Top tips for bathroom modifications: Working with small bathrooms

Bathrooms are often the first area of a home that needs addressing when someone's mobility is affected. Think tight doorways, hard to manage baths and a general lack of space. 

This post we are interviewing building accessibility expert, Chris Lok from Disability Modifications. Chris and his team of builders are specialists in turning unlivable houses into accessible and comfortable homes. They have over 25 years of experience and offer temporary or permanent home alterations for those that need help during their recovery. 

If you missed Chris' first post on working with old bathrooms, read it here

Chris continues his four part bathroom modifications series. This month we are tackling small bathrooms. 

How small is too small?

This would largely depend on the client’s needs and aim of the required modifications.  If wheelchair access is required, then a small bathroom may not be suitable.

For example, a small bathroom measuring 1800mm x 1800mm would generally include a shower over the bath, a small vanity or basin and possibly a cupboard. The hinged bathroom door will also open into the room thereby leaving very little floor space.

This type of bathroom can be modified by removing the bath and installing a shower with a flat floor, no nob thereby improving accessibility. The tiled floor in the bathroom would fall towards the shower waste with a small ramp at the doorway. Access to the vanity could be improved by replacing the vanity cabinet with a wall hung basin. Installing waterproofing and tiling to all the walls would turn the bathroom into a “Wet room” eliminating the need for shower screens or shower curtains.

The hinged door could be replaced with a sliding door, either in a cavity or sliding on the face of the wall outside the Bathroom, thereby providing more circulation space within the bathroom.

Even with the above modifications, the bathroom will still be small and may not provide suitable access for all people. Ideally, if wheelchair access is required, the bathroom may need to be increased in size by encroaching on adjoining rooms if that is possible.

Are small bathrooms difficult to modify for accessibility?

From a building point of view, small bathrooms are no more difficult to modify than a large bathroom except that only one or two tradesmen can work in the small bathroom at the same time.

The difficulty in providing improved accessibility in a small bathroom is the limited floor area and the level of accessibility that is required. For instance, if full wheelchair access is required and the client is using all the facilities without any help, then a small bathroom may suffice.

If however, the client is helped by a carer, then the bathroom may need to be increased in size to ensure there is sufficient space for the carer to work with the client.

What are some frequent mistakes people make with small bathroom modifications?

The most common mistake is for modifications to be designed leaving all the fixtures such as the shower and the vanity in the same place. In most cases, redesigning the layout and the positioning of the shower and the vanity in alternative positions will provide more accessible floor space.

The other mistake is that most people leave the hinged doorway as is because “I am able to get through the door now so there is no reason to change it”. The best time to widen the doorway is when the bathroom is being modified. This will further improve the bathroom access and reduce the damage to doorjambs and architraves. Consideration should also be given to installing sliding doors instead of the existing hinged doors.

What are your top tips for working with small bathrooms?

  • 1
    Look at the floor plan of the bathroom and determine if everything can stay in the same position or should they be moved to improve the access.
  • 2
    Draw the floor plan out on paper and work out if the modified bathroom will provide sufficient circulation space or whether additional space needs to be provided.
  • 3
    Design the modified bathroom as a “wet room” so that the shower, vanity and a possible toilet are contained in one open room on a level floor.
  • 4
    If at the end of the design stage, the modified bathroom is still not of a sufficient size, then perhaps look at relocating the bathroom into another part of the house such as a spare bedroom which is not used.

Thanks Chris. 

Keep an eye out for our next interview with Chris in January. ​

If you missed last month's interview on old bathrooms, check it out below. 

Bathroom Accessibility Modifications: How old is too old?
Bathrooms are often the first area of a home that needs addressing when someone's mobility is affected. Think tight doorways,[...]

Chris and his team of specialist builders are experts in disability modifications. They provide realistic and achievable solutions no matter the budget or living requirements.  

If you want to get in touch with Chris directly, click the button below.