submitted by Tom Wells, Tom Wells Construction, www.tgw-construction.com
Last month, I discussed adding strategically placed grips throughout a home to make it easier for seniors to move around. This month, I’d like to escalate things a bit to consider what you need to think about before hiring someone to make a bathroom or a kitchen safer and more senior-friendly.
When considering a contractor for an aging-in-place modification, the very first thing to focus on is how qualified he or she is for the job. My professional journals are filled with articles about “aging-in-place” as one of the next big things. Unfortunately, many contractors who want to add this specialty to their offerings simply aren’t qualified – let alone certified – to do this kind of work.
I’m sorry to say it, but, frankly, most contractors just want to get in and get out as quickly as possible.
For example, I know of a situation where a contractor proposed putting in a stall shower for a man who uses a wheelchair. This supposedly “senior-friendly” modification was completely unworkable – the contractor did not anticipate a time when the man might no longer be able to stand up (which is exactly what happened). The correct solution would have been to install a zero-threshold shower with a shower chair.
One indication of whether a prospective contractor has the necessary expertise and training is to look for someone who either is, or employs, a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist. In a future article, I will explain exactly what’s involved in earning this National Association of Home Builders certification (it isn’t easy).
But I’ll give you a hint, when it comes to making a bathroom or a kitchen senior-friendly, inches matter!
Once you’ve identified several qualified contractors…once you’ve followed up on the references they’ve provided…there is one final consideration. And it isn’t cost. It’s whether a given contractor is dedicated to putting your needs first. Does he or she sit down with you for an in-depth interview to discover what you really need and want?
Many people don’t know what they really want. Or they know but can’t articulate it.