How to Create Accessible Bathrooms For Your Malibu Home

by ritasimpson on April 9, 2014

in Home Owner Reference Guide

Tips for Designing Accessible Bathrooms- from Remodeling Magazine.

Having one in your Malibu home will increase  value and peace of mind.

Nowhere is the trend toward accessibility—design that takes into account the needs of everyone by fostering independence and safety—more necessary than in the bathroom, and it is typically one of the first rooms homeowners target for remodel when accessibility is on the table.

Remodelers can help their businesses prosper by educating themselves on accessible design and becoming a source of product knowledge for their customers.

Here are some of the features of the accessible bathroom that remodelers can bring to the attention of clients seeking more comfort and better function:

Walk-in showers. The walk-in shower has no step or edge to it, which removes a tripping hazard, and also opens the shower up to wheelchair users, who can roll in without help.

Hand-held showerheads and shower benches. Inside the shower, hand-held showerheads mounted on a vertical bar allow users of different heights to select the perfect height for them, or they can choose to use the fixture sans bar as a hand spray.

“We’re putting in more hand-held showers,” says Dan Bawden, owner of Legal Eagle Contractors Company in Houston, and a Certified Aging in Place Specialist. “They’re handy for cleaning the inside of the shower or for washing off camping equipment—or the family pet. It would be remodeling malpractice not to put one of those in. They’re so functional.”

Bawden is also installing teak benches in showers. “If space is tight, we do a fold-down bench,” he says, “so you don’t have to keep yanking out a big plastic shower chair.” And for someone who doesn’t require a seated shower, it makes shaving one’s legs easier.

Hand holds. With the high incidence of bathroom falls, remodelers shouldn’t forget to add what Richard Duncan, executive director of the R.L. Mace Universal Design Institute in Chapel Hill, N.C., refers to as “hand holds” (as opposed to “grab bar,” which seems for many people to conjure up images of hospital rooms). “It could be built into a shower soap dish, towel bar, or a toilet paper holder,” Duncan says.

Sinks that offer seated access. Pedestal sinks or wall-mounted sinks have space for people who might need to be seated; plus there’s more space for maneuvering in the room. If the design calls for a vanity, Boston architect Deborah Pierce (author of The Accessible Home: Designing for All Ages and Abilities) suggests one with cabinets that can roll out if a wheelchair user will be utilizing the bathroom.

Shower Image
Walk-in showers do away with the curb, removing a tripping hazard, and make it possible for wheelchair users to roll in without help. Credit: Kathy Tarantola Photography from The Accessible Home: Designing for All Ages and Abilities

Remodelers should take note of Pierce’s suggestion for “measuring the frequent users” of a bathroom to get an idea of what works best for vanity and sink heights.

Multi-tasking toilets. There are new toilet/bidet combinations that wash the body and blow warm air for drying, features useful for anyone who might have difficulty managing personal hygiene, says Pierce.

Comfort height toilets, typically two inches taller than conventional toilets, can be a great boon to users with mobility issues who find the boost in height makes it much easier to rise from the toilet.

Wider doorways. Bathroom doorways in older homes are usually 24 inches, making it difficult for even an average size woman carrying a baby to walk through comfortably. Pocket doors are an option, although they add time and cost to a remodel. Widening the door to 32 or 34 inches makes a big difference.

Better lighting. Use a mix of lighting, including task lighting. Banish shadows by placing lights on either side of a mirror, or mirrored medicine cabinet, rather than above it.

Designers who specialize in accessibility highly recommend some form of daylight in the bathroom, which can be accomplished by adding a window, skylight, or solar tube. Also recommended are dimmer switches to control light levels, and rocker switches, which don’t require the fine motor skills needed to operate other types of switches.

Wayfinding lights recessed into the floor are also a useful option.

No-slip flooring. Slippery floors are the culprit in many falls, so choose flooring carefully. Tiles with texture provide a better grip surface, and cut down on glare as well.

Bawden says he steers clients from the Carrara high gloss marble they sometimes ask for. “We’re doing a lot of 12×24-inch tiles in various patterns,” he says. “They have fewer grout lines, and we make sure it has a no-slip texture.”

Other accessibility features:

  • Point-of-use storage
  • Soft-close drawer mechanisms, which can be operated with a push, or D-ring or loop pulls on cabinets and drawers
  • Lever handles instead of door knobs
  • Hands-free faucets that work with sensors, or touch faucets that require only a tap to operate—Stacey Freed


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