Sep 11

Now that Labor Day has passed and we enter into Fall, it’s time to start thinking about home maintenance. Aging-in-Place means staying in your own home for as long as possible. For most of us, we think about adding grab bars and other accessible construction projects that make the home safer and livable as we age.

But to remain in the home, we also need to think about home maintenance that will keep the home in livable shape. As you consider budgeting for retirement, set aside some money to keep your home in good shape for a long time too.

During the summer, this usually means mowing the lawn, tending to the garden, and other cosmetic necessities. Depending on your area of the country, Spring and Fall require other changes to get you through the upcoming seasons.

Fall Home Maintenance

September is usually still hot in most parts of the country but things will be cooling down soon and it’s time to start thinking about winter.

Fall Age in Place

If you have a pool, it may need to be drained and covered to keep leaves out during Fall and to keep it from cracking as things freeze later in the year. Check the filters and add chemicals needed for the winter.

Windows may need to be changed to double-pane storm windows replacing screens. This helps insulate and keep harsh weather outside.

While you’re at it, check any weather stripping around windows and doors.

It’s still a little early to be thinking about gutters but take a peek at your roof and examine it for leaks or bad shingles. If they need work, they can be fixed now or after the leaves have all fallen when it’s time to clear out the gutters.

Outdoor decks and patios won’t be used in the winter in snowy areas of the country. After you cover or remove the patio furniture for the year, check for cracks or areas that need to be sealed. Maybe the entire deck needs resealing after a long, hot summer. This will help maintain it during the winter and prolong its life.

Before the temperatures drop, plan a visit to the attic to check the insulation and assess for any open areas where heat may escape. A well-insulated attic will reduce heating costs in the Winter and save you money in the long run.

As we age, we think about performing our own physical maintenance such as eating right, exercising, and visiting the doctor for health checkups. Don’t forget to maintain your home as well. You plan on living there for a long time, and tending to it can save money and ensure its health. If you’re unable to make changes yourself, check with local contractors or visit a local home maintenance store such as Home Depot or Lowe’s. They can probably assist you in finding somebody to help.

Jul 18

Making homes safer and easier to use for seniors and people with disabilities sounds like a pretty simple proposition. Add a raised toilet, a few grabs bars, make sure carpets are tacked down and cords are out of the way to prevent tripping and you’re home free. While all of these need to be done, they are just the minimum requirements, and often the easiest.

Accessible Home Modifications

The really tricky accessible home modifications are the ones that require a little creativity. Like adding a wheelchair ramp that needs to be 24 feet long to meet ramp accessibility guidelines when you only have 15 feet of space to do it. Solution: Add a switchback ramp that winds back and forth, gradually sloping up instead of in one straight line.

In the old days of home accessibility, when a doorway was too narrow to fit through with a wheelchair, it was the standard to tear out the entire door and make it wider. Then somebody invented offset hinges allowing the doorway to swing out an extra two inches. The new hinges
can be installed in under 30 minutes at a fraction of the cost of a new doorway. Genius.

Stair lifts were, and continue to be, a creative way of moving people up and down stairways. The early ones only went in a straight line. Then somebody had the creative spark to add curved track and now we have curved stair lifts that can accommodate almost any set of stairs no matter how big or how many turns that might make.

Luckily for aging-in-place specialists, the marketplace for accessibility products is constantly growing and evolving. The products have gotten better, and better looking. If there isn’t a solution for something today, there probably will be soon. And if you can’t find what you need, you can probably figure it with a little creative problem solving of your own when making a home more accessible for seniors and peope with disabilities.

May 30

One of the problems facing wheelchair users is scraping the walls and doorways when wheeling through the house, not to mention scraping fingers and knuckles. Offset hinges widen doorways a few inches by expanding the door opening at the hinge. These are an easy and cost effective way to solve the problem.

But sometimes there is a door opening in a hallway that doesn’t have a door to expand – it’s just a narrow opening. While it’s wide enough to fit through, it’s a snug fit.

These narrow openings are easy to spot, as the wheel marks are evident on the walls and doors where the paint has scraped off. It’s bad enough when you own the home you live in, but it’s worse if you’re a renter and have to pay to fix the walls when you move out.

We recently helped a wheelchair user by attaching clear, plexiglas wheelchair wall protectors to a narrow door opening. The plexi sheets are thin enough that they don’t impede movement through the opening but save the paint and wood from being scraped away.

