Aging In Place  /  May 4, 2018

How to Make a Doorway Wheelchair-Accessible

As our population ages, the necessity for wheelchairs, walkers and other assistive devices proportionally increases. At the same time, more and more people are choosing to stay in their homes and age in place, rather than moving to a retirement home or assisted-living facility. Unfortunately, many houses are not built to accommodate wheelchairs. In most cases, some modifications will have to be made if you want to stay in your home, especially when it comes to doorways.

How to Determine If Your Doorways Need Widened

Though opinions on the amount of clearance needed for a wheelchair vary, according to the ADA, wheelchair-accessible doors must be a minimum of 32 inches wide. In general, this amount of space will allow a wheelchair-bound person to clear the door comfortably without bumping elbows or scraping knuckles on the doorframe. Before purchasing a wheelchair for yourself or a loved one, make sure to measure all interior and exterior doorways and tight corners first. This will help you know what size wheelchair will work for your home, and which doorways will need to be widened if you decide to go with a larger model.

Install a Ramp

As most exterior doorways have some kind of step, you’ll need to install a ramp with handrails added on both sides for safety. These can be bought ready-made, or you can contact Handyman Connection for handyman help for seniors if you’d prefer to have one built.

Use Offset Hinges

If your door is just a little too narrow, replacing your standard door hinges with offset hinges can give you the extra couple of inches you need. Offset hinges can go in the exact same spot as the old hinges, and their unique design will open the door past the door frame instead of inside it, giving access to its entire width. Keep in mind, however, that there needs to be 2-3 inches of space between the existing hinge and the next wall for there to be room to put the offset hinge. In addition, with the door swinging an additional 2 inches into the room on offset hinges, any objects that are close to the door in its current location may block the door, preventing it from opening fully.

Widen the Doorway

If all else fails, you made need to widen the doorway to accommodate a wider door unit. Here are the basic steps to do this:

  • Remove the existing door unit and trim. The light switch may need to be relocated, depending on how close it is to the door.
  • Use the appropriate measurements to draw an outline on the wall for the widened doorway, then cut through the drywall along the lines you traced with a rotary cutting tool.
  • Cut through the nails at the door jamb and at the foot of the studs with a reciprocating saw, then pull the studs from the existing doorway to widen the framed opening. In some cases, it may be possible to just remove the cripple studs.
  • Finally, the new, wider door unit and trim can be put into place, and finish work such as painting the new door unit and trim, repairing the finished flooring and replacing the baseboards can commence.

If carpentry isn’t your forte and you’re a little out of your element when it comes to widening doorways, a quick call to Handyman Connection at 1-800-88-HANDY is all it takes to get you lined up with one of our excellent craftsmen. You can also take a look at the carpentry services list on our website to see if you may want to take advantage of any of the other carpentry services we offer.

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