Attractive upgrades that make the bathroom a safer place
Most people want to stay in their homes as long as possible. Trouble is, their homes may not be aging as well as they are. Take the bathroom. Because of its hard and slippery surfaces, almost 235,000 people visit the emergency room each year with injuries suffered while bathing, showering, or using the facilities. Despite that, many homeowners resist even small changes that would make the room safer because they fear their beautiful bathroom will end up looking institutional. But that’s now changing.
But that’s now changing. The very things that make your bathroom safer and easier to navigate—large, walk-in showers; higher toilets; natural lighting—are also some of the latest design trends. It’s like hiding vegetables in the meal of a finicky eater. You can conceal safety upgrades with sleek design, clever innovations—and a few euphemisms.
“Grab bars were a real deal breaker,” says Diana Schrage, an interior designer at Kohler. Now that grab bar is being called a “shower rail.” Higher-seated toilets are “comfort height.” And easy-to-use lever handles and handheld showers are “ergonomic.”
That type of adaptable design has come to be known as “aging in place,” but some remodeling pros prefer the more friendly “visitability,” which means making your home welcoming to people of all ages and abilities.
Unlike the access features for public spaces required by the Americans with Disabilities Act for the past 25 years, aging-in-place updates are strictly residential and don’t need to follow the stringent rules put in place by the ADA, so your bathroom can be functional without looking like a hospital. “The whole idea is safety, access, comfort, and convenience,” says Steve Hoffacker, a specialist in aging-in-place design.
A barrier-free shower is one that has no threshold, so it’s easy to step, shuffle, or wheel yourself in and out. With some of the new vertical-drain products coming out now, these installations are both easy and stylish. Water drains through a perforated metal strip into a hidden trough, which channels water back toward the drain so it doesn’t get all over the bathroom floor.
For between one and two thousand dollars, you can get a shower base with the integrated drain all in one piece, saving a lot of prep. A universally-designed bathroom doesn’t have to scream “nursing home” or “hospital”. You can include wider doorways, lever-handled, rather than twist-handled faucets, and grab bars that are disguised as shower shelves or toilet paper holders without calling attention to their purpose.
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When Healthquest, an upscale gym in Flemington, N.J., started remodeling its locker rooms, the company had specific requirements in mind: The new showers needed to not only complement the high-end design of the fitness center, but also be low maintenance with no water penetration issues in grout and tile areas. Problems with previous products leaking water had left the Healthquest owner wanting a better solution. John Mannino, Associate AIA, project manager and architect for Cerminara Architect, turned to Bestbath™ to fulfill his clients’ needs.
HomeAdvisor, in partnership with the Lending Club, offers home improvement loans to cover the expenses of modifying your home.
Other sources of funding include:
Federal Income Tax Deductions (From IRS Publication 502) You can include the medical expenses amounts you pay for special equipment installed in a home, or for improvements, if their main purpose is medical care for you, your spouse, or your dependent. The cost of permanent improvements that increase the value of your property may be partly included as a medical expense. The cost of the improvement is reduced by the increase in the value of your property. The difference is a medical expense. If the value of your property is not increased by the improvement, the entire cost is included as a medical expense.
This January, on his 59th birthday, Robert Criner's house burned down.
While planning the rebuild, he thought about what elements would make life easier for him and his wife as they get older. Like many baby boomers who remodel, he wants an attractive house that doesn't scream "old people live here," while knowing that he will someday need some accommodation, as his 94-year-old father does now.
Luckily, many of the features that allow you to age in place can benefit people of any age who live in the home. Universal design is the term used most often to describe such features.