Bathroom Remodeling For Accessibility

I am going to talk about a pretty popular room in you home. You use it to clean your self, relieve yourself, brush your teeth, fix your hair, shave, put on your make up, and look at your self. It’s your bathroom. It is one of the most used rooms in your home.

Now let’s say something happened to you that made it difficult for you to walk, stand or move without a walker or wheel chair. What would you be forced to do? Is your bathroom designed so you can even get a wheel chair into the room? Once the wheelchair was in the bathroom would you be able to turn it around in a circle? Are any of your fixtures accessible from a wheelchair? How about your mirror, your vanity, your toilet or shower?

If you were ambulatory, you would be considered one having a handicap. (handicap – n. a particular way in which somebody is physically challenged.) It could happen to you or a loved one. It does happen everyday to thousands of people young and old. Why not be ready? You would be forced to move or pay someone to physically lift you and transport you where you needed to go. There is one thing you can do to keep you in your home.

Bath Remodeling Plan

Create a plan for an accessible bathroom. First look at the layout of an accessible bathroom plan. You need a doorway width of a minimum of 32 inches wide. Wheel chairs are between 24-27 inches wide. If you have to turn a wheelchair off the hallway into the accessible bathroom you probably need to have a doorway of 36 inches wide. Make sure that the door opens a minimum of 90 degrees. Accessible design for easy entrance should included a lever handle privacy latch set. If you cannot achieve the minimum door opening of 90 degrees you might consider a pocket door to make the most of your space.

Handicapped Bathroom Design

The essentials for a residential handicap bathroom would consist of a toilet, a vanity, shower/bath or wheelchair accessible shower unit. Some master baths may have both bath and separate shower units. This will allow flexibility for shared use. A general rule for any accessible bathroom needs a five-foot turning radius. This will allow the restricted mobility of a wheelchair to easily access each component of the handicap bathroom.

Bathroom Vanity

The roll under vanity height has a maximum of 34 inches from the top of the vanity to the floor and a minimum of 29 inches from the under side of the vanity top to the floor. The rough-in height is adjusted to allow room for the toe and foot clearance. The hot water supply and the waste drain must be insulated to prevent burning or be covered with drywall. The faucet may be a single handle unit. A pressure mixing valve with anti-scald temperature control will help prevent scalding.


The height of the handicapped toilet is from 3 to 5 inches taller than a standard height commode. The higher the toilet height the less distance is travel from sitting to standing height. , The height depends on the user. If you are designing the accessible bathroom for children or an older love one, take into consideration each need for the toilet design and type. Easy transfer from wheelchair to toilet will require closer to a standard height toilet. So the height of the toilet should be the best height to accommodate the user’s specific needs. Toilet Lifts are also a useful tool when caring for an ambulatory patient.

Bathroom Shower

If you have an existing shower/bath you will need a study transfer seat with grab bars and an open tub. This means no sliding glass bath enclosure. A shower curtain is acceptable though. You might need a roll in shower. If you have a tub/shower there are many roll in shower kits that conform to a standard bath opening of 60 inches in width. They have a minimum curb height if ½ inch to allow easy wheelchair access. If you are remodeling your shower you may consider a larger dimension of 6’ wide by 4’-6” or larger.

Grab Bars

One of the last things left to be considered for your accessible bathroom is the placement of backing (plywood or 2-by lumber placed between the wall studs) behind the drywall to support heavy duty grab bars strategically laid out for easy access outside and inside the shower or bath tub and around the toilet area. The grab bars should be capable supporting up to 250lbs.

Naturally without the proper backing behind the drywall to support the grab bar, they could pull off the wall and cause a fall and damage to the wall finish. The grab bars should be between 1 ¼” to 1 ½” in diameter and an 1 ½” from the wall. The same backing should be place behind the drywall for toilet paper holders and towel bars for proper installation.

Floor Coverings

Falling is the last thing we must discuss today for the successful floor plan of an accessible bathroom. Design the flooring to have a non-slip finish. Vinyl sheet goods are inexpensive and are easy to maintain. If you are using flooring tile , use a tile no smaller than 12’ by 12”. Try to select non-slip or mat finish to help with the presence of water. Try not to use throw rugs or mats because their edges may cause a fall. Strive to create a barrier free design.

If you use good common sense and keep it simple, you will have a better chance of having a successful project.

About the Author

TomTom Bills is a Realtor/Broker with as well as the President of T. Bills Construction Co. since 1979. Tom is dedicated to helping people with buying, selling, or remodeling their homes and properties in the best way possible for each families unique needs. Read more about Why Tom and his wife Barb started In-LawSuite here. Find him on Facebook and TwitterView all posts by Tom →

  1. Brett A
    Brett A03-01-2011

    The bathroom is one of the most important rooms in your home, everyone uses it for various reasons and most people seem to give it a skip when it comes to the interior design elements! When you work out your bathroom dimensions you need to be spot on or else things are not going to line up and your bathroom will look messy and people that see your bathroom will think that it was dome by an amateur, so if you can’t do it yourself then hire a professional to do it properly!

  2. escola americana
    escola americana06-11-2011

    precisamos fazer um banheiro para deficientes e queria ter ideia de CUSTOS. Podem nos ajudar?
    Obrigada Miriam

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