Bringing ADA Vanity and Cabinet Remodeling within Reach

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.

About Ron Hatchett

Mr. Hatchett studied Business Management at Old Dominion University and Architectural Design at Thomas Nelson Community College. He holds a building technical license and is RBC and CBC certified. He was a past participant and winner in the annual showcase, Parade of Homes. Mr. Hatchett is member of the National Association of Home Builders, Peninsula Housing and Builders Association, and Better Business Bureau. His motivation for starting Hatchett Contractors, Inc. was his family and his skills in the building and remodeling industry.