Renovation or Building a New House: Ernest Story

Ernest is a 61 year young who lives with his wife in a spacious house which, at the moment they come to our story, has long begun to show signs of ageing. Little by little, problems kept getting bigger, and the house needed a major repair. The question was, how to decide between renovation and building a new house.

One day, Ernest had decided to finally do something about it. He asked himself: Is it a good idea to repair the old house? How much a full renovation would cost? Is there a better solution? What would be more beneficial – renovation, or building something new?

Ernest realized that it would be best to investigate all options first. He started by asking neighbours and friends for opinions. Naturally, everyone had their own idea about what should be done.

The problem here is an utterly personal perspective. People have good intentions, but they can’t know what’s best for you, especially when it comes to your home. It’s all about different lifestyles, different habits, different needs. And when it comes to the matter of aging in place—different health. 

One idea started to make sense, though. Why spending a significant budget on a renovation if it’s possible to build a new house instead? But then again, could such an investment really pay off? 

What Ernest didn’t think of, at first, was consulting a design professional. He did make a call to the municipal hall in order to find out regulations that would help him decide. Mostly he was interested in how many square feet of a new house he could build.

New-Westminster-Renovation
New-Westminster-Renovation

Renovation or Building New, Ernest Couldn’t Decide

He discovered that it was possible to build a duplex house with two laneway houses, and two secondary suites on each side (ADU). This way, he could live on one side of the duplex and have a laneway house and the suites for renting. Naturally, a secondary suite sounded like a great way to secure some passive income for his retirement. Ernest realized that if he could also manage to sell the other side of the duplex, it would pay off the construction cost.

But as we are getting older, we start craving more quietness, peace, and privacy. Ernest understood that, very soon, he might come into a situation to regret the original idea. Having too many people roaming around his property sounded tiring by itself. Having the same but with a bunch of strangers on top…well, let’s say he cooled off the idea pretty fast. 

Yes, it would be great to have a new house, and even better if the project could pay itself off—but not at the cost of his privacy. After reviewing all options once more, it was clear that he and his family would do better if they build a duplex without any ADU’s.

Once again, Ernest picked up his phone and called several local builders for an interview. He thought it would help him choose which one to hire. Then was the moment to meet Aryo, whom he found by filling an online form.

The first question he asked Aryo was if he had any experience building duplexes in the area. Of course, the answer was positive.

“But, before we go further about my experience, let’s talk about your project and your goals.”

Master Bedroom
North Vancouver home design

Aryo Knew Better

After a long conversation, Aryo found out a lot of interesting facts. First of all, it turned out that Ernest did not really think his project through, not nearly enough. He failed to consider the age he was approaching and too many difficulties it will gradually bring. Moreover, he planned to build a tri-story duplex on each side, featuring less than 600 square feet on each floor.

Like many others, Ernest believed that living in a brand new, beautiful, and shiny house would be enough. The truth beyond, however, was different. Just any kind of new, shiny house wouldn’t bring the kind of happiness he imagined.

Aryo explained to Ernest why it’s good to have a proper, thoughtful plan. He elaborated on the significance of hiring a professional designer – and not just any. What he needed was a designer who takes into consideration the occupant’s lifestyle so that the final project would maximize personalized functionality. That way, the outcome would be much more beneficial for Ernest and his wife in the long-term. 

Such kind of consultation is rarely, if ever, offered by a builder. Not that the builders don’t care—on the contrary. But there’s a difference in knowledge and approach. A good builder knows how to build a sturdy, reliable, good quality house that the homeowner has ordered. But what if the homeowner doesn’t know what he wants, or what is good for him/her in the first place? Then a proper consultation can make all the difference between a disaster and a happy ending.

Maple ridge modern architect renovating or building a new home
Maple ridge modern architect

Renovation or Building New: Deciding Together

Aryo and Ernest talked for many hours. Their brainstorming paid off, and the plan slowly started to come up. Ernest was surprised to find out just how many small but significant details he was missing to consider. 

The idea of having to climb endless stairs, many times a day, suddenly exploded in all colors. Indeed, his original ideas were very fashionable, and those floating staircases could have been gorgeous. But now Ernest also realized that he would probably end up establishing a mini studio on the ground level in just a couple of years, merely to eliminate the need for endless climbing. 

