Aging-Gracefully-In-Place: Tips for reno or new builds

11 years ago
My husband and I are in our mid-late fifties. We're retired (took early retirement) and about to downsize by two-thirds to a much smaller, one bedroom home.

We gathering up tips on how to make a home comfortable for aging-in-place, and so far we've found a lot of great ideas from a current discussion focussing on great remodeling tips :

In the course of the thread there were several posts from other posters in the process of or currently enjoying a home done with an eye to 'aging-gracefully-in-place. Lol, we, er, kinda sorta might have hijacked the thread in places so I thought I'd start a thread dedicating to brainstorming the aging-in-place focus.

Our personal focus is on back-savers, safety, and ease of maintenance. The smaller home means a smaller roof, for example, and lower heating costs. Going with on-demand hot water at all the taps (kitchen, hand wash and shower in the convenience) means no more hot water tank to 'feed' and maintain.

So far we know we want the fridge-freezer up higher than the normal UK (we live in Scotland) under-counter placement, we're going to put all the power, TV, and Internet points at waist height, too.

We're also gutting the kitchen and bath: bye-bye bathtub, hello walk-in shower stall with a pull-down bench! Tall skinny towel tower cabinet, higher height commode, and a custom built vanity with drawers under, and shelves over to cram as much storage as possible in that miniscule room.

In the long galley-U kitchen, out goes the traditional free-standing oven and cooktop for a wall mount oven and microwave, and a two-burner cooktop set into the soon to be new black worktop.

Shallow ceiling to floor wall pantry on the opposite side from the double bowl sink, with a ledge in there somewhere to put the kettle, toaster, etc. The lower half of what we're calling our 'pantry wall' will be drawers with at least one tall vertical pull-out for spices, pots, pans, etc.

I could go on, but I'm hoping there are other Houzzers who are looking at 'aging-gracefully-in-place'.

Comments (34)

  • PRO
    11 years ago
    Think seriously about having switches and receptacles in easy to reach places - particularly in the kitchen and bath. Many people cannot reach to the backsplash to plug something in. We rob a drawer and mount the drawer front as a flip down and then install receptacles and sometimes switches inside.

    Large drawers in base cabinets are so much easier to access than standard cabinets - even if the cabinet has a roll out. If you can't do large drawers, then at least have the roll outs installed in base cabinets.

    If possible, we like to see some part of the kitchen cabinetry or island lowered to a comfortable height for sitting while working in the kitchen. This same counter height works well for children as well so it is attractive to us as we age and to young families at time of resell.

    Plan for enough space around a toilet so that, if ever needed, grab bars can be installed for safety. I am a fan of wetrooms for the bath but that takes up front planning and can't always be accomplished in an existing structure.
  • 11 years ago
    last modified: 11 years ago
    I like the idea of having the power points behind a pull-down drawer front and can see where that could work in our new kitchen. Sadly in the UK codes for having power points in the bathroom for hairdryers, etc, is such a pain few people bother. We have to have a separate point each for shavers and hairdryers, unlike the US where I got used to being able to plug in the hairdryer, electric toothbrush charger, and yet another charger for the shaver, lol! A real home selling point here from what I can tell is a shaver point at the vanity.

    I've seen those lowered worktops, we're not going to be able to squeeze that into the new kitchen but that would be a nice thing to have!

    Thank-you especially for the reminder about the grab bars near the commode. We're installing them in the shower but forgot to make a note of installing at least one near the commode.

    Something else we're considering (owing to the very narrow width of the new kitchen) is using sliding doors on the upper half of our pantry wall. Partly to not have kitchen cabinet door swing-out clearance issues but mainly because since I went into tri-focals I have an unpleasant habit of smacking myself in the face. We're seriously considering eliminating all the swing-out doors in favour of sliding doors (pocket-doors in the US) because of this too.

    It wouldn't be hard to do even though in the reno we're hoping to start in mid-late June we'll be widening the doorways against the possibility one or both of us will end up with a mobility device. We'll be contracting that out and the builder will install the sliders as part of the door-widening process.

    Does your company do a lot of work for people planning for aging-in-place?
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    Hello Dub M, Lovely good to know, there are a lot more than just those two ideas though, so just like you would, I do a lot of research as part of my services include procurement..I'm always looking for something interesting and innovative. Yes you have it absolutely right... You need to look at the house as a whole and get a feel for what you want the bones to look like, the colours and the fixtures and fittings including the furnishings.. For sure keep things in mind, and when you get in the space that's when you can start to flesh out ideas when you're near to completion of works.. .. (Kitchen and bathroom aside as they will need your more immediate attention.. Colours and flooring are best looked at as one and that doesn't mean they have to match.. From there you can work in the rest... It's how I do it anyway.. Furniture too but the first two are very important and have to be complimentary. It's an exciting time and so your ideas will continue to evolve as you see the space around you becoming more complete.. There are so many ways you can do things so absolutely start keeping notes on things you like.. : ))
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  • 11 years ago
    If you have room, leave enough space on either side of the commode for an assistant. This is in addition to grab bars.

    (Would you like me to put my mega-post on Universal Design in this discussion thread?)
  • PRO
    11 years ago
    My husband and I are CAPS certified, but sadly we don't see enough people planning for the future. They wait until they are affected and in a total state of panic to get things done. We try to incorporate as much as we can in every design we do, regardless of the age of the consumer.
  • 11 years ago
    It may be too basic - but plan on wider corridors and doorways - eliminate pinch points of traffic if possible. Open floor plans and flooring that would allow for wheel chairs levers for doors -
  • 11 years ago
    last modified: 11 years ago
    Adjustable lighting that you can easily reach to change the lightbulbs-i work in community aged care, and this is the one thing I get requested to do on a daily basis0climb up and change a lightbulb!! Not really sure what is available, but I have seen some lights on ropes/chains mechanism , which you can raise/lower fairly easily. No doors on the shower stall- leave a wide opening. (we are also planning for this ourselves in our current renovation, and we are only in our mid-40's). front loading Washer and dryer on a raised platform is helpful, no wall hung dryers, as many people can no longer stretch up to rummage in the bottom for that last pair of nickers. A shallower laundry trough is also good. wall mounted drying racks, if space permits. Built in vacuum system , to avoid dragging cleaners around-just plug the hose into an outlet in each room. lever handles on all taps. underbench lighting in the kitchen. electrical outlets NOT at floor level, for behind tv;s, bedheads etc. You want them easily accessible. A shower on a hose handle, in addition to the normal shower head-then, if you ever need assistance showering, you can still sit under some waterflow, whilst a carer can then rinse you properly you with the attachment. Otherwise you get quite cold.
  • 11 years ago
    last modified: 11 years ago
    Wow, Eztia, we'd not thought of the oven door being a problem for a wheelchair user-we're going to have to look into that one! We'd planned on putting the oven a bit lower in the wall than most installs go in here in the UK to make it easier for someone on a mobility device (we decided on scooters that can be used in the house if one or both end up needing something) to reach, but haven't seen any ovens here during the appliance search with swing out doors-yet. And please do post your Universal Design, that would be great:)

    @Joanbilt-we're going from 1800sqft to under 450, keeping the floorplan/footpring on a Victorian mid-terraced one bedroom-one level cottage, and the only the we're changing about that footprint is widening the doorways. The builder is going to install sliding (pocket) doors at the same time he widens the doorways.

    Because the property is so small and we're keeping to the original footprint, we can afford to splash out on some 'exotic' things and so the sliding doors will be shoji panels that slide into the wall instead of along it.

    @Deborah-I think part of the reason people don't think about aging-in-place when do a reno or new build (until the issue smacks them in the head at around aged 55 or so, lol!) is that the trend for so long has been to buy with an eye to resale. People haven't been staying in their homes for their whole lives in the US especially anymore; since around the 70s it seems buyers bought with the thought of their next move already in their heads. Here in the UK that took hold too, so few new builds were done to help the homeowner stay in the house for decades.

    But I do see that trend changing here and in the US. My son is in his 30s and they did some preplanning as they've decided they love their home so much they don't want to leave-for one thing, they had their garage built with a very basic 'granny-flat attached. They also went with wider doors (and stairways to make chair-lift installs easier).

