Making Your Home Handicap Accessible

January 14, 2020 · 8 minute read

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Making Your Home Handicap Accessible

If you’re wanting to ensure that a home you own is wheelchair accessible, there are a number of important renovations and changes you might want to make to ensure your place meets all the requirements of wheelchair-accessible homes.

From ensuring your doorways are wide enough to making your shower accessible, we break down some of the tweaks you might want to take on. These ideas could help to ensure that your home can accommodate a wheelchair and that someone with mobility challenges might be safer and can easily get around.

While these renovations are based on Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations for accessibility, you might want to adapt those recommendations to your needs. Complying with the ADA may be necessary if you’re renovating a rental property, using grant money intended for accessibility renovations, or if you’re planning to sell your home as an accessible home.

If you’re using the home yourself, you could prioritize those that might also help increase your home’s value, but the ADA requirements could be a good start to creating your dream handicap-accessible house.

You might also want to consider the cost of these renovations and ways you can finance the changes, since making a house accessible can be expensive.

1. Doorways

Doorways allow a wheelchair user to easily get into your home and maneuver around in their chair. The ADA requires that doorways have a clear opening of 32 inches when the door is open to 90 degrees. Doors that don’t require entry—like a shallow closet—may be only 20 inches wide.

Expanding your existing doorways can cost an average of $500–$1,000 if you require new doors or if you need to create larger openings.

2. Door Handles

If you have round door handles, you might need to change your door hardware to make it accessible. Door handles with levers that don’t require more than 5 pounds of force to open are required by the ADA.

Door handles are relatively quick and easy to change, and the cost could vary depending on brand and quality—but the overall price will depend on how many you need to switch out.

3. Showers

For a truly accessible house, you’ll likely need a shower or a bath where a wheelchair user can bathe independently or with help. Your shower stall design might depend on the current and future mobility needs of you or your family member, but the ADA recommends that they be 36 inches by 36 inches at minimum. They also require a seat to be mounted 17 to 19 inches from the floor and have a depth that extends the length of the stall.

An ADA-compliant shower should have grab bars to make it safe for a person to maneuver within the shower stall, and also faucets that are designed for easier control of the shower from their height and within their mobility needs. The shower head should be on a 60-inch hose to allow for easier bathing.

The price of retrofitting an existing shower can cost between $1,000 and $5,000 depending on your location and how much work needs to be done for it to comply.

4. Baths

Instead of a shower, you might consider a handicap-accessible bathtub. The ADA requires clear floor space in front of the bath and a seat in the bath at the head of the tub. Grab bars and a hose with a length of at least 60 inches are also required.

Retrofitting an existing bath might just require installing grab bars, a shower head with a hose, and a shower seat, so costs could be kept minimal.

5. Ramps

If your home currently has stairs you need to climb to get inside, you’ll need to build a ramp if you want it to be wheelchair accessible. The ADA recommends that the least possible slope be used for all ramps. The maximum slope should be 1:12, or 12 inches of ramp for every 1 inch of rise. If you’re building a ramp in an existing building, the rise can be slightly steeper.

The width of the ramp has to be a minimum of 36 inches , and any landings should be as wide as the ramp and be at least 60 inches deep. There should be handrails on both sides of the ramp if the ramp has a greater rise than 6 inches or goes over 72 inches of space.

The cost of constructing a ramp will depend on the entrance layout of your particular home, but you could expect to pay between $100 and $250 per linear foot .

6. Flooring

If you have carpet or uneven floors in your home, that might create a challenge for wheelchair users to get around. A wheelchair-accessible home has smooth floor surfaces that are stable, firm, and slip resistant. If carpet is used, it must be securely attached, and the maximum thickness should be half an inch. Plusher carpets make it difficult for wheelchairs to maneuver.

The cost of replacing carpet depends on the size of your home and what you want to replace your carpet with. For example, a hardwood floor could cost between between $6 and $22 per square foot , installed.

7. Accessible Kitchen Renovations

Making your home wheelchair accessible might also involve doing a kitchen renovation . That could involve lowering counters and cabinets and potentially widening some areas so that a wheelchair can easily get through.

A cooktop might also need to be moved down, and an oven might need a sideways hinge so that it’s accessible for the person in a wheelchair to cook.

These renovations can cost upward of $15,000 , but there might be ways to reduce the amount of work that must be done, such as creating a dedicated area for cooking and accessible counter space and leaving the rest of the kitchen as-is.

8. Toilets

Bathrooms should have enough room for a wheelchair to maneuver inside and room for a wheelchair user to move their chair next to the toilet to transfer themselves from the chair to the toilet easily.

There should be grab bars mounted securely to the walls to facilitate the process and increase safety. Depending on mobility needs, other assistive devices such as raised seats and devices that can assist with the transfer from the chair to the toilet could be added.

These changes are generally not costly unless a major renovation is required to create more space in the bathroom to accommodate a wheelchair.

9. Sinks

Another necessary renovation for a wheelchair accessible house is making sinks accessible. Sinks must be reachable from the chair—which might necessitate an opening below the sink to maneuver the chair.

They also need to have taps that are push, lever operated, or touch operated to make them accessible. The cost of these changes will depend on how many sinks you have in your home and the faucets you choose.

The Cost of Accessibility Renovations

How much you’ll spend on renovations to make your home wheelchair accessible will depend on your particular accessibility needs, your home’s current state, and the size of your home.
Improvenet estimates that the average amount spent to turn a home into a wheelchair-accessible house is $5,233, with the higher end around $20,000. Fixr, however, estimates that the average cost is $9,000, and that higher-end costs can go up to $40,000 if you’re also doing a kitchen and bathroom renovation.

You might want to figure out first which renovations you want to do and then work with a contractor to price them out. You could then scale back to only the essential renovations based on your budget.

Financing Options

If you need to remodel or retrofit your home, there are a number of financing options available.

Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grants : If you’re a veteran who has a service-connected disability, you can potentially get a grant from Veterans Affairs to adapt your home or purchase a home that is already adapted. If you are purchasing or adapting your own home, the maximum amount you can get through the SAH grant is $85,645 in 2019.

There is also a Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) grant that provides up to $17,130 for those who don’t qualify for the SAH grant. If you live with a family member temporarily, you could get up to $37,597 for an SAH grant and $6,713 for an SHA grant.

Rebuilding Together : This is a nonprofit that helps people build, rebuild, or modify homes. They have a history of working with families to make their homes more accessible.

Medicaid waivers : Many states have Medicaid programs that cover home modifications for disabled or elderly people. These programs are sometimes called Money Follows the Person programs, which are used for people who are currently in nursing homes but may want to return to a private home. The money could help them make home modifications to ensure their safety at home. Programs vary by state.

A home equity line of credit (HELOC): If you own your home, you might be able to use your existing equity to get a line of credit for a specific amount to finance your renovations. Lines of credit are secured against your home, but the downside is if you’re unable to repay them, your home might be at risk.

A personal loan from SoFi: With an unsecured home improvement loan, you don’t need equity and it’s not secured by your home.

If you’re approved for an unsecured personal loan from SoFi, you could get your money quicker than you might if you opted for a HELOC. With a SoFi personal loan, you may also have more flexibility around repayment.

You can choose the repayment term that’s right for you. A longer-term could reduce the monthly payment you’re required to make on your debt, but you’ll also pay more in interest over time.

Find out if you qualify for a SoFi personal loan to finance your renovations house today.

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