The Yukon government’s Home Repair Program allows for accessibility repairs to one’s home
Have you ever taken on DIY (do it yourself) bathroom renovations in your home? We did. We were younger and ignorant of the domino effects of renovations. It started with plans to replace a bathroom window and grew into a new design for the whole bathroom, and an additional bathroom downstairs because the original bathroom was taking too long to finish. Never again, we vowed.
As we grew older, we learned that falls account for more than half of all seniors’ injuries requiring hospitalization. These falls most commonly occur in bathrooms and on stairs.
We don’t have any stairs in the house, but our bathroom is overdue for renovations to make it safer and more accessible. My husband and I have arthritis and find it hard to get in and out of the claw-foot bathtub that stands about two-feet high. The claw-foot tub also sits on a raised platform about four inches off the main floor. Thankfully, we have managed not to fall off the platform while vacating the tub. We maintain our balance by holding onto the wall or the sink nearby. We also find it difficult to balance on one foot to scrub our feet while showering in the bathtub.
All of these factors we have lived through, so far, but we began to recognize that we needed to make some changes. Thankfully, the Yukon government has a Home Repair Program that allows for accessibility repairs to one’s home. This is a non-repayable grant of up to $30,000 for approved homeowners to retrofit their homes if they have mobility challenges. The applications closed in February, for this year, but this is something to research and plan for in the next building year. The program is a great resource but could be improved by providing homeowners with information on accessibility features and on how to talk to contractors about what is appropriate for your needs.
We applied for our grant in winter 2022 and heard back in the spring of 2023. Given our previous DIY experience, we decided to renovate using a professional this time. Unfortunately, we had a great deal of difficulty finding a contractor to do the work and had to delay our renovations to start in late spring of 2023.
The first contractor that we had scheduled to do the work pulled out in early January because he had a bigger commercial contract and we were left to find another available person.
If you are looking to do something similar, my advice is to start early to locate potential contractors—ask friends, check listings and, if possible, see examples of their work.
RESEARCH AND PLAN
We contacted an occupational therapist from Home Care to do an assessment of our home, to look for tripping hazards and to provide fall-prevention ideas for the bathroom. She gave us resources on accessible design for bathrooms. Check out Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (cmhc.ca) for the article “Accessible Housing by Design.” There’s a great section on bathrooms.
Our bathroom is very small, so it was difficult to make all of the changes to make it fully accessible, but we are pleased with the proposed changes. We will be able to have a walk-in shower, a hand-held shower sprayer, a fold-down stool in the shower, grab bars, a higher toilet, a vanity with easy-to-access storage, single-lever faucets, better lighting and new flooring.
KNOW ABOUT ACCESSIBILITY
Before you talk to a contractor, my other advice is to have a clear plan for the changes you want. There’s no guarantee that contractors have detailed (or any) knowledge about accessible design. Take the information from CMHC and discuss the elements you want.
We not only did a detailed floor plan of the existing bathroom, but we also sent the contractor photos of the existing bathroom and gave him an idea of what we wanted. We paid an initial fee for the contractor to provide the plan and do a detailed quote for the total costs.
MAKE YOUR VIEWS KNOWN AND STAY FOCUSED
The contractor came to our home and did measurements. We discussed the possibilities. We exchanged plans, drawn to scale, for the proposed new plan, and we debated the pros and cons of different layouts. At times, we had to be insistent on what we wanted. When we finalized the layout, we went to the contractor’s business to discuss specific features. One detail that I insisted upon was drawer pulls (for the vanity) that I could handle with my arthritic fingers. We had to determine where we wanted the grab bars, as well as the length and placement on the wall. Flooring in the shower and throughout the bathroom had to be non-slippery.
My eyes began to gloss over with the choice of tiles, flooring, fixtures and other items, but it was important to stay focused on the accessibility aspects. One can easily spend a lot of time considering aesthetic appeal and forget about accessibility. Lots of choices at various price points … but I wanted to keep it simple, easy to clean, safe and accessible.
Hopefully I will have my wish come true by the beginning of July! (Anybody want to buy a claw-foot bathtub?)