Bathtub Remodeling: Aging In Place Tub-To-Shower Conversions

Bathtub Remodeling: Designing an Accessible Shower

If you're a homeowner and contemplating aging in place one area you'll need to consider is the bathroom. Accessible showers should be a part of any aging in place bathroom remodeling project. Even if your middle-aged and planning for the future, an accessible shower is a smart investment because they can be built to be usable by anyone, including those in a wheelchair. These showers are designed to provide for a person's safety in the shower by utilizing design elements like no or low-lip entries, grab bars, non-slip flooring and more.

A properly and fully designed bathroom will incorporate these and other features. This is called Universal Design, and the principal includes accessibility, hardware, and materials. This combination works to help create a safe showering experience for people of all abilities and ages.

We chose these photos because they display some or all of the best Universal Design and accessibility option available for aging in place seniors. They depict some fantastic designs, beautiful tile work, roll-in or low-lip shower transitions, open space for moving around – especially crucial for folks in wheelchairs – some incredible hardware like lever handles and grab bars, ADA compliant toilets and much more.

View This Modern Universal Design Custom Home Project

Bathtub Remodeling From An Aging In Place Perspective

A jetted tub was removed and this shower installed while remodeling this master bathroom in Waunakee, WI.

If you're planning a bathroom remodeling with an eye towards aging in place, it is a different type of remodeling than one undertaken for merely aesthetic purposes. That's not to say that aging in place bathroom remodeling can't be aesthetically beautiful. It simply means that the choices you make will be geared towards safety for aging homeowners and ease of use. 

The key is to define your needs. For example, most real estate professionals will council homeowners not to eliminate the only tub in your home. Even if you're planning to age in place, if your house ever does come back on the market, not having at least one bathtub can impact your sales price. 

That being said, for older homeowners, a walk-in, low-threshold shower is a smart choice. Talk with your design-build contractor about your options. If you have a master suite, remodeling to include a large walk-in shower can meet your needs, while leaving your second bathroom tub in place can keep your house marketable should you choose to sell.

Safety and Convenience Are Number One!

This level-entry shower takes the place of a standard bathtub. This project met the VA standards for a client suffering from ALS.

Universal Design principals focus first and foremost on safety and convenience. You need to be able to move about the bathroom freely and do it in a safe manner. You may also need to consider how you'll use the facilities in the future. Make sure you have enough room to move about with a walker or wheelchair safely.

If your current bathroom is unsafe or if you find it inconvenient you may need to consider a complete remodel. Then you can build in ease of use, and you can add safety features that address slips and falls, and other concerns as you age. This is especially important if you live alone. A fall in the shower or the bathroom can be a devastating and frightening experience. Sometimes it's possible to address these problems by making significant changes. These can include options like adding a monitored alarm system to alert people to a fall or removing the bathtub and installing a large, low or no-threshold shower with slip-resistant porcelain floor tiles.

Bathroom Remodeling: Tub to Shower Conversions

This level entry walk-in shower was created in a new home.

For many homeowners, a bathtub remodel along with some aesthetic updates and added safety features like grab bars, and level handles may be enough to create an aging in place bathroom. If the bathtub is in an alcove, it can be removed, and you'll be left with a space that's about 30 to 34 inches deep and 5 feet wide, which is enough space for a shower. With minor modifications, your water supply and drain lines will already be in place, which can save you some money on plumbing costs. 

Shower stall kits are a fantastic low-cost option made to fit into corners or old bathtub alcoves. Typically made of acrylic or fiberglass they include pre-made sides, a skid-proof floor pan with curbs a drain hole and a hinged glass door. Extras can include built-in seating and shelves.

If you have a larger budget and greater aesthetic needs, you can upgrade to a custom tile shower. The price can vary, depending on the complexity, size, and tile and fixtures you choose. Add some extra money to the budget for demolition, new plumbing, fixtures or any other custom features. Your design-build remodeler can help you to design your new space based on your bathrooms existing footprint, your needs, and your budget.

When it comes to aging in place, the shower floor (shower pan) is a critical element. Shower pans with curbs are designed to keep the water in the shower area and direct it down the drain. If you're seeking a "true" aging in place bathroom remodel, consider a threshold or curb free design. This allows homeowners with mobility problems who require a walker or wheelchair to get into and out of the shower quickly, easily and safely. Bear in mind that a curb-less design is a little more difficult and expensive to install, but if you may have mobility issues in the future, it's a better choice.

Other Bathtub Remodeling Options

If you would still like the option to take a bath as you get older, or aren't sure if you only want a shower, there are options available. Consider a walk-in tub. These are tubs that you can walk into and close a door with a watertight seal. The give you the benefit of being able to sit down in a bathtub and relax, but still be able to get into and out of the tub easily. 

Many older homeowners use these kinds of tubs because they offer value when it comes to relaxing in a bath to help ease aches and pains like those suffered by people with arthritis. Sit-in tubs can also have jets making them even more therapeutic. While these tubs also require a separate shower, the good news is that they are not only surprisingly affordable, but because you're sitting, they are shorter than standard tubs and require less space.

Additional features like built-in seats, grab bars, hand-held shower heads, and built-ins, can complete your bathroom updating and can keep older homeowners safe and comfortable as you age in place.

If you're planning a bathtub remodeling, and you live in the Madison, Wisconsin area, give the experts at Degnan Design-Build-Remodel a call. We can help you design the perfect bathroom to meet your aesthetic needs and keep you safe and comfortable as you age in place. 

This article was updated by Abe Degnan on 2/4/2019.

Additional Information on Aging-in-Place Remodeling