    They're renting out the granny flat for extra income now; if I ever need to return to live in the US it would be my 'retirement home'. Or my grandson's young-adult home until he either starts a family or decides to buy his own place. The plan (hope) is the grandson will eventually move into the 'family home' with his family and his parents into the granny flat.

    This is something we're seeing happening here in the UK as well-granny flat planning permission is a lot easier to get now as the government is hoping more people will choose to keep Mum and Dad at home as long as is possible. But it's in it's very early stages. Right now most builders don't think of building to age-in-place unless they're under contract to build a whole retirement centre. Sad, that, I think there is a real opportunity being missed!

    One of the things that made our current home sell, according to the buyers, was that we'd done a few things here like raising the power points to waist height and putting the fridge and washer up higher. Refrigerators here are usually under-counter dorm type (wowsa is THAT hard on an aging back!), clothes washers are also under-counter front load. So we put the fridge and washer on plinths (the fridge is on one with a storage drawer) and the buyers were really thrilled. The wife said she would never have thought of doing that but it makes such good sense. If builders did things like that as a matter of fact, a lot of people could stay in their homes!
  • 11 years ago
    Hiya Connie! My husband said to tell you THANK-YOU for the lighting tip especially-that's now on the planning list and is just something we really had not thought of!
  • PRO
    11 years ago
    There are already some great ideas here.
    I would add a couple of points - do take a good look at low energy lighting - it saves money and they hardly ever need replacing.

    The sliding doors are brilliant but they need a bit of planning. If you use a pocket door (that is built into the wall, consider whether you need electricity on that wall (not so easy running cables) and that it might be harder to hang cabinets.

    Also, consider the handles carefully - many are designed to be completely flush with the door but they are not then easy to grab (either for little hands or those that are less strong and flexible). My advice would be to make the doorway extra wide and leave the door protruding a bit and then fit easy to grab handles.

    Also, handles rather than knobs on cabinets etc.
    I could go on....

    ( Having helped my parents with many of the same concerns there are many more things I could add but there are some great ideasbooks on universal design here on Houzz).
  • 11 years ago
    This thread speaks to me as well. Did you find a shower bench that doesn't look like it came out of a particularly depressing hospital?
  • 11 years ago
    Lever style taps in your wet areas. Much easy to use than a traditional knob/tap.
  • PRO
    11 years ago
    8dognight- have you seen the teak fold down seats for a shower? Nice looking.
  • 11 years ago
    The side opening oven is a Gaggenau --- Fagor makes one but it is rather commercial looking. There is another company (name escapes me) but since they only make a gas version, it wouldn't work for us.

    Other things we've found to be helpful: rocker switches for the electrical switches. Handles on cabinets that you can put your entire hand into instead of the little knobs that arthritic fingers will have trouble grasping. Use wall hung toilets so that you can choose your height and have the advantage of easy floor washing (no struggles to get behind the base or to clean around those big bolts on the base. Add a bidet type toilet seat -- urinary infections in older people are a real problem. Make certain you can get a wheel chair into your bathroom. All doors should be 36" wide. Instead of door knobs, use door levers. If possible, avoid stairs anywhere in your home (a ramp is an excellent choice for now and for later since it helps you bring heavy things into the home using a dolly). Use LED lighting instead of regular lightbulbs -- LEDs are supposed to last 10 years so no bulb changing. Use dimmer switches on all permanently installed lighting. Use a drawer dishwasher (I believe only Fisher and Paykel currently make them). If you're not ready to give up your bathtub --- ask your builder to make the base under the tub ready to accept the change to a roll-in shower. Then, when you're ready, you can remove your tub and change it to a roll-in shower. Make certain that the knobs on your cooktop are big and easy to grab. (And that the knobs are in a position that mimics the placement of the burners to decrease confusion about which to turn on.) Carpeting is a trip hazard -- rubber sole shoes tend to stick to any kind of carpet -- so hardwood or vinyl/linoleum (in addition to being easier to clean) will cut down on falls. Never put down a throw rug.

    We're now in the process of building our second 'age in place' home. Contrary to my fears, the above features did not reduce our chances of selling our home.
  • 11 years ago
    I have seen the teak seats; they are a big step up in terms of appearance, so thanks. I was hoping to find something else though. Maybe a basket weave look. I have existing granite in the walk in shower. I have to ask the stone installers if a seat can be added now.
  • 11 years ago
    Hi all. My "mega-post" about Universal Design just flew into cyberspace (AGAIN) after I spent a long time typing it over AGAIN. One disadvantage of an iPad.
    Please go to Houzz Discussions. There will be a search box at the top of the page. Enter the following number: 467406. That will take you to a discussion about a homeowner wanting to make a bathroom more accessible. There is a lot of information in that post, along with my "mega-post."
  • 11 years ago
    Yikes! The edit feature is not working today! I must have transposed a number. So sorry. Let me try another way to get the information to you.
  • 11 years ago
    Try this. Go to I sure hope this works. It takes me a long time to type the mega-post!
  • 11 years ago
    @Eztia-:) Great conversation at 467406 but sadly no mega post on making a bathroom more accessible. I also tried the search feature using the term 'making the bathroom...' etc. I had some trouble posting links yesterday so perhaps the problem is site-wide?

    @8dognight-I know what you mean about the shower benches, those hospital looking ones do not make the shower look inviting at all. We've seen the teak ones Deborah brought up and those are a lot less 'industrial' looking. Because of the small size of our future bathroom we're going with the standard teak fold down (with legs) but Googling led me to some great sites I really enjoyed browsing. The following is just one of the sites I found that is US based with some lovely custom teak shower furniture (hopefully posting hyperlinks is possible today):


    One of the biggest reasons we're downsizing is to get into a property with as few steps/stairs as possible. The little cottage is one level and when the reno is finished the inside will be comfortably navigable no matter what stage of life we're at. But until I read your post last night we actually had not addressed the fact that we should be planning a wee ramp to enter-exit the new place. (Feeling a bit thick here, I really ought to have thought that one out-my dad needed one installed to his home back in the mid-80s and I helped with that.)

    My husband is a retired historic buildings conservation officer so he's very particular about any changes to the 150+yo cottage-the one huge financial splash out is going to be the addition of a conservatory or storm porch to the front entry. We're having an architect friend design one for us and my husband is headed out to his office as soon as it opens. The interior footprint was changed in the 60s, updated in the 80s, but the exterior is historically sound and he wants to maintain that as far as is possible but a ramp is a necessity we cannot do without. Thank-you for the reminder!

    Also, we searched Gaggenau, holy smokes those are PRICEY but lovely ovens. Several vendors near us (we live near Dundee) stock them so we're going down to have a look.

    @Philippa-yes, we talked with our builder about those shoji screen pocket doors being easy to open, he's working on that. He suggested something electronic but we're trying to A-keep down costs, and B-go as low tech as possible (also to keep costs down, electricity in the UK is eye-wateringly costly and the rates are going up by the minute)

    And please do add your other tips here-I plan on printing this to put in the reno binder and having as much brainstorming on one thread as possible is a real plus!

    @Sharon and others who've mentioned knobs, handles, and levers-YES! I'm starting to have some arthritis related difficulties already and those considerations are important for comfortable aging-in-place.

    Wow, a lot of excellent thinking here, thank-you so much to everyone who is participating! I have a friend in California who is 'lurking' for tips she can use (Hiya Bon!) to make her home more comfortable for aging-in-place too.
  • PRO
    11 years ago
    Hi ! What an interesting discussion ! So many great ideas here !!
    On the oven idea - there are quite a few companies that do side openers - AEG,Beko, Belling, Bosch, Fagor etc etc - might be worth buying one that has a pyro clean function too ?! As this is the easiest way of keeping the oven clean too !!! It heats up so high that everything in it is reduced to dust ! Then you simply wipe it !!
    I did some designs years ago, for a family that wanted two sets of perspective drawings for their design ... One set as they would see the new home and one set as their Daughter would see it, from her chair height ! I though this was so thoughtful of them, and so now offer this as a standard to all my clients with one member of the family who's view point is lower !
    It can point out some glaring errors - that, if discovered before the build/ Reno starts, can save time and expense !!!
    I think it's brilliant that you are putting so much thought into your new home !
    Hope the sun is shining in Dundee today ! ( it's quite nice in Dorset !! )
    Kind regards,
  • PRO
    11 years ago
    This is etzia's post she was referring to. Lots of good links. I just did a copy and paste from the original thread so I hope I got it all. I am bookmarking all these good threads so I can get back to the ideas. Wonderful discussion.

