By Dan Bawden, Certified Aging in Place Specialist, of Legal Eagle Contractors
Universal design is about creating a home for everyone, regardless of age, size, or ability. Universal design’s features and products make a home safer and more comfortable for a wide range of people. And, as the name implies, universal design fits everyone and every lifestyle including:
- Families with young children.
- Older adults who want to stay in their home as they grow older.
- People who are taller or shorter than average.
- People who have limited mobility or dexterity.
- People with a permanent or temporary disability.
Universal Design Features Checklist
Universal design features are those components of a home that work well for all residents and any guests who may visit. They just make good sense. Having universal design features and products in a home prevents accidents, increases comfort and safety, and enhances residents’ independence.
Essential universal design features include:
- At least one no-step entry to the house either through the front, back or garage door.
- Entryway doors that are at least 32 inches wide and interior doors at least 30 inches wide to allow for ample room to pass through.
- Light controls, electrical outlets, and thermostats that are easily reachable for a person in a wheelchair.
- A 3-foot-wide corridor, free of hazards and steps that connect all rooms on the main floor.
- A bedroom, kitchen, entertainment area and a full bathroom, with plenty of space for maneuverability on the main floor
- Reinforced bathroom walls for the option of adding grab bars.
- Lever-style door handles and faucets that don’t require grasping or twisting to operate.
In addition to the above, there are many other universal design features and products that many people, especially those over 50, like and incorporate into their homes. They include:
- Raised front loading clothes washer, dryer and dishwasher.
- Side-by-side refrigerator.
- Easy access kitchen storage (pull-out shelves, adjustable height cupboards, lazy-susans.
- Low or no-threshold stall shower with built-in bench or seat.
- Non-slip floors, bathtubs and showers.
- Raised, comfort-level toilets.
- Multi-level kitchen countertops with open space underneath so one can work while seated.
- Windows that require minimal effort to open and close.
Covered entryway or porch to protect you from rain and snow.
- Rocker-style light switches.
- Task lighting directed to a specific surface or area that provides illumination for specific tasks.
- Easy to grasp cabinet knobs or pulls.
If you are about to launch a remodeling project, do it right the first time. Making the hallways three feet wide is relatively inexpensive if it’s included in the overall scope of a remodeling project. If the need for wider hallways arises down the road, retrofitting your home will be hugely expensive. Plus, there’s absolutely no better place than your home to invest your money, especially in today’s dollars. And the benefit is two-fold. Not only will the value of your home rise, you will also reap the reward of upgrading your lifestyle, both now and in the future.
The Remodelers Council of the Greater Houston Builders Association is an organization of remodelers and industry professionals. The Remodelers Council is dedicated to promoting professionalism and public awareness of the remodeling profession through education, certification and service to the Houston community. For information on this article, please contact Lorraine Hart at email@example.com. To join the council or to find a professional remodeler in your area, please visit the GHBA website.