaks here and there.

When it comes time for your ADA bathroom remodeling, consider the current construction and function of the sink you already have. Is it a pedestal sink? Does it have a medicine cabinet underneath? Where are the faucet handles in relation to the edge of the countertop? All of these can help you determine whether what you have is useable or not.

If you already have a pedestal or hovering sink built in, it can be an easy fix to simply have it either lowered or raised to meet the ADA bathroom sink requirements. If you have a sink that rests atop a cabinet or cupboard, it can also be a relatively easy fix to remove the cupboard space and simply place a cover over the piping beneath the sink. However, you’ll still have to make sure the depth of the countertop is appropriate to meet the required measurements.

Mirrors can also be adjusted to make them useable for those in wheelchairs. If you’re lowering a countertop and sink, simply lower the mirror as well. They can also be placed in additional areas throughout the bathroom to offer full-body angles for those who are unable to stand to use a mirror over the sink. It depends on what you want out of the bathroom mirror, but often mirrors on medicine cabinets are not a good idea for ADA bathrooms because the cabinet will often not be accessible and the mirror itself can often be too small.

Instead of using a traditional medicine cabinet above or below the sink, try opting for a small cabinet that hangs adjacent to the countertop. This offers a great solution that allows those in wheelchairs to still access things like their toothpaste, medicine bottles, or other products while not getting in the way of their mobility, which is obviously key. Plus, it can be a nice little style touch, which can also be important when completing aging-in-place remodeling and a lot of the requirements can leave little room to work with in regards to style or design.

Tie It All Together

With a lot of tedious things to remember during your aging-in-place remodeling, it can be easy to forget about the other little details that must be attended to. You can think you’re finished only to realize that you’ve left linen closets inaccessible, or that the hanging shelves in your regular closet are unreachable. Don’t forget about these simple changes that need to be made. Plan well initially and stick to it, and you’ll be on your way to an ADA accessible home in no time.

Remodeling a Home for Wheelchair Access

Ron Hatchett

If given the choice, almost anyone would choose to stay in their own home as long as possible rather than relocate to a place of assisted living or to a nursing home. It’s your own space, which means you’re more comfortable in it, and you probably also have a certain sense of pride associated in the place you have made yours over the past however many years. You don’t want to leave it behind. But sometimes things can happen and circumstances can arise that might make staying in your own home a little more difficult than it used to be.

When it comes to aging-in-place remodeling, wheelchair accessibility can be a big barrier between individuals and the possibility of staying in their own homes. Sometimes your home simply may not have been designed to offer the maneuverability you might require someday. Things like wheelchair ramps, a barrier-free shower, handicap bathrooms, and other necessities for those in a wheelchair might not have been in the original design for your home.

Fortunately, there are some simple handicap home remodeling tips and tricks you can use to make the place you’re most comfortable a little more comfortable if this situation happens to arise.

The Key to Handicap Bathrooms

Bathrooms can be tricky in regards to wheelchair accessible home remodeling. They’re not usually all that plentiful on space to begin with, so working in ways to make it maneuverable for a wheelchair might seem difficult initially. The key is to take it one step at a time:

  • Barrier-Free Showers
    A barrier-free shower can be an integral addition when it comes to a handicap accessible bathroom because it allows you to roll a wheelchair right inside without having to fully transfer out of it. This means you won’t be left having to support yourself for an extended period of time simply to get inside. They also often feature seats or benches for you to use throughout your shower as well so you aren’t left standing or getting your regular chair soaked either.
  • Walk-In Bathtubs
    Walk-in bathtubs are similar to barrier-free showers in the sense that they allow for easy transferring from a wheelchair. However, this installation is similar to a traditional bathtub, the only difference being the side paneling has a door that can be open and closed after use while still allowing a proper seal so water does not flood into the rest of the room.
  • Grab Bars
    These are actually a requirement in ADA showers and baths, and in handicap bathrooms in general. Certain placement requirements must be met when it comes to installing grab bars inside your bathroom during aging-in-place remodeling. For example, there must be grab bars on multiple surfaces in a shower, in front of and next to the toilet, and other places to assist you in transferring from a wheelchair.
  • Toilet Seats
    The height of a toilet might not seem like the most important thing, but it can actually be either a very big help or a very big hindrance when it comes to an ADA bathroom. If the seat’s too high, you might not be able to reach it when getting out of your chair. But if the seat is too low, you might not be able to get off of it when finished. Even with the assistance of a grab bar or two, it is still important to get the height of a toilet seat just right, but that can even vary from person to person, so tread carefully on this one.
  • Vanity/Sink Accessibility
    This one can be a relatively easy fix by simply using a pedestal sink or counter that allows you to roll your chair right underneath it without the need of standing. The tricky part can be when it comes to reaching the handles of the faucet from the chair, so make sure to place those appropriately to avoid overreaching that can cause strain on the user.

There’s a lot to consider when it comes to ADA showers and baths and bathroom remodeling, but as long as you follow each step as it arises, you’ll be on your way to an accessible bathroom in no time.

Handicap Kitchen Remodeling

A lot of the elements found in a handicap bathroom can also be applied to a handicap kitchen, such as counter and sink heights, but there are a few others to keep in mind too. A lot of kitchens have space between countertops and kitchen islands that might not be easily accessible for those in wheelchairs. If you have enough space from your original design that’s great. If not, you’ll have to add a little bit by either trimming down or simply moving one or the other (most likely the island).

Also consider the types of cabinetry you have during your handicap kitchen remodeling. A lot of times traditional cabinets will be too high to reach from a wheelchair and therefore an alternative must be sought. The most popular way to resolve this problem is to install pull-down cabinet shelving that allows shelves in lower cabinets to be slid out for easy access and then slid back in for storage.

Other Small Quirks to Keep in Mind

While bathrooms and kitchens are the main places of focus when it comes to wheelchair accessible home remodeling, there are a few other things to keep in mind too. One of these is the idea of reachability in other places throughout your house (like closets and pantries). Bringing things lower or closer to the edge of counters or other surfaces can solve a lot of the issues during handicap home remodeling.

This type of project can certainly seem daunting with the installation of things like wheelchair ramps, but there are ways to do it easily and efficiently. As always, consider the costs of something like this first, however. Plan thoroughly from the start so you have an idea of what you’ll be getting yourself into and how much you can plan to spend. Most often it’s worth the cost to stay in the place you love most, but sometimes the cost can simply be too high to warrant such a remodel.

The Ins and Outs of In-Law Suite Construction

Ron Hatchett

The first thought that could come to mind when the idea of having an in-law move in with you could be one of hesitancy or uncertainty. Not to that in-laws are bad (not all of them, at least), but you’ve worked hard to create a space that is your own with your spouse and the thought of having a parent move in with you might take away at least a slice of that feeling of independence. That might be your first thought, anyway. But there are some reasons why that first thought or impression might quickly change.

Having an in-law move in doesn’t necessarily mean they become a permanent resident of your guest room—quite the opposite, in fact. Many people who decided to move forward with a plan like this decide to build a sort of guest room specifically for their in-laws. This is known as an in-law suite and can actually come in quite handy when plans are executed properly and the construction is complete. We’ll go into more detail in a minute, but building a suite for your in-law that includes (in some way, anyway) his or her own bathroom, kitchen, and bedroom can still give you the sense of privacy and independence you need while also allowing them to be close enough for you to care for them and just be able to spend more time with them in general.

Reasons to Build an In-Law Suite

While building an in-law suite is often done with the intention of having the in-law move in on a long-term basis, that doesn’t always have to be the case. It can be used if you have in-laws who live out of state or far enough away that they might stay the night if they come to visit. It might not seem necessary to have a separate suite for them if this latter situation applies to you, but think about it this way: if you have a space separated from the rest of your house designated for them, that means they can still be staying nearby without completely invading your space. By giving them their own space, you are essentially maintaining yours.