Aryo knew that sooner than later, the couple would probably regret the decision. When your knees are hurting, and your muscles are weak, the last thing you want is a challenge in maintaining personal hygiene. There was no reason why Ernest’s wife should give up her dream of a fancy new tub. The thing was to have a proper one, as functional and approachable as striking in design. 

In the end, Ernest decided to build a house quite different from what he originally intended. But he was delighted to do so. The new project was smart, thoughtfully designed, and full of handy amenities that would add to the quality of their lives in fifteen years just as much as they do now. 

senior living
senior living

What Can a Professional Designer Do, That I Can Not?!

An outstanding design professional will compose the house that fits the homeowner’s lifestyle of today, as well as ten years or more in the future.

A designer who thinks outside the box doesn’t focus solely on what a client desires today. Many times, the homeowner is simply not aware of what lies ahead or even what would be best for him/her. Both renovation or building a new home can bring significant overall improvements if done correctly.

A good designer should really get to know his client. He will think about the homeowners’ present lifestyle as much as about all changes that will come to their life. Often, these changes involve newcomers (babies, in-laws) or a need for rental income, lifestyle improvement, even upgrading to catch up with new trends.

As homeowners, we often think that we are the only ones who know what is best for us and our houses. Some even believe that a professional designer is a redundant category, who will do the same as we would, but also charge for it. The truth, though, is somewhat different. 

You certainly know what your needs are….right now. Aging brings challenges that we might not be aware of until we face them, and that moment might not be the best time to do something about it. Thinking ahead is the key, but how to think ahead if we don’t know what will come? And if we don’t know what is ahead of us, then how could we even think of preventing the issues?

modern-architecture-home1

Don’t Wait, Prevent!

That’s where a good designer comes to the scene in full glory. A good designer has abundant experience in preventing issues. Not because he faced all of them, but because his clients did. One by one, they kept facing and solving different problems, learning a lot in the process. That is why a designer might know some things better than you. In a certain way, he was already there.

Before you start a major renovation, building a new house, making a considerable investment, dig deep down all the challenges that might come to your life. Pinpoint them and design your house with the future in mind. And the moment you find an obstacle, ask for professional assistance that will help you determine all necessities and come up with the appropriate solution that matches not only your lifestyle but your personality as well. 

By Aryo Falakrou (My Home Designer)

Age-Friendly Home: More Renovation Tips

In the previous article, we have covered the topic of age-friendly home remodeling, and the ways proper adaptations can enable safe and comfortable aging-in-place. Here we will highlight some details that require special attention.

Age-Friendly Home Bathroom: Walk-in Bathtub or Walk-in Shower?

A walk-in bathtub is a favorite among some seniors who experience fatigue often and prefer to sit and bath over standing in the shower. Both solutions have their pros and cons, though. While a walk-in bathtub might be a more comfortable and more affordable investment at the start, it also costs more to use long-term.

west Vancouver bathroom project
Age-friendly home: west Vancouver bathroom project

A walk-in shower with an energy-efficient showerhead will not just ease your life. It will also save you some money on your water bill, up to 30%. Furthermore, it will make your property more competitive in the market, if you ever decide to sell. A renovated, modernized bathroom adds value to your home. 

For seniors with demanding physical conditions, there are also hands-free shower chairs that fit into a walk-in shower.

Grab Bar for Shower/ Tub

Installing grab bars in the right places all around the bathroom is obligatory for an age-friendly home. Equally important is to make sure they are installed correctly and sturdy enough to support sudden shocks and substantial weight. 

Safety bars can help people move around the bathroom more securely. It supports the body in case of sudden fatigue and protects you from injuries if you slip on the wet floor. Properly installed and conveniently positioned safety bars can help prevent bathroom accidents or even death.

Permanently installed safety bars must be anchored to the wall and made of durable materials like stainless steel. Don’t confuse them with suction cup bars, as those are intended only to provide limited assistance with balance.

Age-friendly home, grab bars
Image source: Flicker

Ideally, there should be a vertical entrance bar on a wall opposite the faucet wall, and another one on the faucet wall. For additional safety, one or two horizontal safety bars should be on a side wall, too. That way, you’ll have a bar available in any situation or position. 

