If you're in the market for handicap shower enclosures, then you probably are aware that there is a very wide variety of styles and choices throughout the handicap access industry. By understanding the differences between the available styles, you'll be able to make a much more informed decision when making your purchase.
Choosing the Right Handicap Shower Enclosures
The handicap shower enclosures you may consider have modifications from a standard shower which serve a very specific purpose. That purpose is geared toward the disability that a person might be dealing with. Most handicap shower stalls provide bars along the sides of the shower to allow for ultimate safety while entering and leaving the shower, extra large doors for easy access, or installed seating that allows the user to wash without worrying about standing when standing is difficult or impossible.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 was the "civil rights" act for the disabled, and it prohibited discrimination based on disability. The act targeted businesses and organizations that were previously inaccessible to the handicapped. After the act, most organizations had to modify buildings so that anyone could enter the front door or use their public restroom facilities, whether or not they were disabled. When it comes to handicap shower enclosures, the ADA has a strict set of guidelines that the enclosure needs to follow in order to be "ADA approved." Facilities such as retirement homes and nursing homes usually only purchase these kinds of shower enclosures for their residents. Some of the guidelines for these showers include the following:
- A seat is provided in the shower stall at least 36 inches wide and 17 to 19 inches above the floor and the full depth of the shower.
- Grab bars are mounted along the sides of the shower.
- All controls have to be on the wall opposite the seat.
- The shower head must include a handheld shower spray unit.
- The enclosure itself must allow easy access to both the shower controls as well as the shower seats.
ADA approved shower enclosures provide individuals with disabilities the most accessible and convenient shower experience possible. If you are a public facility looking to install a shower stall and want to make sure you follow ADA guidelines, make sure the enclosure you purchase is ADA approved.
One of the most important aspects of shower enclosures for the disabled is the fact that the entrance to the shower is as accessible as possible. Some people can handle a small barrier in the entranceway of the shower that they must step over in order to enter the stall. Such a barrier normally serves to keep the water that collects at the bottom of the shower stall from leaking out of the stall before it can flow down the drain. However, for some people, especially in those cases where they need to enter the stall with a wheelchair, any barrier at all is unacceptable. In those cases, you can install shower enclosures with a barrier free shower pan. These shower pans have a small beveled lip and a design that allows for water flow away from the entrance and toward the center drain.
Installing a Handicapped Shower
Most handicap accessible shower stalls are manufactured so that they easily replace existing standard household bathtubs, so most of them will fit into the dimensions of your existing tub. The following general guidelines will walk you through the process of replacing your bathtub with an accessible shower once you already have your previous tub removed from the area.
- Make sure to complete your carpentry finishing work and repairs from the demolition/removal of the previous bathtub.
- If you aren't familiar with plumbing or the plumbing codes for your area, first hire a professional plumber to install the piping required for the specific enclosure you purchased.
- When you install the unit, you may need to install the shower pan first by connecting the drain connections above the trap before lowering it fully in place.
- You can attach the enclosure to the pan by resting the continuous flange against the wall supports (usually 2x4's), and then installing screws through the flanges into the studs.
- When the unit is in place, you can attach the hot and cold water ports of the mixing valve to the hot and cold water ports your plumber installed.
- Connect the shower head by sweating the appropriate threaded fitting to the end of the pipe (see the manufacturer instructions for exact fitting).
- Have the connections inspected by a professional plumber or code inspector, or have the plumber make the connections for you. Make sure all pipes and connections are checked for leaks before starting on wall repairs.
- Install moisture resistant drywall over piping, and make sure to use silicone caulk where the wall and floor meets the new enclosure.
- Install the water handles and the shower head according to the manufacturer instructions. Don't forget to apply pipe joint compound to pipe threads before applying the new shower head to avoid one of the most common types of shower leaks.
Now that you chose and installed the perfect shower enclosure for your situation, you or your loved one can enjoy many years of convenient, problem free showering and washing.