When it’s time to make your bathroom more stylish and functional, make it safer and more accessible, too. Tight quarters, slick surfaces, hard objects, and hot water can make a bath difficult and even dangerous to navigate, especially for people with physical limitations. Fortunately, there are ways to make your bath easier to use and reduce the risk of accidents or injury.
Replacing a standard-height toilet (the seat is 14 to 15 inches from the floor) with a chair-height model (the seat is 16 to 18 inches from the floor) makes the bath easier to use for people of all ages, heights and mobility levels.
Burns from hot water pose a bath hazard, especially for children. You can lower the risk by lowering the temperature on your water heater to 120°F. Check the actual temperature at the faucet by turning on the hot water and letting it run over a candy thermometer for a few minutes.
When it comes to bathing, a raised tub with a deck or platform is easier to enter than a tub with a side you have to step over. You can sit on the tub deck, swing your legs over, and lower yourself into the water. For people with mobility issues, a walk-in tub with a watertight door on the side is even easier.
When someone flushes the toilet while you’re in the shower, does the water get suddenly hotter? If so, you could use a pressure-balancing valve. This fitting detects changes in water pressure coming to the faucet and adjusts the hot and cold mix to maintain an even temperature and prevent scalding. Thermostatic valves also prevent scalding, and they offer greater control over water temperature. They treat water temperature and volume separately, allowing you to set the exact temperature even before you turn on the water (and making it difficult to set the temperature higher than a preset limit).
In addition to installing grab bars and anti-scald devices, you can make your shower safer and more accessible by the design you choose. A walk-in shower with a low threshold (or none at all) eases entry for everyone. Controls and showerheads should be positioned so users can turn on the water and set the temperature before the spray hits them. And the shower controls should be easy to operate -- a single lever handle is ideal. For the showerhead, consider an adjustable-height handheld model. It accommodates different statures and postures. If you have the space, a shower bench is nice for people who have trouble standing. There are also special shower chairs available for those with mobility issues.
Grab bars offer another way to prevent bath falls and improve accessibility for those with mobility issues. Resembling towel bars but capable of supporting much more weight, grab bars help bathroom users keep their balance and help themselves up or down in tub and shower areas and by the toilet. To work properly, grab bars must be securely anchored to wall studs -- and that may require beefing up the framing behind the wall. So if you’re opening up a bath wall to do other remodeling work, it’s a great time to add a grab bar.
Many other Better Living Design principals apply in the bath as well as the rest of the home: