Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Bathroom Renovations

My plans after retirement were always to move into my elderly father's home and spend what time we had left together.  Although a paraplegic, I am rather high-functioning as I can stand - just cannot walk away from my wheelchair.  My hope was to be able to look after him as his abilities decreased with age.

Those plans turned out not to be.  My dad had what was thought to be a respiratory problem and was admitted to hospital.  While hospitalized, my wife and I determined it was a great time to renovate his single bathroom to make it more accessible to my father as well as myself.

Renovations were started in late September or early October of 2016, if I recall - and were completed in November of that year.  Renovations were not completed when my dad was discharged so he had to spend a week or so at our home.  That alone presented a challenge.  Although I had a fully accessible bathroom in my home, bedrooms were on the upper floor and presented an insurmountable challenge to my dad's arthritic knees.  I have lived in our living room for the last ten-plus years; my dad used the pull-out bed in the family room.

With renovations completed we moved dad back to his house and his newly renovated accessible, senior friendly washroom.  Sadly he was not able to enjoy the benefits for very long.  He had to be readmitted to the Hospital in late December and passed away there on Boxing Day.

While I can access the newly renovated washroom, it presents obstacles for myself - problems which we really couldn't work around without a major restructuring of the house.  The photos which follow document the changes which were made and how they compare to my previous home.

Finding a contractor to do the renovation was a challenge in itself.  Some reputable companies refused the renovation as it was too small and would not pay for their time or involvement.  We finally settled for a small contractor who was recommended through my father's church.  The contractor was a member of the church and was previously a police officer which gave us some assurance that although construction was not his lifelong advocation, at least he was reputable.


This is the washroom from my previous house.  The main floor washroom originally only had the vanity (sink) and toilet.  After my injury, the washroom was expanded by pushing it into my attached garage space where the shower was constructed.  Here you see a sliding (yet unpainted) pocket door which slid into the wall eliminating a swinging door obstacle.


Here is my large shower stall which made accessibility easy.  I was able to drive up to the edge, stand with use of the hand bar/grab bar/handrail and take a couple of steps over to the chair.  With such a large and accessible shower, I was able to clean it without any assistance.


A closer look at the hand bar and hand held shower.  I don't understand why the bathtub spout was added when I asked for a regular threaded tap as one would find for a backyard hose.


Another view of the handrail or hand bar, the single lever tap and the hand held shower head which can be raised or lowered by sliding on the vertical bar.


The standard toilet with no added 'mobility aids' attached or nearby.  I could stand and turn to sit by holding my powerchair or the vanity.  Note the original size of the washroom -the transition can be seen by the change of floor covering.


A view from inside the shower looking outwards at the vanity.  Again, with the shower stall pushed into what used to be the garage (about a third of the attached garage was used), I had a very user-friendly, spacious bathroom.

My father's house was a single floor ranch constructed in the early 1960's (Single floor not counting the basement).  Because it was a single floor, the decision (amongst other considerations) was made to move to his house and not move my dad into my former house.


The photos which follow were taken shortly after the renovation was completed however our modifications were not yet made (so pardon the untidiness).
As can be seen here, the bathroom was long and narrow.  A hand bar was placed near the toilet and one can be seen on the right side wall. (arrows)  The one on the right side wall was placed at the discretion of the renovator and I found it of little use (as will be discussed later) and I decided to remove it.  The vanity was narrower than the previous built-in unit.  The most narrow vanity on the market was purchased to allow my wheelchair the maximum room for entry.  The narrowness still presents a significant challenge in maneuvering within the room.


Have to watch the workmanship as you can see the new wallboard was dimpled when the handrail was added.


Another view of the handrail between the toilet and the shower seat as well as the handrail which I ultimately removed from the right side wall.  To get into the shower I park my powerchair near the far handrail and using it I stand then turn to sit on the tiled shower bench (here covered with towels & floor mat).  I can get undressed there and then swing my legs into the shower stall.  A rolled up towel is placed as a barrier against water running off the bench to the floor as we opted against installing a custom glass enclosure as originally envisioned.  I found this procedure to be the safest. 


Here is the tiled shower stall seat.  The original concept was to have a safety-glass partition where I have drawn in (arrow).  We were to contact an outside glass manufacturer who custom made these shower enclosures.  Ultimately I decided not to install this glass as I was better (and more safely) able to access the shower at the seat as opposed to where originally envisioned.
Note the raised marble threshold separating the bathroom floor from the shower.


Here is a better look at the dividing threshold.  Originally it was thought that my access to the shower would be by using the handrail (now removed) to step into the shower enclosure and by means of using the second handrail, to turn and sit within the glass enclosed shower stall.

