“Renovating for living” is a way of planning a living space that incorporates both short- and long-term housing needs to provide comfort and convenience for the different phases of life.
What is a priority for a young family is often quite different from that of a retired couple, but with some forethought, a home can be planned to accommodate all needs.
Stages of need:
- Typically a family with young children needs space and convenience — extra bathrooms, large family living areas and an eat-in open kitchen.
- As children mature, they (and their parents) want more privacy. Housing priorities shift towards larger bedrooms, increased closet space and separated living areas.
- Grown children returning home, aging parents moving in, home-based businesses — more people need to plan for continuous changes in household composition and use of space.
- As homeowners get older, “accessibility” becomes a greater concern — the ability to move easily throughout the home and carry on day-to-day living activities.
Practical considerations for “renovating for living”:
- Extra-wide doors, easy-to-use locks and good lighting make for safe entry in and out of the house. A porch or overhang will offer shelter, and a spacious area inside the entrance provides a convenient spot for setting down their belongings and removing footwear.
- Incorporate the kitchen, living room and a bathroom into the main living area on one level. Widen narrow halls and doorways to make movement easier. An open floor plan can provide a comfortable family environment for work, play and relaxation.
- If space allows, create a separate multi-purpose room on the main level. Over the years, it may serve as a den, an office or a bedroom.
- If possible, include a shower or even a bathtub on the main level.
- Keep floors all one continuous level to protect both children and adults from accidents.
- Non-load bearing moveable or removeable walls offer flexibility to change the layout with less work.
- Rough in services (water, electricity, cable) in the basement and/or attic for future expanded living spaces.
- Install laundry facilities on the main or upper floor.
- Choose easy-to-open windows with cranks, and install lever-action handles rather than knobs on all doors and closets.
- Position electrical switches, outlets and mechanical system controls to be accessible from a standing or sitting position. Use push-pad light controls, three-way switches to control lights from more than one location, and illuminated controls near entrance doors and in bathrooms.
- In the bathroom, think safety for the whole family. Reinforce the walls for grab bars in the shower and tub area. Install non-slip flooring and anti-scald faucets.
- Install a central vacuum system.
- In the kitchen, incorporate roll-out or pull-down drawers, shelves and pantries for easy access. Pull-out boards, hinged work surfaces and counters of various heights, with open leg room, let everyone in the family participate in food preparation, including children.
- Outside, aim for gently sloped driveways and walkways to reduce the need for stairs. Garage or parking areas should provide enough space to get around with a baby carriage, armloads of groceries or a wheelchair. Install planters at various and accessible heights.
- The features and approaches described above are an integral part of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s FlexHousing concept, a forward-thinking approach to building and renovating based on three key components: adaptability, accessibility and affordability.
Shellie Chowns is president of the London Home Builders’ Association