As an experienced accessibility contractor, it is not uncommon for us to get a call from a homeowner who had previous “accessibility renovations” completed by another contractor. The conversation often begins with the client stating that the recently completed renovations “don’t work”. Driving around town, I regularly see wheelchairs ramps that are not code compliant, and often just outright dangerous. Homeowners contemplating accessibility renovations may be under the impression that any contractor will do. The result is often an “accessible bathroom” that unfortunately is not suitable for the client who needs the added accessibility.
Over the years we have come up with some key items to consider when looking for an accessibility renovation contractor:
Developing a renovation plan should first and foremost include an initial contractor site visit. During this visit, the contractor should meet with and observe the person for whom the design is intended. This is important because the contractor should see firsthand what client-specific tailoring is needed for the renovation. For example, for a person who has lost or is struggling with ambulation, the bathroom can be the most challenging room in the house. Our designs are created from a discussion with project managers huddled in the bathroom with the client. While in that space, we often discuss the best options for the client to transfer from a wheelchair to the commode or tub. To ensure independent living, your contractor should understand the importance of seeing how the customer maneuvers in their existing environment.
Also be sure to check the following:
- Are they licensed and insured?
- Do they and their employees have clear background checks?
- Do they obtain building permits? Refer to our previous advice on building permits for assistance on this topic, how it protects the consumer and what could happen if a permit was required for you project.
- Ask for client references from previous accessibility renovations?
Once you’ve selected the right contractor for you and before signing a contract, make sure it has a clearly defined scope of work, including the materials to be used. Specificity in this area promotes contractor accountability. Require the contract to have a floor plan included, if needed, so you can clearly visualize what is being proposed. In more comprehensive projects, the contract should detail the job schedule that you can follow, along with a contractor payment schedule tied to specific milestones for the work.
A Final Thought: Involving Your OT/PT: Customers returning home from rehabilitation programs and hospitals often have been evaluated by and have worked with an Occupational or Physical Therapist. Progressive members of these professions like to attend a renovation planning meeting in your home with your contractor. Specifically, therapists can make important suggestions for your renovation plan ranging from grab bar placement to specialized medical equipment. Experienced contractors will welcome such input, as in the end, it will only enhance the clients overall satisfaction.
Patrick Rafter, CEO
Creative Housing|Creative Renovations has been a pioneer in providing custom accessible home renovations throughout Central Ohio since 1992.