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Bathroom Remodeling

Upgrade to Safety

Building a new home or remodeling an older one gives you an opportunity to incorporate many features into the bathroom that will make life more comfortable, safe and eco-friendly for a long time. In addition, on selling your home, the investment you make in adding a new bathroom or remodeling an old one will usually return more of that investment than any other type of remodeling project.

A new home can be expected to last several decades before updates or changes need to be made. A young family may move into a brand new house, but builders often overlook the fact that as the years pass the members of the family age along with the house. In addition, unpredictable events, accidents, illnesses can turn our livestyles around in a heartbeat no matter how old you are. Upgrade to safety whenever the opportunity presents itself so that you and your family can continue to enjoy independent living and your bathroom remains the private place you want it to be. It's so much less expensive to make structural changes when a bathroom is under construction than later when there is a sudden pressing need.

Remodeling Research

Magazines, books, websites all are useful sources of help and ideas for a new bathroom. But the best sources are your family and friends who have already remodeled a bath or are planning a new one. Ask those who have finished a bathroom remodeling, did you make any mistakes? What was the best thing you did? What would you change if you could?

Don't forget to take photos of the location of plumbing pipes and studs before the walls are closed. The pictures will come in handy in the future.

Another source for ideas are hotels and hospitals. My favorite idea came from a motel in Mexico. When I stepped into the shower the handles for turning the water on/off were on the wall to my left, and the shower head was on the wall to the right. I didn't have to get my hair wet when I adjusted the water. Another hotel idea that I liked was in an old hotel in a small town in Ireland. My room had a shower stall without a curb; the floor gently sloped toward the drain. More on curbless showers below.

On a recent visit to a hospital, I was intrigued by the door hinges for the bathroom; the door could swing in either direction. I've also seen door hinges that swing the door out of the way giving you access to the full width of the doorway frame.
Tubular skylights are highly innovative and energy efficient lighting systems

On a trip to California I saw my first solar tube skylight in a interior bathroom. I came home and had one installed in my interior hall bathroom; what a wonderful difference it makes in the bathroom and in the hall. It sheds so much light in the daytime that I've had visitors tell me they couldn't figure out how to turn the light out.

 Bath Remodeled by Metropolitian Industries, Inc.

The next time I have anything to do with a bathroom remodeling, I'm going to use an idea of Metropolitian Industries, Inc., a remodeling firm in the Washington, D.C. area. They installed a tub about 12-inches out from the wall, then designed a shelf/seat along the wall with a slab of slate. This provides lots of elbow room for showering, a shelf for shampoo, etc. and a seat.

UpFlush Toilets

When planning for a new bathroom or powder room, the ideal location for a Saniflo Upflush Toilet toilet is above a sewer line, but one may not be available, particularly in a basement or garage. While this is a hurdle, it is not insurmountable. There are macerating toilets available that can grind up waste and pump it up to 18 feet to meet a sewer line, or even up to 150 feet away from a soil stack. While macerating toilets are more costly than a standard toilet, they make it possible to install a toilet where you might not otherwise be able to do so without major plumbing expenses. SanifloSaniflo upflushing toilets macerating toilets come in a variety of styles, some have the mechanics visible behind the toilet and some have the mechanics built into the wall. At the Saniflo website there are videos and installation manuals to help you decide if a macerating toilets can solve your problem.

Green Remodeling

The current shaky economy has put a lot of pressure on our wallets, and it’s time we start looking for ways to cut down on our utility bills. Since the bathroom holds one of the hardest working fixtures in our home, the toilet, it’s now more important than ever to apply an eco-friendly attitude to this space in our home to reduce costs and negative effects on the environment. When making the switch to a green toilet, the number one factor to consider is water conservation. Any dual-flush or low flush model that uses 1.6 gallons per flush (GPF) or less will support that goal. It is estimated 30%-40% of water consumption in U.S. homes is attributed to flushing the toilet, we simply can’t afford to not invest in an eco-friendly toilet.

You can also switch your one flush toilet over to a dual flush system which gives you the option of using 1 GPF, the amount Fill cycle diverter of water used in a half flush. In addition to conserving water, green toilet practices can also help the environment by using recyclable materials. Toilet paper that contains anywhere from 20%-100% recycled materials will help reduce the demand for cutting down forests for paper production. In addition, there are a variety of toilet accessories that can be easily installed by you or a licensed plumber within your existing toilet tank to conserve water. These include fill cycle diverters, tank water dams, and toilet tank displacement bags which are all useful accessories that will help divert, displace, or conserve the amount of water used during each use.

Grab bars are essential

We can't anticipate or plan for every eventuality, but there is a lot that can be done. Grab bars in the shower/bathtub area and within reach of a toilet are essential. When the walls are open during construction you have an opportunity to have the necessary structural supports installed before the walls are closed up for securely anchoring the grab bars. If this is not possible, you can still try to find the studs behind the tile; there are special fittings for installing grab bars when you can't determine where the structural members are.

A WingIt Grab Bar Fastening system is designed so that grab bars can be installed on any sound wall made of 5/8-inch thick wallboard or tile over plaster, cement board or 1/2-inch wallboard. The manufacturer claims the new WingIts blind fastener can install WingIt expansion fitting for installing grab bars. directly into wallboard without needing an attachment to structural support. For tools you need a 1-1/4-inch carbide-grit tile hole saw with a pilot bit for drilling tile, screwdriver and rubber mallet or hammer. A WingIt is expensive (each piece is sold separately) and requires drilling a 1 1/4-inch hole in the wall, consequently, a mistake can be quite costly in addition to having a very large hole in your tile wall. This is not a job for casual do-it-yourselfers, but as a last ditch effort, it is worth considering. Whether you want to use WingIts or hire a professional, you should review the installation instructions before making a commitment.

