Future proof your bathroom by turning it into a safe and accessible room without compromising on style.
Most people want to stay in their own homes but few are adapted well enough for people’s changing needs as they get older. Living in suitable housing can improve your health and well-being and help people to feel in control of their lives.
700,000 people are reaching retirement age every year in the UK and are living longer than ever before but falls are the leading cause of death among people aged 65 years and older and a wet zone, like a bathroom, is responsible for a huge percentage of those slips and falls.
So if you plan to stay in your home for the rest of your life and are thinking about making changes to your bathroom, which is one of the most used spaces by homeowners, then it is wise to renovate with accessibility and safety in mind.
Future proof your bathroom with these 9 ideas:
1. Install a walk-in shower enclosure or wet room
Shower trays have been revolutionised in the last few years and some are so slim that they can be flush fitted into the floor to give a full wet room look with simple fitting and plumbing requirements that gives a minimal look. If these trays are flush fitted they are suitable for the less abled and for wheelchair access because there is no step. They can be fitted on concrete or wooden floors when fitted in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
Some shower trays are manufactured with integrated anti-slip surfaces and some with an antibacterial agent giving protection against harmful bacteria and suppressing mould growth.
Wet rooms dispense with the need for a visible shower tray, instead a tray is fitted under floor level and then tiled to give a contemporary look, but it does need to be installed correctly and the bathroom will need to be tanked to ensure it is totally waterproof. Once installed there is less cleaning as there is no shower tray to worry about but you may need to consider a glass screen to protect the basin and toilet getting splashed and the whole room will need to be tiled or boarded.
Nanosphere Technology has also improved the quality of glass used in shower screens and enclosures. The glass can come in different thicknesses with 6mm and 8mm being the most popular. All the glass is toughened and meets the correct standards. Nearly all glass has the advantage of being easy-clean with different manufacturers having their own branding; Clean Glaze, Clean & Clear, Aqua Gleam to name but a few. The use of this glass helps to cut down on cleaning because the water just runs off the glass. Using a squeegee will help to ensure that no water drips are left on the glass, crucial in our very hard water area.
2. Install a seat or bench & grab rails within the shower area
Install a built-in bench, which can be tiled, a free-standing or a fold down waterproof seat within the showering area. You can sit down to shower decreasing the amount of standing time and this will ease the strain on your body and reduce the risk of slipping or falling.
Grab rails can be installed both inside and outside the shower area. This gives something to hold onto when getting in or out of the shower, or bath, and to help navigate the space safely. Grab rails are highly functional and can come with soft grips, shaped, curved and with/without soap racks and can double up as hanging space for your towels.
If you have a hand-held shower make sure it is height adjustable and installed by the seat which gives the option to wash whilst seated.
3. Reduced height baths
Soak in safety if you want to keep a bath in your bathroom by considering a low level model. Most baths are 540mm high but there are ranges that are as low as 430mm including the legs –that’s about 4 ½ inches, the bath is actually only 345mm deep! If you then add twin grip handles and a textured base you have a safe bath that is easier to get in and out of, perfect for the less abled.
If space is a premium then your bath can double up for showering too and most baths are suitable for both but if it is going to be used as the main shower it is worth upgrading to a reinforced bath for added strength and comfort.
4. Thermostatic showers
A thermostatic shower valve mixes the hot and cold water to your pre-selected temperature and maintains that temperature for the duration of your shower. The thermostat reacts instantly to any changes in the pressure or temperature of the water supply by re-adjusting the mix of hot and cold water so there are no risks of scalding, or freezing, if the toilet is flushed or a tap turned on elsewhere in the house. Should a failure occur in your cold water supply the thermostatic valve will automatically shut down.
Digital showers offer complete control at the touch of a button and the safety features they offer can be of benefit to the less- abled, elderly, sight impaired and young amongst us.
Using the very latest in technology various models offer a range of features to suit everyone, even the most technophobic;
- Programmable settings so each user can set their optimum shower preference.
- Instantaneous diverters between different outlets.
- Digital readouts.
- Hygiene functions that will automatically flush the system through.
- Electronic controls that will run your bath to the pre-set depth and temperature.
- Colour responsive control lights to indicate temperature changes.
- Cleaning and self- checking modes.
- Back up batteries.
