Callen Designer Explains How a Bathroom for Accessibility Can Benefit Everyone in the Household

Aug. 8, 2014

Dave Clark, CAPS, CGR, an award-winning design specialist for Callen Construction, Inc. in Muskego, a full service remodeling company serving southeastern Wisconsin since 1986, said that compared to a few years ago, he is getting more and more requests for accessible bathrooms. “The idea is that the bathroom will not only accommodate a disability, but can be used comfortably by other members of the household,” Clark said.

Clark, a Certified Aging in Place Specialist, Certified Graduate Remodeler, and a SEN Certified Designer, is trained to modify homes so the resident(s) can live there longer, addressing the current needs as well as what they will need in the future.

One of the most common modifications is to reconfigure the bathing area. “Showers that are over bathtubs or have curbs are inaccessible to a wheelchair user or for someone whose balance, strength, or mobility may be limited. The solution is a no-barrier or curbless shower,” Clark said.

Curbless showers can be outfitted with a shower curtain or door. “However, glass doors typically are in a 30-inch standard width and while larger doors can be special ordered, it can be quite expensive,” Clark said. “To keep the bather warm, I recommend a heated floor throughout the bathroom including the shower and possibly the addition of a heat lamp outside the shower area.”

Another important element in the shower is having the spray setting accessible. “Someone in a chair will not be able to reach the top of the showerhead to divert the spray, so I always recommend two diverter valves,” Clark said. “Another alternate configuration can be a fixed showerhead in the conventional location and adding a second handheld showerhead with a diverter valve. A handheld showerhead can also be on a slide mount so it can be adjusted easily for height.”

Other things to keep the bathroom functional for wheelchair users are to remove the cabinetry under sinks so the countertop extends with a small apron, which will allow them to pull right up to the sink. “Countertops are set at 34 inches in height so a wheelchair can get in and out easily and at least 32 inches between cabinets, a bit more if there is room in the footprint,” he said. “It’s possible to do multi-level countertops so a taller person will be comfortable with a standard 36-inch unit.”

Instead of faucets on the back side of the sink, they are more accessible when offset to the side. Lever-style handles make them easier to turn on and off and there are options for motion-activated faucets and soap dispensers. Drain stoppers can also be controlled with a push of the finger on the sink.

Comfort-height or chair-height toilets, which are becoming very common in bathroom remodels, make it easier for transferring from wheelchair to toilet and for senior adults, easier to sit down and stand up.

“If new windows or window replacement is part of the design, a casement window or sliding window is more manageable for someone in a chair or who has muscle weakness,” Clark said. “These windows eliminate the reaching and pulling up, which is also a convenience for someone of short stature.”

Whether or not you have a disability, these design elements are something to consider when doing a bathroom remodel. “Improvements like these make it easier to transition as you advance in age or if a serious situation were to develop that reduces mobility or strength,” Clark said. “Consider what you would do if you broke a leg while skiing or are recuperating from knee replacement surgery. A curbless shower or a higher seated toilet would be comforts you wouldn’t want to be without.”

Callen’s Muskego showroom on 131st and Janesville Rd. contains a variety of samples, including full kitchen and bath displays featuring Kohler fixtures and Starmark cabinetry products, countertops, as well as Infinity® Fiberglass replacement windows from Marvin. The Home Exteriors by Callen showroom in Brookfield on 191st and Capitol Dr. has a wide assortment of products on display, including Infinity® Fiberglass replacement windows from Marvin, siding, doors, and roofing, and Gutter Topper®.

Callen is a member of several home improvement and area associations, including the Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council, National Kitchen & Bath Association, the Metropolitan Builders Association Remodelers Council, Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List, the Muskego Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Brookfield Chamber of Commerce.

For more information or for a free in-home consultation, call Callen at 414-529-5509 or visit

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