Planning for an accessible kitchen remodel, while in theory has similarity to other remodeling projects, actually involves special considerations you won't want to forget or overlook. If you want a workable, safe kitchen for disabled access or aging in place, be sure to avoid the following accessible kitchen remodel mistakes.
Not enough turn-around space
Skimping on the space that’s necessary to turn around a mobility device can make your space simply unusable for those who need the extra turn-around space. When you make up your kitchen remodel floor plan, aim for a minimum five-foot turning radius of free space. This space is the amount needed to allow a person using an electric wheelchair or scooter room to turn their device around while minimizing the risk of bumping into kitchen cabinets, countertops, or appliances.
Installing inaccessible faucets
When shopping for faucets, look for options that are either hands-free or that can be operated by means of a lever rather than difficult-to-turn knobs. In addition, you must also make sure your faucets are reachable. It does no good to have accessible faucets if no one can reach them from a wheelchair. Make sure your kitchen design includes clearance under the sink, allowing sufficient room to roll a wheelchair under it, within easy reach of the faucet. Keep in mind you will also want to move plumbing pipes to the rear so you can maximize your space and you should also shield the pipes with insulation or some other barrier to avoid potential burns to a person's legs.
Countertops that are too tall
A tricky consideration for your kitchen remodel is how to accommodate everyone's needs with countertops that are of different heights. If you opt for countertops that are lower in height so a person in a wheelchair can use them, they will likely be too short for others in the household. Your best bet is to either alternate accessible countertops with some at the conventional height of 36 inches or have adjustable counters installed.
Food prep and clean up tend to be messy tasks in a busy kitchen, so your choice in flooring material is an important consideration. For example, ceramic tile flooring and linoleum, while popular for use in kitchens, can also become very slippery when wet, causing a hazardous situation for those who are mobility-impaired. A better solution is choosing slip-resistant flooring. If you have your heart set on tile, look at using ceramic tiles that are smaller (6- or 8-inch squares are ideal) as they will offer reduced slipperiness; the additional number of grout lines per square foot will add some extra traction.
Choosing standard appliances
When purchasing new appliances, give careful thought to their accessibility. For example, a side-by-side refrigerator is a better option than a top-bottom freezer-refrigerator combo as it provides easier access to both compartments. Other important appliance details include choosing cooktops with front controls so a person does not have to reach over hot burners, as well as a side-opening wall oven which is easier and safer to open. Above and beyond the type of appliance chosen is the need to make sure installation height is appropriate. A countertop microwave, for example, is more accessible than an over-the-stove unit.
Choosing traditional cabinetry
Today’s kitchen cabinetry has come a long way and several manufacturers offer variations to make life easier for those who need accommodations. Research recent innovations such as soft-close cupboards, touch-release drawers, pullout shelving, or pull and swing lazy Susan corner units -- each of these simplify working in the kitchen for those with limited strength and/or mobility.
Neglecting the small details
They say the Devil is in the details and this couldn't be truer when working on an accessible kitchen remodel. For instance, consider installing an ample supply of electrical outlets and light switches that are operable from a seated position. In addition, add sufficient lighting for different task areas and make sure they are up to twice the standard strength to help those with diminished eyesight. Furthermore, plan pantry and cooking pot storage at a lower height of 20 to 44 inches above the floor so that all items can be reached from a seated position.
If your home is in the Eugene-Springfield area, give our team at Fort Rock Construction a call at 541-767-1611. We are aging in place and accessibility experts. We can walk through your kitchen with you and plan out what it's going to take to create the kitchen of your dreams.
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