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Can I go on a rant for a second? Recently, my daughter Sherry was out with her two-month-old baby, visiting a friend. She had all of baby’s gear with her: stroller, blankets, toys and playpen — the whole nine yards. As she was going up the pathway to her friend’s home, she had trouble navigating the walkway because of all the stairs. Then when she made it to the top, the stroller wouldn’t even fit in the doorway — it was too narrow! Fortunately, her husband was there to help lift and manoeuvre the stroller — but what if she was a single mom doing this on her own? Well, I don’t like the sound of it.
It got me to thinking: Regardless of any individual’s mobility level, why don’t we just make all walkways and entryways completely accessible? Whether you’re a baby in a stroller, someone in their twilight years using a walker or anyone in between, we should all be able to navigate our homes safely.
Opening the door
If you’re able-bodied, you probably don’t give much thought to the size of your front door. But it can be a serious barrier to entry if your mobility devices don’t give you enough manoeuvrability.
By code, outside doors need to be about 81 centimetres wide, and 198 cm tall. But you know I like to go above code when I can — and a door is no exception. To make the path easy, I like to see entryways about 91 cm wide. It doesn’t sound like much, but it can make all the difference.
Of course, if you’re planning to widen your doorway — you’re messing with structure, so make sure you do it right. First of all, you’re going to need a permit. Second, when you’re cutting into the structure of your home, you’re creating an opportunity for weak points around the new hole. This goes for adding windows, skylights, even widening your front door. You want to be sure your door doesn’t let water in, or let air leak out.
And finally, smart locks with touchpad entry (or an app that locks and unlocks) can be convenient — especially for busy moms (like Sherry) who always seem to have their hands full — and save them from fumbling for keys.
When you picture an accessible walkway, what do you think about? You might conjure up the thought of a wooden ramp built to compliment existing stairs or, in some extreme cases, a few sheets of plywood to create a makeshift ramp.
Smart landscaping can create a seamless pathway from a driveway to the front door. We just completed a project for a young family whose youngest son will grow into some mobility issues. They had one small step leading from the walkway to the front door. Doesn’t sound like much, right?
To you, it’s a humble step; to others, it can feel like a mountain. Simply by doing a little regrading, we were able to make a beautiful walkway with paver stones that gently slope up toward the front door, creating a step-free entryway.
Could you do this job on your own? Well, maybe. Whenever you’re messing with your landscaping, you have to be very aware of how you’re affecting the grading of your property. It’s meant to slope in such a way that water drains away from your foundation. By doing landscaping projects (especially ones so close to the foundation), you could be risking some water penetrating your foundation. For me, I’d at least consult a landscaping architect before you break ground.
I’m a big believer in building for life — that the homes we live in during our 40s and 50s can continue to take care of us well into our 80s and 90s. If you want to stay in your home that long, start looking around now, while you’re still young and see where you should start planning your future renovations.
When we remodelled my son’s home, we kept this in mind, and built a home that will keep him and his family safe for decades.
Mike has been making it right for homeowners for over 15 years on television. To learn more, visit makeitright.ca
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