Modern home design trends often embrace multi-functionality, and the bathroom design is no exception. Many bathroom renovations include a universal design, which means that the layout and fixtures are accessible for anyone.

What is included in a universal bathroom design?

This design concept, while becoming a popular trend, is something that will benefit current home dwellers as well as the needs of future multiple generations. A universal design considers the movement and tasks for disabled individuals as well as those of any age, size, or stature. Younger children also benefit with this design, since things are easier to reach and operate.

Often this bathroom is located on the main level of a home, so that it is easily accessible to guests. It can be simple and functional, or created with a spa-like atmosphere, giving ample room for each part of the bathroom duties.

Bathroom Layout

The first thing to consider with this type of design is the access and door. The hallway leading to the bathroom should be at least 36 inches wide. It is suggested that doors are at least 32 inches wide, and swing outwards from the room. Another door option is to install sliding pocket doors to reduce any entry blockage.

Next, consider the space allocated in the bathroom. The goal is to minimize lifting and reaching, while making each area of the bathroom have enough surrounding space that a wheelchair or walker could be used without being cramped.

The right floorplan allows for more than one person to comfortably use the bathroom at the same time. Sections are often separated or partitioned, allowing semi-privacy from the rest of the bathroom. A typical example of this is a separate enclosure for the toilet, or dual sinks that allow plenty of elbow room for two people. Make sure there is enough space in these separated areas for the fixtures to be maintained easily.

Bathroom Fixtures

A successful universal bathroom design incorporates the right choices for bathroom fixtures, including the type of toilet, tub, shower and sink used.

Tall toilets are often two to four inches higher than a standard toilet and provide better access when transferring from a wheelchair. These also often have no-slam seats and lids, an additional feature that is often requested.

Bathtubs come in all shapes, sizes and heights. Lower tub heights make it easier to enter and exit, and a platform design or a seating lip at one end of the tub allows for a person to sit on the edge first, and pivot to move to the interior of the tub. ADA tub recommendations indicate a seat top is between 17-19 inches from the floor. Walk-in tubs are another option and provide a low-step entry with a raised seat inside for comfort.

Showers are often curb-less, with no extra ridge or lip around the entryway. Open showers, or those with a swing-out door or shower curtain, make it easier to walk in and out. An overhead rain fixture provides ample waterfall. Also consider an adjustable height, hand-held shower that can be manually directed where needed.

Pedestal sinks or wall-mounted sinks work well for those using a wheelchair, because they can get close. A vanity or cabinet may restrict how close a person can get to operate the faucet. The bowl sinks mounted above a vanity are harder to reach for shorter people, or those using a wheelchair.

Consider using lever-type faucet handles in the shower, tub and sink. These are easier to use by young children as well as older people with less hand mobility or those with arthritis. Another option is motion sensor faucets, which turn water on and off based on the activity. Motion faucets also help prevent sink overflows.

Extra Design Options

Safety features – grab bars offer mobility assist and could be installed around the toilet and within the shower area. These should be installed on reinforced walls within the shower for added stability.

Flooring options – consider a tile floor with some texture to offer friction while walking. Remember that installation of smaller tiles requires more grout lines and more non-slip surfaces than large tiles. Bath rugs or usually only decorative and can pose a trip hazard to anyone using the bathroom.

Lighting – each zone of the bathroom should be well-lit. Motion-activated lighting also makes it easier for a physically-challenged person to move through the bathroom with ease.

Storage – a wall-mounted vanity assures extra leg room. Open shelves offer easy access for common items like towels, extra tissue or toilet paper.

Professional Design and Installation

Often, the help of professional designers can make a difficult space more accessible. Their knowledge of correct measurements and suggested surfaces can often save money and installation time.

Use a qualified plumber to install any of the bathroom fixtures in a universal design. They have resources for ordering higher-grade items than normally found in a home improvement store. The better grade fixtures and connections usually last longer and are better for maintenance.

When you are ready to give your bathroom a universal design makeover, consult with Naugle Plumbing and Heating to find the exact bathroom fixtures you need, and the professional installation services that save you time.