How we remodeled our bathroom to make it accessible.

We moved into our current home in the spring of 2012 and knew we would like to make some improvements for accessibility. The first thing we did, and anytime I say “we” I mean hired pros to do it for us, was remove a few concrete stairs going up to our back patio and replacing them with a concrete ramp. Then we widened our main entry door to 36 inches and added a small ramp from the patio to the threshold. All relatively inexpensive, simple stuff. With basic home access taken care of, we set our sights and sledge hammers on this bathroom.

Double lavatories on the wall to the right of the original entryway.

Double lavatories on the wall to the right of the original entryway.

I'm standing in the entryway. There was very little floor space.

I’m standing in the entryway. There was very little floor space.

Just a common, 60-inch tub. Notice the in-swinging door.

Just a common, 60-inch tub. Notice the in-swinging door.

The biggest issues were  lifting Caedmon in and out of the tub, the sinks being unreachable from a wheelchair, and a lack of floor space for lying him down to help him change clothes, etc. We hired a draftsman to draw out the blueprint and hired a builder to come in and do the work. I recommend hiring a draftsman, architect or some form of designer to help you maximize your square footage and make sure your builder has clear direction. A quick shout out to the boys over at Where there’s a Wheel there’s a Way for taking the time to talk to me about the bathroom in their home and providing some great insights and perspective. I’ll spare you the actual demolition and construction details and skip right to the good stuff. Quickly, almost every hyperlink is a direct link to the product I’m describing at the time; I thought that would help. Now for what you actually paid — very little I might add — to see.

shower The roll-in shower was the primary objective in the remodel. We took out a small closet and moved an AC duct to increase the width from 60 to 78 inches. We added grab bars (24-inch and 9-inch) all the way around and installed two shower heads with the hand-held designed for Caedmon. He is far more adept with his right hand which is why the plumbing is laid out as it is. I’ll talk about the chair later. The grab bars and tile were right off the shelf from Lowe’s  and the fixtures are basic products as well. caedmon in showerCaedmon felt like showing how he uses the hand-held shower head. I can’t tell you how much easier bath time is now. His brothers really enjoy the vast expanse they can all now use together. DSC00226   We installed grab bars (16-inch) everywhere we could with the intention of Caedmon being able to propel himself around the room in his wheelchair or a rolling bath chair. And there’s always the hope he can lean on them as he stands one day. The light switches and outlet light up when the lights are off to serve as a night-light. We replaced the in-swinging door, which used to be about where the outlet is now, with a 36-inch pocket door in the wall that used to hold the double vanity. This was essential to maximize floor space. We considered pneumatic and electric-powered pocket doors but do to cost and the fact that Caedmon can manipulate a traditional pocket door we kept it simple. curtainThe picture above is a shot of the lower corner of our very helpful, ingenious shower curtain. It’s a heavy-duty material, but the coolest feature is the 4-inch lip on the floor. This is designed to help keep water in the shower area and off the rest of the floor. If you are unfamiliar with roll-in showers, there is no threshold or tub to keep the water in the showering area. The curtain also has six, 3×3 Velcro patches to adhere the curtain to the walls as another safe guard against dousing the whole bathroom. toiletNot a whole lot to report here. The toilet has a thinner tank that bought us an extra inch or two of floor space, but other than that it’s pretty standard. Lowe’s had it on their shelf. The little cabinet is a simple put-it-together-yourself kit we found at Wal*Mart. DSC00224This sink was the inspiration for our whole project. We first saw it in the showroom of Accessibility Solutions in Tallahassee, FL. They are a construction and remodeling firm specializing in accessibility. There are two features that we thought were pretty cool: the overhang of the sink’s bowl and the offset, rear placement of the drain. The overhang is intended to allow the user access to the sink without being impeded by the counter top and the drain is designed to move the plumbing further back and to the side to allow the users knees and the wheelchair more clearance under the counter. We looked all over the place for this fixture and learned the product had been discontinued and was ironically enough, inaccessible. However, the guys at Accessibility Solutions donated theirs, counter top and all, to us so they could get a new show room model. Yahoo!

hand towel

Because the pocket door is in the wall to Caedmon’s right and they would either block or scratch it, we could not put screws or nails into in the wall. Therefore, we decided to install the hand towel ring on the face of the counter. It works great for Caedmon! It turned out to be a good location for his brothers as well.

DSC00229

This is an expensive (over $300!) but handy feature for an accessible bathroom, especially one with little to no storage. It’s a fully functioning medicine cabinet that also has the capability, as shown in the picture, of tilting the mirror. The tilt is key for someone using a wheelchair because it allows them to see their reflection.

sink

Even with a tilted mirror and a lowered sink height Caedmon barely makes it into this picture, LOL. His chair will only get bigger as his body gets taller so this problem will go away. By the way, we decided to place the counter top at the higher edge of ADA standards because we plan on living in this house well beyond Caedmon’s elementary years and wanted the height comfortable for him for the longest period of time.

bath chair

This chair is wonderful. We’ve owned it a long time and didn’t like it because we tried to use it in the bathtub with Caedmon and it wasn’t very helpful. However, in the shower, the “Manatee” by R82 is perfect. As you saw in the picture earlier, we can strap Caedmon safely which makes helping in the shower feel more like a barber working with his customer than this,

That actually paints a pretty good picture of watching Jeni get Caedmon in and out of the car, too. Anyway, I highly recommend this chair if you are using a shower as the primary bathing method.

That’s all from the Sprague house, but feel free to ask any specific questions you might have in the comments and I’ll do my best to provide a satisfactory answer. I hope you found this helpful.

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3 comments

  1. Impressive! And very attractive, too. What I want is a photo of all the Spragues enjoying the big shower together! (You can do that pixel thing to protect everybody’s modesty.) You must be rather proud of the outcome of your project, and you should be. Sending my love to all, especially Caedmon. Susan

  2. Wonderful! I’m looking for ideas for a new bathroom for my daughter, who has arthrogryposis. She is almost 9, and it is so tough to get her in and out of the bathtub! I wish that sink was still available!! Gonna have to see if I can find one like it! =)

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