Several problems were immediately encountered: Firstly, the wheelchair is parallel to the shower making it difficult to use the wall handrail as the wheelchair would have to be parked behind the handrail thereby making the distance to walk too great to do safely.  Secondly, a turn would be have to be made to sit on the shower bench or when finished necessitating a switch of hands on possibly a wet floor.  Third and finally, I narrowly avoided an accident on my very first shower.  I stepped onto the polished marble threshold while wet and my feet flew out from under me.  Only my grip on the handrail saved me from landing flat across the threshold and floors.  Polished marble was not a great floor material to use for a dripping wet paraplegic!  However, the renovation was for my dad and not specifically for myself.  Still not good for an arthritic octogenarian. Aesthetically, the marble colour and pattern chosen by the contractor did not match the marble top of the vanity which had already been purchased.  (incidentally, the marble vanity cost less than having the contractor make a custom built on covered by arborite or some other such material.  (the marble is faux marble -not the real stuff - just looks like it so much cheaper in cost).


Shown here is the handrail which I didn't find useful and removed.  I was suppose to use it to step into the adjacent shower but the chair would have to be parked behind the handrail and the distance travelled to the seat would be too great for me to navigate safely.


Here is the angled handrail which is useful in both the sitting and standing positions.  The shower cubbyhole is discussed below.


Okay -who has extra tall shampoo bottles and such.  Why did the contractor think the cubbyhole should be upright and not placed lengthwise.  It is not a load-bearing wall and regardless, a box could have been constructed around it.  Lots of wasted space for too few bottles!  Cannot supervise the contractor around the clock.  Let it slide...


The shower itself has the two usual components; (1) the shower head and (2) the hand held shower wand on a sliding pole.  A switch on the hand-held shower allows the user to chose between the two and spray pattern.  Because we opted against getting the custom-made glass enclosure, we installed a shower curtain rod & curtain.


The problem for me is maneuverability.  I have very little room for error as there is only about two inches of clearance between the chair and the wall and the chair and the vanity.  I drive in carefully and back out even more so.  After one year I'm happy to report that there have been no driving accidents within the bathroom.


Another view of my clearance.  Handrail in middle-top of photo has been removed.


Arrows by my wheels show the clearance I have between my Quantum chair, the bathroom wall and the vanity.  Yet no accidents after a year.


From the far wall looking back to the entrance door.  The original door had to be replaced with a wider one to accommodate my powerchair.  As you can see from this later photo, the handrail has been removed and replaced with a hand-towel rack. (oops, green cleaning-cloth left on house-coat hook)

I have a significant problem with the door simply for the fact that I drive into the bathroom and have to back out (there is no room to turn around as I had in my old bathroom).  As you can visualize, when I back up to the closed door, I have to reach over my right shoulder in order to grab the door leaver. You really have to be a contortionist to perform opening a door that is behind you while facing the other way!  As I open the door, it hits the back casters of my powerchair.  Driving forward a bit I have to reach back and open the door further.  This is repeated until the door opens enough for me to grab it over my left shoulder.  I repeat the process until the door now clears the left-rear caster wheel.  Awkward!

Installing a pocket door which slides into the wall space as I had in my old home was not possible here.  As this house was built in the early 1960's, the walls are lathe and plaster (no wallboard) so there is no space for them to slide into.

I may try have an electronic door opener installed and see if the cost can be defrayed by our local government tax credit.




The vanity came with the mirror however a matching medicine cabinet was purchased separately.  A brighter light fixture was installed in addition to an overhead light (regular and dimmer 'night light' modes) and exhaust fan combination.


One final nuisance remains, partially due to the contractors, partially from my own doing.  My dad, with his arthritic joints and bones requested a overhead heat lamp.  The contractor talked us into (we were agreeable)  a heated floor instead.  However, this raised the floor level which was less of a problem when the wall to wall carpeting was in place.  As the old carpeting was dirty, worn and dated, we chose to remove it and enjoy the hardwood flooring beneath.  The drop from the tile floor (1) (again, there is a marble transition threshold (2)) which lies above the sandwiched heating element, to the hardwood floor (4) is just short of two inches.  I placed a beveled hardwood transition filler strip (3) to ease the climb for the chair.  I should also add a quarter-round hardwood strip to join (3) to (2) -the gray line being the grout used to secure the heating element.  This spring I will pull up (3) and stain the maple hardwood filler strip to match the honey-blond colour of the hardwood floor.

My gripe with the contractors is that they left a big gap between the door casement (jamb) and the floor threshold (5).  This job appears unfinished.  I will cut and insert filler pieces to bridge the gap once I can get to my tools.  The door and casement are still in primer and have been dirtied during installation.  They will be soon painted.

Again, this renovation was primarily for my late father's benefit.  Unfortunately he did not get to enjoy it long.  I have another post dealing with the shoddy medical care he received which I believed ultimately led to his death.  The renovation 'killed two birds with one stone' if you will.  While it was for my dad, It benefited me and continues to do so.

I do thank Ontario's Healthy Home Renovation Tax Credit which helped significantly with the cost of the renovation.

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