The same can be said if you have other people who might be visiting at any given time. Maybe you know others who live states away who like to visit every now and then, or you have other relatives who might need a place to stay for a couple of nights. With an already-built in-law suite, the solution is already present in your home (or near it), and you won’t have to worry about anyone feeling like they’re invading your space.

An in-law suite also offers you the opportunity to host guests you might not actually know yourself. Vacationers are often looking for alternatives to traditional hotel or motel stays when visiting different places across the country, and your in-law suite could be the perfect solution for them. Websites like Airbnb are the perfect place for you to make a little extra cash when your in-laws aren’t in town using your suite.

Construction Considerations – In-Law Edition

So you’ve decided to move forward with your in-law suite construction. That’s great! But don’t move too quickly, now. There are some things to consider first:

  • Where Are You Going to Build It?
    Choosing the location for the suite can depend a lot on permits (which we’ll discuss in a minute), but a lot of it can boil down to whether you want it connected to your home or simply in a space near it (like an unused portion of your yard or in an unused garage, for instance). You can also choose to convert unused rooms in your house into a suite so they’re near enough to, say, a bathroom so you don’t have to go through the trouble of building a new one.
  • How Will You Power It?
    The answer to this question might seem obvious (electricity), but what we mean is will you connect it to your already existing power for your home, or will you choose to separate the power to this suite? Separating the power can give you the benefit of more easily controlling or monitoring how much power your new “tenants” might be using. This can come in handy should you choose to rent the space (permit-warranting) when your in-laws don’t need it.
  • Are There Special Accommodations That Need to Be Made?
    When building a space for your in-laws, some multigenerational considerations may need to be taken into account. Will they require wider doorways to fit any walking assistance they might use? Are there wheelchair accommodations that need to be met? These things are all easily integrated into a new living space, but only if they are in the plans from the start.

Know Your Building Permits

This is area-specific, but certain states or cities will limit the types of construction you’re allowed to complete on residential property before it is no longer considered to be, well, residential property. Some places consider constructing a second kitchen makes your property a rentable space, which also means you will need a special permit for that.

Another building permit to take into account deals with your septic tank. Many tanks are only able to support three bathroom connections, so make sure you look well into that if your in-law suite will put you over that number.

All Around Benefits and Value

As you can see, there are a lot of great reasons why you might choose to build an in-law addition to your house. Costs can generally range from about $5,000 all the way up to $100,000 and beyond, but they usually end up paying for themselves. The additions can also even add value to your house in some cases. Think about how many people you know with elderly in-laws who might be looking to buy a new house with a space for them all to live comfortably? The new space can also save you and your in-laws money on the other types of care they would have to seek living on their own.

As with any project like this, consider all of your options, but make sure you’re not as hesitant about an in-law suite as you may have been initially.

Future-proof Your Bathroom–Prepare for Grab Bars

Ron Hatchett

Building a new bathroom (or the task of general bathroom remodeling) can be a daunting task in and of itself. You spend a great amount of time planning what you want the bathroom to look like and how you want it to function after it’s complete, but there is a lot to be said for those who think even further ahead than just to the point of having their dream bathroom finally finished and usable.

Many home builders today have started to consider what functions and features their bathroom might have to serve and have in a more distant future than simply the months or years it can take to build a home—they’re thinking about what their bathroom will need to look like and do for them decades down the road.

Future Proofing Your Bathroom

Now that people are staying in their homes for longer periods of time, they have turned their attention to topics such as ADA bathroom remodeling and universal design when it comes to home improvement projects. Planning for these can ensure that your home is suitable and habitable even if your health or the health of your loved ones begins to deteriorate for any reason. Obviously, nobody hopes for these things to happen, but planning for them is always a better option than simply hoping they do not occur.

