Q. What should I be sure to consider when modifying a customer's bathroom to make it more accessible?
A. One thing that's often overlooked is the bathroom door itself. Due to varying layouts in homes, the possible scenarios for good and bad access points are endless. Can we enlarge the door? Can we change the way the door swings? Can we use a pocket door?
First off: Can we enlarge the door? Things to consider include: What is on the other side of wall? Is there wiring behind the wall where we want to enlarge the door? Or duct work for heating or cooling? Is it a weight-bearing wall? Is it made of concrete? Does it have metal studs? Once you know the answers to these questions, you'll know whether you can enlarge the door, and if you can, by how much. Of course, 42 inches is optimum but sometimes 32 inches may be the max you can do. Remember: Swing doors, especially in tight bathrooms, should swing out into the hallway. If someone falls inside the bathroom, you don't want to have to push the door into him or her to help.
Sometimes, due to the layout in a home, the swing of the door can only be changed to swing out into the hallway. This isn't a problem: Again, it gives better access to the bathroom. If you need an extra one-and-a-half inches of clearance, use handicap extended door hinges. Also, if the door is a solid core door and there are only two hinges, you may want to add a third hinge for stability.
Pocket doors are great, but they have a few limitations. Do you have enough room for a pocket door? Like when you're considering whether to enlarge a door, you have to determine what's on the other side of the wall. Is the wall double the size in length for install? Because a 36-inch door needs 74 inches of framing to install. If you have the room--great. There's another limitation you should consider specifically for power wheelchair users: Pocket doors are easy to knock off track when they're hit with a chair.
Robert Gurinowitsch is the owner of Life Access. He can be reached at 866-434-5744 or firstname.lastname@example.org.