Home modifications that make sense

By Karen Cifala

We have a lot of beautiful older homes in Clarke County, and sometimes these homes cannot safely accommodate people as they age. Your home is where you feel most comfortable and it’s no wonder that more people are looking for a way to ensure that they can stay there. To meet the specific needs of people living in or visiting the home, renovations and adaptations can be made.

Depending on your budget and the type and style of your home, modifications can be as simple as removing rugs and thresholds to prevent tripping, or installing grab bars at various locations. Replacing the old flip light switch to a motion sensor, remote control or a rocker-wall light switch can make all the difference in the world to some people. Some of these can be done by you at a low cost, but many require a professional.

Making the home barrier-free can take some resourceful thinking.

Let’s start with no-step entries. Ramps can take the place of stairs; or a garage lift for someone who uses a wheelchair. Ramps don’t have to be unsightly. They can be landscaped to blend with the home.

Wider doorways are a must for a wheelchair or a walker. Consider replacing standard 30” or 32” door with a wider 36” or larger doors to accommodate a wheelchair or a walker.

Bathrooms and Kitchens: If you do end up fully remodeling your bathroom or your kitchen, try to get a full 4’ or more of turning radius for a wheel chair as well as some of the following brilliant modifications.

Roll-in showers, wet rooms or larger showers with low thresholds can be installed to accommodate a wheelchair, stool or a sitting chair. A wet room allows for no curb, barrier-free showering. They are fully tiled walk-in shower rooms with no need for a tub or shower enclosure. Planning a wet room with a wall hung toilet and sink would truly make your bathroom barrier-free. Height- adjustable handheld shower heads are great as well. The walk in bathtubs are great for some people who want or need the hydrotherapy, but they still have thresholds and may still create an obstacle getting in and out.

Anti-scald valves, known as pressure-balance valves compensate for sudden changes in both hot and cold water lines. If your old home is prone to sudden changes in water temperature this might be an option to prevent a person from jumping or losing their balance in the shower, not to mention getting scalded.

Replace older style bath and kitchen faucets handles with paddle style handles or touch faucets that pull down and turn the hot and cold on with one hand.

Elevated toilets can help prevent falls. A 19” toilet means that the seat is 19 inches from the floor, compared to a standard which is 15”. Four inches might not seem like a big difference but it makes it easier for the elderly to get up and down, coupled with an assistance railing. They also make different kinds of flushing mechanisms which could make it easier.

Lower wall-mounted bathroom and kitchen sinks with no vanities will make it easier to roll a chair underneath, but be mindful of the possible hot or sharp sink connections underneath that might need to be covered. If needed, you could consider replacing the standard 36” high countertop with a lower one.

Lower roll-out shelves in both the bath and the kitchen work well as do walk-in closets with different heights of storage.

A Stair or Chair Lift can be installed if your old colonial home lacks any place to install a bathroom on the main floor or all of the bedrooms are upstairs. Chair Lifts fit to the stairs, not the wall and can be made to fit just about any staircase.

Air quality is important and needs to be safeguarded. Your basement and roofs need to be checked for water infiltration. Mold can accumulate over a short period of time. Common areas for mold growth in homes are in basements, showers and areas around heating and cooling appliances. The best way to guard against mold is to ensure that are no active leaks or areas where moisture is collecting regularly. Ductwork, in particular, can be a source of unhealthy air.

Paying for these modifications is what’s next on everyone’s mind. Basically, unless you fall under one of the following categories (veterans, low-income or vocational rehabilitation) your sources for funding assistance are limited. You can save some money through tax deductions, second-hand products and senior discounts. Depending on your insurance policy, there might be some equipment and home modification coverage available. Paying for the modifications yourself, taking out a home equity line of credit, finding a low-interest rate loan or setting up a reverse mortgage are also options.

Changes that you make to your home, if designed and executed well, will enhance the value of your home. A big thanks to Randy Sprouse, a local Class A General Contractor for his help and suggestions. You can reach him at 540-664-9100.

Karen Cifala is a Realtor with Remax Roots in Berryville. She welcomes your suggestions on other topics and she can be reached at Remax Roots in Berryville, 540-955-0911, (cell 303-817-9374) or you can email her at kcifala@gmail.com.