Freedom Through Design: Accessible Bathroom Renovation

Sometimes you just have to do the right thing. For this project, that meant volunteering labour, donating materials, and working together to create an accessible bathroom that would give a wheelchair-bound family member independence in the most private of rooms.

Ryan Peyton, owner of Property Projects, along with general manager Kelly McGuire, explain what went into this bathroom renovation project.

The bathroom, as it was, had tiles falling off the walls, wood rot issues, and a bathtub unsuitable for a wheelchair user. Something had to be done. But with a grant from Newfoundland and Labrador Housing for $7,500, the homeowners were far short of the estimated $30,000 it would cost to do the bathroom properly.

“We walked out and said to each other “we can’t leave them like that, it’s not right.” So we approached all our suppliers and trades and told them about the situation and everybody just stepped up to the plate,” says Kelly.

Suppliers donated materials or offered discounts, trades donated labour, and Property Projects also donated time and services. Even with the large amount of donated materials and labour, they still spent more than the grant amount just on basic building materials.

The project work included demolition of the existing bathroom and tearing everything back to the studs. They discovered wood rotted to the point of disintegration from water damage, which they replaced before squaring up the existing framing and completely replacing the subfloor.

They laid in-floor heating and also ran it up the tiled bench in the shower. In most bathrooms, this would be an added luxury, but not in this case. For the first time in her life, the wheelchair user’s legs don’t go numb while having a shower, thanks to the heated seat. The shower controls were relocated to the far end of the shower to allow access by chair. Behind the shower tile, the walls are fully sheeted in a double layer of plywood, so that handles and grab bars can be securely placed anywhere to accommodate future needs.

They met with an occupational therapist from Newfoundland and Labrador Housing – the suppliers of the grant – to have the design standards changed for the bathroom because “what was in the specs didn’t meet her needs at all,” says Kelly. “We literally brought her in here and designed the height of everything and where the bars are located and the showerhead and controls and everything to what she can reach.”

The bathroom sink vanity was designed to allow full access by wheelchair, and the cabinets have easily reachable handles. Once completed, the sink’s vanity designed proved problematic, so Ryan and his crew returned to modify the vanity to make it truly accessible.

“We learned a lot about accessible washroom design,” says Kelly.

Making a project like this come together with a severely limited budget required the kindness and generosity of several companies. To acknowledge their selflessness and good deeds, we’re listing the companies and their contributions.

  • Property Projects Limited volunteered  time for project management, design, and carpentry
  • Big Red Electric volunteered labour and materials for the electrical work
  • King’s Plumbing volunteered labour for the plumbing
  • Distinctive Interiors built and installed the cabinetry for free
  • L&L Plastering and Painting volunteered the labour for all the plastering and painting work
  • Bins On Demand provided a garbage bin free of charge
  • Martin’s Ceramics volunteered labour for all the infloor heat and tile work
  • The Paint Shop on Torbay Road provided all of the painting materials and wall tiles free of charge
  • Centura Tile and Schluter Systems provided special pricing for commercial grade non-slip floor tile, Schluter Strips, and complete Ditra infloor heat and waterproofing system including heated Kerdi Shower Bench, and Ditra Heat Kit with programmable thermostat.
  • Kent Building Supplies – Provided special pricing for building materials and donated decor items including Shower Caddy, Waste Bin, Toilet Brush, Soap Dispenser, Soap Dish, Toothbrush Holder, Umbra Trigg Wall Decor Set, Chrome Shower Curtain Rod, Hand Towel Ring and Hooks. 
  • James G. Crawford Ltd provided the plumbing fixtures