In Part 1, we discussed aging in place and why it’s important to plan ahead for a bathroom remodel. I covered the first 2 things to consider – grab bars and flooring selections. In this installment of design for aging, I’m review shower seats, clear floor space, and planning storage.
Shower seat 101. This is NOT a shower seat…
and this is…
What’s the difference? The first one is not large enough, nor does it provide enough support to be considered a shower seat. It’s a nice little shelf that you can use to prop your foot and shave your legs. However, it’s not a shower seat.
To be considered a shower seat, you need at least a 15”x15” square that is approximately 18” in height. It can be a wall mounted seat or a built in seat. Certainly, a shower seat can be in the corner and have a triangle shape, but there must be a 15” square within the triangle, meaning the two short sides of the triangle must be at least 30”. Anything smaller is a safety hazard and is simply a shelf. When you design for aging, you also need at least a 30”x30” square of remaining floor space in shower with a built in shower seat.
Which leads to the next topic.
Clear floor space
Life brings many unexpected surprises as we age such as grandkids and retirement and travel. But, it can also bring knee surgeries and arthritis and even the temporary need for an assistive device. That’s healthcare speak for walkers and crutches and wheelchairs.
I know! I know! I’ve again broached a subject no one wants to talk about. You’re imagining a person fumbling around in a bathroom, but it doesn’t have to look like that. Imagine moving around nimbly in a space without barriers. If you have enough clear floor space, you’ll be able to navigate your bathroom with ninja-like agility!
To create clear floor space you need to remove any floor-level barriers. The National Kitchen and Bath Association recommends a “turn radius” of 60”, but it can be hard to find that in a small space. Ideally, and at minimum, you will need an entry that is 32” or wider. There should be a 36” path from the entry into the bathroom and in front of the toilet and vanity. Lastly, your bathroom remodel should include a curb-less entry into the shower. This will create enough space to back in or out of the room without barriers (see below). You may never need this much space, but it can’t hurt to plan for it in your design for aging.
Planning Cabinet Storage
Something we don’t think much about is functional cabinets. Often, bathroom and kitchen professionals will select whatever you want and and/or looks symmetrical in the design. However, drawers and pull-out shelves are the best options for bending and stooping reduction.
In a bathroom vanity, you need a door and drawer combination for each sink, but you should minimize the width of that cabinet. A 18″ sink cabinet is wide enough to accommodate each sink and it’s plumbing. You can also add shelving beneath the sink that slides out to make it easier to access items in the back of the cabinet without the need to stoop or squat. Use 2-3 drawer cabinets to fill the rest of the width of your vanity as shown in the image below.
I don’t recommend using vanity units. These usually come in configurations that cannot be modified and don’t maximize your drawer space. If you can work it into your bathroom remodel budget, use vanity cabinets that are purchased individually.
Those are some basic tips on creating an aging-friendly space that is attractive without looking “clinical”. If you’re interested in this topic and you want to learn more about barrier free kitchen and bath design, check out the National Kitchen and Bath (NKBA) guidelines. Do you think these are ideas you might incorporate into your bathroom remodeling project?
Stay tuned! Next week we’re going to review how to plan your bathroom remodel budget. If you’re interested in planning a kitchen or bathroom project you can schedule your complimentary Design Style consultation here. Also, don’t forget to grab your copy of the “Retirement-Ready Checklist“.