Designing an ADA Bathroom

ADA bathroomIf you live with a disability or if you have ever been on crutches, you know all to well how hard it is to maneuver in and around your typical bathroom. Today, many consumers who are having their homes built or remodeled are now incorporating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines when designing residential bath areas. This reconfiguration can improve the resale value of your home and provide the necessary accessibility should anyone in the home become disabled.


Per ADA guidelines, doorways to the bathroom must have a minimum of 32 inches wide to accommodate those in wheelchairs or with walkers. Doors should swing out instead of in, as with most typical bathroom. This allows for greater access in case of a fall and makes it easier to close the door as well. To figure the distance needed measure from the face of the door to the door stop. It is best to avoid using hard to open handles and latches and it is recommended that lever style handles be used.

Keep in mind that the threshold of the doorway is even with the adjacent floor as not to result in a lip or other obstruction that could trip or restrict the wheelchairs from entering the room. There should be enough area provided to allow a 180 degree turn in a wheel chair. When placing the accessories such as a toilet, sink, urinal, mirror and paper dispensers make sure they are on an accessible route when entering the room. Consider a T-shaped configuration with 36 inches at the top and stem within a square that is 60 by 60 inches. Paper dispensers should be no lower than 19 inches above the finished flooring.

If you are planning for toilet stalls, you will need to place a wall mounted toilet with at least 56 inches in depth. If you have over 59 inches, you can consider placing a floor model toilet instead. Provide wall mounted grab bars in the area using either an L-shaped, horizontal or vertical bars for assistance on and off the unit. These grab bars should be between 33 and 36 inches above the finished flooring and in the length of 40 to 42 inches long.

When installing a toilet not located in a stall, make sure to design the placement of the grab bars that have a minimum length of 36 inches and mounted at least 26 to 33 inches above the finished flooring. Extend the bar 12 inches past the toilet center towards the side wall, with a minimum of 24 inches towards the open side so that the toilet is accessible for either a right or left side approach. Toilets placed either free standing or in a stall should be at a height of 16-1/2 inches (for use in residential construction) and 18 inches (for use in commercial construction) to make it easier for someone in a wheel chair.

You will need to consider a clear floor space with a length of 66 inches and width of 48 inches around the toilet for front transfers to the toilet if necessary. For diagonal transfers create a floor space of 48 inches wide with 56 inches in length for diagonal transfers.

If in doubt of any of the necessary measurements, it is best to research ADA Guidelines to design your bathroom to meet or exceed the federal standards required. With a good plan, one can reconfigure their existing bathroom into an ADA approved room.

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