October 10, 2012
November 9, 2012
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Old tools on a wooden table

Breaking Down the Barriers – Myths about accessibility renovations

Barrier Free Remodelling, Universal Home Design, Aging in Place Renovations. If you are considering doing any renovations to your home, you might want to think about these topics. “But Hammer & Nails,” you say, “These renovations aren’t for me. I’m just an average homeowner.”

You might be wrong. Let’s look at a couple of myths surrounding accessibility renovations.

Myth: Accessibility renovations mean making my home wheelchair accessible.

Often, traditionally, the thought of renovating one’s home to be more accessible often meant providing access for people confined to wheelchairs. However, that is only one facet of accessibility renovations. To us, accessibility renovations mean changing your home to make it easier and more comfortable for people to be in and navigate. Although there are specific standards used with certain terms (for example, using the words Barrier Free means meeting certain building codes), here, today, we are looking at accessibility from a general standpoint.

Making your home more accessible can mean installing some grab bars in your bathroom, placing a non-skid surface on your front steps, or putting in lower cabinets in your kitchen for easier access. Of course, making your home more accessible can also mean, installing a elevator in a two storey house, widening doorways to allow room for wheelchairs and walkers, or putting a barrier free shower in the bathroom. The truth is, accessibility means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Everyone has different needs and therefore accessibility renovations should be about meeting those needs.

Myth: I don’t need to renovate my home to be more accessible. My family and I don’t have mobility issues.

At some point in your life, there is a good chance that you or someone in your family will have reduced mobility. Whether from an accident or simply through the graces of old age, a person may have a difficult time getting around in their own home.

If you’re already in the market for some home renovations, why not consider planning them to provide more accessibility? If you’re putting in a new front door, why not make sure that the threshold has a low profile for ease of access? If you’re redoing your bathroom, why not add a hand shower and a shower bench? With a few minor adjustments to your renovation project, you can save yourself a lot of stress down the road. Just ask anybody who has had to wait for these renovations to get done, long after they are needed.

In addition, if you’re anything like me, you want your friends and family to come over and visit from time to time. Making sure that your house is not a nightmare to navigate means that anyone with mobility issues will feel welcome and relaxed.

Myth: Renovating my home to be more accessible will make it look more like a hospital.

There’s a perception that accessibility renovations means turning your home into a health care facility complete with neutral colours, sterile environments, and commercial grade furniture. This is as far from the truth as possible. Some manufacturers, such as Moen, have a complete line of accessibility products that provide both great looks as well as function. Other companies, like our good friends at Delton Cabinets, can build custom products to suit both your needs and tastes. And companies like Schluter, have come up with products that are versatile, having applications usable in any kind of renovation. In other words, your home doesn’t have to look like a room in a hospital, unless, of course, you want it to look that way.

The pictures I’ve included come from some of the projects that Robert and I have been involved with through Nord Alta Construction. One project that we’re very proud of is an addition that we added to the home of Jaye and Ian. The project won The Mayor’s Award for Universal Design in Architecture in 2010 . Just last month, we went back there to install some brand new doors, which coincidentally, has a low threshold profile for ease of access. And they look pretty snazzy too.

Michael Breault is a project coordinator for Nord Alta Construction. You can find the company website at www.nordalta.com. You can also find Michael and Nord Atla Construction on facebook at www.facebook.com/NordAltaConstruction, on twitter at www.twitter.com/Nordalta, and on LinkedIn.