How to Make a Doorway Accessible
This topic is probably one of the most common places to start when it comes to modifying a home to increase its accessibility. Whether for individuals who wish to age in place, someone with a physical disability, or just to make the home visitable for anyone and everyone, making the doorways accessible is key.
This discussion will give you practical tips and suggestions for:
- widening a doorway
- smoothing over thresholds
- accessible door handles
Widening a Doorway
Let’s start with the biggest issue for accessing a room or area in the home – getting through a narrow door.
If someone were to ask you what to do if a door is too narrow to enter, what would your gut reaction be?
Hire a contractor and physically widen the doorway.
Not so fast!
There are quite a few simpler solutions to making a doorway wider than physically knocking down parts of the wall on either side of the doorway.
Following is a bunch of practical solutions. Breeze through the info and pick the one that makes the most sense for you.
Many people don’t realize just how much space of the doorway the hinges take up. They can often obstruct up to 2″ of doorway space. Simply switching the hinges to swing-clear offset hinges can sometimes make all the difference. See the picture below for how these hinges work. For sample buying options click on this Walmart link. Prices for swing-clear offset hinges can be as low as in the $20 range.
There are two practical ways to adjust the doorway which can increase the doorway width.
First solution would be to reverse the door swing.
Meaning, take the door and frame off and replace it the opposite way so that the door has better swing space and relieves some of the doorway width. This would obviously require some contracting assistance; unless you are super handy yourself. And of course before doing this, make sure that reversing the door swing will actually relieve doorway space considering your doorway set-up.
The second solution is to simply remove the door.
Sometimes, if the doorway leads to a room where a door is not one hundred percent necessary, you can remove the door. If the room is a space where you want some privacy but it does not require a full door (a closet or laundry room for example), you can add a full length window curtain on a rod which can be closed and open easily yet does not take up any doorway space.
Interestingly, there are various creative door styles which are modern and beautiful but inherently save doorway space. Let’s go through a bunch of my favorites of which you can hopefully find at least one that can work for the different doorways throughout your home.
One of the traditional door styles that have been suggested for situations where door space is precious is called the “pocket door”. This kind of door, as many of us are familiar with, slides into a “pocket” in the wall created for the door so that when the door is completely inside of the “pocket”, it does not take up space in the doorway.
This is a fantastic solution except for the technical issues that can arise if there are any electrical wiring or structural beams running through the walls where the “pocket” would need to be. Unless the initial contractors left the space behind the walls open for this, a “pocket door” may not be the best solution for you.
Similar to the “pocket door”, yet much more doable in many situations, is what we call the barn door. This door style, as you can see in the picture provided, slides along a track just like the “pocket door”, but instead of running into a “pocket” inside the wall, the door slides outside of one of the walls. In my personal opinion, beside for bypassing any internal issues, the barn door creates a modern, slick look and adds character to the room.
More Resources for Ideas to Widen Your Doorway
A very thorough resource that I found in regards to widening doorways was on the Northwood Construction website. This guide provides a detailed discussion on various solutions for widening a doorway as well as hands-on installation techniques.
Freshome has a really nice post on barn doors which I found interesting and worthwhile to check out.
Thresholds can sometimes be easy to ignore because they don’t seem to get in the way, but sometimes they are just a nuisance and you wish they weren’t there.
No reason to fret.
Here are some solutions to modify your thresholds to create an optimal doorway situation.
Before we even get into actual threshold solutions, something good to keep in mind is standard threshold heights and at what height would we consider a doorway no longer an accessible route.
The ADA recommendations for threshold heights are as follows:
- Should not exceed 3/4 inch in height for exterior sliding doors or 1/2 inch for other types of doors.
- Changes in level up to 1/4 inch can be vertical and do not need an edge treatment.
- Changes in level between 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch must have a beveled slope equaling 1:2.
(Adopted from Stonexchange)
If your doorway threshold exceeds the recommendations listed above then here are some solutions.
If possible, you can replace the threshold with one that is lower.
If the threshold is not replaceable or you don’t want to remove it, you can always place a threshold ramp to grade the height difference so that it does not exceed the recommended threshold heights.
Discount Ramps, as we have mentioned in our post about Best Ramp Options, has a nice selection of threshold ramps. They start between $30-$40 and go up from there depending on the features of the threshold i.e. material, width, height, etc.
In today’s day in age, in addition to hardware door handles, there are even tech solutions to access doorways. Life can just be so exciting! Bear with us as we go through the most recommended door handles and solutions for accessing a door.
The 3 solutions that we will go through are:
- doorknob covers
- lever handles
- automatic door openers
Let’s go through them one by one.
The cheapest and simplest way to make a doorknob accessible is to add a cover on top of the knob that has features which make it easier to access. These solutions are budget-friendly and take little effort to figure out and install. Prices for these can be as low as $5.
After quite a bit of searching, Amazon seemed to be the best go-to marketplace where there are the most options in one place. HERE is a link, but you can also simply type in “handicap door knob covers” and quite a few options should show up!
Here are some typical options:
A catch with this solution is, as you can see, it’s not necessarily the most aesthetically pleasing. Aesthetics are obviously a personal preference, but if you would prefer to put in more effort and have something more pleasing to the eye, then the next option is to replace your current door handles with lever handles.
Lever Door Handles
Traditionally, lever handles have always been considered the most accessible type of door handle because of their ease of use. Lever handles do not require much hand dexterity or coordination which make it a great option for someone with limitations. Below is a picture of a simple lever door handle, but I am intentionally not including buying options here because there is a vast market of lever handles out there with many styles, colors, prices etc.
HERE is a link for Home Depot’s options just as a place for you to start your search. If you prefer something more specific or exciting, you’ll have some fun as you come across some cool, funky and unique options that are out there!
Automatic Door Openers
The most expensive option for opening doors would be to install an electronic door opening system. This, just as it sounds, means that you can make the doors in your home open electronically by the press of a button.
Going to the source, the company called Olide seems to be the most common brand out there. The basic automatic door openers are priced in the $500-$600 range.
HERE is a link to their website where they provide all of their purchasing options.
Just as a disclaimer, I have not yet tested one of these on my own but based on the customer reviews, the Push Button Swing Door Opener had 4-5 star reviews across the board. That seemed pretty credible in my opinion!
If you do attempt to try it, PLEASE keep us updated as I would love to hear feedback.
I hope this was helpful!
That’s that for How to Make a Doorway Accessible.
Contact us with any comments or questions.
To safe and happy homes,
Golda, a licensed Occupational Therapist and Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS professional) was inspired to specialize in an area which she felt would increase her clients’ quality of life beyond typical therapy treatment sessions. Golda embraces the idea of increasing clients’ abilities to reside in their homes barrier-free as providing a level of quality of life which cannot be matched. Follow along with Golda on her journey of creating a comprehensive resource center for home accessibility modifications here at adapttostay.com.