Thursday, May 5, 2011

Remodeling your home to make it more accessible

Remodeling is an option for many of us when our homes are no longer safely accessible or are not designed for individuals with special needs.  In 2004, Quest Magazine published an interesting article on remodeling called, “Staying Put – Remodeling can keep you safe and comfortable in the home you love.”  I would encourage you to check out this article if you ever consider moving or remodeling to better accommodate your needs.  Below are certain excerpts from the article that I found helpful.


The top ten reason for wanting to remodel (a humorous approach):
  1. You are tired of peeing in a cup and bathing with wet wipes.
  2. Grab bars – what a concept.  I wish I had thought of that.
  3. You are home alone.  The blinds are shut, the lights are off, the heat needs adjusting, the TV remote was left on the floor; and you cannot reach any of them.
  4. Your carpeting has enough embedded tracks in it for a railroad.
  5. Who really knows what secrets lurk on the upper level of your home?  You have never seen it.
  6. You cannot remember what the back yard looks like, but they tell you it is nice.
  7. In case of fire, common sense says you need more than one accessible exit from your home.
  8. There’s not enough putty compound in the world to fill the gashes in your hallways and doorways from the wheelchair.
  9. Your seasonal clothes and hobby supplies disappear in the black hole of your attic because you have no accessible storage space.
  10. Water runs down your armpits every time you wash your hands because the sink and counters are too high.

Move or Improve?  That is the question. 
  • People remodel because they love their home or their neighbors or they are close to family and friends.
  • Home improvements are usually a sound investment (up to a point).  For example, a report states that the return rate on a remodeled bathroom is 88%.  The rule of thumb is “don’t spend more than 5% of your home’s value on remodeling any one room.  However, most people with a neuromuscular disease are more concerned about safety and accessibility than resale value.
  • Wheelchair accessible homes are few and far between.  There are not a lot of them out there and normally people do not advertise them as such for concerns that others buyers will not be interested.
Hire Professionals

If you are thinking of building or a major remodel, consult with an expert.  Architects can offer more ideas about design, space and what is available.  Architects interpret your wishes into technical terms for the contractor to follow.


Guidelines for hiring a contractor

Once you are ready, consider these contractor guidelines.
  • Consult with at least three contractors about your plans.  Check their licensing, insurance, and credentials online and with your state’s registrar of contractors and the Better Business Bureau.
  • Get bids and detailed breakdowns of costs and time in writing from all three contractors.  Typically, the mid-range bid is your best bet.
  • Be ware of contractors who supply only out of town references, present tight time pressures or promise completions that seem unrealistic.
  • Pay only in stages.  Never give 100% up front (or even a hefty deposit up front.  Deposits are typically 10%.  Always hold back money based on the stage of completion because it is your only leverage.
  • Both you and the contractor should sign and date a written contract including the work details, materials specified (with substitution requiring a written approval), payments and dates, and the completion date.  Do not sign a completion statement and give the final payment until a full inspection is completed by yourself and a building inspector.
  • Be aware that suppliers and sub-contractors can place a lien against your property.  To protect yourself, add a release of lien clause to your contract or ask for proof of payments by your contractor.
The article goes into a lot of detail about ramps, doorways, lighting, flooring (an excellent section), baths and cabinets.  They also have a section that provides estimates of many remodeling jobs (2004 prices).

We have built ramps and done some minor remodeling, but we are now considering a major remodeling of the master bath to make it more accessible.  This article is becoming more helpful as we move forward with this process.

I would be interested in your comments about making the home more handicap accessible?

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Please feel free to comment. By taking a moment to share your thoughts you add much to these articles. The articles then become more than just something I said or believe. In addition, by adding a comment, you might just be helping the next reader by sharing your opinion, experience, or a helpful tip. You can comment below or by sending me an email. I look forward to hearing from you.