The top ten reason for wanting to remodel (a humorous approach):
- You are tired of peeing in a cup and bathing with wet wipes.
- Grab bars – what a concept. I wish I had thought of that.
- 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.
- Your carpeting has enough embedded tracks in it for a railroad.
- Who really knows what secrets lurk on the upper level of your home? You have never seen it.
- You cannot remember what the back yard looks like, but they tell you it is nice.
- In case of fire, common sense says you need more than one accessible exit from your home.
- There’s not enough putty compound in the world to fill the gashes in your hallways and doorways from the wheelchair.
- Your seasonal clothes and hobby supplies disappear in the black hole of your attic because you have no accessible storage space.
- 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.
Consult with and hire professionals
If you are thinking of building or a major remodel, consult with an expert(s). Occupational Therapists (OT) are very helpful in determining your needs today and into the future. If you have a progressive disorder, never, I repeat - never, attempt to remodel to satisfy your current needs. Your OT can help you look out three to five years and determine what is needed today and in the future.
Once you have an idea of what is needed, architects can offer more ideas about design, space and what is available. Architects interpret your wishes into technical terms for the contractor to follow.
Seek out others who have recently remodeled
Word of mouth recommendations are gold. Discuss 'dos and don'ts' and lessons learned with others who have previously remodeled. Kennedy's Disease on Facebook, the local MDA and ALS organizations, and friends who have friends are excellent resources for this. They have first hand experience as to what worked, what they would do differently had they known, and other gems of information.
Guidelines for hiring a contractorOnce you are ready, take your time and find a contractor you feel comfortable with. Once again, word of mouth recommendations from others you know are helpful. Look for contractors who have experience in handicap renovations and additions. Ask to see photos of some of their work to gain and idea of what type of renovations they perform and the quality of the work.
Some 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.