With more than 15 years of experience in the bathroom remodeling business as an employee, installer and now a business owner, I have come to recognize and understand how specialized this type of remodeling can be. Handicap bathroom remodeling is very detailed and case sensitive that will vary from a handicapped individual to a senior citizen that is planning to age in place.
These specialized aspects became personal when I met my wife, Erika, who has three daughters, one of whom is disabled. Alexis was born prematurely, diagnosed with a form of Cerebral Palsy, with developmental delays. Alexis has been truly blessed in life by beating the two-week life expectancy given by the doctors. My wife and I, as parents, have experienced the trials and tribulations of living with, and adapting to, the various challenges of disability.
Private clients and a project completed through the local United Cerebral Palsy Organization have benefitted from my experience and knowledge. I have been able to put recommendations of products and procedures to good use just by thinking of how I would do it at home which, in turn, has benefited our clients tenfold.
Design must be accurate and functional to meet personal needs. When considering a safe and accessible bathing environment, I always begin with a full tile application for a Barrier-free bathroom. Barrier-free showers, also known as Curb-less showers, offer a smooth transition in and out and free of any tripping obstacle. The use of tile allows for a full custom layout where items such as shower benches, shampoo niches, and faucets can be built in to the exact size and dimensions required.
- Preparation of walls and floors must be structurally sound and waterproof. Wet rooms require a sufficient waterproofing membrane throughout the room. This includes shower walls, shower floor, bathroom floor and baseboard or wainscoting areas.
- Linear Drains are the best option for a full access shower. Versatility of placement is not limited to specific locations and framing can be lowered to meet mortar bed applications and pitch requirements.
- Tile must be rated for handicap applications and slip resistant.
- Grout must be a premium selection of epoxy or urethane for its mold and mildew resistant properties.
Although preformed shower units made of fiberglass or acrylic may be an option for a definite improvement over the existing facility, keep in mind that these molded units mostly have shelves, seats and bars already in place and not where you can adapt to. I find myself measuring my client’s legs or wheelchair while framing the shower and adding blocking for grab bars. Kit installations may not be able to withstand your mechanical equipment like wheelchairs or shower chairs. Vinyl flooring does not offer any waterproof properties and can wear down from everyday traffic when rolling equipment is involved. Take into consideration how your bathroom will hold up during the test of time. Ask yourself, “What will work for me and be safe?”
When working with organizations that fund a home modification for you don’t be afraid to question any or all recommendations that are made and don’t lose focus. The approval process can take months and it can be stressful for both you and your contractor. I find that many modification services offered have the task of meeting a financial budget. When budgets are involved you may end up with the cheaper option and I will always disagree with that. Your shower equipment must be just as durable as the medical equipment that aids you in everyday life. It must perform just like a pair of leg braces or a back brace that lets you stand or walk or a wheelchair that allows you to be mobile. Finally, it must meet your personal, every-day needs and contribute to quality of life.