Universal Design for Kitchens and Baths

Increase Accessibility with Universal Design

Carnemark design + build-07

CARNEMARK design + build, Bethesda, Maryland, 2018 National CotY Award Winner, Universal Design – Bath

As more homeowners opt to remodel their current homes for accessibility and safety, those concerns are taken into consideration especially for kitchens or bathrooms.

Special considerations often should be made for those falling in the Baby Boomer age group, who especially should take into account the accessibility of their homes and improvements that can be made.

Incorporate universal design strategies into your next remodeling project with this five-step guide from the experts at the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), which offers certification in universal design to provide contractors with the knowledge and training to ensure accessibility in kitchen and bathroom designs.

Step 1: Understand Your Needs

Before starting any remodeling project, take the time to define your needs. Ask simple questions such as:

  • How do you live in your current home?
  • What health issues – current and future – should be considered?
  • How can a remodel help make your space safer and easier to use

Step 2: Identify Structural Mobility Changes

Mobility addresses the ability to move freely in a space. While mobility issues can impact older adults, it is not limited to only the elderly. While you might not need mobility assistance today, take a walk through your home and identify structural items that should be addressed, such as:

  • Doorways
    • Widening doorways to 32-36 inches so walkers, wheelchairs or even large household items may easily move through
    • Removing thresholds that may create a tripping hazard
  • Hallways
    • Expanding hallway widths to 36-42 inches
    • Well-lit hallways can improve safety
  • Clear Space
    • Incorporating clear space, especially in front of kitchen appliances
    • Best practices suggest clear space of 30-by-48 inches to allow for easy access

Step 3: Safety First

Stairs pose a considerable hazard for those with decreased mobility. Ensure the first level of your home provides space for sleeping, eating and has at least one full bathroom. Other safety considerations include:

  • Incorporating non-slip flooring surfaces
  • Removing the need to go up or down stairs
  • Creating well-lit rooms

Step 4: Kitchen Updates for Ease of Use

Cabinets and counter heights, as well as the location of appliances, can improve the cooking experience.


TZ of Madison, Inc., with team member Curran Cabinetry & Design, LLC, Madison, Wisconsin, 2018 National CotY Award Winner, Universal Design – Interiors

Other checklist items include:

  • Dishwashers in drawer units eliminate the need to bend over when loading or unloading
  • Push button controls for dishwashers for easier use
  • Refrigerators with drawer unit options or side-by-side models
  • Ovens and microwaves placed in the wall at appropriate heights

Step 5: Bathroom Best Practices

Adjusting counter and toilet heights are two ways to make bathrooms more accessible. Wall-hung toilets should be approximately two inches higher.


CARNEMARK design + build, Bethesda, Maryland, 2018 National CotY Award Winner, Universal Design – Bath

A first floor or main floor bathroom should incorporate:

  • Structural bracing around the tub, shower and toilet for grab bars
  • Walk-in tub or curbless stand-up shower with no threshold
  • Levered handles for faucets
  • Adjustable showerheads

Remodelers Get Certified

Are you a Remodeler? Check out the Universal Design Certified Professional certification.

NARI Certification can help you develop your business and technical skills. You’ll gain insights and learn practices which will make you a better remodeling professional and business manager.

Find a Remodeler

Find a NARI professional who is a Universal Design Certified Professional and build ease and safety into your remodeling project. Search Now 

See all 2018 CotY Award Winners for Universal Design on NARI.org.


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