Design Costs & Tips to Improve Home Accessibility

Sweeten explains aging in place design costs, plus accessible design costs (and how to add them to a home!) 

(Above) Marissa + Jeremy installed bright lights for future aging in place in their kitchen remodel

What is aging in place design? What does accessible design mean?

To some, aging in place” is a design term that means creating living spaces that are safe and accessible for people who want to stay in their homes and care for themselves as they grow older.

To others, the term “accessible design” or “living in place” is more applicable, as it means designing spaces that suit the needs of children and adults in one home. In both cases, the goal is to create living spaces that are, safe, accessible, and also make design sense.

Sweeten gives an overview of aging in place design costs, plus costs for accessible designs, and gives tips for when these designs can be beneficial to the family lifestyle.

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How much does accessible design cost?

When part of a major renovation, the cost to include accessible techniques can be minor. “Things don’t necessarily need to cost more, they are just different,” said Julie Schuster of Julie Schuster Design Studio and is a certified living in place professional (CLIPP). “If you are remodeling a kitchen you probably want under cabinet lighting. Why not upgrade slightly to add bright LED lights that are good for aging eyes?” 

There are two approaches to accessible living spaces: 

  • Remodel to suit the urgent needs of the homeowner.  A wheelchair user will need, among other things, wide doorways and hallways, and a curbless shower with a bench and grab bars. A family with young children may want night lights in the hallways, non-slip bathroom floor tiles, and anti-scald shower valves.
  • Remodel to make the design flexible for future improvements. “It is important to learn the things that could crop up in the future and then design backward for them. I install blocking behind a shower wall while renovating, so grab bars or a built-in bench can be added later. Putting in the blocking does not add to the overall cost,” said Kammi Reiss of Kammi Reiss Design.

For Sweeten contractor Aaron, being flexible in design is key. In one condo project, they placed a removable panel in front of the kitchen sink so a wheelchair user can roll up to the sink for use. 

What does aging in place cost?

While many accessible design techniques have similar costs as any renovation project,  some projects do have an increased cost. For example, the combination of slippery surfaces and a wet setting in bathrooms often cause accidents, especially for people with mobility issues or poor eyesight. 

Here’s a comparison from the Cost vs. Value Report that compares a standard  5-foot by 7-foot bathroom of mid-range quality to an accessible one of the same size. The accessible bathroom includes 36-inch-wide doors, flat panel electric switches installed at sitting level, walk-in curbless shower with fold-out seat, adjustable shower head, thermostatic mixing valve, LED lighting, ceramic tile walls with contrasting color stripes, towel bars (grab bars) that can support 250 pounds each, night lights, and reconfigured storage accessible to someone in a seated position, among other items.

Here’s an example of what universal design can recoup at resale at a national level.

  • Mid-grade bathroom remodel: Costs $24,424 recouping 60% at resale
  • Standard universal design remodel: Costs $38,813 recouping 58% at resale

Remodeling asked us to revise the remodeling project for them,” said Louie Delaware, co-founder of the Living in Place Institute. “Everyone assumed that it would cost much more and would not be worth as much.”  While there are increased costs, the return on investment is similar to that of the accessible bathroom. 

Costs for accessible design projects:

Here are some estimated costs for common projects often associated with accessible designs:

  • Entrance ramp: $1,300 to $ 3,500
  • Door widening to accommodate wheelchairs: $400 to $800, each
  • Chair lift: $3,000 to $6,000, curved stairs will cost more
  • Widening hallways (often includes moving plumbing, heating and cooling and electrical lines):  $500 to $2,000
  • Grab bars with decorative finishes: $100 to $200, each
  • Curbless showers: $2,000 to $8,000
  • Faucets with lever controls: $200 to $400

Many of the techniques used in accessible design or aging in place design are the same, whether planning for yourself, someone who wants to age in place, or to suit the needs of a growing family. The goal is to create a safe, accessible design for everyone to enjoy.

Read how aging in place and living in place can bring ease to day-to-day living for every family member.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

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