Future-proof Your Bathroom–Prepare for Grab Bars

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.

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.