The goal of a barrier-free bath is to make all users as independent and as comfortable as possible.
Even if no one in your home has special needs now, planning a bath that can accommodate wheelchairs and walkers can make guest -- or even a kid with a cast -- feel more welcome and comfortable.
This quick reference guide will answer some of the questions you may have when it comes to designing and installing a barrier-free bath:
Creating a barrier-free bath starts first with the location. It should be situated on the ground floor of the house to avoid stairs.
Plan for a clear door opening of 34-38 inches. Larger openings are hard to open and close from a seated position, and narrower openings make it difficult, if not impossible, for a wheelchair to get through.
Equip entrance doors, drawers, and faucets with lever or D-shape handles. They are easier to operate than knobs, especially for young children and people with arthritis or limited mobility.
For a typical-size wheelchair to make a complete turnaround, leave a circular area of clear floor space measuring 5 feet in diameter. Leave an area in front of the sink that measures at least 30 x 48 inches (although the clear floor space can overlap). Toilets need a clear floor space that is 48 inches square. Bathtubs need a clear floor space of 60 x 60 inches in front of the tub.
Shower stalls should measure at least 4 feet square with an opening at least 36 inches wide. Include a bench or seat that is 17-19 inches above the floor to make it easier for someone to transfer from a wheelchair to the bench.
Some more barrier-free bath ideas…
Consider using small hexagonal floor tiles. They are attractive and slip resistant. Selecting tiles with color throughout the material ensures that any damage won’t show as easily.
Using a pulley system and crank allows a mirror to hang flat against the wall or tilt downward to accommodate someone who is seated.
Looped support bars beside the toilet offer an upper and a lower handle. Someone shorter can use the lower handle, whereas someone taller can grasp the upper one. The bars can be turned to hang flat against the wall when not in use. A bidet system attached to the toilet allows for hands-free hygiene.
A freestanding shower bench offers more flexibility than a built-in version. It’s designed not to tip over. Reinforcements in the walls enable the grab bars to bear significant weight. Large faucet handles simplify grasping. A vertical bar allows the adjustable showerhead to slide up and down to accommodate either a standing or seating person.
Use tubside seats where one end of the tub ledge narrows to fit beside the toilet; the wider portion can be used for sitting, storage, or display.
With these barrier-free bath guidelines and ideas, you can have a bathroom that’s as stylish as it is easy to navigate -- no matter your abilities.