Grab Bar for Toilet

Grab bars for the toilet, ideally, come as a pair that surrounds both sides and hosts both arms for proper support. Those are fixed to the wall behind, at one point each. Adequate installation is obligatory to ensure full safety. 

If your bathroom is small and you also worry about aesthetics, opt for multifunctional bars, like 2-in-1. These can also serve other practical purposes, such as holding hand-towels or toilet paper. Other options are wavy bars or long corner grab bars. The latter is a continuous rail that can stretch from the toilet to the door and makes an ideal solution if you need both vertical and horizontal support. 

Age-friendly home, toilet grab bars
Image source: Flicker

Finally, there are moveable grab bars. Those can be hinged to the wall and swiveled or folded out of the way when not in use. These types of bars are ideal for larger toilet areas and people who don’t require bar support all the time. 

Raised Toilet Seats

One of the significant challenges that come with age is bending down safely. An age-friendly home should feature modifications that bring things closer to a senior resident, eliminating most of the bending need. By raising the toilet seat up higher than a traditional toilet, we reduce the chance of an injury and minimize the pains.

Apart from helping seniors who suffer bending or standing difficulties, a raised seat also provides extra support while rehabbing from a surgery or an injury. The hinged toilet seat risers can add over three inches of height to a toilet and support up to several hundred pounds. Those are easy to install and present an excellent solution when buying a whole new toilet isn’t an option.

Age-friendly home, luxury bathroom design
Luxury bathroom design

An age-friendly home should feature bathroom faucets that require no tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist. Ideally, those should be easy to operate with one hand and require very little to none force to activate.

Touchless faucet technology is one of the best innovations for age-friendly homes. Even if your existing manual faucet lever meets all the safety criteria, you can still see plenty of benefits after replacing it with a sensor-controlled alternative. Start from eliminating the need to turn a lever every time, especially with sore, arthritic hands.

Hand-Held Shower Head

Hand-held showerheads are recommended bathroom features for age-friendly homes to help safeguard bathing activities. Those bear the additional advantage of being affordable: a hand-held showerhead costs only a fraction of the price compared to a complete valve hand shower system. 

Furthermore, if you opt for a tub instead of a walk-in shower, a hand-held showerhead will allow you to wash in any position you prefer, including seating.

Age-friendly bathroom
Image source: Flicker

In the tub area, safety and body control can heavily depend on the position of the showerhead. If it stands too high, it may present a challenge to reach. If it’s too low, it may require bending and uncomfortable body positioning. Both options can have an advert effect on balance, leading to scalding or slips and falls. That is another example of why it’s best to skip DIY for an age-friendly home and hire professionals to do the work.

Age-Friendly Home Requires Improved Lighting

Some studies found that a 60-year-old senior needs a double amount of lighting compared to adolescents. While adding more light is the solution, it still needs to be followed by proper customizations. Distribution is important, as well as sources and locations. An ambient LED lighting setting will secure uniform distribution without increasing power consumption. It is also an excellent way to equalize lighting transitions between rooms and eliminate sudden flashes and contrasts. 

master bathroom
Richmond master bathroom

Shielding is good, as it prevents issues that can come with glare, so don’t avoid them in an attempt to secure more light. Keep in mind that quality is crucial, which sometimes also means that less is more.

Enclosed environments like showers can easily trap moisture and become prone to mould and mildew. Bathroom exhaust fans use electricity and aren’t always practical. A better way to increase air circulation is by raising the ceiling level, where possible. If you can follow that by replacing the windows, you could also secure a maximal amount of available daylight.

Slip-Resistance Flooring

One of the essential things to pay attention to if you make an age-friendly home is a floor. That particularly applies to bathrooms and walk-in showers. Opt for small, textured shower tiles rather than large, glazed ones. The abundance of grouting, together with the texture, will keep your feet from slipping and help you to move safely once the floor gets soapy and wet. Look for tiles that are easy to clean and resistant to mold, humidity, and stains.

Reduce Hot Water Tank Temperature

Adding a simple thermostatic valve to the fixture that keeps the water is a wise move. It allows maintaining a safe, consistent temperature within a few degrees and prevents shower water fluctuations from warm to cold or hot without warning.