Wheelchair Wall Protectors

We’ve seen commercial wall protectors in parking garages and even offices where furniture is constantly being moved, but we haven’t found a commercial solution for homes yet. So we fabricated our own wheelchair wall guard.

It’s a fairly simple procedure to install them, and until somebody comes out with a pre-made protector, take a look around your own home and see if it might help save your paint and wood.

Feb 28

Installing a stair lift in the home provides a safe and easy way to promote independent living. It removes the barrier of a stairway so that seniors and people with disabilities can live comfortably in their own home.

Stair lift manufacturers are continually upgrading their product offerings with better, and safer features. It wasn’t all that long ago that stair lifts provided a better way to go up and stairs without walking, but they were a bit cumbersome and took up a little too much space on, and around the stairway. Not any more.

Stair Lift With Folding Rail

We recently installed a Bruno Electra-Ride Elite Stair Lift that comes equipped with a power folding rail at the bottom of the stairway to accommodate a narrow hallway or doorway. At the touch of a button the bottom section of the stair lift folds up and out of the way.

This is a great feature for smaller homes, or where a doorway or hallway might be too narrow to safely move around the stair lift rail. It also features a folding footplate and armrests to shrink the size of the footprint on the stairway even more.

Barrier-free should be just that – a way to eliminate barriers in the home for the safety and comfort of all who live there.

While there are many ways to make a home more accessible, homeowners should rely on barrier-free home modification experts to get the best products that specifically fit their needs.

Not every home needs a stair lift with a folding rail. But it’s nice to know there’s a solution available to fit almost every need.

Dec 30

Aging-in-place has been a buzzword for some time now, especially when you consider that baby boomers are reaching the age of 65 at the rate of 10,000 per day. Accessible bathrooms are a popular place to start when modifying a home for accessibility and independent living.

One trend that is noticeable in new and modified homes is the addition of a walk-in or roll-in accessible shower. These are great for wheelchair users, but even for walking in, they are safer and easier to enter and exit.

Because the main barrier when entering a shower is the side of the tub or threshold enclosure, users must step over it, which can be difficult. Installing a zero-threshold entry removes this barrier.

While one potential problem has been solved, another one may have been created, and that is the problem of water spilling out of the shower and onto the bathroom floor. Without a shower threshold, there’s nothing to keep the water inside the shower.

The easiest way to correct this is by installing a Collapsible Shower Dam and using Weighted Shower Curtains. The shower dam fits over the threshold and the shower curtains hang tight and low against the shower dam. The shower dam is only an inch and a half high but it’s easy to walk over and keeps the water at bay.

A collapsible shower dam also works well for wheelchair users because it collapses when the wheels roll over it and then pops back up in place. This can eliminate the need to perform a transfer into the shower from the wheelchair to a shower bench or chair.

The trend to walk-in accessible showers is here to stay for many new and modified homes. They fit nicely from an aging-in-place perspective as they are attractive and functional, and they are easier to use by people of all ages and abilities. A collapsible shower dam should be standard on most barrier-free shower designs.

You can find information and purchase details here:
www.AccessibleConstruction.com/services/bathrooms/25

Oct 5

Back in August we showed a Modular Ramp installation for a client that needed a wheelchair ramp to get up his stairs. In this instance, a straight ramp wouldn’t fit because we needed too much ramp length and there wasn’t enough space. So we installed a switchback Modular Ramp that traveled back and forth, providing enough length to decrease the slope angle.

What we didn’t show was that the other side of the house had an even smaller area, making it impossible to install any kind of ramp. No problem. For really tight spaces a vertical Platform Lift or Porch Lift is often better than a wheelchair ramp.

Porch Lift

Porch Lift at the bottom position

Vertical Lifts are great because they require minimal effort on the part of the wheelchair user or caregiver. Simply open the gate at the bottom, roll in, close the gate behind you and push the button. The lift rises up to the next level and out you go at the top. They also promote independent living because there is no need for a caregiver to help push up a ramp. The user can do everything at the touch of a button located on the control panel.

Platform Lift

Platform Lift at the top position

Platform Lifts are safe and reliable and can be installed both indoors and outside. They have a 750-pound weight capacity and come with a non-skid deck surface. They are recommended for commercial and residential applications and offer an ideal way for companies to come into compliance.

Vertical Lift view from the top landing

Vertical Lift view from the top landing

If safety is a concern, Platform Lifts can be safer than ramps depending on the physical condition of the user or the caregiver. They require little or no physical strength as the motor does all the work and problems going too fast down a ramp or falling backwards are eliminated.

