What does “home” mean to you? Almost everyone would answer that it’s more than just a place to sleep at night. It is a place where memories are made, where families grow, and where you can feel safe and comfortable.
That’s why we believe that homeowners, even and especially those who choose an aging-in-place lifestyle, deserve to enjoy every corner of their living space – including leak-proof windows and doors! That doesn’t just go for the area inside the home, either; often, the key to unlocking the full potential of your home is not only the interior layout, but how the exterior is planned as well.
Why Exterior Accessibility Renovations are important
As we age and certain areas around our home and become more challenging to navigate, everyday activities such as climbing stairs acquire an added layer of risk. Combine that with Calgary’s notorious winter ice storms, and even going up your front steps can be dangerous.
We want to help homeowners remove those obstacles and once again enable free movement around and through their homes. Home modifications are an essential aspect of this, contributing to a comfortable and safe living environment for those aging in place in their communities. Ultimately, modifying a house exterior to meet your individual needs will not only improve quality of life, but also your sense of independence – a metric that cannot be measured, but is extremely important nonetheless.
Ways to Improve Exterior Accessibility
There are many ways to implement crucial home modifications to make your living space more accessible. These include:
- creating a wheelchair-accessible entrance or ramp, and adding handrails
- widening doorways and installing lever handles
- improving lighting
- installing an elevator or exterior lift to a raised deck or raised entry door
- designing your yard to be more accessible to those living with a disability
- universal design concepts
Learn more about accessibility, aging in place, and available options for guidance and assistance by visiting our FAQ page.
Exterior Renovations for Accessibility in Calgary
Aging in place can be a truly affirming and satisfying decision – as long as the right design elements are selected and implemented around your lifestyle. Here are some tips for making your home exterior more accessible:
How do I make my home entrance wheelchair-accessible?
When designing a wheelchair-accessible entrance for your home, there are several factors to consider to ensure that the space is functional and safe.
1) The width of the entryway. According to the Canadian National Building Code, standard wheelchair ramp requires a width of at least 36 inches (48” is preferable) and a slope of 1 vertical inch for every 12 horizontal inches. You must ensure that there is enough space to accommodate this. In some cases, it may be necessary to widen the doorway to make it accessible. This can involve removing walls or modifying the structure of the house to create a wider entrance. Additionally, installing a threshold ramp can help individuals in wheelchairs easily transition from the ground to the entrance, providing a seamless and safe experience.
2) The door handle height and ease of use. It is crucial to install door handles that are easily reachable from a seated position, making it easier for wheelchair users to enter and exit the home. You may also consider installing an automatic door opener to make the process of opening the door even easier. When selecting door handles, be sure to choose lever handles that can be operated with minimal force and require less twisting or turning to open; smart locks, which can be remotely engaged or disengaged with a phone app, are also excellent choices for optimal accessibility.
3) Direction of the door’s swing. Finally, the door’s swinging direction must be considered. It should swing inward, ensuring that it does not block the entrance and providing adequate space for individuals to maneuver their wheelchairs. Additionally, it’s important to ensure that the door swings easily, requiring minimal force to open and close. For individuals with limited upper body strength, this can make a significant difference in their ability to access their home easily and safely.
Do all new houses have a code requirement of Universal Design?
Universal Design is a set of principles that aim to create spaces that are accessible to people of all ages and abilities. While not all new homes are required to meet these standards, many builders and architects are incorporating Universal Design principles into their plans. These features may include wider hallways and doorways, lower light switches and outlets, and lever-style door handles.
At MyLifetimeHome™, we go a step further. We pride ourselves on creating homes that are comfortable and convenient for everyone – and that involves a thorough examination of the property, inside and out, to determine the best possible combination of accessible features and quality of life improvements. It’s all part of our detailed Design, Needs, and Alignment Document – an analysis of your deepest dreams and desires for your home, and how they can be brought to life.
How do you build a ramp for home accessibility?
When building a ramp for home accessibility, it’s vital to keep in mind that the slope of the ramp should not be too steep or too shallow – if it’s too steep, it will be difficult for someone in a wheelchair or scooter to navigate; if it’s too shallow, it could take up too much space. The usual slope for a ramp is a 1:12 ratio, meaning that for every inch of rise, the ramp should be at least a foot long. They should also have handrails on one or both sides for extra stability.
When selecting materials, choose a material that will be both durable and slip-resistant, such as pressure-treated wood or concrete. For exterior installations, special particulate additives can be mixed into the final topcoat sealant, providing enhanced grip in even the iciest conditions.
Finally, it’s important to ensure that the ramp has enough landing space – in the middle, where it may switch directions and provide spots to rest; and at the top and bottom, to allow for a smooth and safe transition onto and off of the ramp. With careful planning and construction, a well-built ramp can provide easy and safe access to your home for years to come.
Can you install an elevator on the outside of a house?
Yes, it is possible to install an elevator on the outside of a house, which can provide safe and easy access to different levels of a home – underground garage, main floors, upper patio, and so on. Outdoor elevators can be a great solution for homeowners who want to make their homes more accessible but don’t have the space or budget for an elevator inside the existing layout.
If you are interested in installing an outdoor elevator at your home, it’s absolutely critical to work with reputable professionals who have experience in designing and installing accessibility solutions. This lets you determine the best location for the elevator and ensure that it meets all necessary safety codes and regulations.
When we install exterior elevators on Calgary homes, we provide information on different models and features to ensure that you choose the right elevator for your specific needs. You can find more information about the process, options, and cost in our other blog post: Installing In-home Elevators for Accessibility.
How much are outdoor wheelchair lifts?
The cost of an outdoor wheelchair lift can vary depending on a number of factors:
- the type, height, and add-ons of the elevator
- installation requirements
- service relocation
- complexity of the install
With that said, one of the most basic models is the Trus-T-Lift from RAM, which can lift up to 550 lbs a maximum of 14’ (one floor). The simplest, most utilitarian model starts around $6500-$8000, plus associated construction, engineering, and utilities relocation costs.
If the terrain is difficult or the elevator must go to greater heights, the cost will go up accordingly. However, since such renovations are done to make the home more accessible, you may qualify for tax credits, grants, and other financial assistance from different levels of government or businesses. We recommend discussing the matter with your accountant or financial planner.
What is an outdoor elevator called?
An outdoor elevator is often called a vertical platform lift (VPL) or a porch lift. These lifts are designed to provide access to different levels of a home and can be installed on the exterior of a building.
How do I make my backyard more accessible?
Designing a backyard that is accessible for people with limited mobility starts with the creation of a level and clear path. The surface should be slip-resistant, particularly if it’s prone to getting wet. One solution is to install permeable pavers or rubber tiles that offer traction and are easy to navigate on a wheelchair. Ensure there is enough space for a wheelchair to maneuver and that there are plenty of comfortable seating options. Small accent pieces that double as handholds are a good idea, too.
To maximize enjoyment of a yard, you may also want to consider an accessible garden design by installing raised garden beds or hanging baskets that can swing down, which can be easier to reach and maintain for people with limited mobility. Landscaping with low-maintenance plants that do not require frequent watering or pruning, such as succulents and ornamental grasses, can reduce the workload and still provide aesthetic appeal that makes your home feel truly lived in.
Renovating Yards for Accessibility in Calgary
The true aging-in-place potential of your home is waiting to be discovered – but it takes an expert eye to live up to that potential in full. If you’re looking to create a seamless yard, home, and life experience that is both beautiful and accessible, reach out to MyLifetimeHome™ today and improve your quality of life for the future!