Remodelers Robin Burrill and Rob Mathews of Curb Appeal Renovations in Haltom City, Texas, were asked to remodel a couple's master bathroom to accommodate the husband's disability. He had been injured on the job and was paralyzed from the waist down. The couple asked the remodeling company to create a universal design bath within the existing footprint, but did not want it to appear institutional. Also, because the injury was covered under worker's compensation for government employees, the remodelers would be paid through the Department of Labor.
The DOL took two years to approve the renovation. During that time, the husband had to bathe at outside facilities, so the homeowners were eager to begin. Under DOL rules, Burrill says Curb Appeal Renovations had to become an approved medical provider for the agency. Mathews had been a nurse in his previous career, which made it easier for them to gain approval.
As part of the master bath project, the remodelers widened the front door entry and all the interior doorways, and replaced the bedroom carpet with tile. They moved the location of the toilet to provide space on either side so that the client could wheel a chair over it. Burrill also included a low wall near the toilet that the husband could lean on to help maneuver the chair. The 5-foot-square barrier-free shower accommodates a full turn of the wheelchair and provides space for a helper.
Burrill is aware of the ADA guidelines for countertop and toilet height, but they did not apply to this couple who are both over six feet tall. The designer raised the countertop height to 34 inches to fit the client's needs, and she did not lower the location of the light switches and outlets because the client was comfortable with the standard placement. Burrill advises other remodelers to read the ADA guidelines, but to also communicate with the homeowners. “Just because it is ADA-standard does not mean it will work for your client,” she says. “You have to really listen to your clients, especially about details in a project like this because they make such a huge difference.”
Because the house was just five years old, the remodelers reused the existing bathtub and faucets. The team chose textured porcelain tile for the floor and walls. The wife upgraded the countertop from the original cultured marble to granite, paying for this herself because it was not covered by the DOL allowance.
Once the project was complete, Burrill had to contact the DOL several times before Curb Appeal Renovations was paid the $26,000 for the project. The annoyance was worth putting up with, Burrill says, adding that “the best part of the project was hearing from the wife about the big smile her husband had on his face when they were finally able to give him a private bath.”