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When designing a bathroom it is vital to ensure that it meets the needs of all the home’s occupants, regardless of age or mobility. Here, Ian Kenny, Marketing Director at Graham Plumbers’ Merchant, looks at the factors that should be considered to achieve an inclusive bathroom design.
Factors such as the UK’s ageing population means multi-generational households are increasingly common, with children, parents and grandparents sharing a single home. The age range, and therefore the needs of occupants, can be diverse. The rise in house prices and relative decrease in the average earnings for people in their twenties, compared with the previous generation, has also meant an increasing number of young people are living with their parents after education.
While this trend has implications for many areas of the home, catering to the differing needs of the family members is particularly important when designing a bathroom. There are a number of specific ways that an inclusive design can be achieved within a range of budgets.
It is often assumed that bathroom fixtures and fittings designed for accessibility will have a clinical look and not fit in with the existing bathroom. In fact, modern bathroom products can improve the daily experience for everyone and blend into the overall finish of the bathroom.
When designing a bathroom that will be used by people of different ages and levels of mobility, basic considerations can make a significant difference. While it may seem simple, selecting the correct taps can substantially improve the experience of those using the bathroom. For example, lever taps require a lower force to operate and are therefore easier to use, especially for children as well as older people who may have reduced muscle strength in their hands. This is particularly an issue when hands are wet or soapy so this should also be a consideration when selecting shower controls.
In recent years dual basins have become increasingly popular to help ease bathroom congestion in busy households. This feature can also be utilised to make the bathroom more user friendly by having the two basins at different heights. This provides practical access for children, wheelchair users and those who find it easier to be seated, while also having a basin that is comfortable to use from a standing position.
In addition, selecting height adjustable sanitaryware will also help make using the bathroom less challenging for every member of the family. These products also allow for further adjustment if required.
Bath or Shower
For those with limited mobility getting in and out of a bath can be difficult and potentially dangerous, especially when the surfaces are wet. For this reason a shower is often the preferred option. Replacing the bath with a large, low profile shower tray and enclosure is a relatively simple way to help solve these issues of access and safety.
Depending on the customer requirements installing a wetroom can improve accessibility further. Removing all raised edges from the bathroom will allow full access with a wheelchair or mobility aids as well as eliminating any trip hazards.
However, for families with younger children a bath may be a requirement and so bathtubs with a side access door will make it easier and safer to use. Alternatively, selecting one with integrated handles, a seat or simply with a wider edge can also improve the usability of the bath. A range of grab handles are also available to maximise safety and that will suit the overall styling of the bathroom.
As professional installers will be aware, water must be heated to above 60°C to kill bacteria such as legionella, however damage to skin can occur at temperatures over 50°C. Recommending products that include Thermostatic Mixing Valves (TMVs) will prevent scalding and burns from bath and basin taps as well as showers. In addition, flooring with anti-slip properties is an important recommendation to prevent slips and falls when the floor is wet.
Step-free bathroom access
Finally, an important consideration when designing a bathroom is that in many houses, the bathroom is on the first floor. For elderly people this can make actually accessing it difficult or even impossible. In some cases, converting a ground floor space into a downstairs toilet or even a second bathroom may provide better alternative to adapting the main family bathroom. This can be achieved cost effectively by installing a waste water or macerator pump to connect the new bathroom to the existing plumbing.
When it comes to bathroom design the needs of different members of a family must to be considered and professional installers have a key role to play in helping to design inclusively. Merchants can provide the advice and support that is essential when approaching a project with specific requirements.