When you don’t have enough space for a wheelchair ramp, consider going vertical with a Porch Lift or Vertical Platform Lift.

Sep 14

The Remodeling Show will be held at Lakeside Center at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois from October 13 to October 15, 2011.

Remodeling Show 2011

If you’ve never been, the Remodeling Show features the latest products and offers a chance for home builders and remodelers a chance to speak with manufacturers’ technical experts and other remodeling professionals. It is the only national event serving residential remodeling experts.

You can get more information about the show on their website at: www.RemodelingShow.com

We’re very excited to be exhibiting at this year’s Remodeling Show. If you’re in Chicago, visit Accessible Construction in Booth #644.

We will have select accessible bathroom products on hand and discuss how a Collapsible Water Retainer for a shower threshold keeps water in the shower and off the bathroom floor.

Shower Threshold

We’ll have an example of Weighted Shower Curtains and you can see how they work with a water dam for keeping floors dry.

Weighted Shower Curtains

We’ll also have a Toilevator that raises an existing toilet 3.5 inches instead of buying a whole new toilet. Perfect for remodelers.

Toilevator

One of the most popular modifications for accessible home remodelers is widening doorways to create more entrance space or to accommodate wheelchairs.

An offset hinge is expandable and swings away giving an extra two inches to the width of the doorway.

offset hinge

There is also a commercial heavy-duty expandable hinge for garage doors or the front door of the home. We’ll have both types of expandable hinges on display.

expandable hinge

If you’re at the show, stop by and introduce yourself. This is a great show to meet new people where we can all help each other learn about the latest products and ideas for our industry.

Aug 22

Building or buying a wheelchair ramp isn’t difficult but working within the required Accessibility Guidelines developed by the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) can make it challenging.

The Accessibility Guidelines should always be followed, which is why it’s so important to only use contractors that know and abide by the ADA guidelines. The guidelines are in place for the safety of the wheelchair user. Many people try to get around the ADA specifications to save costs, while others simply don’t know about them or understand why they are so important.

Safety is the number one consideration for wheelchair ramps, followed by ease of use. A ramp that is too steep is probably too difficult to use by most people, or will be as the user ages and declines in strength. Steep ramps can also cause the user to tip over backwards when going up or gain too much speed when going down.

The ADA Accessibility Guidelines state that for every 1 foot (12 inches) in height, the ramp must be at least 12 feet long. This gives an incline ratio of 1:12. While this is the maximum incline allowed, many times it is better to double that number to 1 foot of height for 24 feet of length. This number works better for elderly or weaker users.

Wheelchair Ramp accessibility guidelines

This sounds fairly simple to follow until you see just how fast the ramp length can add up. If you need to clear an outside set of stairs that are only two feet high, you need at least 24 feet of ramp length. What if you don’t have 24 feet of space directly in front of the stairs? In many cases you won’t have that much room so it’s time to get creative. Modular ramps are one solution where the ramp travels back and forth from side to side. Another option is to use a Vertical Platform Lift or Incline Lift.

Another consideration often overlooked for wheelchair ramps is the weight capacity. Will the user need a caregiver to push up and down the ramp? If so, it’s important to assess the weight of the chair with the user in it as well as the weight of the caregiver. The same goes for motorized scooters.

Don’t ignore the landings at the top and bottom of the ramp when thinking about building or buying a wheelchair ramp. Landings should be flat and level and provide a rail or wall at the top so the user doesn’t go off the side.

Wheelchair ramp landings at the bottom should be free from anything that could injure the user if they lose control on the way down or build up too much speed. Again the ramp incline is important to prevent accidents and injuries. If it is too steep at the bottom where it meets the landing, the front wheels could get caught and tipping over would cause serious injury.

Raised edges are always necessary for whelchair ramps, and handrails along the entire length of the wheelchair ramp provide the most safety for the user and caregiver.

When installing permanent or semi-permanent ramps, note the conditions where the ramp will be used. Outside ramps in areas that get a lot of rain or snow should provide good traction and be weather resistant which is why so many are made of aluminum. It is lightweight, durable, and holds up well in inclement weather. Make sure it provides good traction though, and if it doesn’t already have it, ask about applying a traction material.

wooden wheelchair ramps

Wooden wheelchair ramps can be custom installed to match the home or area where they will be installed. These are very attractive but the same considerations apply for weight, traction and durability.

