June 15, 2017

Building homes with universal appeal

Everyone likes the idea of building a home exactly to specifications, but it’s often without thinking of the future and future buyers.

Here’s the news: The house is probably going to outlast you. And most people don’t end up living in the same home forever. So, unless you plan to retire (and die) in your current home, a universal approach to remodels and maintenance makes good fiscal sense.

The old concept of universal design was synonymous with “senior-accessible” or “handicapped-friendly.”

And it is all of that. But it can be so much more.

How many folks do you know who moved into homes without taking the time to consider clearances, heights and angles?

It’s about thinking ahead and considering angles. It’s about seeing problems with access and usage before they happen.

Big plans for furnishings, add-ons and creature comforts can be spoiled by narrow doorways or unworkable angles. Drawers and cupboards that abut walls and appliances are not only annoying—they can damage delicate finishes.

Making a home more accessible and more universal is simply smarter.

So what is universal?

Universal standards require a full 32 inches of clearance, which means the installation of 36-inch-wide doors.

The standard kitchen design places cupboard and microwaves up high where they can be difficult to reach. Great for grabby young ones and toddlers—not so good for those in wheelchairs.

As an alternative, use childproof doors with child locks and put frequently used appliances like microwaves and coffee makers in lower cabinets at waist level.

Lever handles instead of knobs make it easier for those with dexterity problems to access doors and drawers (and they look great, too).

Measure two or three times when changing out cupboards, counters and vanities. The thump of an immovable object when sliding out a drawer or opening a door is extremely frustrating.

Also, think about cabinets with roll-out drawers and cut-outs underneath for wheelchairs.

Bathrooms and showers

When renovating baths and showers, a wide opening with a door that swings out is a great way to start, allowing for senior and wheelchair access in the future.

A shower bench is a great addition for anyone, be it for shaving legs today or resting tomorrow.

A hand-held shower head is another smart, universal renovation.

Taller toilets can ease the pain of bending or standing back up, and a soft-close lid is always a great feature.

Slip-resistant tile may already be on your list for kids or dogs, but there is a scientific approach to avoiding slippage. The “coefficient of friction” (COF) measures how slippery a floor is when wet. With new flooring, look for products with a COF of .60 or higher for bathrooms and kitchens.

Ramp it up

Think about adding a ramp on the outside of your home, especially if you’re already in the midst of doing a major concrete job.

This one is among the most difficult choices to make, because most buyers are able-bodied, and might be turned off by an obvious ramp attached to the front porch. But for an access point that’s less obtrusive, ramps inside attached garages are a great, concealed solution.

Instead of a ramp out front, consider a sloped brick pathway that blends into the landscaping. Your back entrance can often be reconfigured for a ramp or a simple lift.

Profit sharing

Modifying your home to universal standards not only makes your home more accessible, it may raise your property value.

Changes can range from the inexpensive to the major, depending on your personal budget. But anything that can boost the home’s appeal is likely to bring profits.