    I have been interested in Universal Design for some time, now. I have collected some of the ideas that I have posted and that others have posted in Design Dilemmas such as yours.

    Please take from this whatever is helpful. Best wishes.

    1.) Go to Houzz Ideabooks and enter "Universal Design" in the search box.
    2.) Go to
    3.) Go to Houzz Design Dilemma and enter "handicapped" in the search box.

    Universal Design
    2.) specializes in Universal Design

    Handicap Access
    1.) The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) site has specific measurements for wheelchair turning radius, placement of grab bars, everything.

    2.) ADA Ramps : ADA Code 4.8
    [Thanks to contributor S. Thomas Kutch for finding this.]

    1.) Consult with a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist. You can find one through the National Associataion of Home Builders (NAHB) website.
    [Thanks to dallasstudent13 for this link.]

    2.) Go to Houzz Professionals and enter Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist in the search box.
    One that I know of is
    [Thanks to Houzz contributor Deborah Butler for this information.]

    1.) For decorative grab bars that do not look institutional, look at
    [Thanks to Houzz contributor Sense of Space for this link.]

    2.) For accessibility products for bathrooms, go to
    [Thanks to Houzz contributor Megan McDevitt for this link.]

    3.) Commercial Bathroom Handicap Guidelines.

    4.) Here are some Houzz Ideabooks about Universal Design in Bathrooms:
    741559 The No-Threshold Shower: Accessibility in Style
    4492518 How to Design an Accessible Shower
    2504909 Doorless Showers Open a World of Possibilities
    5008400 Make a Powder Room Accessible with Universal Design
    1061289 Bathroom Safety Features that Support your Style
    1562246 Houzzers Say: Dream Features for the Bath and Closet
    2507115 Houzz Tour: Universal Design in a San Francisco Home

    1.) America's National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA)
    2.) Guidelines for rules for accessibility in kitchens and baths:

    3.) National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Enter "Universal Design" in the search box.

    1.) You might not be considering installing an elevator at this point, but planning for where one could go makes sense. Leave an area large enough for an elevator shaft. The space can be used as closets in the meantime.
    [Thanks to Houzz contributor orangecamera for this comment.]

    Low vision
    1.) Consider the American Foundation for the Blind as a resource. They should be able to point you in the direction of local resources or an occupational therapist who specializes in low vision.
    [Thanks to Houzz contributor dallasstudent13 for this link.]

    2.) Contrast light and dark surfaces wherever there is a change. For example, light countertops and dark appliances in the kitchen. Also wherever there is a change in flooring material. For example from hard to carpet, you will want one dark and one light, so that the transition is easy to see to help prevent tripping and falling.
    [Thanks to Houzz contributor orangecamera for this comment
  • 11 years ago
    @Deborah, thank-you (!!) for the copy-paste of Eztia's post, this is definitely a can't-miss.

    @Eztia, all I can say is WOW! So much of the information can be applied to us here in the UK and gives me ideas on where (and what search terms) to use to find similar information specific to the UK. There is a lot of work in that post, thank-you for being willing to put it together.

    Interesting about planning for a full lift by building closet space that can convert to a lift shaft. When my son built his US house he made sure the staircases (two, one in, one out) were wide enough to be fitted later with lift chairs. Lol, I'm pretty sure he figured his budget wouldn't cover a 'real' lift no matter how well his career goes, but the idea makes great sense.

    Because of our NE Scotland climate we will be using carpet in the living room and bedroom but a hard surface in the entry, bath, and kitchen; when the time comes to choose colours and materials it's going to be a big help having the contrast tip in the reno binder. Also, all of our appliances in kitchen will be white-should be easy to see against the black worktops. We decided early on that we'd go with a sealed burner cooktop in white for just that reason. Contrast is a huge help once multi-focal lenses are a necessity!