The concept of universal home remodeling design in bathroom futureproofing also comes in handy if you ever find yourself placing your home on the market because it can increase its market value and the number of homebuyers who might express interest. Just something to keep in mind.

Looking Ahead to Build Today

There are a lot of things that can happen that might change the way you interact with your home. Mobility issues can arise, the degree of the varying severely. Sometimes the only accommodation that might be needed is allowing space for someone with a cane to walk safely, but sometimes the need for a wheelchair accessible home can also come up. That’s why there is such an emphasis on ADA bathroom remodeling and universal design in today’s world.

However, there are a lot of requirements that need to be met before a bathroom is considered ADA compliant. That’s where seeking the help of a special universal home remodeling design specialist can come in handy. It’s hard for you to know what you’ll need before you actually need it, but these specialists have experience helping those who might already be facing the struggles of aging in their homes and therefore they also have the experience of helping someone just like you plan your bathroom futureproofing. The tips they can offer are as simple as placing reinforcement boards in a location you might need a set of bathroom grab bars in the future. These boards don’t have to be visible until the time comes to actually install the bars, but they become essential when that time actually comes.

It’s important to always have a plan in mind, but especially if you are hoping to design a bathroom that will be able to accommodate you through various phases of your life.

Blocking Now for Fewer Obstacles Later

The idea of placing reinforcement inside of your bathroom walls—or any walls for that matter—is called blocking. This blocking is then later used to offer the reinforcement needed for grab bars when they are installed. Grab bars are meant to support a person’s weight, so there obviously needs to be some support behind the walls that hold them—the drywall will not suffice to help support anybody.

For bathroom grab bars, as with many other forms of ADA compliancy issues, there is a certain set of codes that must be met to have a fully compliant handicap bathroom. The requirements are as follows:

  • A vertical bar placed in front of the toilet with horizontal bars next to and behind it
  • Roll-in showers (wheelchair accommodating) and transfer showers (non-wheelchair accommodating) need bars running vertically on at least two walls
  • Transfer showers need additional vertical bars (at least one) on the same wall as the showerhead

Getting these grab bars in the correct place are crucial when it comes to passing inspection for a truly handicap bathroom.

Now, there are a few different ways to install this blocking. You can choose to install blocking or cleats in the form of solid wood between studs at the desired height. Cleats can be placed across several studs to add reinforcement.

Spot reinforcement is not your only option, however. Whole areas or walls can be reinforced as well. This is done by applying heavy plywood over a large area of studs to provide a base for the installation of grab bars in the future.

Molded fixtures such as acrylic or fiberglass bathtubs or showers do not have the proper support needed for grab bars, either, much like bare drywall. Installing grab bars in these places calls for additional support that can be added in the form of solid wood or other substances of blocking to be installed in the space between the acrylic or fiberglass and the actual wall. This space is left due to the thin nature of the tub or shower surfaces, but adding it later can be difficult, which is why it is a good idea to plan ahead on where these bars will need to be places so you can install the reinforcement beforehand.

Save Yourself (or Others) the Hassle of a Remodel

Bathroom remodeling in general can be a huge inconvenience—mostly because it can be time consuming, displacing to families, and expensive—not to mention the hassle ADA compliant remodeling can be. That’s why many are choosing to futureproof their bathrooms when building them rather than waiting until the need arises for things like grab bars to prepare for them. Whether you are looking to age with your home, or simply want to ensure that your home does well on the market should you choose to sell it, it’s never a bad idea to plan ahead. You can save yourself (or whomever ends up living in your home) the trouble of ADA compliant remodeling by taking certain steps now to prepare for the inevitable future to come.

Accent Kitchen Lighting

Ron Hatchett

The different purposes the kitchen serves calls for variations on the lighting you need to set the mood and environment. Learn about the difference between task lighting, ambient lighting, accent lighting, ideal light placement as well as ideal lighting elements and methods.