Make Your Bath Safe & Accessible

How to get rid of the hurdles and hazards that can make your bathroom difficult or even dangerous to use.

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When it’s time to make your bathroom more stylish and functional, make it safer and more accessible, too. Tight quarters, slick surfaces, hard objects, and hot water can make a bath difficult and even dangerous to navigate, especially people with physical limitations. Fortunately, there are ways to make your bath easier to use and reduce the risk of accidents or injury.

Widen Doorways

For someone who uses a wheelchair or walker, getting into the bathroom is often the biggest obstacle. Bath doorways are typically only 24″–30″ wide. To allow wheelchair access, a bath doorway needs to be at least 32″ wide. An opening of 34″ or 36″ is even better, especially if the wheelchair has to turn sharply from a narrow hallway. Though it may not be an issue now, you never know when a family member or guest might require wheelchair or walker access, even temporarily. It’s easier to widen the doorway when you’re making other changes to your bath.

Choose Anti-Slip Flooring

Falls are a common cause of bath injuries. Tile covers most bath floors, and when it gets wet, you can easily lose your footing, especially in bare feet. Mats and rugs help, but even those can slide around. When choosing tile, look for products that offer an anti-slip finish and meet requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In general, avoid glossy finishes and look for a grittier surface. Also, stick to smaller tiles — smaller tiles mean more grout lines, and grout lines create a texture that aids traction. Tiny 1″x1″ mosaic tiles are a good choice.

Install Grab Bars

Grab bars offer another way to prevent bath falls and improve accessibility for those with mobility issues. Resembling towel bars but capable of supporting much more weight, grab bars help bathroom users keep their balance and help themselves up or down in tub and shower areas and by the toilet. To work properly, grab bars must be securely anchored to wall studs — and that may require beefing up the framing behind the wall. So if you’re opening up a bath wall to do other remodeling work, it’s a great time to add a grab bar. Visit Lowes.com for a selection of stylish choices. Then see “How to Install a Grab Bar” for installation instructions.

Lower Water Temperature

Burns from hot water pose a bath hazard, especially for children. You can lower the risk by lowering the temperature on your water heater to 120°F. Check the actual temperature at the faucet by turning on the hot water and letting it run over a candy thermometer for a few minutes.

Add Antiscald Devices

When someone flushes the toilet while you’re in the shower, does the water get suddenly hotter? If so, you could use a pressure-balancing valve. This fitting detects changes in water pressure coming to the faucet and adjusts the hot and cold mix to maintain an even temperature and prevent scalding. Thermostatic valves also prevent scalding, and they offer greater control over water temperature. They treat water temperature and volume separately, allowing you to set the exact temperature even before you turn on the water (and making it difficult to set the temperature higher than a preset limit).

Simplify the Shower

In addition to installing grab bars and antiscald devices, you can make your shower safer and more accessible by the design you choose. A walk-in shower with a low threshold (or none at all) eases entry for everyone. Controls and showerheads should be positioned so users can turn on the water and set the temperature before the spray hits them. And the shower controls should be easy to operate — a single lever handle is ideal. For the showerhead, consider an adjustable-height handheld model. It accommodates different statures and postures. If you have the space, a shower bench is nice for people who have trouble standing. There are also special shower chairs available for those with mobility issues.

Ease Tub Entry

When it comes to bathing, a raised tub with a deck or platform is easier to enter than a tub with a side you have to step over. You can sit on the tub deck, swing your legs over, and lower yourself into the water. For people with mobility issues, a walk-in tub with a watertight door on the side is even easier.

Buy a Taller Toilet

Replacing a standard-height toilet (the seat is 14″–15″ from the floor) with a chair-height model (the seat is 16″–18″ from the floor) makes the bath easier to use for people of all ages, heights, and mobility levels.

Upgrade Outlets

To prevent accidental electrocution — and meet building codes — all electrical outlets in a bathroom should be ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). When these outlets sense current fluctuations that can cause shocks, they immediately shut off power to any devices plugged into them. If your bathroom does not have GFCI outlets, add them as soon as possible. If you do have GFCIs, test them to make sure they work properly.

Provide Night Lighting

Make the bath easier to find and safer to use for middle-of-the-night visits by installing an inexpensive night-light near the entry. Night-lights come in a variety of shapes and styles, including models with LED bulbs, motion sensors, and auto on/off features.

Article by Lowes Creative Ideas

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About Markatos Services Inc.

Marketing Director for Markatos Services, Inc.
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