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Reno Expert: Take It Outside

Reno Expert: Take It Outside

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Reno Expert: Take It Outside

by Jim Caruk

Photography: Bigstock.com

Elder aids that facilitate outdoor living

When planning or renovating a home to make it senior-friendly, most people tend to focus on the kitchen and bathrooms. But there are a few exterior projects that need to be considered as well.

First and foremost is to have a sturdy railing along the front stairs. The building code requires a railing, but if you walk through any neighbourhood you’ll see a number of homes that don’t have one.

If someone in the house is using a wheelchair or walker, you may need to install a ramp so they can enter and exit. There are very specific requirements in the building code regarding the width, slope, and dimensions of a ramp. If the pitch is too steep, you’ll have to build in switchbacks, including landings big enough for a chair to spin around on. Unfortunately, many homes just don’t have enough space at the front to accommodate the size of the footprint required. In that case, you might have to consider an exterior elevator, or a platform lift as they’re formally called (see Jim’s pick).

As I’m writing this, the snow is still on the ground. If you (or your elderly parents) aren’t able to clear the sidewalk and walkway safely, you really should consider hiring someone to do it for you. The expense of paying for snow removal is definitely worth avoiding breaking your hip—or your neck! Of course, if you have a limitless budget, I’ve worked on high-end homes where the owners have installed heating cables below the driveway that automatically melt all the snow.

In summer, in-ground irrigation systems to water the lawn and gardens eliminate the chore —and potential trip hazard—of hauling around a hose.

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION

As on the inside, lighting is one of the most important considerations for senior-friendly design. I recommend exterior lights with motion-sensors on the building. I also recommend lining walkways with guide lights.

It’s a good idea to have a roof or some sort of canopy over the entranceway so people don’t have fiddle for their keys while standing in the rain or snow.

That said, even turning the key to lock or unlock the door may prove difficult for some people. A number of companies now have programmable keypads to unlock the door. There are even so-called “smart” locks that link to your cellphone. Your phone communicates with the lock so all you have to do is touch it to open or close it.

For safety and peace of mind, you should also consider having a video-monitoring system. I particularly like the Ring doorbell (Ring.com) that has a motion-activated camera that streams a live video to your smartphone so you can see who’s there before you even get to the door. It’s also a handy way to avoid missing deliveries even if you’re not home: “I can’t come to the door right now, please leave it on the porch.”

Finally, install an automatic garage door opener so elderly drivers don’t need to risk slipping on snow and ice to open it.

Jim Caruk, Renovation Editor

We look forward to hearing from you and welcome your feedback. Do you have a reno or decor question for our team of experts?

Email editorial@renoanddecor.com


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Reno Expert: Senior-Friendly Kitchen Design

Reno Expert: Senior-Friendly Kitchen Design

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Reno Expert: Senior-Friendly Kitchen Design

by Jim Caruk

Kitchen updates that will prove beneficial into the golden years

There’s been a lot of talk in the renovation business recently about the “aging in place” movement. The idea behind it is a simple one. As people get older, increasingly they’re hoping to continue to live in the house they raised their families in, rather than getting shunted off to a seniors’ home.

In order for us (or our parents) to function on our own, we need to be able to feed ourselves. In this column I look at some of the key features to consider when renovating a kitchen to make it senior-friendly. I also cover exterior projects geared to the aging-in-place movement that will ensure safety for this age group.

LIGHT BRIGHT

I’ve written before about the three different kinds of lighting: ambient, task, and accent. Ambient lighting illuminates the whole room, task lighting focuses on a specific area, and accent lighting is used to highlight a particular feature, such as a piece of art. When designing a kitchen for people who have some degree of impaired vision, ambient and task lighting are extremely important.

Contrasting colours are also an important way to help those with failing eyesight. Those all-white walls may be trendy for the younger folks, but white light switches and electrical outlets stand out against darker colours.


JIM’s PICK

If you don’t have the space on your lot to build a code-compliant entrance ramp, an exterior platform lift is a good alternative.

Photography courtesy of Cambridge Elevating

CambridgeElevating.com


COUNTER MEASURES

Getting access to countertop work surfaces and upper cabinets can often be an issue for the elderly, particularly for those using a wheelchair. If you’ve got the budget for it, there are mechanical systems that raise and lower cabinets and countertops with the push of a button. You can also install the counters at 30″— rather than the standard 36″—for wheelchair access, and leave openings below the counter wide enough for the chair to slide into. Even if you don’t need to use a wheelchair, it’s a good idea to consider having at least one work surface installed at a height you can work from while seated.

Again, keep contrasting colours in mind to help avoid accidents. If the cabinets are white, a dark coloured counter will stand out, and vice versa.

FIXTURE FIXES

Kitchen faucets with dual knobs to control the hot and cold water can be hard to use for people with arthritis. Replace those with lever handles that are much easier to operate. Better yet, many manufacturers now have stylish, reasonably priced motion-sensitive faucets for use in the home.

Rather than installing the faucet at the back of the sink, where it can be hard to reach—and inaccessible for someone in a wheelchair—consider mounting it at the side.

Finally rather than small knobs you have to clasp to open cabinets and drawers, use wide loop-style handles that someone can slip their whole hand into.