While it can be challenging to meet the ADA Accessibility Guidelines, it is imperative for the safety and ease of use for the user to be ADA compliant. There’s always a solution to be found even in a limited space. An experienced wheelchair ramp company or builder will help you find a way to make it work safely. Always ask for examples of previous work just to be sure you’ll get exactly what you need and want.

Aug 15

The Challenge for this project was a 90-foot long driveway that was narrow and steep with no way to turn the car around. The Solution was to install a 76-foot Bruno Outdoor Stair Lift.

Bruno Outdoor Stair Lift for 90-foot driveway

90-foot driveway leading up to the home

Our client was an 80-year old couple with a private summer home. As the picture shows, the driveway leading up to the house was very long and narrow making it difficult to back all the way out of the driveway, so they rarely used it to drive the full distance to the house.

With the mailbox at the entrance to the driveway 90 feet away from the house, it made it difficult to walk the length of the driveway to get the mail. It was also difficult to walk all the way to the home from the curb where the car was parked.

We contacted Bruno Independent Living Aids with the dimensions and they custom fabricated the 76-foot track for us. A Bruno Outdoor Stair Lift 2010E was attached to the track. It was the longest outdoor stair lift for them and for us. The track begins at the front of the driveway and travels all the way down the driveway to within fifteen feet of the house.

Bruno Outdoor Stair Lift

Stairway and landing pad during construction

Near the house, there was a dramatic change of slope where the stair lift track ended. A custom stairway, landing, and cement pad was fabricated so the landing was level with the sidewalk leading from the stair lift to the front door of the house.

Bruno 2010E Outdoor Stair Lift

View of the landing pad and sidewalk leading to the house during construction

The stair lift can now be used for getting mail and traveling back and forth to the car. Not only does this make it safer than walking the long driveway but it’s easier and safer to use the car because it doesn’t need to be backed up the 90-foot length of the driveway.

Many Thanks to Bruno for providing us with the custom track for another big stair lift installation. We recently worked with them on a curved stair lift in Los Angeles with 9-custom turns.

Aug 9

While there are many possible configurations and components that make up a Wheelchair Shower, here is an illustration of one way that shows a Shower Dam with other important products.

It’s also important to note that other people not in a wheelchair will probably use the shower but they may have some sort of handicap that can take advantage of many of the same products.

Shower Dam for a Wheelchair Shower

Beginning near the top of the photo is a Hand-Held Shower, which is easier to use from a seated position in a chair than a static showerhead that doesn’t move.

A Horizontal Grab Bar inside the shower provides support for pulling the wheelchair in and out of the shower and for turning around. It also provides support for a caregiver that may be helping.

Another Vertical Grab Bar is positioned outside the shower for the same reasons. Using both horizontal and vertical grab bars together is always a good idea whenever possible.

While the floor slopes inward to the drain from all sides, there is a chance that some of the water will spill out of the shower onto the bathroom floor. Water outside the shower can make tile floors slippery or carpeted floors wet and soggy.

To keep water inside the shower, a Collapsible Water Retainer Shower Dam at the shower threshold keeps water inside the shower. It collapses down when rolled over by a wheelchair then pops back up into place. This is an important component of a wheelchair shower. A Shower Dam can also used for walk-in showers to keep water in the shower, but some of them have a raised threshold that needs to be stepped over and is difficult to roll over in a wheelchair.

While the Shower Dam works great for keeping floor water in the shower, Weighted Shower Curtains make them complete by keeping water spray in the shower. These curtains have heavy weights in the bottom and they form a better seal against the Shower Dam. They are easier to use than a shower door for entering and exiting the shower in a wheelchair and better accommodate a caregiver.

A lot of wheelchair showers have a shower pan that is flush with the bathroom floor. In this case, the shower floor is an inch or two higher than the bathroom floor making it difficult to roll in. Lego Ramps were used to make the roll into the shower much easier. Lego Ramps are very lightweight and come in small sections that can be cut to fit or stacked on top of each other. They are very durable and have holes to help with water drainage.

Shower Dam

A close-up shot from the front better shows how the Shower Dam, Weighted Shower Curtains, and Lego Ramps work together.

As we stated, there are many products and combinations that can be used for making a shower wheelchair accessible. It’s important to assess the bathroom layout and the needs of the user(s). Knowing that so many products are available has made it easier and safer than it once was merely a decade ago.

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