If you’re planning to stay in your house for the rest of your life, it might be wise to renovate your bathroom with accessible design in mind. Along with kitchens, bathrooms are one of the spaces homeowners use the most. They also happen to be wet zones, which increases the likelihood of slips and falls. That said, reducing slip hazards and ensuring adequate lighting and maximum comfort are vital when creating an age-proof bathing space. These 11 ideas will ensure that your bathroom is safe and easy to use for decades to come.
1. Install a shower bench. A safe place to sit in the shower is vital for an age-proof bathroom design. Decreasing the amount of time you stand in the shower not only eases the strain on your body, it also reduces the chances of slipping and falling.
Your bench can be a built-in and tiled or free-standing. You can even use waterproof seat cushions so you’re not sitting on a hard surface. Find a bench that is large enough for comfortably sitting and bathing.
2. Install a handheld shower head. These clever shower heads are easily adjustable for height and, when placed adjacent to your shower bench, enable you to wash up while seated.
3. Install double-duty grab bars. These provide something for you to hold on to as you’re entering and exiting your shower. It’s best to install one on the outside of your shower and on each of your interior walls so you can safely navigate the space. Grab bars are highly functional; they can also double as towel and robe racks.
4. Increase the height of your vanity. The standard vanity height is 31½ inches (not including your countertop). This isn’t always high enough for homeowners. Raising the cabinet height to 34½ inches (this will reach standard kitchen counter height, including a 1½ inch countertop) can prevent you from having to hunch over as you’re washing up.
There are two exceptions to increasing the vanity height. If you’re more comfortable with the standard vanity height, don’t increase it. Or if you want to make your vanity wheelchair-accessible, choose a counter height of 34 inches maximum, as specified in the American Disabilities Act guidelines.
5. Buy a comfort-height toilet. Most toilets are less than 16 inches high. Comfort-height toilets are 17 to 19 inches high, which makes sitting and standing much easier. This will reduce the strain on your back and knees.
6. Think twice about glass. Few things can open up a bathroom space like glass walls and doors, but if you’re looking for an effective way to age in place, they won’t always fit the bill. They typically require more maintenance. Expect to squeegee regularly to avoid streak marks.
If glass is something you can’t live without, there are types of heavy-duty shower glass that don’t require as much maintenance. However, they often come with a sizeable price tag.
7. Ensure that the space is well-lit. The better your bathroom lighting is, the less strain on your eyes. You also don’t want to miss any wet spots that can be hidden by shadows. Good lighting comes in many forms, including recessed lighting, vanity lighting, lamps and natural light. You may even consider placing lighting inside an enclosed shower.
8. Choose porcelain wall and floor tile. Porcelain can last a lifetime, so chances are you won’t have to replace it as you get older. It’s also perhaps the easiest surface to clean. Water and a rag normally do the trick.
If you’re concerned about grout, look for porcelain tile with a rectified edge. Finely cut edges allow for thin grout joints (as little as 1/16 inch in some styles). You can purchase a presealed grout as well.
9. Look for textured flooring. No matter which kind of flooring you decide to put in your bathroom, choose one that has high slip resistance. A slick tile can increase the likelihood of an injury from a fall.
You can spot a floor with good slip resistance by looking for grooves or feeling for texture. Generally speaking, the more textured a floor is, the higher its slip resistance.
There are ways to measure a floor’s slip resistance. Tile, for example, is rated by measuring the coefficient of friction. A flooring material’s slip resistance can normally be found on the manufacturer’s website.
10. Have a flat shower entry. This minimizes your risk of tripping over a step as you enter your shower. It’s also a wheelchair-accessible feature.
If you forgo a shower step, your shower floor will need to be properly sloped to allow water to drain correctly. If you do include a step, don’t make it large and bulky.
11. Make the lip around your tub’s entrance narrow. If you’re planning for a tiled tub surround, make the lip at your tub’s entrance as narrow as possible. When you have to step over a large lip, the gap between your legs gets larger, which can impair balance and increase the chances of falling. A narrow lip will keep your legs closer together as you enter, which will strengthen your balance.
More on Houzz