Most people don’t consider barrier free homes until they need to. Generally, homes aren’t initially constructed with accessibility in mind. Modifying a home to eliminate barriers for wheelchair-dependent individuals can represent fundamental changes to a home’s layout.
Beyond modifying entryways and doorways, barrier free designs must take the home’s plumbing into account. Older homes may require extensive interior remodeling to widen spaces, reduce fixture heights and eliminate barriers to toileting and showering. The same is true of newer homes that feature traditional room designs and fixtures.
The good news is that once a home has been redesigned to support accessibility, the value of the home rises significantly. What exactly is involved in barrier free plumbing?
Barrier free plumbing: toilets
Barrier free toilets often mount directly to the wall, rather than the floor. Floor—mounted barrier free toilets are generally taller than a standard toilet. This better accommodates transfers from a wheelchair to the toilet and back. The alternative is to mount the toilet directly to a wall. Installing a wall mounted toilet offers some flexibility with regard to height. You can determine the best height for your particular needs. Wall mounted toilets also require the soil pipe to be moved into the wall. In addition, the tank and the plumbing needed to flush and fill the toilet are also hidden in the wall.
Wall mounted toilets can also offer options for homeowners with very small bathrooms, or those with non-standard soil pipe rough-ins. By removing the soil pipe altogether from the floor, a wall mounted toilet makes the most of a small space. Their design also can increase the available floor space by as much as 10 inches over a standard toilet.
Wall-mounted toilets are built to withstand loads in excess of 800 pounds, so there’s no danger of the toilet collapsing from the user’s weight. These toilets can also offer amenities like hands-free flushing, pushbutton flushing and remote flushing. In addition, removable panels allow easy access to the interior fixtures for maintenance and repair. As an added bonus, wall mounted toilets are also easier to clean.
Toilets aren’t the only wall-hung fixtures you can install. You can also find wall mounted bidets and urinals that offer similar benefits. Although you might think of these fixtures as “commercial” options, you can find several designed for residential use.
An accessible bathroom will also require a barrier free sink. Many ADA-compliant sinks feature an off-set drain. This enables the sink to meet ADA compliance regulations, which have minimum height and depth requirements. The key to a barrier free sink is the amount of open space under the fixture to accommodate wheelchairs. ADA regulations don’t require the sink plumbing to be in the wall. Many people find this approach to be an easy way to meet ADA space regulations, however.
Barrier free showers
Well done barrier free shower designs can enhance the utility, appearance and value of your home. Many people are moving to barrier free designs, even when accessibility isn’t necessary. The most important things to remember about barrier free shower designs is that they’re very individual to the home. You can create an accessible full bathroom using a relatively small amount of space. Rain heads can help limit water spray by dropping water from the ceiling, instead of spraying from a showerhead. Special drains can also help capture and drain water. Many people who opt for barrier free showers are opting for “one-level” wet rooms that have a single level floor. These rooms are equipped to manage water, regardless of where it makes contact with the walls or floors.
If you’d like more information about accessible plumbing for your home, please give us a call at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to show you your options.
Photo Credit: Francie’s photos, via Flickr