    @Karen, sigh, cold with some sleet here in Angus. Dundee was not much better. The Scots call this kind of weather dreich and are not happy that it is dreich on the 14th of May. Summer was lovely-one day a couple of weeks ago, lol!

    You've given us an idea regarding the different perspectives to consider regarding the occupants of a home. We're going to borrow a wheelchair and visit the new house. Should be an interesting visit especially in the 13'x5.5' kitchen.
  • 11 years ago
    @sunnie2day, yes, the Gaggeanu ovens are costly. I can only hope I'll love the one I'm putting in. I'm envious of the variety that seems to be available in the UK (Oneplans' post). Other than the Fagor, I haven't found any of those in the US (nor has any of the appliance suppliers I've contacted). Sigh. I'm glad my mention of the ramp triggered a thought for you. We were lucky enough that the entrance would only have taken a step or two, so the ramp was a fairly gentle slope that we blessed each and every time we brought a large anything inside. (And blessed even more when my mother needed a wheelchair.)
  • PRO
    11 years ago
    Re weather ! Oh dear !!! I have relatives in Kilmacolm ( west coast) who must still be in their winter woollies too ! No wonder they have booked to come and visit us this summer !! My home is more like a B&B sometimes !!!
    Gosh - kitchen sounds a bit tight ?! Any way to steal some space or relocate / swap with a dining room etc ?!?!
  • 11 years ago
    @Sutclifc, we were pleasantly surprised in Dundee when we found the showroom display with several different models of the swing-open ovens at only slightly more than we were going to spend anyway. OK, except for the Gaggeanu, ouchie-ouchie-ouchie, those beauties are costly!

    Still, the pizza stone option had us thinking how we could manage it. My son is a chef. I emailed him last night asking what kind of ovens he has in his restaurant and now he tells me his kitchen has that line. He got a kick out of hearing we were trying to figure out where we could scrimp so we could afford one and asked us please to not spend his inheritance on an oven:)

    My husband and the architect have the ramp planned so that it looks natural in the design, thank-you again for the reminder. It's a tight squeeze but doable.

    @Karen, we're all in our woolies up here, I can well understand Dorset being especially attractive just now:) We have friends in NW Devon we visit in summer but considering their Yellow Alert for heavy gales today and tomorrow I'm glad our 2013 visit is planned for July.

    The kitchen is sounding more and more tight to us, so is the bathroom (7'x6'). We may be reconsidering this as our 'last move' home. We're waiting for a closing to be set and are going to go on with the purchase. However, we are also possibly going to see this as a 'reno and sell on' because between architect, builder, and our own common sense, we're beginning to see this is a place for an able bodied younger couple, not a couple of middle-aged gits looking to settle in for the duration. Oh dear. We really love that little place but...

    So onto the new house-hunt list goes 'room to expand vital areas' like kitchens and bath-shower rooms!
  • PRO
    11 years ago
    tee hee - 'middle aged gits' ! you are funny !! 'sensible people buying things thoughtfully' is a better description !!
  • 11 years ago
    last modified: 11 years ago
    Good morning to Dorset from Scotland! My husband had a birthday last week and is now saying we're 'pushing 60'. We're active and fit, lol, but sensible too-the day will come sooner rather than later when one or both of us is not able to claim to be spry.

    Because the little cottage is in such a sad cosmetic state it was listed at a rather amazing price and we locked ourselves into it too early thinking it was a perfect spot for us to grow old.

    Whoops, thanks to several posts here about doing a reno or new build with a mind to age-in-place we are having to admit that is not the house for us.

    Luckily the town is the 'gateway to the glens' and if we wanted to use it as a holiday let we could easily. It's also becoming a commuter town-the hardier type people from Dundee and Aberdeen are buying in to take advantage of the great mountain lifestyle whilst being able to easily commute to their 'day job'.

    We were not looking for an investment property-not especially keen on the idea but more and more we're thinking that's what we've got. We measured the borrowed wheel chair, and also took the measurements of the typical mobility devices available now (the ones that are adverted as being in-outdoors), and frankly held up against the kitchen and bath measurements, there is no way we can make the bathroom work.

