How to Build a Handicap Accessible Shower

How to Build a Handicap Accessible Shower

Design a shower that accommodates physically-impaired individuals

By Glyn Sheridan

Handicap Accessible Shower
Photo by iStockphoto.com
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An individual with limited mobility can benefit from a handicap-accessible shower stall that provides a safe environment in which to shower. Because disabilities vary, the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) offers optimal dimensions for both a walk-in shower and a roll-in shower. In addition, you can make the showering experience safe for a handicapped individual by including specialty fixtures.

  • What You Need to Know
  • You'll need the outside framing dimensions for the shower you choose to install, as well as basic carpenter's tools to build the frame and plumber's tools to hook up the water supply and the drain.
Constructing an Accessible Shower

Step 1:

Design your bathroom layout to accommodate the type of handicap shower you need. A walk-in shower must be at least 36 inches wide and 36 inches deep. A roll-in shower or a shower that requires a seat must be a minimum of 36 inches by 60 inches. However, when you're framing in the shower, read the manufacturer's required outside dimensions that come with the shower kit because those will be larger.

Step 2:

Frame the supporting structure for the handicap shower according to the manufacturer's directions. Since models vary, you'll need the complete set of specifications. The framing will include constructing the side walls and the back wall supports and blocking the floor. Since an ADA-compliant shower must have a threshold no higher than inch to prevent injury to the individual, you may have to cut out a section of your floor to accommodate the blocks and the depth of the shower pan.

Step 3:

Install the plumbing for the drain and the water supply pipes. The drain configuration will depend upon the shower pan you purchase. After the pipes are in place, you may need a layer of bedding compound beneath the shower pan for additional support.

Step 4:

Add safety grab bars between 33 inches and 36 inches from the floor. The bars can be separate and installed on each wall or you may install a continuous safety bar that bends around each corner. A bar that is at least 1 inch thick but no more than 1 inch thick is easier to grasp safely than a wider or a narrower bar. In addition, leave at least 1 inches between the bar and the wall.

Step 5:

Position the fiberglass shower pan and shower walls, attaching them to the frame with screws where indicated. If you're building a handicap shower in a new house, you may purchase a one-piece unit, by bringing the shower into the future bathroom before framing the home's walls. If this is a remodel, however, one-piece units are too large to fit through standard doorways.

Step 6:

Install a removable head with a 60-inch flexible shower hose or one with an adjustable bar that allows the disabled individual to position it. The hot and cold water lever should be a single lever, allowing for operation with one hand, and a no-scald attachment will prevent accidental hot water burns.

Step 7:

Include a seat for those who find it hard to stand up. You may attach a fold-up shower seat to the wall between 17 inches and 19 inches from the floor. Choose a seat that is at least 16 inches deep but not more than 23 inches deep. Position the seat opposite the shower controls.

  • Tips & Warnings
  • Keep in mind the mobility of the individual. Grab bars are more important for someone who must stand but they may be in the way of someone who cannot stand and must use a shower wheelchair.
  • Consider a shower curtain instead of a shower door.
  • Add shower safety strips to the floor to reduce slipping, even with a textured shower pan.

About the Author

Glyn Sheridan is a regular contributor to DexKnows.

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