Handicap Accessible Modifications That Won’t Turn Off Future Homebuyers

Cynthia Wilson
Written by Cynthia Wilson
Updated February 20, 2015
accessible kitchen entry to ramp
Mackenzie Crawford sits on his scooter as he opens the door to a newly added ramp-accessible porch. His parents, Paula and Todd, hired a contractor through Angie's List to renovate their home's main floor to better accommodate Mackenzie's needs, while still maintaining its visual appeal. (Photo by Doug Strickland)

Read more about how to renovate your home for accessibility, while retaining its visual appeal.

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If you’re remodeling your home to make it more accessible for a family member who is elderly, disabled or has special needs, your first priority should be to make affordable changes that will help your family live safely in the home.

Keep in mind that you may have to make some changes to attract more homebuyers when you sell the property, so it’s important to make sure the modifications are easily undone or that they have universal appeal, says Sandra O’Connor, a Realtor in Greensboro, North Carolina, who is also a regional vice president with the National Association of Realtors.

Anyone planning to invest in a new kitchen, bathroom or room addition should hire a designer, says Realtor Jamie Everett, vice president of Action Pro Realty in Safety Harbor, Florida.

“It will accomplish the purpose of the design and is less likely to be pulled out when the next homeowner purchases the home,” he says.

Here are seven accessible home ideas that won’t turn off future homebuyers.

Roll-in shower

Everyone needs to bathe. If you remodel the bath, residential interior designer Beth Van Deusen says roll-in showers make it easier for people can’t walk or have difficulty standing.

“Lots of things can go wrong getting in and out of a shower,” she says. Adding features like a bench or fold up chair and a pebble stone or small tile basin has mass appeal, O’Connor says. Van

Deusen adds that a small tile basin helps prevent slipping because it has more grout lines.

handicap accessible bathroom
Mackenzie Crawford washes his hands in his handicap-accessible bathroom, which is connected to his bedroom and renovated from the family's covered patio. (Photo by Doug Strickland)

Widen the doors and aisles

Given that most doors are 28 to 34 inches wide, the person who buys a home with larger doorways and aisles to haul in furniture between rooms isn’t likely to complain about the extra space, experts say.

To homebuyers, wider hallways and more open floor plans in themselves are attractive, O’Connor says.

Van Deusen says wider doorways don’t cost more to put in if you’ve gutted a room or are starting from scratch.

Open shelves

More homeowners are forgoing wall cabinets as they remodel their kitchens.

“They’re doing shelving instead of wall cabinets, or decorative shelves,” Van Deusen says.

Experts say the trend is appearing in some kitchen base cabinetry, and for storage options elsewhere in homes to create visual interest and expedite access to things you regularly use.

wide aisles, shorter countertops in accessible kitchen
Mackenzie Crawford's parents, Paula and Todd, renovated their kitchen to lower the countertops and widen the aisles to accommodate the 14-year-old's degenerative muscle disorder. (Photo by Doug Strickland)

Staggered countertop heights

O’Connor says light fixtures and countertops at varying heights in the kitchen and bathroom are becoming more common, with some countertop heights designed for wheelchair access. You don’t have to get rid of all standard height cabinets.

“You can have a mixture of cabinet sizes,” O’Connor says, noting that couples are adding taller vanities in master bathrooms for men.

In-wall blocking

Grab bars are often the first clue to homebuyers that an elderly or disabled person lives in the home.

Luckily, manufacturers are designing grab bars that are stylish and can serve double duty as a towel rack, toilet paper holder or soap dish, Van Deusen says.

If building or opening walls during a remodel, she recommends adding in-wall blocking, which is extra 2-by-4-inch studs in the walls inside the shower, near the toilet or anywhere else you may need to support grab bars or other handicap accessible equipment.

Comfort-height toilet

If you’re buying a new toilet, get a chair-height model. Your toddler may need to use a footstool to reach the seat after he or she outgrows their toilet trainer, but even they will grow tall enough to sit on the seat.

In the meantime, people who are taller, elderly or disabled won’t have as far to bend - a relief on their knees and back.

Hide the ramp

If you need a ramp to access your home, install one that can be easily removed, Everett says.

If you have the space, Van Deusen recommends you locate it on the side or rear of your home so it doesn’t affect your home’s curb appeal.

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