Accessible homes designed for aging in place must have at least one bathroom with a wheel chair accessible shower. The minimum dimensions are 3’6” by 5’-0”. These measurements are compatible to standard bathtub dimensions. More and more residential builders are taking advantage of the desirability of a large walk in shower in the master bedroom and making it curb-less or barrier free.

Barrier Free Shower Design

Barrier free showers are large and spacious with nine plus foot high ceilings, and no curtains or shower doors. They are finished with ceramic or porcelain tile floors, with granite, marble or glass block walls. They may have multiple body sprays from the walls and the ceiling. People have the pleasure of the sliding glide bars with hand held spray and an adjustable pulse massage. They come in every kind of finish you can imagine, from brushed nickel to dull bronze.

Roll In Shower

The smart decision to design and build these large barrier free master showers plays a dual roll. They are beautiful and accessible. They don’t have to look like a handicap shower but they are. Without the curb or step they become an accessible shower. They certainly meet the minimum dimensions. Thanks to the strength and durable polyethylene plastics, the trench drain has replace an unattractive floor drain in the middle of the bathroom and shower floor which in days past was required by code. The trench drain is hidden in the floor running wall to wall along the lip or leading edge of the shower. The trench drain catches the water from spilling onto the bathroom floor. It wisps away the water to a sub level drain. The shower floor is slightly sloped toward the trench drain. They can also easily be rolled over by a wheel chair. That’s building for the future!

Accessibility Can Be Luxurious

Another smart design in the shower is for a bench seat. They can match or compliment the walls and floor finishes. Some of them are even heated. They also serve as a sturdy transfer bench from a wheel chair. Do you see where I’m going? Accessibility does not dictate design to boredom. Have some fun with it!

You may think that hand rails are ugly or unsightly. That’s ok for today or maybe tomorrow but what about aging in place? While you are building or remodeling the shower at least put backing between the wood stud framing to the required height for future use. Backing is horizontal framing, like a 2 by 8, placed behind the shower walls to the required height to support both ends of a grab bar. You might want to use that grab bar someday to help lean over to pick up the soap or secure yourself from a fall. You may never use it but you may find it beneficial in the future for you or maybe the next owner. We never know what tomorrow holds for us.

A Good Investment

If you are fortunate enough to have the ability to add a mother in-law suite or just remodel your shower, think about aging in place. Think about Universal Design. Showers have plumbing in them. Any room with plumbing is the highest cost per square foot to construct. Showers, when accessibly designed, can return 90% of the cost to construct. I don’t know of any place you can invest your money in that can make that statement.

Housing needs are constantly changing. What we see as impossible today may become commonplace within a decade. That’s why we must plan and design looking toward the future. We will be looking at other parts of the Universal Design to achieve a totally accessible home in future posts.

Got some ideas about designing for the future, aging in place, or any other related topics, leave your comment below, we’d love to hear from you!

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