Jim Caruk, Renovation Editor

We look forward to hearing from you and welcome your feedback. Do you have a reno or decor question for our team of experts?

Email editorial@renoanddecor.com


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Reno Expert: Keep it Clean

Reno Expert: Keep it Clean

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Reno Expert: Keep it Clean

by Jim Caruk

Photography courtesy of Bin Solutions

A neat and tidy home is a safe home

They say that cleanliness is next to godliness. But on a renovation or construction jobsite, cleanliness is essential for avoiding accidents that can have you meeting your maker sooner than you’d like.

Cleanliness around the home is important too. If you have kids, it’s a safe bet that at some point or another, you’ve experienced the pain of stepping on a piece of Lego or something from a Barbie set with your bare foot. But that pain pales in comparison to the injuries that can occur when tripping hazards are left on stairways.

Encouraging the kids to clean up after themselves from a very early age not only helps you out, it sets them up with good habits to carry through life. Mind you, during the teenage years you’ll want to pick your battles….

Also, apparently, clutter can actually cause stress. If there’s too much visual stimulation in a room, your brain can’t calm down and focus on the important things. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, start small and chip away at the problem.

For example, rather than cluttering up the kichen counter with a pile of change, notepads, pens, keys, and the like, designate a “junk” drawer and buy some dividers so you can organize everything for easy access. There are entire stores dedicated to shelving, racks, and bins for organizing your clutter.


JIM’s PICK

Trash Talk

If you have garbage and recycling bins, odds are you have raccoon problems. But you don’t necessary want stinky garbage stored next to your patio cushions. There are a number of kits and customizable plans available to build a separate structure to accommodate the various sizes of city-supplied trash bins most of us use now.

binsolutions.ca


If you are tackling some DIY renovations, make sure you keep things orderly to avoid injuries. If you’re ripping out an old deck or fence, bang down any exposed nails so no one steps on them or jabs their hand. Neatly pile the trash in an area away from foot traffic until it can be safely disposed of. Cords and hoses are another jobsite hazard, so make sure they aren’t snaking around ready to trip someone.

In some cases, you may need to rent a temporary storage space to get stuff out of the way. Make sure you keep the emphasis on temporary. No one wants to star in an episode of Hoarders, or see people bidding on their junk in a forgotten storage locker.

Jim Caruk, Renovation Editor

We look forward to hearing from you and welcome your feedback. Do you have a reno or decor question for our team of experts?

Email editorial@renoanddecor.com


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Reno Expert: Gimme Shelter

Reno Expert: Gimme Shelter

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Reno Expert: Gimme Shelter

by Jim Caruk

Photography by bigstock.com

Your yard tools, bikes, and more will last longer if they’ve got a roof over their heads

If you’ve got a backyard, odds are you’ll need a shed to store your tools and other gear. Figuring out what size shed to buy comes down to two things: how much stuff do you want to store in it, and how much of your yard you are willing to give up for storage?

TAKING STOCK

Start off by listing all the items that you might want to store in the new structure, including yard tools, bikes, patio cushions and furniture, sports gear, kids’ toys, and so on. Then, figure out what needs to stay on the ground, and what you can store on hooks and shelves. Do you plan on storing stuff up along the roof rafters? Or are you feeling ambitious enough to include a loft play area for the kids in your plans?

In Ontario, if a structure has a footprint that is less than 100-sq.-ft., you don’t need a building permit to construct it on your property. Anything bigger than that, though, and you’ll need a permit and various inspections along the way. (Build without a permit and if a neighbour rats you out, you might have to tear the whole thing down.)

Regardless of the size of the footprint, there may be local building code restrictions on how close to the property line it can go, how high it can be, etc. You’re better off making a few discreet calls to the local building department before you go shopping.

PLANNING SESSION

Once you know how big you want it to be, you need to decide whether you’re looking for a set of plans to build something from scratch, a kit with all the pieces and hardware in one package ready for you to assemble, or to have someone else come in and construct a shed for you on-site.

The next consideration is esthetics. If it will be tucked away at the very back of your property, hidden behind some shrubs, you might get away with a very utilitarian look. But in most cases you’ll be staring at the structure every time you’re in your yard, so you’ll want something nice to look at.

KEEP IT COHESIVE

If you happen to be building new or undergoing a major renovation, you might want to build your shed out of matching materials. The rustic barn or cottagey look is always a popular one. But if your home itself is a modern design, you might want the shed to mirror that look.

Another factor to consider is durability. If you’ve got younger children who may end up riding bikes or firing tennis balls against the door or walls, you’ll want to avoid using materials such as aluminum siding that will get dented and dinged.

Finally, what sort of access do you need? Will a standard 36″-wide exterior door be enough to accommodate the bulkiest items you’ll be storing, or do you maybe need a double door, or even a barn-style sliding door?

Once your new shed is installed and everything is stored away in it, grab a seat on the patio and enjoy the view of your tidy, organized yard.

Jim Caruk, Renovation Editor

We look forward to hearing from you and welcome your feedback. Do you have a reno or decor question for our team of experts?

Email editorial@renoanddecor.com


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