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Home Remodeling for Generations of Safety in the Bathroom
Wednesday, 06 July 2011 14:32

Bathroom safety is a generational need. It's obvious why household accidents frequently occur in the bathroom where we are most vulnerable. Water splashes out of the bathtub onto the floor, footprints of water track from the shower to the sink. Bathroom fixtures and floors are rock hard – a nightmare during a fall. Those who have to get dressed in the bathroom have to do balancing acts around solid fixtures and wet floors – likely while dancing to a favorite tune on plugged-in iPod speakers while waiting for electrical hair-styling accessories to heat up.

Slippery floors and solid fixtures affect all generations. Infants are held, washed and lifted with slippery hands begging for a third hand to grasp a nearby towel. Energetic children test their diving skills in a bathtub-turned-swimming pool. Sibling arguments over a bathroom sink or mirror can turn into push and shove matches over hard ceramic tiles and concrete floors. Tree-climbing school children and sports-active teenagers might have to deal with an injured arm or broken leg in their bathroom routines. Shower doors and entry doors open and close simultaneously as working adults rush to prepare for the outside world. And of course, as old age and arthritis sets in, it becomes more difficult to balance, bend and move.

The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) has design recommendations for safety. If you are contemplating an add-on bathroom or a complete remodel, these recommendations can get you started in the right direction by helping you determine the minimum amount of space you will need. (Very useful if you're eying that walk-in closet to see if you can transform it into an extra bathroom.)

Many of the NKBA's recommendations suggest minimum measurements between fixtures. Start locating twenty-one inches on your tape measure. The NKBA recommends at least 21” of space in front of lavatories - 21” space in front of toilets, and 21” of space in front of the bathtub. They also suggest an entryway of 32” wide, and shower enclosures to measure at least 32” by 32” with a shower head at least 72” high.

Door placement is a serious remodeling consideration for any room – and shower doors are no exception. Make sure the shower door opens into a room, and not into the shower enclosure. If someone is hurt, you need to get them out fast without knocking them unconscious while you're opening the door. Also make sure a shower door and entryway door aren't going to collide. For added safety, especially if you have young boisterous children, make sure the shower door is made from safety glass. If you have an older home with original installations – it's probably not safety glass.

The NKBA also suggests that showers have a bench or footrest installed. Not only does this provide support when shaving and washing the lower legs, but if someone starts to get dizzy or lightheaded it's easy to sit down. There should always be slip-resistant flooring in the shower, bath and throughout the whole bathroom.

If you're not doing a complete bathroom add-on or major remodeling project, an easy to to prevent accidents is to install a grab bar in the bathtub, shower, and by the toilet. To further prevent bathtub accidents, make sure that bathtubs are installed with faucets that are easy to access from outside the bathtub. To prevent scalding (if you can't or are not willing to turn down your hot water tank temperature), install a shower head with a pressure-balancing temperature regulator that keeps the hot and cold water balanced.

Bathroom remodelers seeking counter space should consider NKBA's recommendations of a 6” minimum between the edge of a toilet and side counter. And, although it's obvious that toilet paper should be easy to reach – they do recommend the toilet paper holder to be 26” off the ground. They do not, however, have recommendations on whether the toilet paper should be unrolled from over the top of the roll or from underneath. That's for you and your spouse to argue about.

Bathroom remodeling for safety is an investment that will last through generations. You might not be able to stop siblings from elbowing each other over the bathroom sink, but you can make sure you've done your best to protect them. Soak in some safety recommendations before you start soaking in your new tub, and plan on remodeling your bathroom with safety measures that can protect your family for generations.