    Up thread (I think it was Deborah Butler of Brickwood Builders) a wet-room was mentioned as being best to accommodate a roll-in shower but hard to do as a reno project. Looking at the floor-plan, home report, and our own measurements confirmed that on this wee cottage-there is no way to do that and no way a wheelchair or mobility device is going to be rolled in that cupboard size bathroom.

    The kitchen could be managed if we drop the pantry wall idea, but the bathroom we planned to make a shower room is not manageable at all, and there is no room to extend that space.

    We would have figured all this out but much further down Reno Road, lol, so this thread has been a huge help to us just on that!

    Because we're now doing a much simpler reno (dropping the wider doorways and sliders, the ramp, and a few other a-i-p doings), the cost to renovate that lovely wee home is much lower too. The only things we won't be able to do ourselves is the shower conversion and the rewiring. A huge savings that we're going to need to find the right place for us!

    We know now that we need to look for a home with room to enlarge bathroom and kitchen areas, and with a less tricky entry to incorporate a ramp. For starters:)

    We have to be out of our current home by 1st August when the new owners will be arriving from Australia. We've borrowed the use of a caravan from friends to live in whilst doing the cottage reno (now that's small space living!) and that's going to be a help but I sure wish I'd joined Houzz sooner! I would have started this thread BEFORE locking into a property too small for our needs. Too, rather than use it as a holiday let or sell it on, we may move into the cottage once the reno is complete but we do know now there is no way we'll be able to age-gracefully-in-place in it. Sigh.

    Oh well, our builder is happy-he wasn't keen on trying to fit those sliding doors:)

    Take-Away For the Day? Be sure the property has room to expand vital living spaces before making an offer that is sure to be accepted:(
  • PRO
    11 years ago
    Well it sounds as though you will have a busy few months !!! You might find that you don't go down hill as rapidly as you think you will ! I know some very spritely and independent older people ! And I mean older - not late 50's -( that's still middle aged !) I'm talking late 70's !!! So I'm keeping my fingers crossed that you will be able to enjoy your wee cottage for a good few years yet !! So don't despair ! You will enjoy the slower pace when you eventually move in - as I think it will be pretty full on before then !! - park the caravan in the grounds as an emergency bolt hole -and later as a guest room ! But you have quite a few weeks to get lots done and what sounds like a good team ? So you may find you will make Aug 1st ?!?! Am keeping everything crossed for you !!!
    And yes, Houzz is a great place to brain storm eh ! I spend way too much time one here !!!! Right - coffee break over - I need to get back to my next project .... Alterations some kitchen drawings and a new exciting basement conversion that is the size of a small house !!! Have a nice day !!!
  • 11 years ago
    We went over with the wheelchair and a Zimmer frame. Oh boy, what an eye-opener this was. The wheelchair is not going to go through easily but with the wider doorways would-just; the Zimmer frame was awkward to use too because of the thresholds at doorways but was easier to use otherwise.

    Another learning experience, we know now that no matter where we live we should use one continuous floor covering for the entire home to avoid thresholds catching a chair, scooter, or Zimmer frame.

    We were right about the bathroom being so small a mobility device is not going to be able to be used in there.

    We spent a few hours in there, going back and forth-reno and sell, reno and use as a holiday let investment, reno and hope to find a long-term tenant.

    Lol, we finally decided we love that cottage so much we're going to do the reno and move in. We're going to do the reno using nearly all of the tips and thoughts here but we're dropping the wider doorways and the ramp. Hopefully we will never need to use a scooter or chair.

