May 092012


This article is the second one in our Aging in Place Series. Last week I wrote about the importance of creating a safe and usable kitchen for those of you who plan on staying in your homes for the long run. As I mentioned then, as we grow older and face certain restrictions with our bodies, we need our environments to adapt to our needs. Bathrooms are another critical room in our homes where safety and usability is of upmost importance.

If you’re like most Americans 65 and older, and want to remain living independently in your home for as long as possible, then any bathroom remodel project that you take on should involve other aspects beyond aesthetics. Below is a list of important considerations:

1. Professional Design: As always, it is best to consult with a professional interior designer or architect  or a contractor with experience in design for your specific needs.  Advance Concept’s team has years of experience working with environmental modifications.

2. Room Clearance:  Like in kitchens, being able to maneuver easily in your bathroom is extremely important.  ADA guidelines specify a minimum clear space of 60 inches in diameter for a wheelchair to make a 180-degree turn, and 36 inches clearance between walls.  Ideally, there should be enough room between the toilet and the wall (or tub/cabinets) to accommodate a wheelchair for easy movement between the two.

3. Flooring:  Because bathrooms get wet very often, you want to ensure that the flooring is slip resistant.  As with kitchens, you should also make sure that the floors are stable and don’t have areas that could be considered tripping hazards.

4. Grab Bars: These should be located around the toilet, inside and outside the shower and/or tub, by the sink, and wherever else you feel there may be a need for one.  Double rows should be placed wherever the user will be sitting as well as standing.  Our knowledgeable  staff will be sure to frame the walls where there will be grab bars accordingly, to hold the appropriate weight.

5. Toilets, Showers & Bathtubs: Toilets should be placed at a height that is most comfortable for the user. For someone in a wheelchair, the toilet seat height should be the same or close to the wheelchair height, typically 19-21 inches high (though people shorter than 5’4” may need something lower). In contrast, a person not on a wheel chair that has trouble with bending down and standing up again, may require that the toilet seat be higher.

Bathtubs and showers are where the most serious bathroom accidents can occur. Be sure that the shower or tub you select is wide enough and provides easy in and out access. Install a shower seat if you feel you’d be more comfortable using one, but make sure that it can be folded up and out of the way if needed. Shower heads and controls should be easily reached. A hand-held shower head system with a swivel arm holder can prove to be quite convenient.

6. Counter tops, Cabinets and Storage: You should easily be able to find and reach objects in your cabinets and any other type of shelving or storage components in your bathroom.  Consider installing pull down shelving and Lazy-Susan inserts, and changing out door knobs to “D” shaped ones that can be easily grabbed. Counter tops should be no higher than 28 inches above the floor and have a knee space 30 inches wide and 19 inches deep for a user in a wheelchair. Counter top edges should be rounded out.

7. Lighting: A proper amount of lighting is essential for safety and usability in a bathroom. You will want to have even lighting throughout the space and add task lighting wherever you will be working or need more visibility, such as around a mirror, directly above a shower or tub, and inside cabinets.


If you’re thinking about a bathroom remodel, or any other remodel project or new construction, Advance Concept’s design team and contractor services can help bring everything together.  Please call us today for a free consultation.  And check back on our blog soon for more articles in the Aging in Place series!  Located in Albuquerque, we service all of NM.