While steady water temperature is something we can all appreciate, in an age-friendly home, it’s a must. Aging brings mobility challenges, and that means a senior’s muscles move and react progressively slower. Sudden temperature changes come as a shock, without any warning to get out of the way. That triggers impulsive reactions, putting a senior in several potentially dangerous situations that could result in an injury.

Avoid Sharp Edge Countertops

Laminate or quartz countertops are a common remodeling solution for bathrooms and kitchens. In an age-friendly home, those need to stand at the optimal height to provide additional safety. Installing one lower countertop or several countertops with varying levels allows for the diversity of use.

Regardless of countertop materials, it would be best if you make sure to avoid sharp edges. Those typical 90-degree angles can prove seriously problematic for seniors since a single false move can result in a painful injury. Avoid the risk by rounding off all countertop edges, either as a simple curve, bullnose, or a double-bevel.

Aging in place requires a properly adapted age-friendly home. To avoid the risk that comes with mistakes and lack of the right information, schedule a free professional consultation, and see what we can do for you.

Age Friendly House: Ten Essential Renovations to Make Sooner Rather than Later

In the old days, when the existing home would become too challenging for a senior, the options were narrow, and commonly included moving out. Aging in place, in an appropriate age-friendly house, was not a thing, and if the family members were too busy to take proper care of the older relative, a nursing home was the common solution. While, in some instances, moving out proved to be necessary, the truth is that most seniors would rather have stayed in their own home, on familiar ground, in their own privacy. 

Seniors are adults who spent most of their lives in responsibility for raising the family, developing a career, taking care of everything. That self-image is hard to change, but golden years are also the time to decrease stress levels and enjoy the fruits of one’s efforts. Over time, we all have to let go of the ultimately-in-charge image and settle with the idea that the moment for relaxation has come. Slowly, we learn to enjoy it. 

Age-friendly house

My House, My Rules

When you’re a senior, you know how it feels. It’s not unlikely that you might have already lost a spouse or a partner in the process. You lost the feeling of being irreplaceable as a patron. The last thing you want to relinquish is control over your own life, regressing to the phase of a helpless child.

This bears significant importance if you have spent most of your life in the same house—or, at least, a long time. Such a place is crawling with warmth and memories, provides the meaning to existence. There’s also a sense of safety and security that no other place can beat. Moving out is like leaving your life behind, giving it up. From this perspective, it’s easy to understand why seniors should be provided with an alternative. After all, they deserve it. 

What it Means, an Age-Friendly House?

Age-related changes will have halved your young adult strength by the time you reach 80. The velocity of contraction and movement significantly reduces, together with muscle power. In turn, fatigability increases. The declines in motor function appear to accelerate markedly in this age. The central nervous system also suffers degradation, compromising activation of the motor unit during contractions. 

Still, there is a large variability between individuals in many aspects of motor performance. Some healthy individuals can lead an almost fully-independent life until their last days.

Other common age-related issues with a major impact on mobility are cardiovascular diseases, arthritis. Then there is Alzheimer’s disease as a whole set of problems of its own.

Mobility issues greatly affect seniors’ ability to perform daily functional tasks. There are, however, many preparations that you can make in advance to turn your home age-friendly and suitable for comfortable, peaceful aging in place.

luxury house designer
Calm and bright living space

The desire to live safely and undisturbed in our own homes is universal, as is the desire to be a part of the community. Making it happen is not easy, but it is possible. Transition to an age-friendly house requires some essential renovations that can help you live longer and feel independent. Those will enhance the level of physical safety and support you in staying mentally sharp, on top of your game. A good mental stage sustains other functions so the body can remain healthy as well. 

Making an age-friendly house is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach, but some things are universal. I will state the ten crucial changes and explain how those affect the inhabitants.

How to Transition Towards Age-Friendly House

Floor Plan

If possible, the entire living area will share the same floor, eliminating the need to use stairs entirely. You need to be able to move with minimal obstruction on the way. An open plan is the best solution, but some people enjoy small, defined rooms with more coziness and privacy.

Ideally, there shouldn’t be any steps between rooms or zones. Also, each traffic flow should be spacious enough to comfortably accommodate walking assistance, a helping person, or a wheelchair. Flooring is one of the crucial aspects of safety, so it must feature smooth, glare-free, slip-resistant surfaces or carpets. Every finish should be as low-maintenance as possible. 