Wheelchairs need room.

ADA door width

Let's look at the bathroom door. While builders usually install a 24" door to a bathroom, wheelchairs need a minimum 32" door for a straight in approach. If the doorway is located in the typical hallway and requires turning a wheelchair, you'll need a 36" door. If structural changes can be made, consider constructing the door to the bathroom to meet the Americans with Disability Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADA) for wheelchairs. The minimum width for a bathroom door is 32", but 36" is even better, and the threshold should be flush with the floor on both sides.

You don't need to be elderly or handicapped to find yourself in a wheelchair. A car or sporting accident can require the use of a wheelchair while recovering. Leave at least 18 inches of free space at the front of the toilet, and at least 42 inches of floor space on the side of the toilet. This extra space will help a person in a wheelchair move to and from the toilet.

ADA Accessibility Guidelines

ADA measurements for toilets

A 42 inch (1065 mm) minimum length grab bar is required to the side of the water closet spaced 12 inches (305 mm) maximum from the back wall and extending a minimum of 54 inches (1370 mm) from the back wall at a height between 33 and 36 inches (840-915 mm). The toilet paper dispenser shall be mounted at a minimum height of 19 inches (485 mm). The height of water closets shall be 17 in to 19 in (430 mm to 485 mm), measured to the top of the toilet seat (see Fig. 29(b)). Seats shall not be sprung to return to a lifted position. For more details see Section 4.16 Water Closets of the ADA Accessibility Guidelines

American Standard ADA compliant toilet
American Standard
High Hamilton Toilet
Toto MS854114S ADA compliant toilet
Toto UltraMax
Model MS854114SL
Both of the above toilets are ADA compliant.

This type of toilet puts less strain on your legs, knees, and back. Tall people find them easier to use. And some people say that they work better. The water in the toilet is deeper, so it flushes better. If you think raised toilets feel a little too high, check out toilets that hang on the wall. You'll be happy to put these toilets at a height that works best for you. This design will also please the person who cleans your bathroom. Having the toilet off the floor makes cleaning this area a breeze.

Curbless Showers Brochure The other fixtures in a bathroom will also benefit from some thought to making them accessible to everyone. A curbless shower is usable by everyone including a person in a wheelchair. I stayed in a hotel in Ireland last year that had a bathroom floor that sloped ever so slightly to the shower drain without any threshold or curb so that a wheelchair could have been easily rolled in. This was an old hotel; this is not a new idea. A 20-page free brochure (pdf format), "Curbless Showers: How to Install" is available from the Center for Universal Design. Another free brochure from the Center is the 16 page "Universal Design in Housing". AARP Bathroom Design

When buying a new or replacing an old faucet consider those with lever type handles that can be pushed with a fist rather than round knobs that must be grasped with fingers.

Small children can use step stools and will eventually grow into a higher sink, but tall folks will never shrink enough to make it comfortable to shave at a low bathroom sink.

The accessible design features in a new or remodeled bathroom will hardly ever be noticed until you need them. The Do-Able Renewable Home is a free brochure written for AARP that you can printout at the Brain Injury Resource Foundation. The brochure explains in detail each of the features of the illustrated bathroom to the right.

Other resources:

Universal Design

The Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University has a website that explains in detail the seven principles of Universal Design that may be applied to evaluate existing designs, guide the design process and educate both designers and consumers about the characteristics of more usable products and environments. The Principles of Universal Design were developed by The Center for Universal Design in collaboration with a consortium of universal design researchers and practitioners from across the United States. Funding for the project was provided by the U.S. Department of Education's National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. In the Center's publication catalog you'll find numerous books on Universal Design for sale, in addition to many free brochures that can be downloaded.

Universal Design Book

Universal Design Handbook (Hardcover)
by Wolfgang Preiser & Elaine Ostroff

A comprehensive reference work on universal design to date. It brings together writings from an international panel of experts in the field, each being thoroughly referenced and providing an excellent entry point for further research. The book, with its 69 international contributions, addresses a wide selection of universal design projects that range from an office work station, to interior architecture, buildings, landscape and all the way to parks and wilderness areas. The research questions, methodologies and findings presented are focused on how universally designed products and environments can be created to be usable by most people, regardless of ability/disability, health, gender, ethnicity, or cultural context.

Building an Accessible Home by B. Duerstock, Ph.D. Living in a wheelchair for several years, Dr. Duerstock had a good idea what he was looking for in terms of accessibility. He thought he could rehabilitate a house to fit his needs. Unfortunately, this was more difficult than he expected and he decided building a house from scratch was the best option. This website is the story of the designing and building his accessible home.

Prince William County, VA has published a very useful 23 page free brochure titled, "Easy Living With Universal Design". In it you'll learn that Easy living with Universal Design is a concept that can appeal to everyone. A home that is universally designed is a home with features that increase the usability of the home by people of all ages, sizes and abilities, and enhances the ability of all residents to live independently in the home as long as possible.

The PVA (Paralyzed Veterans of America) have published a book on accessible home design that's available from their website. In 1946, Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) collaborated with the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) on accessible housing for paralyzed veterans. In 1986, PVA's "Barrier-Free Design Program" added the oversight of the design and construction of VA medical centers to its mission.

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LeakFrog is the small water alarm with a big job. Behind the cute smile is a brain that knows when you have a water problem. Water causes more damage annually than smoke, and the mold that occurs after a water leak can be deadly.
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