    But again, I really think our take-away for today is that before buying a property we should have made sure the property was big enough to allow for maneuverable space in case someone is on a mobility device. A little too late for us but hopefully this will help someone not quite so far along in planning to age-gracefully-in-place.
  • 11 years ago
    last modified: 11 years ago
    I second the one continuous floor covering and no rugs. You want a smooth but not slick floor. I would suggest cork because it's warm and soft underfoot but you can't use it in bathrooms. Thresholds and rugs are trip hazards. If you are concerned about cold in floor heating has gotten pretty cost effective. I would also make sure that walls are reinforced for grab bars when necessary such as around the toilet. That way it will be much easier to install them when needed later. Another useful option are closets that have lights that turn on when you open the door.
  • 11 years ago
    Since we're talking about bathrooms..... I found a toilet roll holder with a grab bar as part of it. I'm using those in the guest baths. I've often noticed the toilet roll holders hanging on by a thread and can only assume some people use those instead of a grab bar. Seems like an accident waiting to happen. I believe Moen was the brand (here in the US).
  • 11 years ago
    sunnie2day I followed you from Ideabook: 8 Little Remodeling Touches That Make a Big Difference and am learning so much that I hadn't thought about. We are currently designing our new retirement 'last house' and hadn't given much thought to most of these aging in place ideas. Our main focus was keeping the use of our required stairs to a minimum for future mobility issues. We have a sloping lot so the main entrance is at street level but there is a drive under garage towards the rear of the house resulting in 2 levels. The only thing on this lower 'walk out' level is the garage, mudroom and a bonus room. I made sure that all of our living spaces including bathrooms and laundry were kept to the main level even though we had to squeeze tightly. In the event of not being able to use the stairs eventually, we can enter from the front door and not have a great need to use the basement. Other than that I will see what else we can incorporate into our plans from this great post.

    Love the outlets and switch ideas. We would like to learn more about on demand hot water. Is that sufficient to supply a shower? Is it costly to have one at each faucet location? I'll keep following this blog, thank you!
  • 11 years ago
    last modified: 11 years ago
    @Almostretired-glad to 'see' you! Re the stairs, are you planning them to be wide enough to install chair lifts if needed one day? My son was amazed that planning ahead for that only added 14" width to the build, he'd thought he'd need closer to 24 or more inches added to make a comfortable chair lift install one day.

    In the home we just sold we spent £350 ($532USD @current exchange) total for units at four taps. That's the units, parts, and the installation by a certified installer. We did ours in 2011, I think prices have gone up a bit here since.

    My US based son had his done in 2009 (a total of 9 units for his US 3/2.5+1/1 granny flat property); he won't say what that cost but my d-i-l whispered it was just under $1K. I found that shocking because when I did our US 3/2 home in '95 (five units) the install including units and parts on all five was under $200. Apparently prices in the US have gone up considerably.

    Our units run off electric current but there are natural gas versions available too. My son and I (on the US home) both used Lowes and their contractors, this is a link to their current page on these units:!

    Oh my, the one for shower and kitchen sink has gone up to $250USD in the US zip code just for the units! I think mine were $65 at the time. (Still worth it even though it may take a bit longer to pay for itself)

    In this home, like in the ones in the US, the kitchen, tub, and hand wash basin (bathroom) are concealed under the cabinet or vanity. The one for the shower is wall mounted right in the shower, and trust me that a one-hour shower is no challenge to the Mira shower unit.

    Total bliss to come in from a wet or snowy frozen hill walk and go straight into a nice hot shower. We toss a coin on the way up the drive-winner gets the shower first whilst loser starts a fire in the wood stove. Winner relinquishes the shower to the loser-who still has plenty of hot water for a lovely warming shower. We had five people run a long shower one after the other with no loss of hot water when my son and his family came over on holiday.

    The savings on our electric bill were immediate, we saw an immediate saving of £30 ($45.62USD @current exchange) a month when those were installed and the hot water heater was disconnected. Washing dishes, hands, people, all very inexpensively and we've never run out of hot water since installing those units. (Even our clothes washer is a hot water saver with its own built-in water heating) My husband was reluctant to go with all point-of-use on-demand but I talked him into it and he was over the moon at the dramatic cost drop to the electric bill.

    Needless to say, our new home will have the same hot water system. We'll be paying a bit more for our on-demand units in the new house even though we'll only need three units because as above, prices have gone up and so has the cost of having the certified installer do the work. Well worth it though!
  • 11 years ago
    sunnie2day Thanks for all of the on-demand hot water information. We are intrigued and will definitely check them out for our house plans. We would probably need 3 or 4 of them and will check into the natural gas versions hopefully as a money saver also.
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