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Retrofitting a Home to be Wheelchair Accessible

A Complete Guide And Costs

For anyone who uses a wheelchair, the traditional design and layout of most homes can be frustrating. Everyone should be comfortable in their own homes, and some simple retrofits can make daily life easier and more enjoyable.

Each retrofitting job is different because each home is different, but a complete job generally involves: widening doors, installing a walk-in shower and grab bars, installing ramps, lowering kitchen cabinets and more. There are also plenty of simpler DIY jobs that can help improve accessibility within a matter of hours.

Where Do I Start?

For many people, a complete top-to-bottom retrofit all at once is out of the budget. The process is often gradual and completed over time. The best place to start is to identify the things you can do yourself for little or no money. This includes:

  • Adding motion sensor lights and additional safety lighting
  • Laying non-skid runners
  • Rearranging and/or removing furniture to create more space
  • Rearranging kitchen and bathroom cabinets to place needed items on lower shelves
  • Installing shower and toilet grab bars
  • Moving the person’s bedroom to the first floor
  • Replacing cabinet knobs with easier-to-use lever handles

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The next step is to put in place a comprehensive plan for fully retrofitting your home. Doctors, physical therapists and nonprofits related to the medical condition usually have checklists on hand, or you can get a free consultation from a remodeler in most cases. Look for a Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist, which are qualified by the National Association of Home Builders, or one that is compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

One tip though: Not all remodelers who advertise accessibility retrofitting are truly qualified. Just because a company pops up first in Google doesn’t mean they’re the best choice. Ask for referrals from nonprofits, and be sure to look in to the company’s track record with organizations like the Better Business Bureau.

How Much Will It Cost to Make My Home Wheelchair Accessible?

There are certain upgrades have to take place pretty immediately. Otherwise, it will be difficult or impossible to get in and around the house. These generally include widening doorways, adding an entryway ramp, and retrofitting the bathroom, which includes installing a shower that’s flush with the floor and has a wide swinging door.

The total cost of upgrades vary based on the current accessibility of your home, its layout and size. Here are some general price ranges for important improvements:

  • Complete bathroom retrofit: $15,000 to $30,000
  • Installing grab bars: $100 to $200
  • A basic removable entryway ramp: $100 and up
  • A custom-designed permanent ramp: $1,500 to $15,000
  • Widening a doorway: $600 to $1000-plus

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