Renovations That Will Age with You
When hunting for that perfect home, it’s very common to find just the right neighborhood, but no home for sale that exactly meets your needs, or when you do find an ideal layout with smart features and tasteful design, the location might be problematic. A popular strategy is to find the right neighborhood first, then look for a home that might need a little work or may even need major renovations. The nice thing about most renovations is that they can be done over time, working on one area as your timing and funds permit.
Renovations can be an exciting undertaking, giving you the opportunity to really make a house into a home, customized to meet your needs and dramatically improve the livability of your homestead. But if you think you may have truly found your “forever home,” take some time when planning your renovations to consider not only today’s needs, but tomorrow’s needs as well. There are some very popular renovations that can be tweaked a bit to make them more user-friendly as your family ages and accessibility concerns evolve. These improvements can not only help the elderly, they can also dramatically improve accessibility for someone recovering from an injury or surgery, increase access for the disabled, and help manage workflows for a busy family.
In 2017, kitchens became the number one most popular renovating project according to the National Association of Home Builders, driven in part by how kitchens are used today in entertaining and the likelihood of recapturing renovation dollars in the resale of the house. Many of today’s top trends in kitchen renovations are already friendly for an aging population, but it helps to keep your family’s potential long-term needs in mind when talking to your contractor. Consider replacing old cabinet doors with hydraulic, easy-close doors and use handles instead of knobs for easy gripping. An apron-front or farmhouse sink can be designed to jut out a little, making it easier to use for an individual in a wheelchair or while just pulling up a stool to sit while cleaning. Kitchen storage is another popular improvement and can be designed to improve the use of hard to reach spaces by using multi-tiered drawers and swing out shelving. Sensor activated lights and water are also a boon for small children who may not be able to reach across counters or to simply make life easier for the cook with the sticky fingers! If you’re doing a major overhaul, kitchens with wide walkways make getting through in a walker or wheelchair – or simply having multiple people working – much easier.
Close behind kitchens in popularity for renovations are bathrooms, whether you are looking at redoing a full, en-suite master bath or just looking to freshen up that half bath off the living room. Like kitchens, bathroom renovations can be undertaken to meet your current needs in form and function, while also taking into consideration the future needs your family may have. If your house does not currently have a zero-entry or no-threshold shower, you may want to seriously consider adding one. Even just one in the house, particularly on the ground floor, might be a real future game to accommodate an elder guest or even meet the short-term needs of a family member recovering from surgery or injury. When considering tiles for the floor, think about using a non-skid or textured surface to reduce the likelihood of falls. Open shelving is another popular trend that makes it easy to find towels and bathing supplies. And don’t forget to take a look at comfort-height toilets that are taller and easier to get up from, and side-mount faucets that are a breeze to turn on for people who can’t reach across the width of the counter. Even handicap grab bars in strategic places can be a real asset to prevent falls while maintaining a sleek, classic look in your newly renovated bathroom.
The other big area to consider when contemplating renovations is to let your eyes fall and take a good, long look at your floors. If you are thinking about removing your wall-to-wall carpet or peeling back that dingy laminate, this is a great time to consider hardwood floors, hardwood look-alikes, a classy vinyl, or tile. It may be counterintuitive, but study after study has shown that carpets and rugs can lead to a statistically significant increased risk for falls. But if carpet really meets your current needs, you can lay down a more accessibility-friendly hardwood or tile, then secure area rugs over that which can be easily removed as your needs change. Hand-scraped hardwoods are one of the most popular trends today, recreating a look of antiquity with centuries of wear. Textured tile is another popular no-slip alternative, but try to avoid ceramic or porcelain tiles which tend to get cold and very slippery when wet.
Regardless of which changes you plan on making, it doesn’t hurt to make a list of what issues you are trying to fix today with the renovation (e.g. easier for a large family to cook or more space for storage) and then another list of what issues you think your family might have in the future (like accessibility concerns or aging relatives visiting). While today’s needs certainly should take priority, if you can also address future needs you may be heading off the frustration of having to pursue another renovation over time.