- In North America about 2 million people live in a wheel chair.
- Wheelchair and walking aid users live in 30% of households.
- One out of five of us have one or more disability.
- Our population is aging rapidly.
- In 2040 one in four will be 65 or older!
ADA (American with Disabilities Act 1990) applies to public and multi-family buildings accessibility mainly for people with mobility and agility disabilities.
Disabilities may come gradually (aging) or suddenly (accident) and they can be temporary or permanent.
The range of disabilities that will influence the quality of your life in your home goes much beyond access and mobility problems.
Partial loss of strength in arms and legs will make simple actions like kneeling, sitting and standing difficult.
Lower sense of touch and dexterity may change our ability to cook or simply open a door.
Hearing problems perhaps mean not hearing the door bell or the smoke alarm.
Reduced vision makes it difficult to read appliance labels, misjudge height and depth of stairs treads or kitchen counters.
For some, loss of the sense of smell is part of the aging process which can lead to obvious danger at home.
Maximizing safety and allowing us to function normally in our home despite some disabilities is most often resolved with simple costless modifications to design and careful selection of features that will help overcome most problems.
Accessible design means installation of noticeable and permanently fixed features like wide doors and hallways, minimum clear floor space for wheelchair traffic, grab bars in bathrooms, lower counters and knee space under sink (kitchen and bath), wheelchair access ramp to house from outside…
Many people with no mobile disability do not wish to live in a home with ramp access to reach the house, hospital looking bathrooms, kitchens with counters too low to work standing and lost storage space in lower cabinets for example.
Adaptable design uses features that are adjustable to sitting or standing position like height adjustable counters or shower head, or features that can be quickly and easily added or removed like grab bars in baths or removable lower cabinets under kitchen sink so to fit individual needs and choices and so without structural or finished material changes.
Universal design means safe and friendly design for all, including kids, seniors and people with many different disabilities.
Universal features are integrated in the house design to become unnoticeable or invisible.
For example instead of building a wheelchair access ramp to the house front door which may reduce your home market value, use site grading and landscaping to create a low maintenance more natural safe wide path with a gentle slope (without railing) leading to a step free entry.
For new homes most universal design features add no cost to the building overall budget.
However increasing the size of baths and hallways to allow wheelchair maneuverability and oversizing the garage for wider path around the vehicles will add to the square footage of the footprint and thus may increase the budget by up to 5% overall.
Remember that the marketability of your house will be higher as it would be user friendly to most prospective buyers.
1-Who is going to live in your new log home?
You and your family is the most probable answer.
The majority of our log home design customers is close to retirement or just retired, dreaming to live away from the city and close to nature. Most are planning a log home for the present when they are still healthy and mobile.
2-How long are you planning to stay in your new log home?
Most senior homeowners want to age in a familiar environment in comfort, in safety and to be as independent as possible no matter age and disabilities.
They do not want to be a burden to their kids and want to stay in their home full of memories.
Certainly moving to an assisted living old age home is a last choice.
3-Universal design and log homes…
It is crucial to plan for universal design features at the design stage of your log building project and not while building or after moving in.
Log home construction does not easily allow room layout changes, corridor widening or larger bathroom after the log home is built.
The log structure (exterior and interior log walls, log joists, log posts, log roof beams…) is not agreeable to be moved around.
Just moving a partition frame wall that is joined to a log wall is not recommended as the log wall has been slot cut vertically to receive the wall finish on both sides.
Planning your dream log home for the long term future must happen at the early stage of the design process.
4-Applying universal design to log construction.
A/ Site design
A level walkway graded at 1:20 maximum slope up to a covered deck or porch accessing a no step entry door is ideal. Still allow a minimum of 18” from bottom of log wall to finished grade around the log home as lower logs do not suffer being wet or half buried in snow. The entrance should be covered for shelter and gently slope down to exterior using earth berm, small bridge…
At least one entry to the house should be designed that way.
B/ General room layout
The main floor close to ground level on one side minimum should include kitchen, dining, living room, laundry, bedroom big enough for wheelchair traffic around furniture and a large accessible bathroom. An open floor plan with kitchen dining and living room as one large area is a common design feature of log homes that reduce traffic space an eliminate partition walls.
Accessing upstairs by wheelchairs can be achieved by planning a future elevator. Stacking a large closet or storage space (at least 60” square) at all levels of your log home with easily removable knock out floor will allow quick installation of the elevator.
A chair lift installed on a one straight flight of stairs (minimum 4’ wide) is half the cost of a small elevator and can be used by walking aid users.
Stairs should have 10” to 11” deep stair treads and maximum 7” risers (height from one step to the next).
For small children safety the stairs should not have open space between steps and steps should not extend out beyond the riser to avoid tripping. This is incompatible with log stairs that are commonly built with open risers.
Color contrast anti slip strips should be applied to edge of each step.
Stairs handrail should extend minimum 12” beyond the top and bottom risers to steady people with poor balance.
D/. Doors, Windows and Hallways
The entrance door must be 36” wide minimum to allow 34” traffic space with a sidelight to allow looking out sitting or standing. All doors to accessible areas must be 3’ wide minimum and equipped with lever handles instead of round door knobs for easier grip. A minimum 2’ wall space should be allowed on strike side of swinging door side to make it possible for wheelchair users to open the door.
Windows should be easy to open and close with little strength and agility.
Casement and awning windows using crank handles are best suited.
Corridors should be 42” wide or more.
Cutting main walkway corners at 45-degrees is possible in log construction. It will ease wheelchair movement.
Grab bar (1 ¼” diameter) can be latter installed when need arises in frame walls by installing a ¾” sheet of plywood as a continuous blocking to screw the grab bars to, recessing the plywood in the frame wall so it remains flush with the rest of the wall finish else where in the room.
If you need to install vertical grab bars on log walls around a toilet, it is best to wait for the stacked log wall to complete settling.
Showers and bath tubs are always installed over a frame wall and never directly over a log wall because of settling issues. A frame wall must be attached to log wall using slots in the 2x studs to allow fasteners to travel down as the log wall shrinks in height during drying and compression of the wood.
Curbless showers (minimum 3’x5’) use trench drains flush to shower and room floor that are slightly sloped down towards the trench or gutter. This is an excellent solution to a step less bathroom. A shower seat is a good option.
F/ Kitchen and Laundry
4’ open floor space between all counters and appliances will improve maneuverability around the kitchen.
Appliances should have easy to read controls at the front.
Dishwasher may be raised and be a pull out drawer unit.
Some counter heights to be adjustable with possible knee space under sink…
Kitchen storage at lower cabinets uses pull out shelves, walk in pantry with roll out shelves and lady Suzan at corners.
Side by side refrigerator and freezer is recommended.
Laundry should be near bathroom and bedroom.
Washer and dryer should be front loading, raised and side by side with folding counter on top. It is preferable to design washer and dryer location against a frame wall instead of an exterior log wall.
As electrical chases and cavities to receive outlets and switches in log walls must be done before or at reassembly of the log shell on your site, knowing their proper location for easy use by a wide range of people is a must.
Electrical outlets, phone, cable jacks should be placed between 18” to 24” above the floor to make them more accessible to all.
Light switches (large rocker style) should be from 36” to 40” above floor.
Thermostats are placed at 48” from floor.
Circuit breaker panel must be on main floor with top at no more than 54” from floor with clear floor space in front.