Sunshine coast interior
Age in place home with comfort

Color/texture contrast is an excellent solution to indicate a change in surface levels. If the stairs are unavoidable, a contrast between vertical and horizontal will increase visibility. Together with excellent lighting and sturdy rails, it will significantly affect the safety and convenience of use. 

A smart-home system will help a lot to keep everything under control without excessive physical efforts. 

Doors and Windows

  • If possible, entrances should grant easy access and egress with no obstacles like steps. In a case when steps can’t be avoided, it’s necessary to have a sturdy rail for support. Doors should be changed to at least 4 inches wider than a typical home to grant undisrupted assisted passability. Ideally, a senior should be able to open all internal doors hands-free. That means either sensors, swivel doors, or ideally no doors at all, where available. Additionally, consider sink handles or levers rather than knobs.
  • Plenty of lower to the floor, easy-open windows, allowing an abundance of natural light, are a better solution than common ones. If there is a need for any shutters, heavy shades, or awnings, try to install the electrical, button-operated systems. 

Hallways

  • Those should be minimally three feet wide, preferably wider. Ideally, there will be space for a bench at the front door, and a surface area to place parcels and heavy bags. No-slip flooring is a must, with the matte finish. Some grab bars along the corridors are not a bad idea, either.
  • Hallways and corridors should be exceptionally well lit, ideally activated by sensors. Between bedroom and bathroom, automatic nighttime illumination would be a valuable asset.
master bathroom
Accessible Bathroom

Bathrooms

Over 30% of al bathroom injuries happen to seniors, of which over 80% are from slips and falls, half of those due to the inadequate features or missing propper support. A minor investment into several improvements can minimize such risk or eliminate it entirely.

  • Installing a curbless, roll-in shower with an adjustable handle is the best idea, but some seniors prefer to sit in a tub. If possible, install both. A reliable, quality fold-down seat in the shower and a lowered bathtub will secure a more convenient use.
  • Easily accessible grab-bars should exist inside and outside shower, as well as around a tub. Also, make all cabinetry easy to reach, with edges in contracting colors, easy to spot. The toilet should be height adjustable. All materials must be selected with convenience in mind, such as antibacterial, with anti-slip properties.
luxury kitchen designer
Age-friendly luxury kitchen design

Kitchen

The kitchen must have enough maneuvring space with easily accessible features. An open-plan kitchen is an excellent solution, both space- and safety-wise. It eliminates the need for doors, and in case you need any kind of assistance, there are no sound or visual barriers. 

  • Glass-front cabinet doors and pull-down or open shelving are convenient, providing easy access to all frequently used items. All appliances should feature accessible doors and easy to read controls. The more voice or sensor control, the better. 
  • There should be at least one working area available with a sitting position; the ideal solution is under-counter seated work areas.
contemporary design
Bedroom with a view

Bedroom

A well-designed bedroom can bring you comfort and calm, much needed to rest for the next day properly. Sometimes bedrooms are the most cluttered rooms in the home. In an age-friendly house, this room should be clutter-free and secured against tripping and falling. On the other hand, all storage must be designed as convenient and accessible. An architect with extensive knowledge of interior psychology, familiar with Feng-Shui’s philosophical approaches, can make the bedroom a true oasis for body, mind, and soul. 

  • The bedroom should have enough open space to allow undisturbed movement of a wheelchair, walking assistance device, or a person. 
  • Drawers and all storage need to be simple and easy to access drawers. A comfortable and accessible bed is an essential feature. Ensure it’s not too high or too low, obstacle-free, allowing for convenient getting in and getting up.
Living room
Bright and open living room

Age-Friendly House Renovation Is Not a Luxury, But a Necessity

Our senior population deserves a radical rethink in the way we design and build our homes. Acting with the future in mind, meeting our needs according to our lifestyle choices is a matter of wisdom. With some exceptions, aging in place is a highly functional concept that works, allowing a person to remain safe and well without the need for constant surveillance. An age-friendly house offers a high-quality life through golden years, a chance to keep everything under control and remain socially active for decades to come.

Read this article in Epochtimes