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Universal design - thinking ahead

Universal design reflects the fact that as we move through different phases of life, our housing needs to be adapted. When planning your home renovation, consider what you will need for both the short and the long term:

  • A family with young children typically needs more space and convenience – extra bathrooms, larger family living areas and a more open kitchen with an eat-in area.

  • As children mature, they (and their parents) want more privacy. Housing priorities shift towards larger bedrooms, increased closet space and separate living areas.

  • Grown children returning home, ageing parents moving in, home-based businesses are all life changes that can affect the requirements of a home.

  • As homeowners get older, moving around a home becomes a greater concern – the ability to move easily throughout the home and carry on day-to-day living activities is an increasing consideration in many home renovations.

Providing for the long term in your renovation plans can give you greater value and satisfaction. Some practical tips for making your home more flexible and adaptable to your changing needs, while increasing its comfort, convenience and safety include:

  • Wider doors, easy-to-use handles and locks, and good lighting make it easy and safe to get in and out of the house. A large front porch or overhang will offer shelter outside, while a spacious area inside the entrance provides a convenient spot for setting down bags and removing outdoor footwear.

  • Choose easy-to-open windows with cranks, and install lever-action handles rather than knobs on all doors and closets.

  • Whenever possible, incorporate the kitchen, a living room and a bathroom into the main living area on one level (preferably the level of the front door).

  • Widen narrow halls and doorways to make movement easier. An open floor plan can provide a comfortable family environment for work, play and relaxation.

  • If space allows, create a separate, multi-purpose room on the main level. Over the years, it may serve as a den, an office or a spare bedroom.

  • The entry floor bathroom should ideally include a shower if possible.

  • Keep floors at one continuous level. Eliminate obstructions such as steps and instead opt for gently sloped ramps. This also protects both children and adults from accidents.

  • Non-load bearing moveable or removable walls offers the flexibility to change the layout of your home with less work and at a lower cost.

  • Consider the need and opportunities for future expansion of living space into spare rooms, and rough in services (water, electricity, cabling) as other renovation work is done.

  • Install laundry facilities on the same level as an outdoor clothesline for convenient access to the outside. 

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