- Smartphone or tablet app to operate the shower.
- Maximum temperature limits.
- Maximum run times.
- Cool-touch metal controls.
- Control box can be installed outside of the bathroom.
- Illuminated controls that give a clear visual representation of flow and temperature information.
5. Mixer taps
Mixer taps are where the hot and the cold water come out of the same spout. Mixer taps can be used anywhere in the bathroom – the basin, bath, shower, and even on the bidet. They can come with audible clicks and water saving functions to improve your water efficiency. They are available in a huge range of designs and colours, with the most popular still being chrome as they match with any decor and look timeless. They also have the advantage of being easy to use by all members of the family.
Single lever taps, or Monobloc taps, are taps that operate using one lever to control the water, so can be operated using the palm or side of the hand making it easier for those with reduced fine motor skills. Generally you turn the tap to the left to get hotter water or to the right to get colder water. The advantage of a single lever tap is that you can leave the tap lever in your favoured position once you have found a water temperature that suits you best. Then the lever just needs to be raised for the flow rate. It is also easy to control the flow of water as the higher you lift the lever, the stronger the flow of water will be.
Single lever taps are extremely popular in bathrooms as they are very easy for everyone to use from young children, the elderly and the less abled.
Non concussive taps could also be considered. The knob on the top of the tap is manually pressed down to turn the water on. The tap automatically turns itself off after 15-20 seconds avoiding excessive water use and the risk of the tap being left on accidentally.
6. Comfort height toilets
Comfort height toilets are designed to give extra height for those who need additional comfort, such as the elderly, less abled or taller person.
Most toilets offer a sitting height somewhere between 375mm and 410mm, (about 15 to 16 inches) and if you need extra height it is possible to fit the toilet on a plinth or other platform. Fitting a comfort height toilet saves the needs to have to build any extra elements in your bathroom or cloakroom. Comfort height toilets are 470mm to 480mm to the seat so 60mm to 70mm (3 inches) taller than a standard toilet. Another good way to future proof your bathroom is to install grab rails. These can be added if necessary to further enable the user to raise and lower themselves on and off the toilet reducing the strain on the knees and back.
The majority of modern designed toilets have removable seats that can be taken off for a complete clean making them more hygienic and easier to maintain. Back to wall toilets are also easier to keep clean and are more hygienic because there are no gaps to hide germs and dust.
Porcelain floor and wall tiles are extremely hard wearing and are very easy to keep clean-they require no maintenance and can be scrubbed or steamed to keep them clean and germ free. We would recommend that all grout is sealed with an impregnating sealer to ensure that dirt and grime wipes off easily.
Any porcelain tile with a texture is suitable for a bathroom floor. However some tiles come with extra slip resistance which is a great way to future proof your bathroom. Many of our tiles come with an R10 rating which offers a higher slip rating which could be helpful in wet areas and for those who are not so steady on their feet.
Look for floor tiles with texture or grooves; the greater the texture the greater slip resistance.
8. Underfloor heating
There are many benefits to underfloor heating. We have previously looked at reasons to have underfloor heating. When it comes to bathrooms;
- The floors are kept dry reducing the likelihood of slipping and falling and steam and condensation is greatly reduced so all surfaces are dryer.
- There is no need for wall mounted radiators therefore freeing up the wall space for grab bars or creating space for a seat.
- Dust and dirt is reduced dramatically making the room a healthier environment.
9. Other ideas to future proof your bathroom
- Think about increasing the height of vanity units which will prevent hunching over the basin when washing, easing back and shoulder strain or lowering the height of vanity units if the user is wheelchair bound for the same reason. If your bathroom is big enough you could install dual height units to accommodate everyone likely to use it.
- Consider the lighting and increase the lighting if necessary- this will lead to less eye strain and the user is more likely to see wet patches on the floor. Vary the lighting around the room to ensure there are no dark corners- use spotlights, recessed lighting over vanity units, plinth lighting and include some lights within the shower enclosure.
- Install shelves or baskets close to the shower head or bath taps so that everything is to hand to reduce the need to move around on a wet surface.
If some, or all, of these ideas are applied when you are future proofing your bathroom then you can be confident that the changes will carry you through your later life and not only will they be a monetary investment but more importantly a huge investment in your health and lifestyle and peace of mind for all concerned.